Ubuntu Mate on a Chromebook with Crouton

I recently purchased an Asus C300 Chromebook to have a computer that is more portable than my Windows laptop. As you may know, ChromeOS by itself does not do a whole lot, but luckily it’s easy to get Ubuntu on it for a more powerful operating system. There is a handy thing called Crouton that can be used to run Ubuntu alongside ChromeOS. In this article, I will walk through the steps required for accomplishing this. Crouton does not support Mate (my preferred desktop environment) out-of-the-box, so I will also walk through how to get Mate as well.


Enable Developer Mode

Before getting Ubuntu via Crouton, your Chromebook must have developer mode enabled. Note: doing so will wipe all user data off of the Chromebook. Follow these steps to enable Developer Mode:

Recovery Mode Display
  • Boot into Recovery Mode by holding Esc and Refresh and then tapping power. It should display what you see in the image to the left.
  • At this screen, press Ctrl+D.
  • Another prompt will display, instructing you to press Enter to turn OS Verification off. Follow that advice.
  • From now on, each time the Chromebook boots, there will be a prompt saying that OS verification is off. Do NOT press Space, as that will undo everything that has just been done. Instead, just press Ctrl+D to dismiss the prompt and continue through the boot process.
  • After the system prepares for Developer Mode and boots, the deed has been done.

Using Crouton

Now that you have successfully enabled developer mode on your Chromebook, it is now time to use Crouton to get Ubuntu onto the device. Please follow these steps:

  • Download Crouton onto the Chromebook.
  • Within Chrome, press Ctrl+Alt+T. This opens crosh, the terminal for ChromeOS
  • In crosh, type “shell” and press Enter to initiate the shell script. If you don’t know what that means, that is okay.
  • Now type “sudo sh ~/Downloads/crouton -t xfce -r trusty”. This starts installing an Ubuntu with the xfce desktop environment. You may be prompted for a password. This should just be your Google password.
Crosh running the Crouton script
  • Let it do its thing. It may take a while to finish, so be patient.
  • It will probably ask you for a username and password. These will be used when launching Ubuntu as well as using sudo commands in Ubuntu’s bash terminal
  • When Crouton is done doing its thing, type “sudo startxfce4”. This will start Ubuntu and switch to it from ChromeOS. At any time, you can press Ctrl+Alt+Back and Ctrl+Alt+Forward to seamlessly switch between Ubuntu and ChromeOS. (Note: “sudo startxfce4” needs to be run in shell every time the Chromebook is rebooted.)

Getting Ubuntu Mate

So now Crouton is set up and Ubuntu is running with the Xfce desktop environment. You may be saying, “but I thought this tutorial was for Mate, not Xfce?” Well, it sure is a tutorial for Mate, but Crouton does not directly support Mate. Therefore, Mate needs to be added within Xfce. Here is how you do that:

XFCE

  • In Xfce (The Ubuntu desktop environment that you just finished installing), open up a terminal window. Hint: the black icon in the dock with the ‘>_’ in it

apt-get is going to be used a lot in the following steps. What this commands allows you to do is install programs and files to your OS without needing to hunt them down somewhere in a web browser. Items installed from apt-get can also be updated in one easy command, sudo apt-get upgrade. Anyway, enough with my rambling.

What Xfce looks like
  • Enter the command “sudo apt-get install software-properties-common”. This command allows you to add non-standard apt repositories, which are needed in the next few steps
  • Enter the command “sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-mate-dev/ppa”. This command adds one of the repositories needed for Ubuntu Mate.
  • Enter the command “sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ubuntu-mate-dev/trusty-mate”. This adds the other repository for Ubuntu Mate.
  • Enter the command “sudo apt-get update”. This essentially updates the list of available things to install with apt.
  • Enter the command “sudo apt-get upgrade”. This upgrades any outdated things that are already installed.
  • Enter the command “sudo apt-get install ubuntu-mate-core ubuntu-mate-desktop”. This will take a while, as it is everything needed for Ubuntu Mate.
  • After that last command completes, just press the power button and log out of Xfce.

CHROMEOS

Back in ChromeOS, we now need to add a way to get to the newly-installed Ubuntu Mate. I am sure there are several methods, but the way I did it was I modified the existing startxfce4 script to launch Mate instead. Download the script that I made here, saving yourself the time and trouble. Follow these steps to make Ubuntu Mate easily accessible:

  • Open crosh (Ctrl+Alt+T) if it isn’t already, and enter the “shell” command if you aren’t in one already. Hint: If it is open and you are just coming from Xfce, you might need to press Ctrl+C to break out of the running command
  • After downloading the startmate script that I made, enter the following command “sudo cp ~/Downloads/startmate /usr/local/bin/startmate”. This command copies the startmate script to the correct location to be able to call it in shell. Note: there is a space between startmate and /usr.
  • Now type “ sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/startmate”. This gives the script permission to run, also known as executable permission.
  • Now all that you have to do is type the command “sudo startmate” and you will launch into Ubuntu Mate! Remember, this needs to be done within a crosh shell every time you reboot the Chromebook.
Freshly Installed Ubuntu Mate on my Chromebook

There are some things that I did after I installed Ubuntu Mate to make the experience a little better. I will document those things later on either in this Medium post or in a separate one as a continuation of this one. Anyway, thanks for following along and enjoy Ubuntu Mate on your Chromebook!


There you have it. You just greatly improved your Chromebook experience and became a little more of a power user. Make sure to follow the Power User publication for more articles like this!