​How to add Linux to your Chromebook

It’s long been possible to run Linux on a Chromebook. That’s no surprise. After all, Chrome OS is a Linux variant. But, doing it by using either Crouton in a chroot container or Gallium OS, a Xubuntu Chromebook-specific Linux variant, wasn’t easy. Then, Google announced it was bringing a completely integrated Linux desktop to the Chromebook.

Today, with a properly-equipped Chromebook and the bravery to run canary code, you can run Debian Linux on your Chromebook. Here’s how to do it.

This new Chromebook Linux feature is Crostini, the umbrella technology for getting Linux running with Chrome OS. Crostini gets enough Linux running to run KVM, Linux’s built-in virtual machine (VM). On top of this, Crostini starts and runs LXC containers. You won’t see it, unless you look closely, but it’s in those containers that your Debian Linux instances are running.

Eventually, anyone with a newer Chromebook will be able to run Linux. Specifically, if your Chromebook’s operating system is based on the Linux 4.4 kernel, you’ll be supported. But we’re not there yet. It’s also possible that older Chromebooks, running Linux 4.14, will be retrofitted with Crostini support.

Officially, you need a Pixelbook, Google’s top-of-the-line Chromebook, to run Linux. But, users have found a dozen other models can run Crostini with half-a-dozen others expected to be supported soon. Chromebooks that can already use Crostini include newer Intel-powered Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung. Dell models will start getting supported later this year.

I used my best-of-breed Pixelbook with its 1.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-7Y75 processor, 512GB SSD, with 16GBs of RAM for my tests. This is the fastest Chromebook on the market. It’s not cheap, at a list price of $1,399, but it’s worth it if you want to push Linux on the Chromebook’s limits.

Once you have the hardware you need, you must switch your Chromebook from the stable update channel to the dev channel. This is alpha software and it updates about once a week. Let me make this absolutely clear: This is not stable software. It will blow up at times. But, faint heart never won fair technology discoveries.

This is a bigger decision than it looks at first. You’ll lose all your local data if you try to go back to the stable, or even beta, channels. With a Chromebook that’s not much of a problem since most of your data and settings are kept on the Google Cloud, it’s still worth keeping in mind.

If you want to wait and be safe, Crostini support is expected to enter the stable channel with Chrome OS 69 in mid-September.

To make the switch to dev, take the following steps:

  1. Sign in to your Chromebook with the owner account.
  2. Click your account photo.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. At the top left, click Menu.
  5. Scroll down and click About Chrome OS.
  6. Click Detailed build information.
  7. Next to “Channel” click Change channel.
  8. Pick a channel.
  9. Click Change Channel.
  10. Your Chromebook will download the dev channel update. It will then ask you to restart your Chromebook.

Once that’s done, if you’re not using a Pixelbook you may need to set a Chrome flag to access Linux. You do this by entering: chrome://flags on the Chrome browser’s address line. This command displays all of Chrome’s experimental features. Scroll down the list until you find:

#enable-experimental-crostini-ui

Activate this, and your system may be ready to go. I say “may” because to run Crostini your Chromebook must not only be on the dev channel, but Google must also have enabled the Linux VM for your hardware.

The easiest way to confirm that a particular Chromebook works with Linux is to follow the above steps and then open Chrome OS’s built-in shell, crosh, and run the shell command:

vmc start termina

If you get a message such as “ERROR: command ‘vmc’ is not available”, you’re out of luck. But, if you see a terminal, congrats, you’ve just found a new Chromebook that’s Linux-ready.

Next, head to Chrome OS settings (chrome://settings), scroll down to to “Linux (Beta)” and activate it.

Now, open the app switcher by pressing the Search/Launcher key and type “Terminal”. This launches the Termina VM, which will start running a Debian 9.0 Stretch Linux container.

Congratulations! You’re now running Debian Linux on your Chromebook.

