[Revised]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

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[Revised]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

Postby hkoster1 » 2013-04-22 15:58

The easiest and fastest way to get a Debian rootfs to run on most of the current Chromebooks is in a chroot to be entered from ChromeOS (in developer mode), using the crouton installation scripts by Google's David Schneider. So, read no further if all you want to do is play around a bit with running a Debian rootfs on your Samsung ARM Chromebook.

The chroot method is not suitable in my view for a serious Debian rootfs installation, as you'll bump into restrictions imposed by the ChromeOS chroot. For example, installing a CUPS network printer in the chroot is a major headache... you'll be wasting a lot of time chasing solutions to this and similar problems.

Better in that case to run the Debian rootfs directly on the hardware, with its own kernel. Initially, as described in this HOWTO, that will be a copy of the ChromeOS kernel, but this could eventually also be a Debian kernel configured for this Chromebook's hardware and firmware.

This HOWTO describes installing the Debian rootfs on external storage, which gets around the size limitations of the internal SSD. This can be an SDHC card, which is what I'm using in what follows, but a USB-3 hard disk (or even an SSD!) is also a good alternative. You'll need at least a 16 GB SDHC card for a full Debian rootfs, I used 32 GB. The kernel to go with the Debian rootfs will be put on the internal KERN-C partition, which only needs a measly 16 MB; I've found this to be faster than putting it on the external SDHC card. Unfortunately, an external USB-3 drive (which would be faster still) is not bootable with the current firmware of the Samsung ARM Chromebook.

The armhf architecture is relatively new to Debian, having just made it into the current (2013) stable release (Wheezy). Not all packages have yet been ported to Wheezy, so installing unstable (Sid) may be the preferred option -- hence the title of this HOWTO. There were some problems with Sid at the time of writing this revision, so I installed a Wheezy rootfs instead. A few necessary packages not in Wheezy can be installed from Sid as the need arises.

All commands in the following are to be run as root, both in Linux and in ChromeOS.

1. Install the Debian rootfs
This is mainly done on a running Linux box.

1.1 Prepare the SDHC
Connect the SDHC to the Linux box and install a GUID partition table (GPT) on it, for example with gparted. This will wipe the entire storage device, so the usual disclaimers about first backing up its contents apply. Still in gparted, install an Ext2 Linux partition for the Debian rootfs (I used all free space on the 32 GB SDHC). N.B. Use Ext4 if you're not concerned about frequent journal writes...

When done, mount that partition somewhere convenient, like
Code: Select all
# mount -o dev,exec /dev/mmcblk0p1 /mnt
(adjust if your device/partition or mount point is different).

1.2 Prepare the Debian rootfs
Still on the Linux box, with your SDHC card mounted as shown above, perform a first-stage debootstrap installation with
Code: Select all
# debootstrap --verbose --arch=armhf --foreign wheezy /mnt http://<your.preferred.mirror>/debian/
Note the option "--foreign" when you're not running on the ARM architecture.

The debootstrap is completed when chrooted to the new rootfs, for which the packages qemu-user-static and binfmt-support must be available on the Linux host OS. The chroot is prepared and entered as follows:
Code: Select all
# cp /usr/bin/qemu-arm-static /mnt/usr/bin/
# mkdir /mnt/dev/pts
# modprobe binfmt_misc
# mount -t proc /proc /mnt/proc
# mount -t devpts /dev/pts /mnt/dev/pts
# chroot /mnt
The prompt in the chroot will indicate that there is as yet no name -- this will be fixed later.

Next, in the chroot, complete the installation of the base system with
Code: Select all
# /debootstrap/debootstrap --second-stage
which should end with a message stating successful installation.

1.3 Configure the rootfs
It is convenient, while still in the chroot, to configure at least the base system. First, edit /etc/apt/sources.list for your version of Debian using your mirror of choice, and
Code: Select all
# aptitude update

Before installing any packages, configure language and locale,
Code: Select all
# export LANG=C
# aptitude install dialog locales
# dpkg-reconfigure locales
after which I just used
Code: Select all
# export LANG=en_US.UTF-8
Now is also the time to install some additional packages, which might include wpasupplicant, netbase, net-tools, and stalwarts like vim, less, etc. Installing a full desktop environment at this stage, like XFCE, is best left for later (it failed when I tried it here).

