I’ve spent quite a few hours over the past week or so experimenting with different operating systems that can be installed inside a virtual machine on select Chrome OS devices. What began with an unlikely installation of Windows 10 led me down a path of testing out various Linux distributions in an attempt to familiarize myself with the different flavors and draw attention to this new found capability that some Chromebooks recently acquired. I have stayed in the Debian/Ubuntu lane because its what I’m most familiar with and to be honest, I really don’t know THAT MUCH about Linux operating systems or the ins and outs of navigating them. However, I am learning.
All that to say, this week I have chosen a new path. I was listening Leo Laporte talk Linux distros on last week’s episode of TWIT Bits and he mentioned Manjaro which is based on Arch Linux, not Debian. I’m still learning the differences between the major Linux distros but what I do see about Arch Linux is that it is designed to be lightweight and simple. Arch consists of a single branch the gets rolling releases as soon as they are available instead of the three branches found in Debian. From what I have ascertained, Arch is considered “bleeding edge” and often contains more recent packages than Debian thanks to the rolling releases. The stripped down nature of Arch is what makes it popular among technical users but the lack of a GUI (graphical user interface) means spend much of your time inside the terminal and that can be daunting for novice and even intermediate users.
In my research, I have seen this statement made numerous times across the internet. “Manjaro is Arch Linux Made Easy” Since I’m not a Linux Guru (yet), the term “made easy” immediately caught my attention. Manjaro takes all of the things users love about Arch Linux and a packages it into a clean, easy to install desktop environment. Manjaro features all of the official software packages available from Arch as well as access to the AUR (Arch user repository) that houses unofficial, user-submitted packages. Granted these are considered “use at your own risk” but it’s a great place to find user-compiled packages when you can’t located them elsewhere. Don’t be confused. Manjaro is much more than just a “skin” for Arch Linux. Manjaro also maintains its own customized repository that ensures 100% package compatibility with the latest version of the OS.
Anyway, I’m going to have to spend a little more time with Manjaro before I give my final judgement. Today, we’re just here to learn how to install the Arch Linux derivative on a compatible Chromebook. As with previous experiments, we have a little bit of legwork to put in before we install Manjaro. This starts with making sure your Chromebook is up to date and on the latest version of Chrome OS. Next, you need to make sure your Chromebook supports Linux apps. The easiest way to do this is by heading to the settings menu and looking for Linux (Beta) on the left-hand menu. If you see it, click it and turn on Linux apps. You will be prompted to set a Linux username. Make it whatever you want but it can’t have caps. You will also need to set the storage space used by Linux. I used 40GB this time so I have room for testing applications in Manjaro. I would recommend at least 20GB. Click install and wait for the container to be created.
Once that is finished, it’s time to update the container’s packages. You should have a terminal window open on your screen. If you closed it, just head to the app launcher and look for “terminal.” Copy the following command and paste it into the terminal to update and upgrade any package updates from the Debian repository. You can paste by right-clicking into the terminal. Hit enter and let the updates do their thing.
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y
Now it’s time to install
virt-manager. This is the virtual machine manager that will handle installing and running the Manjaro .iso image. Once this is installed, you will be able to start a new virtual machine and try out any whatever flavor of Linux you prefer. For now, we’ll focus on Manjaro. In the terminal, paste the following commands and hit enter. This will take a few minutes. So, go grab a cup of coffee. I am.
sudo apt install qemu-kvm libvirt-clients libvirt-daemon-system bridge-utils virtinst libvirt-daemon virt-manager -y
Done? Great. You should now have the Virtual Machine Manager in your app launcher. The last step is to install Manjaro but to do that, we need a disk image. Head over to the Manjaro website and grab the 64-bit download. You can grab the full installation like me or the minimal desktop setup if you don’t want a lot of extra software installed. The best part about this setup is that you will actually have the option to run Manjaro as a live image which means you can test out the desktop environment before you actually install it on your machine. Once you have it downloaded, open your Files app and move it to the Linux folder. That will make it easier when it comes time to install the image. Head to your app launcher and fire up the Virtual Machine Manager. Click on the icon below the File menu to create a new VM.
Select “Local install media” and click forward. Then, click “browse” and “browse local” to find the .iso image for Manjaro. It should open to the Linux folder and be right there for you to grab. Under the “operating system you are installing,” deselect auto detect and type “generic” to find the generic OS option. Select that and click forward. Now you will alot RAM and CPU cores. I opted for 6GB of RAM and all four cores of my i5 processor. The Linux container won’t let you use hyper-threading. If you were expecting to see a larger number of cores, sorry. Hit forward and allot the amount of disk space you want to use. I gave the VM all of my Linux storage just because it was there. Click forward and then “finish” to launch the image.
In just a few seconds, you should be greeted by the Manjaro welcome screen. You can hit enter or just wait and the OS will begin the boot process. Once it’s complete, you will be on the Manjaro desktop where you can take a look around or go ahead and run the full installation of the OS. On first run, you will likely have a ton of updates to install. I’d go ahead and get that out of the way before you start digging too deep. The updates only took about 10-15 minutes on my Chromebook. Once everything is in place, I changed the resolution to the default for my external monitor and the desktop looked great. If you hit the full screen icon at the top right of the Virtual Machine Manager, Manjaro will go full screen and you won’t even be able to tell your running on Chrome OS. I’m still learning my way around Manjaro and I’m sure I will run into some limitations due to the fact that I’m running in a VM but so far, this Arch Linux distro is running quite well. Stay tuned. I’m still working on getting WebOS running. 😉