From here you can install and run programs using Debian’s normal software commands. For example, to update my new Linux system and install the lynx web browser, I’d run:

$ sudo apt-get update

$ sudo apt-get upgrade

$ sudo apt install lynx

Crostini Linux running Lynx

With Crostini, you can now run Linux and Linux applications, such as Lynx, on a Chromebook.

sjvn

While you could install pretty much any program on your new Linux instance, I gave a shell-based program example because accelerated graphics and audio aren’t working yet. So, while you could install Cinnamon, my favorite Linux interface, or Steam for games, it’s not fast enough even on a maxed out Pixelbook to be that enjoyable. Not yet anyway.

In addition, many graphics-based programs, such as the photo-editor Gimp, won’t run yet on Crostini. Give it time to mature before trying to get too fancy with heavy graphics software.

Soon, though, Linux and Chrome will be a matched pair. Come that day, I see high-end Chromebooks becoming the laptops of choice for developers.

In the meantime, if you want to do more with Linux and Chromebook, check out the excellent Reddit Crostini Wiki. For up-to-the-minute hands-on information about Crostini, its parent Reddit forum is the best resource on the web.

Enjoy!

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Chinese discounter Pinduoduo aims for up to $1.63 billion in U.S. IPO

(Reuters) – Chinese online group discounter Pinduoduo plans to raise up to $1.63 billion from a U.S. listing, its latest filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange showed, in what would be the second-biggest U.S. float by a Chinese firm this year.

Pinduoduo plans to sell about 85.6 million American Depositary Shares in an initial public offering (IPO) at a price range of $16 to $19 each, its filing late on Monday showed.

That values the three-year-old startup – which has yet to make a profit – at $20 billion to $24 billion, higher than its $15 billion valuation in April. Its free float will be 6.8 percent of enlarged share capital after a 15 percent “greenshoe” or over-allotment option which can be sold if there is demand, showed a term sheet seen by Reuters.

Two of the firm’s main existing shareholders – Tencent Holdings Ltd and Sequoia Capital – have each indicated an interest in buying up to $250 million worth of shares in the IPO, according to the filing.

The price range represents a 2020 price-to-sales ratio of 2.1–2.6 and a 2020 non-GAAP price-to-earnings ratio of 8.9–10.6, Thomson Reuters publication IFR reported.

The firm will open its book to investors on Tuesday and price the IPO on Wednesday of the following week, showed the term sheet. It expects to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol PDD.

Pinduoduo is the latest in a series of Chinese tech groups flocking to list offshore, seeking to replenish coffers amid ever-intensifying competition with domestic rivals, notably e-commerce firms Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and JD.com Inc, even as Sino-U.S. trade tension rattles global markets.

China’s Meituan Dianping, an online food delivery-to-ticketing services platform which rivals Alibaba-backed Ele.me, is also looking to launch an IPO of over $4 billion in Hong Kong in coming months.

Pinduoduo, set up by former Google engineer Colin Huang in 2015, is also joining several sizable Chinese listings in New York this year. Chinese video streaming service provider iQiyi Inc raised $2.42 billion from a Nasdaq IPO in March, and Tencent Music Entertainment, China’s largest music-streaming firm, aims to raise up to 4 billion in a U.S. IPO in October.

In an initial filing, Pinduoduo, which allows consumers to group together to increase the discounts offered by merchants, said it had 103 million monthly active users of its mobile platform at the end of March.

Due to low-priced products and a larger user base in China’s smaller cities, the firm’s gross merchandise volume exceeded 100 billion yuan ($14.98 billion) last year, a milestone for Chinese e-commerce firms that took Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace five years and JD.com 10 years to reach.

Pinduoduo’s revenue has grown sharply, reaching 1.38 billion yuan in January-March from 37 million yuan in the same period a year prior. Its net loss, however, remained broadly steady at 201 million yuan.

China Renaissance, CICC, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs are advising Pinduoduo, according to the filing.