Edit /etc/network/interfaces for wireless access on the Chromebook by adding
Code: Select all
auto mlan0
iface mlan0 inet dhcp
      wpa-ssid <SSID>
      wpa-psk  <passphrase>
where you should insert your own particulars. Alternatively, you could also configure the eth0 interface for use with a USB-Ethernet adapter.

Finally, fix passwords, user and hostname with
Code: Select all
# passwd
# adduser <user>
# vi /etc/hostname
and also add the chosen hostname to /etc/hosts with the line
Code: Select all
127.0.1.1           <your-hostname>
A few more adjustments to the Debian rootfs will be done later in ChromeOS, so exit the chroot and unmount the external storage in the usual manner.

2. Prepare the Chromebook
We must enter development mode, repartition the internal SSD, and install a kernel to the KERN-C partition.

2.1 Enter development mode
Enter development mode by keeping the Esc and Refresh (swirl) keys depressed while powering the Chromebook on. Next, in a "scary" screen with dire warnings, hit Ctrl-D and follow instructions. This procedure will take a while.

Wait after a reboot for the login screen to appear, then enter a Linux root shell with Ctrl-Alt-Right (where Right is the right arrow in the top row). Alternatively, obtain a Linux root shell from the "crosh" window after logging in.

The Chromebook will remain in developer mode for dual-booting; new developer firmware will not be pushed in developer mode, so it may be necessary to update this manually in a root shell with
Code: Select all
# chromeos-firmwareupdate --mode=todev
once in a while. This would be the case dual-booting fails or if that "scary" screen is no longer graphical.

Should one ever wish to return to normal user mode, then before doing so a regular firmware update is recommended,
Code: Select all
# chromeos-firmwareupdate --mode=tonormal

Finally, any software mistakes that leave the system unbootable can be fixed with recovery mode and a suitable recovery image that may be downloaded from Google.

2.2 Repartition the internal SSD
Show the current partition table with
Code: Select all
# cgpt show /dev/mmcblk0
Notice that in the ChromeOS scheme of things partitions 2--12 have fixed sizes, while partition~1 (STATE) expands to occupy otherwise unused space on the drive. Partitions~6 (KERN-C) and~7 (ROOT-C) are placeholder partitions intended for dual-boot purposes, initially sized at a single 512-byte sector. Space for their operating sizes may be taken from the STATE partition, which in my case (after a recent recovery) started at sector X = 8,671,232 and had size Y = 22,073,344. Your figures for STATE may differ and could either be at the beginning or end of the SSD.

KERN-C must be given size 32,768 taken from the end of STATE, leaving Y - 32,768 (= 22,040,576 in my case) sectors for STATE. The expanded KERN-C will then start at sector X + Y - 32,768 (= 8,671,232 + 22,040,576 = 30,711,808 in my case). You need to compute these figures for your case.

First, repeatedly unmount the STATE partition (since it is multiply mounted), with
Code: Select all
# umount -l /dev/mmcblk0p1
until ChromeOS says that it is not mounted (and mind the "-l" option). Then do the repartitioning with your newly computed starting and size figures, which in my case required the commands
Code: Select all
# cgpt add -i 1 -b 8671232 -s 22040576 -t data -l STATE /dev/mmcblk0
# cgpt add -i 6 -b 30711808 -s 32768 -t kernel -l KERN-C /dev/mmcblk0
The new partition table will be effective after a reboot, upon which the STATE partition will also be repopulated by the firmware. (If you made a mistake or copied my figures blindly, then you may need to do a full recovery with an image downloaded from Google.)

3. Install kernel and modules/firmware
Enter a root shell on the Chromebook and insert the SDHC with the Debian rootfs -- it will be recognized as /dev/mmcblk1p2.

