Google starts slowly adding support for running Linux applications on Chromebooks. But as I discovered when I tested Linux apps on Acer Chromebook Tab 10 recently, it's still an ongoing work. The feature is also not available for all Chrome OS computers yet.
It can change in the not too distant future. At this time, you must run Chrome OS in the developer channel to enable Linux app support. There are indications that the Linux app support was able to hit the Chrome OS beta channel this week, and it could go on the stable channel when Chrome OS 69 was released later this year.
But … what if you want to try Chrome OS + Linux app support and you do not have a Chromebook or Chromebox? You can just build your own.
After taking Linux app support for a spin on an HP Chromebox G2, Ian Morrison wanted to see if he could use the software on another computer. Then he installed Chromium OS (Open Source version of Chrome OS) on a Vorke V5 Plus hardware (currently available for $ 1
Chrome OS users have used a tool called Crouton to install fully functional GNU / Linux desktop environments like Ubuntu with Chrome for many years. But while Crouton makes it possible to install and run desktop Linux software on a Chromebook, you need to switch to a less secure developer mode to use it and Linux running in its own desktop environment, which means you have to switch back and forth between Chrome OS and Linux.
The new Linux app feature in Chrome OS uses new tools that Google calls Crostini. Linux is installed in a virtual machine / container system that allows you to install and run Linux applications almost as if they were native Chrome OS apps. They will appear in your launcher, and they run in windows that can be displayed at the same time as Chrome OS windows.
Morrison notes that the steps to enable Crostini / install Linux are essentially the same in Chrome OS as they are in Chrome OS. However, there are some important differences between Chrome and Chrome.
Not only is there an open source, while the other is not, but Chrome OS does not support Android applications, Adobe Flash or Widevine CDM. It also does not support automatic updates.
So if you decide to build your own Chrome OS / Crostini device, you must download and install security and feature updates manually.
It is also worth noting that on this point you can not use Linux apps if you are running from a LiveUSB. You must install Chromium OS in your computer's built-in storage, so be sure to back up any important files you may lose in the process.
At this time, I'm not sure there's much reason to run Chromium OS with Crostini on a laptop or desktop other than for testing purposes. But in the future, it may be an interesting option for people who want to build their own Chromebox instead of buying an off-the-shelf model, but who also want the ability to run desktop Linux applications like GIMP, LibreOffice, Kdenlive, Handbrake, or Ardor.