Reporting by Julie Zhu in HONG KONG and Nikhil Subba in BENGALURU; Additional reporting by Fiona Lau of IFR; Editing by Maju Samuel and Christopher Cushing

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Forget Elon Musk. Read About These Surprising Heroes of the Thai Cave Rescue Everybody Else Forgot

If you’ve ever contributed to a team but didn’t get any recognition, I’ve got a story for you.

Even just figuring out their part in this story requires some guesswork. Finding them by name would probably be impossible. They’re probably just fine with never having their story told. But their story is worth telling.

The long line of problems

To understand their role, we have to quickly recount the tactical story of how the boys and their coach were rescued. We’ll number this to make it easy to keep track:

  1. We start with the team of international cave divers and Thai Navy SEALs who found and stayed with the 12 youth soccer players and their coach. These people are true heroes, as is the diver who lost his life in the effort, and who will be remembered for a long time.
  2. Of course, finding the boys was only step one. Getting them out was an incredibly challenging mission. As time ran out, rescuers made the dangerous call that they’d have to rig the boys in dive equipment, and bring them out partially submerged on an hours-long trip.
  3. This was difficult even for experienced cave divers. None of the boys could swim, let alone use dive equipment. So, the rescuers had to find a way to keep malnourished, scared kids comfortable during the rescue–and most importantly, avoid panic. The idea was basically the least bad option.
  4. They decided to sedate the boys during the escape. This was extremely dangerous, and the rescuers did not expect a 100 percent survival rate. But they felt there was no other choice. As Thai Navy SEALs and U.S. military officials explained it to the Thai government, according to The Washington Post, the choice was either “save most of them now, or lose all of them soon.”`

The Australian doctors

Anesthesia is a medical specialty, obviously. The rescuers needed people who (a) could dive and reach the boys, and (b) then administer the drugs in as safe a manner as possible.

Enter Richard Harris and Craig Challen, two Australian expert cave divers. Harris happens to be a practicing anesthesiologists, while Challen is a retired veterinarian. (They’re both big heroes in this story–widely praised, and rightly so.)

Even getting them into Thailand in the first place presented a problem. The Australian government reportedly had concerns about Harris and Challen’s legal exposure. Because even under ideal circumstances (like in a hospital), anesthesia carries some risk. Never mind in this incredible situation, in which they expected not all the boys would survive.

So, how do you work things out very quickly, and under extreme conditions, so that two foreign doctors volunteer to perform a risky mission in a foreign country, but find a way to exempt them from the country’s legal system if things go wrong? 

Better call the lawyers

An official source confirmed to Four Corners that Dr Challen and Dr Harris were given diplomatic immunity ahead of the risky mission, after negotiations between Australian and Thai Government officials.

Diplomatic immunity. Of course. Treat them like official Australian diplomats, as opposed to private citizen volunteers.

I’m a lawyer (currently non-practicing), and I spent a lot of time thinking about problems like this years ago in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. But this solution was so smart, straightforward and elegant–and I’m not sure I would have thought of it.

The negotiators for the Thai and Australian governments–and I’m going to go out on a limb and bet that some or all of them were lawyers–figured it out.

We’ll probably never know their names. But without them, there’d have been no legal protection for the Australian doctors in case something went wrong in this extremely risky rescue–and it’s quite possible the rescue wouldn’t have happened.

And to me, they represent all the thousands of other nameless people who came together to contribute, without knowing 

So, forget about Elon Musk. And forget about that pithy line from Shakespeare. Next time there’s a big emergency, first thing we do? Call all the lawyers.

By the way, here’s the Facebook post that Dr. Harris wrote on the way home to Australia after the rescue. Its tone of gratitude could teach some other players in this whole affair an important lesson.  

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SoftBank tightens grip on Yahoo Japan via $2 billion deal with Altaba

TOKYO (Reuters) – SoftBank Group is increasing its stake in Yahoo Japan through a $2 billion, three-way deal with U.S. firm Altaba to deepen ties with the internet heavyweight ahead of an IPO of its telecoms unit.

