ChromeOS as a Bona Fide Dev Platform

A while back, I was gifted a Chromebook for work. This was a good few years ago, before Chromebooks were actually a thing (besides the CR47), and it all had to be kept pretty hush-hush. Being a developer, I felt that it was an odd choice, since there wasn't much I was able to do on it besides check my email and code review. I pretty much just threw it in my bag for the occasional use.

I liked it, though. I really did. I am a pretty big fan of Google Apps, and I was already doing most of my day-to-day stuff online, so having a fast, tiny laptop that did what I usually needed to do was pretty nice. Nice enough that I went ahead and purchased one for myself when my work laptop was returned.

Skip ahead a few years and there I am, buying a Chromebook Pixel, because why the hell not. I really enjoy ChromeOS, and having an open bios meant I could install pretty much anything else on it as well. I did the usual dual-boot Ubuntu on it for a while with Crouton, which was nice and let me do some cool stuff like run Steam and some games, but it was, overall, more than I wanted. I wanted to just open my Chromebook and use it natively as a development laptop. I mean, it has a built in shell, and you can run bash on it, so where are all the tools I use?

Enter Chromebrew

Check this out. Chromebrew is a (cleverly named) package manager for ChromeOS. It works similarly to brew and apt-get, but pretty dumbed down. Also worth noting, it only supports i686 and x86_64 Chromebooks. Looking past that, turns out, Chromebrew is pretty awesome. In a few minutes, I had git, nodejs, vim, tmux and leveldb set up natively on my Chromebook. Suddenly, I had a pretty complete development environment set up on my laptop without the need to switch over to Ubuntu.

As the first test, I checked out one of the current projects at work. I figured a good way to put the system to the test would be to try and run a relatively complicated project on it. Welp, one npm install later, I had my work project up and running flawlessly.

That's All There Is To Say, Really

There isn't much else to say. It's more than just a browser. I could go on, rambling about other features of Chromebooks, but thats not what I'm here for. All I suggest is that next time you are looking for something to throw in your bag to take to a meetup or on a trip, maybe consider that $200 chromebook instead of some of the seriously expensive alternatives. It's also worth noting that if you do any kind of development work on a remote server, ChromeOS supports ssh out of the box, so you also have yourself a nice terminal box as well.

Work smart, not expensive.