3.1 Install the kernel
Use an editor to put a suitable kernel command line in the temporary file /tmp/config
Code: Select all
console=tty1 debug verbose root=/dev/mmcblk1p1 rootwait rw lsm.module_locking=0
all on one line. Note that our kernel modules will not load without that last option, due to a bug in modprobe and/or busybox.

Find the current kernel version with
Code: Select all
# uname -r
showing it to be 3.4.0. As ChromeOS has now done away with the /boot directory, we must repackage a copy of the running kernel for our use. Use
Code: Select all
# cgpt show /dev/mmcblk0
once more to show which of the kernels A and B has the highest priority -- it was B in my case. Copy the contents of KERN-B to a fle with
Code: Select all
# dd if=/dev/mmcblk0p4 of=/tmp/oldblob
which should show that 32768 records were properly read. Next, collect the necessary repackaging and signing command in another file, call it /tmp/repack,
Code: Select all
vbutil_kernel --repack /tmp/newkern \
  --keyblock /usr/share/vboot/devkeys/kernel.keyblock \
  --version 1 \
  --signprivate \
      /usr/share/vboot/devkeys/kernel_data_key.vbprivk \
  --config=/tmp/config \
  --oldblob /tmp/oldblob
(for convenience complete with backslashes and linebreaks) then run this command with
Code: Select all
# sh /tmp/repack
which sees the new kernel stored in /tmp/newkern. The resulting new kernel is written to the KERN-C partition with
Code: Select all
# dd if=/tmp/newkern of=/dev/mmcblk06
One final adjustment is to give this kernel the highest boot priority with
Code: Select all
# cgpt add -i 6 -S 1 -P 5 /dev/mmcblk0


Continue in the same session with copying kernel modules and firmware to the Debian rootfs, as described next.

3.2 Copy modules and firmware to Debian rootfs
Mount the SDHC for convenience on the new mount point /tmp/debian, then
Code: Select all
# cp -ar /lib/firmware /tmp/debian/lib/
# cp -ar /lib/modules /tmp/debian/lib/
# cp -ar /usr/share/alsa/ucm /tmp/debian/usr/share/alsa/
# cp -ar /usr/bin/alsaucm /tmp/debian/usr/bin
# chmod 755 /tmp/debian/usr/bin/alsaucm
where you should be careful about those slashes...

We can now reboot with our new Debian rootfs.

4. Booting with the Debian rootfs
Reboot into that scary screen and hit Ctrl-D to boot the priority kernel, which for the Debian rootfs should be KERN-C.

4.1 Do this first...
Only after the first boot and with the ALSA packages installed (perhaps as part of the desktop environment) configure the sound card with
Code: Select all
# alsaucm -c DAISY-I2S set _verb HiFi
You may fry the speakers if this hasn't been done!

We also need to edit the new file 50-touchpad.conf in directory /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d (making directories as needed) with content
Code: Select all
Section "InputClass"
   Identifier        "Touchpad"
   MatchIsTouchpad   "on"
   Option            "FingerHigh"     "5"
   Option            "FingerLow"      "5"
EndSection
to get some minimal touchpad functionality.

4.2 Install cgpt from Sid
We need the cgpt package in order to be able to boot ChromeOS again. Unfortunately, the cgpt package didn't make it in Wheezy, so download it from the Sid repositories for the armhf architecture instead. There are no dependency problems, so just install it with
Code: Select all
# dpkg -i cgptxxxxxxxxx_armhf.deb

It is convenient to reset the priority of KERN-C in the script /usr/local/bin/chromeboot,
Code: Select all
#!/bin/sh
## (Re)boot Chromebook with ChromeOS.
## Usage: chromeboot [now]
## to be run with root privileges.
cgpt add -i 6 -S 1 -P 0 /dev/mmcblk0
case "$1" in
    now* ) echo "Will reboot ChromeOS now..."
              sleep 3
              reboot ;;
          * ) echo "Will boot ChromeOS on next (re)boot..." ;;
esac
and likewise to boot with the Debian rootfs from ChromeOS with the setting "-P 5". These scripts must be made executable with root privileges with
Code: Select all
# chmod 744 <path-to-script>


5. Finally...
The 3rd post in this thread contains some pointers on how to get the screen brightness and audio volume buttons to work as intended.

