I’ve gone down a rabbit hole over the past few days in an attempt to install the latest version of Audacity on my Chromebook, taking one step closer to disconnecting completely from other OS ecosystems. We are Chrome OS purists for the most part, but we do still rely on a Macbook for video editing and our current podcast setup. I’m holding out hope that the former will change when discrete GPUs land on Chromebooks, but the latter will soon be done purely on a Chromebook thanks to Audacity. (Before you go there, I know that there are online audio recording solutions but we’re looking for something a bit more robust.) Thanks to the recent addition of microphone support to the Linux container on Chrome OS, installing and using Audacity is finally a reality. However, the version of Audacity that exists in the main repository for Debian Buster (the version of Linux used for Crostini) is not the freshest version of Audacity and that’s just not good enough for me. So, we find another way.
I’ll get into the ins-and-outs of using Audacity on a Chromebook in a follow-up article, but today, we’re going to focus on how to get the latest version of this and a number of other applications installed on your Chromebook. With the default Linux container on Chrome OS, you can install Audacity from the terminal using the command
sudo apt install audacity and you’ll get a fully-working version of the application. However, it is version 2.2.2 and the newest version is 2.4.2. You can build Audacity from the source if you have the chops to do so, but let me tell you, it ain’t easy. I tried multiple times before finally succeeding as the container requires all sorts of dependency updates and forced installs that don’t happen automatically. Another option is to install Flatpak and use the version of Audacity found in the Flathub store. I tried this and it mostly worked, but the application consistently failed to playback recordings properly and it became a nuisance after just a few short minutes. The other option is to call upon “sid”.
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What is “sid?” Sid is the testing repository for Debian. It is where packages are uploaded and tested before making their way to the stable build of the respective builds of Debian. To dumb it down a bit, think of it as the Canary channel of Debian. To access sid, we need only to add the repository to the Linux
sources.list file. This file contains repo information and tells the system where to look for packages. Adding a new repository to Linux on Chrome OS is relatively straightforward, but it has to be done properly to prevent what can be catastrophic errors. Don’t worry. It’s not as serious as it sounds. The good thing about Linux on Chrome OS is that you can always turn it off and start over again if something breaks. Still, there are some prerequisites that we have to take care of before we can install an application from the sid repository.
First and foremost, you will need to have Linux enabled on your Chromebook or Chrome OS device. To learn more about getting started with Crostini Linux, check out this Command Line article then head back here when you’re ready. Next, to get started you will need to install a simple text editor program. I use Nano simply because I’m familiar with it, it is lightweight and installs quickly. To install Nano, open your Linux terminal and run the following command (if you are prompted, select “Y” or just hit enter to confirm the installation):
sudo apt install nano
Next, we are going to use Nano to open and edit the
sources.list file which will allow us to add the sid repository. To open the
sources.list file with Nano, run the following command in your terminal. If all goes well, you should see the file containing the Buster Main and Updates repositories and it should look like the image below.
sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list
Now it’s time to add the sid repository. Press the down arrow until your cursor is on the line below the last entry. From there, paste the following line into the terminal (you can paste by right-clicking in the terminal):
deb http://http.us.debian.org/debian sid main non-free contrib
Once you have the new line added, you can press Ctrl+X to exit. You will be prompted to save the changes. Press “Y” and then Enter. Now you have the new repository added to your device. DO NOT RUN SUDO APT UPDATE OR UPGRADE! Before you make any more changes, install any packages or check for updates, we need to set some preferences to tell Linux which repo to install from. If you don’t, everything will attempt to update from wherever the latest package versions exist and you could end up with a ton of broken packages. To get around this, we will set priorities that will cause Linux to always look to the default Buster repo unless you tell it otherwise. To do this, we will need to create and edit a preferences file in the Linux file system. We’ll use Nano for this task, too. Run the following command to create and open the new preferences file.
sudo nano /etc/apt/preferences
Since it’s new, this file should be empty. To set your priority preferences, copy and paste the code below in its entirety and paste it into the editor. Once you’re done, Ctrl+X then “Y” and Enter to save.
Package: * Pin: release a=stable Pin-Priority: 700 Package: * Pin: release a=testing Pin-Priority: 650 Package: * Pin: release a=unstable Pin-Priority: 600
If the file was saved correctly, you should be able to run
sudo apt update and Linux will only look to the Buster Main repo for updates and ignore sid.
At this point, we’re ready to install an application from the sid repository. This will work just like installing a package from the default repo with the exception of the commands that tell Linux to look in sid. Since this all started with Audacity, that’s what we’re going to install. You can find a list of packages available in sid here if you want to see if there is a newer version available for something you are trying to install. Install the latest version of Audacity using the following command:
sudo apt-get -t sid install audacity
Once that’s done, you should have a fresh, up-to-date version of Audacity. This is a great way to get your hands on newer versions of applications and maybe get features that are lacking in the current build of Buster. Is there and application you’ve been trying to get on your Chromebook? Hit us up in the comments and make sure you keep an eye out for an upcoming video where we try to record our first podcast using just a Chromebook and Audacity. Should be fun.