FILE PHOTO: A website of Yahoo Japan Corp is seen on a computer screen in Tokyo August 19, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Under the deal, SoftBank will buy 221 billion yen ($2 billion) of Yahoo Japan shares from Altaba, formerly internet giant Yahoo Inc. Yahoo Japan will then buy back 220 billion of stock from SoftBank.

As a result of the transaction SoftBank’s stake in Yahoo Japan will rise to 48.17 percent from 42.95 percent with just a $9 million net investment. Altaba, Yahoo Japan’s second largest shareholder, will have about 27 percent and end a joint venture partnership.

SoftBank said in a statement on Tuesday the deal will strengthen cooperation between the company, one of Japan’s big three telecoms firms, and Yahoo Japan, an internet heavyweight in areas such as news and shopping.

The synergies between SoftBank and Yahoo Japan are “consistent with SoftBank Group’s broader strategic synergy group initiative,” SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said in the statement.

FILE PHOTO: An employee works behind a logo of Softbank Corp at its branch in Tokyo March 2, 2011. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

SoftBank and its Vision Fund, the world’s largest private equity fund standing at over $93 billion as of May last year, have been taking minority stakes in technology companies around the world that Son believes will come to dominate their respective fields.

The news of the Yahoo Japan deal comes as SoftBank prepares to list its domestic telecoms unit in what could be the largest Japanese IPO in nearly two decades.

Yahoo Japan could use SoftBank’s telecom services to boost demand for online shopping and mobile payments among Japan’s increasingly net-savvy shoppers. SoftBank, through Yahoo Japan and others, is offering its mobile users an increasingly wide range of top-up services in addition to a basic phone subscription.

Yahoo Japan’s shares were up nearly 12 percent in early afternoon Tokyo trading. Despite that jump, its shares are down more than 22 percent this year.

“It’s clear that using excess funds for share buybacks is the only way Yahoo Japan has to hold up its share price,” said Yasuo Sakuma, chief investment officer at Libra Investments. The firm does not hold positions in Yahoo Japan or SoftBank.

Altaba has been selling down its Yahoo Japan stake. Two Altaba appointments to the Yahoo Japan board will step down as a result of the transaction announced on Tuesday.

SoftBank shares were up 2 percent, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index up 1 percent.

Reporting by Sam Nussey and Chris Gallagher; Additional reporting by Tomo Uetake; Editing by Stephen Coates and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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Pixel 2 XL Vs. iPhone X: One Long-Term Winner (Review)

Credit: Google

Pixel 2 XL: Google can easily lay claim to one of the world’s best smartphones.

Which of two great phones squeaks out a win over the long haul and delivers an upside surprise? Read on.

Note: this updates a previous review of the two phones.

I’ve been using the iPhone X, Google Pixel 2 XL, and Pixel 2 since the fall of 2017.  In this short review I’ll focus on four metrics of the two flagships that impress over the long term.

Credit: @OnLeaks and MySmartPrice

Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 3 render.

To Notch Or Not: 

I prefer phones without a notch. Based on the above render of the Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 3 from @onleaks and mysmartprice, the Pixel 3 XL will get an iPhone X-like notch.

That’s a little disappointing (if true) because I favor the Pixel 2 XL physical design over the iPhone X because Google executed a great design without the notch. (That said, I guess we’ll all have to get used to the notch because it’s fast becoming the design element du jour.)

Display — Let’s talk about the Pixel 2 XL: 

Pixel 2 XL: I’ve had three builds of the Pixel 2 XL over the last seven months. Why? Because I didn’t like the initial OLED display (made by LG) on the XL: mostly because colors were muted. There was also a “blue shift,” i.e., a blue tint when viewed from an angle on white backgrounds. But the blue shift didn’t bother me as much since all OLED displays (including the iPhone X) have this to some degree.