Enjoy!

Credits: I found the http://linux-sunxi.org/Debian site helpful, as well as blogs by Andrew Wafaa and Marcin Juszkiewicz. The vbutil_kernel help page was, well, helpful as well...
Last edited by hkoster1 on 2014-01-04 10:25, edited 31 times in total.
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Re: [UPDATED]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

Postby hkoster1 » 2013-06-04 15:40

I've updated this HOWTO since I found out how to resize the internal KERN-C partition from a running ChromeOS. This must be done (in developer mode) from a root shell entered before logging in by hitting the Ctrl-Alt-Right keys (Right is the arrow key in the top row of the Chromebook keyboard). Heed the explanatory text at the top of the opening screen: log in as "chronos", and stop the powerd daemon, etc.

The alternative, running a shell from the "crosh" window after logging in, will not work, since it uses the "stateful" partition which then cannot be unmounted and resized.

I also streamlined the HOWTO, describing the installation of only a single kernel on the internal KERN-C partition. Using more kernels would require installing them on ChromeOS kernel partitions on an external SDHC or USB key. Such partitions would need to be of type ChromeOS kernel, which can be installed by the gdisk programme. Furthermore, an external boot device would also have to be designated as such, for the details look at some of the references at the bottom of the HOWTO.

I wouldn't bother with keeping a backup kernel, though, since the procedure in the HOWTO (items 5. and 6.) can always be followed again to prepare and install a new ChromeOS kernel. May be one of you who are installing a new ChromeOS kernel could try (and report on) a kernel command line without that work-around for the bug in busybox and check whether kernel modules then load OK.

Enjoy!
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Re: [Updated 2x]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebo

Postby hkoster1 » 2013-06-28 19:23

Enabling screen brightness and audio volume keys
The screen brightness keys F6/F7 can be made to work by binding them to a brightness control script that uses the gnome-settings-daemon package. You may need to unbind those keys from other functions in your desktop environment.

Edit the script /usr/local/bin/brightness as follows
Code: Select all
#!/bin/sh
## Control screen brightness on Samsung ARM Chromebook with
## /usr/bin/gnome-settings-daemon/gsd-backlight-helper
##
## Usage: brightness [u|d]
##
## Adjusts brightness u[p] or d[own] in 14 steps of 200
## between 0 - 2800.
## Returns current brightness without argument.
PKX=/usr/bin/pkexec
HLP=/usr/lib/gnome-settings-daemon/gsd-backlight-helper
BRX=$( ${PKX} ${HLP} --get-brightness )
case "$1" in
   u* ) ${PKX} ${HLP} --set-brightness $(($BRX+200))  ;;
   d* ) ${PKX} ${HLP} --set-brightness $(($BRX-200))  ;;
    * ) echo "Screen brightness = " $BRX " (max = 2800)" ;;
esac
exit 0
and make it executable with the command
Code: Select all
# chmod a+x /usr/local/bin/brightness
Of course, this script may also be run from the command line.

Likewise, the audio volume keys F8/9/10 may be bound to the following amixer commands, respectively,
Code: Select all
# amixer -c 0 set Speaker toggle
# amixer -c 0 set Speaker 5%-
# amixer -c 0 set Speaker 5%+
again possibly after first unbinding those keys from other functions assigned in your desktop environment.

Enjoy!
~
Last edited by hkoster1 on 2013-08-30 18:01, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [Updated 2x]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebo

Postby johnnydisco » 2013-07-29 21:38

We also need to edit the new file 50-touchpad.conf in directory /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d (making directories as needed) with content

Code: Select all
Section "InputClass"
Identifier "Touchpad"
MatchIsTouchpad "on"
Option "FingerHigh" "5"
Option "FingerLow" "5"
EndSection


I have followed these instructions by creating the xorg.conf.d directory within X11 and then the 50-touchpad.conf file within it containing the above but my mouse pointer still doesn't move! What am I missing, I can't work out how to fault find. My USB Logi mouse works fine in LXDE..

