This year’s Google I/O developer conference was chock full of awesome new goodies headed our way for Android, Google Assistant, Chrome OS and much more. Much of which, we will be covering over the next few days but don’t forget to tune in to the latest episode of The Chrome Cast for a quick roundup of some major high points from the event.
I completely expected to hear a little news about the Crostini project but Google highlighted Linux on Chromebooks with a lot more fanfare than I anticipated. Crostini grabbed some of the spotlights as developers took the stage to announce the official release of the one-click install version of Android Studio as they showed off the Pixelbook’s ability to debug via USB connected to a Pixel 2.
That was just the tip of the iceberg as Linux on Chromebooks had its own session yesterday and it is clear that Google’s developers are 100% committed to the Crostini project and encouraging devs to embrace the platform as the total-package solution for developing and personal use.
The project team took the stage and jumped right into what is likely the greatest hot button for many users.
Feel free to check out the full session below at your leisure but in layman’s terms, Linux apps on Chrome OS can only access files that you explicitly share with the container you are working with and even then, they pass through multiple layers of security that fully sandbox the shared files and the active applications.
According to the devs, even if a malicious attack was able to work its way back through the layers of protection, the shared file would be the end of the line and anything in the Chrome OS file system not shared with the Linux container would be inaccessible.
There’s a lot to digest in that video and honestly, much of it is over my head as I am just now learning to navigate using Linux outside of Chrome OS shell commands. However, two things, in particular, grabbed my attention.
Crostini, in its native form, builds from the Debian Linux distro and Chrome OS virtualization lead Dylan Reid confirmed (31:10 in the video) that Chrome OS will continue to support the Debian workflow but Google didn’t want to restrict users to a single distro.
For those knowledgeable enough to leverage it, you can now install other distro images in Crostini using the wide array of builds available from Canonical’s image server. In the example, he uses Archlinux but I can confirm that I was able to spin up an image of Ubuntu 18.04 on my ASUS Chromebox yesterday.
There was a lot more tinkering on the stage than you’d expect in a live session which is unusual but really cool. The team demonstrated how to call up multiple containers, copy containers and even fire a container inside of another container. To protect your work, Dylan showed off the “Snapshot” feature which is simply an image capture that uses the “lxc snapshot” command. Learn more about lxd, lxc and containers here.
The other bit that sort of caught me off guard what right at the end of the chat, the team actually encouraged listeners to tool around in Crostini by trying out “unofficial” tricks and even pointed the crowd to the Crostini subreddit where many gather to see just how far Linux on Chromebooks can be pushed.
I get that this is a developer’s conference but it is very unusual for Google to openly encourage fiddling of this nature in a live stream. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome that they did. Now that Linux is officially supported by Chrome OS and Google is making a massive push for developers, enterprises and consumers to make the switch, I think development in and around our beloved OS will grow even more rapidly than ever before and that’s a very, very good thing.
We’re not done, yet. Stay tuned for more news from Google I/O as we bring you the best from the world of Chrome and Chrome OS.