2 posts

Web Development on a Chromebook Part 2: Setting Up Development Tools

Web Development on a Chromebook Part 2: Setting Up Development Tools

Following on from part 1: Installing GalliumOS on a Chromebook - we should have full access to install applications and developer tools onto the Chromebook through GalliumOS (or any other Linux distribution). There are many tools and editors available for web development, in this tutorial we're going to setup a complete web development environment by installing NodeJS - for running server side Javascript and installing packages, Git - for source control, Visual Studio Code my preferred code editor and a couple of NPM packages to generate some skeleton web applications to get us up and running quickly.

Installing NodeJS

NodeJs can be installed via the command line using the standard sudo apt-get install command however with GalliumOS, I'd strongly advise installing node via the Node Version Manager (NVM). I found this easier because when Node is installed using sudo, all node commands need to be executed with sudo permissions however this falls over when automated scripts try to run node/npm commands without sudo permissions and it becomes difficult to maintain. Using the NVM instead enables you to run any node/npm command without using sudo and it also enables multiple versions of node to be installed and managed on the same machine with he ability to switch versions on demand which is pretty cool.

To install the Node Version Manager run the following command:

curl -o- | bash  

Once the NVM has been installed we can install the latest version of NodeJS

nvm install 6.10  

One installed, run the following command to double check that you have a version of NodeJs installed:

nvm ls  

Now node is installed, we just need to install Node's package manager (NPM) and we're ready to install VsCode

npm install -g  

Installing Visual Studio Code

To install Visual Studio Code we first need to get the installer from the VsCode Website (download the Debian *.deb installer and install it from the command line.

sudo dpkg -i <VsCodeFileName>.deb  

Now we're all setup, navigate to a directory on your file system and run the following command to launch VsCode

code .  

We've now turned our ChromeBook into a portable web development machine, stay tuned for more posts on how to be productive using visual studio code.

Web Development on a Chromebook Part 1: Installing GalliumOS

Web Development on a Chromebook Part 1: Installing GalliumOS

Since their launch in 2011, Chromebooks have been intriguing devices to myself and others who have been looking for a slim, light and portable machine with a decent battery life capable of running applications, code editors and source control on the go, the only problem being that they come bundled with ChromeOS. It's well documented online that Chromebooks can run Ubuntu and other Linux distros which get the job done however at a cost of either taking up scarce hard drive space, potential hits to performance and/or reduced battery life which is why I held off for a while until I discovered the GalliumOS project.


GalliumOS is a fast, lightweight Linux distribution built on top of Xubuntu that has been specifically developed and optimized for ChromeOS devices. This offers a native Linux experience including optimized, working drivers for ChromeOS devices out of the box and it only takes up around 4GB space on the SSD (I was left with 11.5 GB on a 16GB SSD).

There are many Chromebooks available on the market however I chose to go with the Dell Chromebook 3120 (4GB version) as it has the best build quality according to reviews and you can get them with 4GB RAM which is now scarce with 11" Chromebook models. I managed to pick one up for £169 + VAT on special offer from Dell in their sale.


Installing GalliumOS should be straight forward using the installation guide however some Chromebooks (Dell 3120 included) may require the removal of a "write-protection" screw on the motherboard before being able to modify the operating system on the device. In order to do this I have to open up my Chromebook by removing the screws on the back, opening the back cover, disconnecting the battery and removing the screw labelled "WP" which can be seen here. Once Write protection is enabled, the Chrombook needs to be put into "Developer Mode" and the firmware needs flashing using the scripts, there are full instructions for this procedure here for each processor type (the Dell 3120 uses the Bay Trail processor).

Following a successful firmware updated, the device is ready for GalliumOS to be installed, look here for instructions on how to create a bootable SD card/USB to install from. Those of you who are looking to dual boot from an external device, I'd strongly recommend using a 90mb/s SD Card like this one for the best experience however the SD card does stick out about an inch when in use.

With GalliumOS installed you're now able to install any applications/packages compatible with Ubuntu which should include all of your favorite development tools. For those of you less experienced with Linux, in part 2 we're going to look at getting a development environment up and running in GalliumOS with Node, Git and Visual Studio Code.