How I setup my new Chromebook


Update 2017-07: this article does a great job of showing how to setup a Chromebook for development.

A couple months back, I bought a Toshiba Chromebook 2. My 2010 MacBook Pro was getting pretty sluggish, and I’d already maxed out the RAM and swapped in an SSD.

I’ve been eyeing the Chromebooks for a while and decided to check them out. I actually went into BestBuy and poked around on the different models. I was worried that they’d feel like cheap toys, but I was pleasantly surprised. The Chromebook 2 has a beautiful screen, nice trackpad, and a full-size, responsive keyboard.

A Chromebook is basically a web browser with a keyboard. I do most of my home activity on the web so this has been a pretty good fit. I had to make some changes from the MBP to the Chromebook, but the transition has been surprisingly pain free. I also like that the underlying OS updates itself automagically and that it’s really tough for it to get viruses and all that. This makes Chromebooks a great option for casual web browsing.

Here are some of my gotchas from the transition:

  1. Password manager
    • I used 1Password on the Mac and liked it, but it includes a binary component. That part doesn’t work on Chromebooks. I switched from 1Password to LastPass and the switch has been fine. No issues.
  2. Keyboard Shortcuts
    • Not all of the keyboard shortcuts are the same between Mac and Chromebook. Here are some that I learned right away.
      • Screen shot full screen: Ctrl+”Show” Button
      • Screen shot rectangle screen: Ctrl+Shift+”Show” Button
      • Switch tabs: Ctrl+Tab / Ctrl+Shift+Tab
  3. Chrome Apps
    • Chrome apps are basically useless so don’t waste your time. Most of them are just links to web pages–consider me underwhelmed because I have bookmarks that can do that too. Gmail Offline is a standout. It’s far from perfect, but can help in a pinch. The Remote Desktop app is useful for family tech support from Chrome to Chrome OS/Windows/Mac.
  4. Redeem the 2-year Google storage
    • The purchase came with 100 GB of free Drive storage for 2 years. Make sure to redeem it. I doubt that I’ll use that much storage, but whatever, it’s free.
  5. Linux on Chromebook
    • I wanted to have a little more freedom on the Chromebook, and this step is definitely for the advanced users. Chromebooks are basically running a version of Linux under the covers. Thanks to some industrious folks out there, you can unlock that Linux OS very easily. Lifehacker has a great article on this.
      • Turn on Developer mode
      • Install Crouton (sudo sh -e ~/Downloads/crouton -t xfce)
      • Start Linux (sudo startxfce4)