I took the plunge and bought my first Chromebook


I bought a Chromebook yesterday as a Amazon Prime Day special. A somewhat dangerous buy for a developer, but driven by a minimal budget.

I’m an experienced developer but not experienced in JavaScript so I hope to get up to speed using this device. I’m looking at Caret for editing and 200 OK! as a local web server.

Any advice on how best to achieve this goal would be appreciated, but I’d rather not make any substantial changes to the OS.

UPDATE: My Chromebook arrived today. Alas, the backlight doesn’t appear to work. Tried adjusting brightness and resetting but no effect. If I shine a light on the screen, I can see the Welcome message, but totally invisible without it. I bought it direct from Amazon, so I hope the return is easy. Not sure if I want to take a chance on another device of the same model. I’ve never had this kind of problem with a brand new computer.

UPDATE2: I decided to exchange it for the same model. If the next one doesn’t work, I’ll ask for a refund instead.

Comments (21)

21 responses to “I took the plunge and bought my first Chromebook”

  1. Paul Thurrott

    Which one did you get? :)

    • skane2600

      In reply to paul-thurrott:

      As copied from Amazon: Acer Chromebook 15 CB515-1HT-P39B, Pentium N4200, 15.6" Full HD Touch, 4GB LPDDR4, 32GB Storage, Pure Silver. I paid $315.

      I know the CPU isn't a speed demon, but I hope it will be good enough. I will probably have to curb my tendency to have a lot of tabs open at the same time. I don't care much about touch, but it's nice to have. Not exactly light, but I don't expect to carry it around too often.

      • offTheRecord

        In reply to skane2600:

        "I know the CPU isn't a speed demon, but I hope it will be good enough. I will probably have to curb my tendency to have a lot of tabs open at the same time."

        I still use several Zotac fanless PCs with an Intel N2930 and 4 GB of RAM for more things than they probably have a right to be used for. The N4200 scores about 24% higher overall than the N2930 in various benchmarks. I am a *heavy* user of tabs in Chrome (pick a "reasonable" number, triple it and you'll probably be close...on the low side) and I very rarely have problems (relatively speaking) until I reach the extremes (at some point, the Chrome browser usually just craps out -- unfortunately, it often screws things up so bad, in general, that a reboot is necessary, but I digress). I do, however, use the Great Suspender extension, which I'm sure helps.

        With Chrome OS, I would think that CPU and 4 GB of RAM would be more than enough for all but the most computationally-challenging tasks (which you're probably not going to be doing on a Chromebook, anyway).

  2. christian.hvid

    Not sure if this helps, but SJVN wrote an article yesterday on how to add full Debian Linux to a Chromebook: https://www.zdnet.com/article/how-to-add-linux-to-your-chromebook/. That should expand your development options considerably, including running a proper IDE like VS Code.

    Edit: your particular model is on the inofficial list of Chromebooks that support this. It's all quite experimental at this point, so don't expect it to work too reliably.

  3. curtisspendlove

    In reply to skane2600:

    You can do pretty basic stuff without a CLI, such as writing a traditional site with HTML/CSS/JavaScript.

    But when you start wanting to work with modern frameworks (Node, Angular, etc) most of those start needing a CLI to interface with them.

    If you don’t care to go to that level, it’s probably not an issue.

  4. curtisspendlove

    Caret is probably your best bet if you don’t want to go the Crouton route (which requires developer mode and has some drawbacks). It gives you local Linux access though, you can even run Visual Studio Code or such.

    Unfortunately there are always a set of compromises, though the Chromebook ones aren’t *too* bad.

    I personally don’t mind the downsides to Crouton for the gains you get.

    But I have also been experimenting with just having a Linux VM running in the cloud. This option does require some sort of internet connection, of course. So it also has tradeoffs. It should work across most client devices though as you can either SSH (if you don’t mind a CLI) or you can VNC to a graphical install.


    (Not my site, but a pretty good summary. Don’t blame me for the rabbit hole and losing three days.). ;)

    • skane2600

      In reply to curtisspendlove:

      Should I assume that the Linux VM running in the cloud is something you pay for?

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to skane2600:

        Should I assume that the Linux VM running in the cloud is something you pay for?

        Yes. You can find some free ones, but they are generally less secure (public visibility, etc).

        You can often just spin up a small one through Google Cloud or AWS and stay under the “free” tier limits though.

        I like Digital Ocean (or Linode) as you can spin up a decent server with a flat fee run-rate.

        The $5 / month ones are perfectly fine for this sort of thing.

        If you don’t mind tearing it down and spinning it back up from a snapshot you can minimize those costs.

        Edit: I’ve also found a large challenge with coding on most Chromebooks has been the anemic SSDs most come with. :( The cloud VMs can help mitigate this.

  5. hrlngrv

    Caret is better than Text, but I haven't checked for newer text editors for over a year. Then again, if you enable developer mode, you'd also get a console in which you could run vim.

  6. offTheRecord

    I *almost* did the same. The Asus Flip C302 was $399. Sold out before I decided to pull the trigger. Guess I'll just keep waiting to see what the new Acer Chromebooks are like now.

    EDIT: They seem to be back in stock at Amazon...at the "normal" price of $449, of course. Might take the plunge after all.

  7. curtisspendlove

    In reply to Jeffery_Commaroto:

    This is an excellent summary. I had forgotten about Crostini. It’s the one to keep an eye on.