• The KBOX project
Running KBOX on a Chromebook
Running KBOX on a Chromebook might seem like an odd thing to do; after
all there are projects like Crouton which provide a complete, Debian-based
Linux distribution for Chromebooks. Unlike Android handsets, which nearly
always have a nasty, failure-prone procedure for getting root access,
Chromebooks provide a built-in developer mode with instant root access.
Moreover, Crouton can run full-scale, graphical Linux applications, not
just the command-line utilities that KBOX offers.
So why use something limited when there is something fully-featured available?
The problems with running Linux on Chromebooks stem from the use of
developer mode itself. Developer mode is intended to be a transient
feature, and it is all too easy to slip back into "normal" operation
when restarting the machine. When this happens, the entire system
is restored to factory settings. The Chromebook firmware provides
no protection against this happening, and its a particular hazard on
Chromebook devices that are shared. You (or, more likely, your kids)
only have to hit "enter" at the boot screen to wipe the complete
Another problem — perhaps less worrisome — is that Crouton is a
fairly substantial distribution even in its bare-bones form. It's a lot
of stuff to install, just to run
The advantage of KBOX — despite its limitations — is that it requires
no use of developer mode. You can still erase it by restoring to factory
settings (or just by deleting the terminal emulator that hosts it)
but that takes an act of will — it won't happen by accident. And
KBOX has no overheads beyond the terminal emulator and the actual
Linux utilities you want to install.
If you need to run full-scale Linux applications like OpenOffice or
Thunderbird on your Chromebook, I think there is presently no alternative
to enabling developer mode and installing Crouton (or a complete
Linux distribution of some other kind). KBOX is a potential alternative
for running simple, command-line utilities without the hazard of developer
To use KBOX on a Chromebook, you will need to enable Android
emulation, which is what happens when you enable "Google Play support"
(from the Chrome settings app). You might already have done this,
if you use Android apps on your Chromebook. Most modern Chromebook versions
support Android emulation.
You will need a terminal emulator to provide a command prompt. The
standard Chromebook "crosh" prompt won't do anything useful for you
at all if you aren't in developer mode. I have done all my testing
using Jack Palevich's terminal emulator app, which is available from
the Google Play store. I'm told that other emulators work, but
I haven't tested them.
Having installed a terminal emulator, installation is exactly as
for an ordinary Android device.
It's worth bearning in mind that the
that is visible to KBOX is not the real, physical SD card that
plugs into the side of the Chromebook — it is the Android main
storage area, which is on the internal storage of the
Chromebook. There will always be a directory
which corresponds to the Downloads folder seen in the Chrome file manager.
To the best of my knowledge, this Downloads folder is the only place
where files can be transfered between Chrome and Android (and thus KBOX).
There is, so far as I know, no way to see the external SD card in Android