One of the main reasons why I purchased my Acer C720 Chromebook back in March of 2014 was because I needed something portable, and preferrably, cheap. Since I had been using Google Docs and Gmail for most of my productivity tasks anyway, a Chromebook seemed to be the right fit, as well as a lot of bang for the buck. Back in those days, this particular model set me back 199 Euro, and it has been worth every cent since.
ChromeOS Becomes Sluggish
People who have been using a Chromebook for quite some time may have noticed how, despite Google’s best intentions and optimizations, Chrome remains a memory hog. Even with less than10 Chrome tabs open, my Chromebook will start slowing down rather quickly. Do keep in mind none of these tabs have video or audio playback on them, as they include my own Google Drive, Shutterstock, a Wordpress backend, a spreadsheet with RSS links, and a few news sources.
While this may be due to a variety of plugins and extensions I use, such as uBlock, Grammarly, Lastpass, and PrivacyBadger, it didn’t seem to be an issue a year ago. Then again, computer hardware degrades, and software becomes more resource-intensive. However, it started to annoy me on my Acer C720 Chromebook, and I started to look for an alternative.
For many years now, I have wanted to tinker around with Linux, and ChromeOS was about as close as I have gotten throughout the years. But when push comes to shove, I was not looking forward to installing Linux on my desktop and playing around with it several days before feeling comfortable using a completely different operating system. I still may do so, some day in the future, but for now, it is very unlikely to happen.
GalliumOS — A Lightweight Linux Distro With Chromebook Optimization
After some Google searching and asking around, I came across a new project called GalliumOS. This new operating systme is a lightweight Linux distribution optimzied for Chromebooks specifically. Considering how it is very easy to install — depending on your Chromebook model, that is — and you can always revert back to ChromeOS if needed, it seemed worth taking the plunge.
While I may be slightly more tech-savvy than most of my peers, the GalliumOS installation process is as straightforward and simple as it can be. You can even install it through a shell prompt from within ChromeOS, so there is no need for external hardware. Installation instructions can be found here, and the entire process will not take more than 30 minutes for most devices.
I am still not entirely comfortable with using GalliumOS, but I have taken a real liking to this lightweight solution so far. Everything runs smooth, there are no issues with the software whatsoever, and I even managed to install my first Linux applications! That being said, installing these programs is not always as easy as one would like them to be, but there is a built-in package manager for software, although I would recommend grabbing Gdebi as well. This lets you download the installation file, which you can then open through Gdebi and check the install progress. Perhaps this is my [dark] Windows side of software installation habits, but I found Gdebi quite easy to use.
So far, the GalliumOS experience has been quite pleasant, and it seems to run a bit smoother than ChromeOS. This may just be my mind playing tricks on me, though, but at least I can now run a proper version of Skype on my Chromebook without emulators or using a web version of this communication tool. Running the same Chrome browser with the same plugins and the same number of tabs is not slowing down the Acer C720 as much as it does on ChromeOS. Whether or not this will change over time, remains to be seen.
In the end, GalliumOS works as advertised, and the team has done a very good job so far. Especially when considering is how this only the first iteration of the operating system — although alpha testing for GalliumOS 2.0 is underway — the overall experience is very pleasant. Not everyone will see the benefit of this operating system or Chromebooks, though, but for people like me who want a lightweight device and are entrenched in the Google ecosystem, GalliumOS works surprisingly well!
Now I just need some good recommendations for Linux apps from you guys… I have an image editor installed, Skype, Telegram, and that is about it (other than the standard software that comes with the OS).