Any ideas what I could have missed? I have a 99.99999% working Debian install and it's amazing.. just falling at this last hurdle.

Thanks,
Johnny
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Re: [Updated 2x]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebo

Postby hkoster1 » 2013-07-31 08:26

@johnnydisco

Hard to tell from afar what the problem is, all I know is that with the instructions given the trackpad on my own Samsung ARM Chromebook has a workable minimum set of features, in addition to regular "single finger" mouse pointer movements: left and right mouse clicks by pressing lower left and lower right corner, respectively; two-finger vertical scrolling through documents (or even scrolling through LXDE windows). I haven't bothered with one- or two-finger tapping, because I never use it; and I always map the middle mouse click to a key (like alt-gr).

I suggest that you start trouble-shooting by looking at /var/log/Xorg.log.0 (towards the end) for clues about the Cypress APA Trackpad and the "synaptics" driver for it.
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Re: [Updated 2x]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebo

Postby johnnydisco » 2013-07-31 09:38

Hi All,

Just wanted to say a massive thanks for helping me with these instructions and answering my question. I now have wiped my Chromebook, have a ful install of Debian + Gnome + LibreOffice on the internal ssd and am loving it!

Cheers all,
Johnny
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Re: [Revised]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

Postby hkoster1 » 2013-08-30 18:47

I've completely revised the HOWTO, this time with a Debian rootfs installed on an external SDHC card, for use with a copy of the ChromeOS kernel installed on the KERN-C partition of the internal SSD.

Some of the changes:

1. Now that ChromeOS has done away with the /boot partition, we can no longer copy the kernel for packaging/signing. But, it is also possible to repackage and sign an existing kernel blob, so the HOWTO has been changed to reflect that.

2. The ChromeOS kernel is no longer configured for using a swap file, so let's pray that the installed RAM is sufficient...

3. After reinstalling ChromeOS from a recovery image, the partitioning of the internal SSD may have changed: the STATE partition (still partition #1) may have been relocated to the other end of the SSD, and its size may also have changed slightly.

4. Despite the title of this HOWTO, I've actually installed stable Wheezy, since Sid is pretty much on the fritz these days (30 August 2013). That may cause some problems, as not all packages in Wheezy were ported to the armhf architecture in time for the release. Especially, the cgpt package didn't make it, but can be downloaded/installed from the Sid repositories without dependency problems. Copying that package from ChromeOS is a pain, as it is now subsumed by /usr/bin/futility, which itself calls on old /usr/bin/old_bins/cgpt... so you might try that old cgpt as well, I guess...

Enjoy!
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Re: [Revised]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

Postby hkoster1 » 2013-09-05 17:17

Various forums and blogs report sleep problems with the ARM Chromebook when running with a Debian or Debian-derived rootfs. My version of this problem saw the Chromebook unable to wake up completely after going to sleep: the screen appeared to be "live", but stayed a dark grey no matter what key combination I tried. There was no problem at all with "suspending" the Chromebook.

My solution then, using the XFCE desktop, was to specify in Power Manager -> Extended the Monitor sleep mode as "Suspend", and for good measure in the other power settings changing "sleep" to "suspend" as well.

If you're not using XFCE, then try similar settings in your DE; or turn Xorg sleep off in your .xinitrc file.
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Re: [Revised]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

Postby sgosnell » 2013-09-12 03:22

I've been trying this, and when I try to chroot to /mnt, I get
Code: Select all
chroot: failed to run command `/bin/bash': No such file or directory
This is an error due to bash not finding the required libraries, I think, and I can do the chroot if I copy /lib to /mnt/lib, but then nothing works, because the libraries are the wrong architecture. Where can I get the required libraries in armhf? I'm running on an i386 system, with Wheezy.
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Re: [Revised]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

Postby hkoster1 » 2013-09-14 14:10

I don't know why you're having problems starting the chroot. I have just followed the recipe for preparing the SDHC card on a PC running the i386 architecture of Debian Wheezy, and everything runs fine when entering the chroot in preparation of completing the second-stage debootstrap. Have you followed the recipe exactly?