My most recent build is January 25, 2018. That’s more than three months after it was released and at least four months since the early builds. The upshot: I have been pleasantly surprised with the fresh build. Maybe it’s a hit-or-miss thing but the display quality has definitely improved since the two early builds. The colors are no longer muted and the blue tint, while still there, isn’t glaring (though I can’t speak for others).

But, again, by far the most important thing is that the colors are deeper, more vibrant, i.e., it now looks like a high-quality OLED display (see notes at bottom¹).

iPhone X: Apple’s first iPhone with an OLED display (made by Samsung) is even better than the excellent LCD on the iPhone 8 (which I’ve also been using). That’s saying a lot. When looking at photos, the X’s OLED display is tuned so it’s not quite as garish as the saturated colors on Samsung’s Galaxy phones. In short, no complaints.

Credit: Apple

Software: 

Apps: an even match. Granted, there are some exceptions (like video editing, which tends to favor the iPhone) but generally there’s parity between the two platforms. In fact, most apps are indistinguishable between iOS and Android.

AI: This isn’t breaking news but Google Assistant on the Pixel is superior to Apple’s Siri. I don’t use Google Assistant or Siri that much but if you do, go with the Pixel. Simple fact is, Google does AI better than Apple.

Integration with Mac: Apple is better at synching iOS features with the MacBook out of the box. That includes call features such as FaceTime calls. I also use a Pixelbook (made by Google) with the Pixel 2 XL but, aside from the obvious things like Chrome, Photos, Docs, and Calendar, there isn’t the deeper level of integration that iOS and the macOS have. This a big plus for Apple and I value this a lot. (And I would suggest that Google do a better job here.)

Value: 

Apple has an amazing phone but loses this one because, starting at $999 with 64GB, it is about $100 too much. On the other hand, the Pixel 2 XL with 64GB and a considerably larger 6-inch OLED display (both taller and wider than the 5.8-inch on the X) starts at $849.

Other upsides: the Pixel 2 XL is the best pure, lag-free Android experience, doesn’t have a notch (unlike the iPhone X), has a gorgeous display (on the later builds), a camera that’s the iPhone X’s equal, and feels great in the hand for a big phone.

Overall:

Platform preference aside, the Pixel 2 XL is a better value and boasts quality equal to the iPhone X — even considering the initial display problems. And has a gorgeous physical design sans the notch.

And one more thing: Biometrics. I’m not a big fan of the iPhone X’s Face ID because it requires you to hold the phone directly (more or less) in front of your face. I prefer the XL’s fingerprint ID on the back of the phone. But this is a personal preference thing so I may be in the minority here.

—-

¹The colors appear much less muted even with “Saturated” toggled off (this is done in the “Display” settings under “Advanced”). I have chosen to keep Saturated turned on, which I did not do on the earlier builds because I thought it looked too artificial. That’s not the case now.

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Astronomers Reveal Two New Candidates For Alien Life

Credit: NASA

Artist’s depiction, Kepler-1652b.

The list is getting longer.

Space scientists just added two more worlds to the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog—the online database ranking the best picks for life in the galaxy.

55 planets now make the list—all places where extraterrestrials may exist.

Or perhaps not; maybe nothing lives on any of them, not even a microbe.

“There are still so many unknowns,” says Abel Mendez, the catalog’s chief curator.

The two new planets, like their 53 predecessors, are little more than shadows to us, literally and figuratively—cosmic conundrums residing trillions of miles from our solar system.

But this much is known: Both worlds are near the size of Earth. Both might have Earth-like temperatures. Both orbit their stars in the habitable zone—the sweet spot in a system, a location where liquid water may flow and life may flourish.

Mendez, a planetary astrobiologist and professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, says that’s enough to consider them “potentially habitable,” at least for now.

Credit: [email protected] Arecibo (phl.upr.edu)

Kepler-1652b is new to the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog.

Kepler-1652b—probably rocky, and “only ten percent larger than Earth,” says Mendez—orbits a red dwarf star in the constellation Cygnus, 822 light years away.

