I love to tinker. I spend a good portion of my week fiddling around with the Linux container on Chrome OS just to see what I can or can’t do with Crostini. While I’m no Linux guru, I have become fairly handy at navigating the terminal app and living in the “command line.” The Linux terminal on Chrome OS has undergone some upgrades over the past year that have given users some customization options and that’s great but sometimes, you just want to take a step back in time and reminisce a little bit.
You can find a wide variety of terminals and terminal emulators that can be installed in the Debian 10 container that runs on Chrome OS but today, I stumbled upon one in particular that really took me back. If you got your start in computing on dinosaurs like an Apple II or a DOS PC, you’re probably familiar with the old-school cathode tube displays. Just one look at this antiquated screen drums up enough nostalgia to take me all the way back to grade school and I love it. Cool Retro Terminal is an emulator that gives you that very experience right on your Chromebook.
Cool Retro Terminal
Cool Retro Terminal, or cool-retro-term, is actually an emulator for your built-in terminal but it features a fully customizable output that will have you taking a walk back in time. Presets include Apple II, IBM DOS, vintage, Monochrome Green, and more but you can tweak the colors and effects to create more display profiles than you can imagine. Here are a couple of examples from the Cool Retro Terminal.
To install the Cool Retro Terminal, you’ll first need to head over to your Chromebook’s native Linux terminal. First time using Linux on Chrome OS? Check out our article on getting started with Crostini to make sure your device supports Linux apps and that you’re all up to date. Ready? Great! Let’s get started. This entire process only takes a couple of minutes and don’t feel intimidated. If something doesn’t work, you can always remove your Linux container and start over from scratch. Before we install Cool Retro Terminal, we need to install a few dependency packages. You can install them all at once by pasting the following lines of code into your Linux terminal and hitting enter. At the prompt, hit “Y” or enter to continue.
sudo apt install build-essential qmlscene qt5-qmake qt5-default qtdeclarative5-dev qml-module-qtquick-controls qml-module-qtgraphicaleffects qml-module-qtquick-dialogs qml-module-qtquick-localstorage qml-module-qtquick-window2 qml-module-qt-labs-settings qml-module-qt-labs-folderlistmodel
Next, we need to clone the repository that holds the Cool Retro Terminal packages. Cloning essentially pulls all of the repos files to your local machine as opposed to adding the repository to your source list. Enter the following command and hit enter to clone files.
git clone --recursive https://github.com/Swordfish90/cool-retro-term.git
Now we need to move to the newly created Cool Retro folder. Do this by using the “cd” command. Do this with the following command in your terminal. Once you’re in the folder, we need to compile the package. This is done with the make and qmake commands. Enter them exactly as you see them in the second line of code.
qmake && make
At this point, you should be able to launch the terminal emulator. However, I encountered an error that read “QMLTermWidget” is not installed even though we install them in step one. I quickly found the remedy in the list of closed issues in Cool Retro’s Git. Copying the files to the proper directory alleviates the error. You can copy those files using the following lines.
cp -r qmltermwidget/src/qmldir qmltermwidget/lib/kb-layouts qmltermwidget/lib/color-schemes qmltermwidget/src/QMLTermScrollbar.qml qmltermwidget/QMLTermWidget
Now you’re ready to launch your retro terminal. To do so, run the following execution command in the Linux terminal. Keep in mind, when you close your native terminal, it will terminate the emulator as it is running through the Linux container. When you want to restart it, you will need to open the Chrome OS Linux terminal and move to the emulator’s home folder with the “
cd cool-retro-term” command each time. Launch Cool Retro Terminal now with this command.
In this terminal, you can do anything that you can do in the native terminal app only it looks really cool doing it. Once you’ve created your own custom look, you can save that profile and use it whenever you launch Cool Retro. The settings are persistent so when you open Cool Retro again, it will launch with the same profile that was loaded when you closed it. Very cool and very retro. I think that this will be my go-to for now simply because it looks so sweet.