I noticed an error in the device/partition of the card, it should be /dev/mmcblk0p1 and I've corrected that now. Anyway, I'm sure you already noticed that since otherwise you wouldn't have done the first-stage debootstrap... Make sure that you copied qemu-arm-static and those other commands exactly... especially minding those slashes. Entering the chroot should then work, it just did for me...

Success!

Edit: I assume you debootstrapped Wheezy, just like I did. Installing Sid has worked for me before, but Sid has lately been a moving target that is frequently broken... That is a pity, since many packages for the armhf architecture didn't make it in time for the release of Wheezy, but are (or should be) available in Sid. If your problem was related to Sid, then I suggest that you try again at some later date...
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Re: [Revised]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

Postby sgosnell » 2013-09-18 15:37

Dunno. I finally got it running, by using my Sid i386 computer and installing Sid on the chromebook, using a different how-to. I've been running Sid for several years, and I'm used to it. I have Wheezy installed on an external HDD, just for the hell of it, and I was using that at first. I like Sid, and will probably stick with it.
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Re: [Revised]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

Postby sgosnell » 2013-09-24 16:28

The chromebook ran Debian fine for several days, but tinkering has broken it. I was having problems with suspend, and read this blog and tried his fixes. Didn't work. I let the chromebook sit for some time while doing other things, and it went to sleep/suspended, and would not wake up. This had been the same since the initial install, so I did what I normally do, and held the power button. Upon rebooting, X will not run, and it drops to a console, saying it can't find any screens. No other clues in the logs, nothing relevant that I have found on Google, nothing will start X. Reinstalling the filesystem is unsatisfying, because I won't learn much by doing that. Any clues you can pass along?
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Re: [Revised]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

Postby hkoster1 » 2013-09-24 18:29

Your problems may not originate in the hardware but rather in your installation of Sid being broken (it often is in the months following a stable release). You could try a reinstall, or wait until enough updates are available for X to work again. I'm running Wheezy for the time being on my Samsung ARM Chromebook, as I've also noted in the recently revised Howto.
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Re: [Revised]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

Postby sgosnell » 2013-09-25 12:59

I don't recall updating during that time, but it's possible that Sid broke, although it has been rare in the years I've been using it. The few times I've had something broken in Sid it has been due to kernel updates, and I've certainly not updated the kernel on the chromebook. My i386 Sid box is running fine. In any case, I've given up and nuked the rootfs, and will be reinstalling from scratch as soon as I get the time. I really think it has to do with configuration changes, but I've been unable to find the exact cause. Stuff happens when you're on the bleeding edge. My main concern here was learning more about the chromebook/arm setup, and I failed to some extent because I didn't find the cause of the breakage. Oh well, maybe I'll find it the next time it breaks, as it most likely will. :mrgreen:
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Re: [Revised]HOWTO run Debian Sid on Samsung ARM Chromebook

Postby hkoster1 » 2013-09-25 17:11

Yeah, I know what you mean. My current view is that Debian's armhf architecture isn't quite ready for prime time: Wheezy is lacking too many packages (especially when you want to do some programming in Lisp or Scheme), and Jessie/Sid is not much of an improvement. These problems get exacerbated on the ARM Chromebook by using that ChromeOS kernel...

Things are better on the i386 architecture Acer C7-series Chromebook (see my other Howto), especially when outfitted with lots of RAM and a nice fast internal SSD. But even there I get the occasional unexplained sudden shutdown running Wheezy/XFCE. The next improvement with running a Debian rootfs on Chromebook hardware will come from using a regular mainline Linux kernel with suitable Chromebook extensions, perhaps after merging the ChromeOS kernel. I'm not holding my breath until that comes about, though. :mrgreen:
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