Old laptops? Try Linux Mint. Or try Chrome OS.

Chromium OS logoLinux Mint logo

I like Linux, and more specifically, Linux Mint. I have been using Linux on my personal laptop as my primary O.S. for about 15 years now and I also installed Linux Mint in old laptops that were “end of life” and “end of support” a few years ago so all my classes went 1:1 and all my students could benefit of using technology for instructional and educational purposes on a daily basis. Nobody else would use those old computers because they were too “slow” (their regular O.S. took about 10 minutes to boot and be ready to be up and running) so my students could benefit of them without all the drawbacks of old technology devices.

It worked pretty well and I was able to confirm that Linux is a great alternative when your laptops get too old to continue working with the “standard” O.S. If you want to learn more about this “experiment”, visit my previous post to see how I did it. By the way, Linux is probably a very good alternative even when your computers are brand new, but that is a different story and we will not be talking about it in this post today.

And then, why should I need to change anything if that approach worked? Well, not everyone is used to Linux environments. And nowadays there are a lot of Chromebooks around and people are getting used to them instead. Chrome OS is based on Linux. So, when someone puts a new challenge on your hands and says “I would like these old laptops to run Chrome, how can we do that?” you just try and figure out how to do it.

If you want to go the safe way you just have to try “CloudReady” by Neverware. Our amazing Librarian / Campus Innovation Coach was the person who put that challenge in front of me. She had received an e-mail from someone who had used that approach and had been using old laptops as Chromebooks for a while. And it should have been as simple as installing a Linux live distro: you copy the O.S. image into an USB pendrive and everything is up and running. Then you just install the live version into the hard drive and… ready to go!

Well, things are not so easy at times… In our case, our laptops did not boot using the CloudReady home edition image. Neverware has a pretty simple “step-by-step” guide to make it work, so I will not explain how to do this here as it would be just redundant. However, our laptops were too old… and they would just not boot with the standard boot image. Probably because of UEFI-related issues.

I had to look for an alternative. Fortunately, there are some people out there who takes care of the hardest part of it (compiling the sources of Chromium OS) to make our life easier. I did not invent anything. I just put together the information and the tools other people had previously created, so all credits go to those incredible people who does this kind of things just for the fun of it.

Anyway, this is my step-by-step guide to build your own USB bootable drive with Chromium OS (the Open Source alternative to Chrome OS) using the precompiled images distributed by “Arnold“. The document also includes a guide to configure a FOG server to deploy the image to your laptops using a mass deployment tool.

If you try it, just let me know how it worked. And also, how it worked with your students in your classroom. Please, leave your comments below to share your experience and your ideas. Thank you!

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