Red dwarfs aren’t easy parent stars. Many are hyperactive; some blitz nearby planets with ferocious stellar flares, annihilating their atmospheres.

“But this planet is further out, close to the center of its habitable zone,” says Mendez. “It’s less likely to be damaged by flares.”

Indeed, preliminary data indicates reasonable surface temperatures—around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. In New York City, that’s a mild winter’s day.

“It probably has some temperatures similar to Earth,” says Mendez. “But that’s a guess.”

And that’s also the rub.

Credit: NASA / Walt Feimer

Artist’s impression of a red dwarf star.

Credit: NASA

The habitable zone.

Kepler-1652b is so far away—about five quadrillion miles—there’s little more to do than speculate and estimate. The world is too remote for even NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, now slated for a 2021 launch.

“It will be a long time before we know much about this planet,” sighs Mendez. “It’s screaming, ‘Learn more about me.’ But the distance makes that very hard. It may be decades before we know more. Maybe centuries.”

The other planet—HD 283869b—orbits a “K star” in the constellation Taurus, 155 light years away, approximately 900 trillion miles.

“That’s the good thing about this one,” Mendez says. “It’s closer.”

K-stars—so-called “orange dwarfs”—are larger than reds, but smaller than our Sun.

“And stable,” says Mendez. “That’s a very good scenario.”

The planet, still awaiting confirmation, is about twice the size of Earth“and might be a hot ocean world,” Mendez says. “Microbial life may be an option.”

More additions to the catalog are expected before year’s end. Ultimately, Mendez anticipates a list of thousands.

“This is amazing,” he says. “Who would have thought that, even ten years ago?”

Credit: NASA

Artist’s concept. An exoplanet with life.

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How Chinese Internet Giant Baidu Uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

, Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

At the beginning of 2017, Chinese tech company Baidu, the largest provider of Chinese language internet search as well as other digital products and services, committed to emerging business sectors such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Since China has 731 million internet users, almost twice the U.S. population, Baidu’s data set is capable of fueling AI algorithms to make them even better. With this focus on artificial intelligence, Baidu is exploring some very intriguing applications for artificial intelligence and machine learning including in their offices where facial recognition technology makes standard ID cards unnecessary and allows you to order tea from a vending machine.

Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock

They have also recruited top AI talent including one of the world’s most notable AI pioneers Lu Qi, who was previously a Microsoft executive before he became Baidu’s COO in January 2017. Qi will step down in July 2018 for personal reasons. Although he was only at Baidu for a short time, he helped chart a clear strategy for the company’s AI operations that will continue. Here are a few ways Baidu uses artificial intelligence and machine learning.

DuerOS is Baidu’s voice assistant

Since Baidu can leverage its expansive data set, its voice assistant called DuerOS has accumulated more conversation-based skill sets than Alexa, Siri or Cortana. Partnering with other tech companies is one way Baidu hopes to accelerate innovation. They have teamed up with more than 130 DuerOS partners, and the voice assistant is in more than 100 brands of appliances such as refrigerators, TVs, and speakers. Since homes in India, Japan, Europe, and Brazil are more like homes in China, there may be better opportunities for DuerOS to globalize since Alexa, Cortana and Echo are optimized for American households. At CES 2018, Baidu debuted its DuerOS-powered smart screen called Little Fish VS1. This technology can recognize and respond to individual faces.

Mobile partners to accelerate AI-powered devices

Unlike its competitors, Baidu was steadfast in its commitment to desktops and missed the shift to mobile. To survive, Baidu needed a new strategy and artificial intelligence technology provided just the platform to turn the business around. That’s one of the reasons Baidu has committed so aggressively to AI investment. Today, AI products and services are priorities to make them the core of the company’s future. Now, they are partnering with Huawei to develop an open mobile AI platform to support the development of AI-powered smartphones and Qualcomm to optimize its DuerOS for IoT devices and smartphones using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Mobile Platform.

Self-driving cars

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