*This post is specific to the Dell Chromebook 11 (2015) *CANDY* using seaBIOS. This may not hold true for newer chromebooks or chromebooks with different processors/firmware. I did not test every distro out there but some of the most popular ones for netbooks/chromebooks/laptops. I did not try any Fedora builds.
Normally when I am asked, “what is the best distro for….” I give the stanard answer, “it depends.” That is because in almost all cases the best distro for you to use really does depend on many factors.
What will you be doing with this computer? What are the specs of the computer? That can narrow it down but then still it comes down to preference after that. There are so many great distros out there. I really can’t call one “the best.”
However, when it comes to replacing ChromeOS with Linux it is a different story. If you are using chrouton this isn’t the case. I am talking about actually wiping your chromebook, installing seaBIOS and running a full install of Linux with no other OS on your chromebook. I have tried five different distros for this and there really is a best option in this scenario.
There are only two distros that I could actually get to run properly and consistently *: LUBUNTU and GALLIUMOS. Gallium is advertised as the linux replacement for Chrome OS. I added the asterix because none of the distros I installed on my chromebook actually worked flawlessly without ANY issues.
The primary issue I encountered with every distro I tried is booting. Every distro I installed worked fine after the initial installation. The issue came when the computer was restarted, shutdown, or woken up after hibernating. The boot scripts seem to get lost after the system restarts. You can get to seaBIOS boot menu and you can select the OS. The splash screen would pop-up for linux but then while trying to boot it would drop to busybox. I have tried GRUB/GRUB2 and I’ve tried reinstalling GRUB after the installation of the OS to repair any issue, which many pes ople suggestee but it simply didn’t work.
LUBUNTU & GALLIUMOS are the only two distros I have been able to run without this issuen. LUBUNTU, which is my pick for best linux distro for chromebook, still has this issue sometimes. If you close the lid of your chromebook without actually putting your system to sleep or shutting down then when you open the lid it occasionally freezes. If you don’t wait out the frozen screen or if it simply froze for good and you have to power off manually without shutting down then when you boot back up it will drop into busybox. The good thing about lubuntu is that if you restart from busybox it will then boot normally.
Kubuntu, Mint, OpenSuse, and xbuntu will drop to busybox and simply never boot again. Kubuntu was the only distro I could find a solution for this issue but it is a pain in the ass. With Kubuntu you can boot into your harddrive installed OS after dropping to busy box but only if you put the Boot script on a USB stick and plug the USB stick in everytime you boot your computer. You can take it out after booting but you will need the USB stick any time you have to start up your system.
GALLIUM OS is the best ChromeOS Replacement
Gallium OS is supposed to be the linux build specifically for chromebooks. It is clear that is the goal as the desktop environment is almost identical to ChromeOS. It does work great and it is very intuitive if you are looking to switch from ChromeOS but you are not familiar with Linux. The main problem I have with it is the audio. If you use seaBIOS legacy the audio will not work straight out of the box. THIS PROBLEM CAN EASILY BE FIXED. Simply using using different firmware solves the problem.
Gallium OS has some amazing support online in theri IRC channel. Developers are almost always on there and they go above and beyond to provide support. For this reason alone I would suggest Gallium OS as the best linux distro for someone who is new to linux or someone who simply doesn’t have the time to mess around in a terminal and want to simply replace ChromeOS with Linux distro that has all the features of Chrome right out of the box and great support.
One thing about Gallium is that it my personal opinion about the desktop interface. I find Gallium to be clunky and ugly looking. It looks extremely similiar to the ChromeOS. If you like the look of ChromeOS then you will love Gallium because it like having a regular chromebook that can be used as a full computer.
After a week of using LUBUNTU on my chromebook I have discovered some problems. The majority of the problems I encountered came after I updated the system and started messing around with the system to change up some of the defaults. LUBUNTU now drops into busybox on boot almost every time I initially boot. I have to REFRESH + POWER to get to the Chrome Recover scren then press POWER to reboot to the Develepor mode screen the press CTRL+L to boot LUBUNTU. It sometimes take multiple attempts to make it boot. It seems to happen when the battery is low and the chromebook is unplugged.
The battery monitor is not working properly. I cannot get the battery meter up to 100% anymore even if I leave the chromebook plugged in overnight. The battery is charging to its full capacity but for some reason (probably something I screwed up) the system thinks the battery’s capacity is more than it actually is so 88% is now 100%. This causes the battery monitor to be fairly unreliable. It will say 9 hours remaining on battery then 15 minutes later it will say 17 hours remaining even though the battery dropped 1%. This is not really a big deal since the battery life on the Dell Candy Chromebook is insane and will last all day.
***This post is awful and will be completely redone….eventually.