Linux and new SSD drive in Acer Chromebook C720

Acer C720I’ve been using a Acer Chromebook C720 as my travel laptop for a few months now. It’s a really nice machine for web browsing and e-mail. It’s lightweight, keyboard is OK and battery lasts for ages.

It will play video fine and the screen is bright and responsive, but you obviously wouldn’t want to use it for anything too intensive.

It’s a Chromebook so just has the Chrome browser available by default. There are a couple of ways to get Linux running on it though. The first way, and the way I’ve been doing it for the past few months is Crouton – https://bicklp.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/c720-chromebook-installing-ubuntu-using-crouton/

This installs LInux on top of Chrome OS. So to run Linux you first boot into Chrome OS, then type a couple of commands in the terminal to start Linux. There are a couple of downsides … first it’s a bit fiddly to start Linux and second it relies on the drivers of Chrome OS. So the network, sound, screen etc are all setup inside Chrome OS, and then your Linux instance just uses those connections. I found that you couldn’t use it as an OpenVPN client because of this. Also I had issues with the sound and screen brightness sometimes conflicting because of the Chrome OS settings.

Acer C720So I recently decided to go for the 2nd way to run Linux – dual booting. This means when you start the system you can select Linux or Chrome OS.

I also put a new drive in there, to replace the existing 16GB SSD. This was really straight forward and involved the following steps –

So now you’ve got your nice new drive in it’s time to install Linux, specifically I installed Chrubuntu. Here are some nice instructions – http://www.linux.com/learn/tutorials/764181-how-to-install-linux-on-an-acer-c720-chromebook

Touchpad Fix

For me that installed Ubunutu 14.10, and there were a few issues to sort out. First the touchpad didn’t work. I tried to follow lots of different guides for compiling patches to get it working, but none of them helped. What did resolve it was installing v3.17 of the kernel. This is not as scary as it sounds, the following commands and a reboot should do it –

wget http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v3.17-utopic/linux-headers-3.17.0-031700-generic_3.17.0-031700.201410060605_amd64.deb
wget http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v3.17-utopic/linux-headers-3.17.0-031700_3.17.0-031700.201410060605_all.deb
wget http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline/v3.17-utopic/linux-image-3.17.0-031700-generic_3.17.0-031700.201410060605_amd64.deb

sudo dpkg -i linux-headers-3.17.0-*.deb linux-image-3.17.0-*.deb

Suspend and slow startup fix

The other issue I had was that there was a 50 second pause when booting, and the laptop would not resume correctly from being suspended. Both these issues seemed to have been resolved by changing the following in the grub config file –

/etc/default/grub.cfg

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet add_efi_memmap boot=local noresume noswap i915.modeset=1 tpm_tis.force=1 tpm_tis.interrupts=0 nmi_watchdog=panic,lapic"

More info about this here – https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Talk:Acer_C720_Chromebook

So far so good! It’s only been 24 hours so I’ll report back if I find any other issues. A really nice option for a portable machine at only £200  (plus £55 if you want to upgrade the SSD drive)

The only things I really don’t like is the lack of a delete key (only backspace) and no caps lock key, but that’s the same on all Chromebooks I think.