Everything You Need to Know About Chrome OS’ Linux Container (Crostini)

Published by Lamin Kanteh on

Crostini on Chrome OS

Why Are We Talking About Crostini?

When Google decided to create its in-house operating system purely focused on Chrome, the mega-giant made its motives pretty clear, it wanted something different from what was already available.

At first, the path was a bit uneven, Chrome OS was bare bones and relied heavily on internet availability and web store apps.

Now, on their own, these apps are great for medium-level tasks like simple note-taking, simple sheet creation, or just about anything basic.

The platform was simple so was everything it offered. The overall idea was praised by the niche market that, in a way, found it refreshing from the mainstream offerings like Windows and Mac OS.

The company knew that it Chrome OS needed to evolve in order to better compete with the players in the desktop computing space. Thus, Chrome OS feature set began expanding and slowly drifted away from the operating system’s initial over-reliance on web apps.

android and small chrome
Android dominating Chrome

The great expansion started to become evident when Android was molded into Chrome OS. The introduction of Android effectively bridged what used to be a gap between both platforms and made the Play Store massive repository of apps available as well.

Google didn’t stop there, around May 2018, the company announced that through Crostini, it is going to make Linux an integral extension of Chrome OS thereby allowing Chromebook users to enjoy the best Linux has to offer within the comfort of Chrome OS.

Tux

This was no easy feat, the developers worked hard ( and continue to) in working out kinks the as Linux apps aren’t native but run within a containerized-environment where GNU/Linux apps run in tandem with Chrome OS separated by rigid but yet invisible walls meant to preserve Chrome’s integrity.

What is There to Know?

Here’s a good video overview from Google I/O 2019

Since Crostini is going to be an important piece of the package required to make Chrome OS a viable competitor, here is everything we’ve learned about the platform.

Before Crostini, Crouton was the go-to platform for Chromebook users looking to get a feel of Linux but Crouton in a way opens several vulnerability nodes that hamper the secure nature of Chrome OS.

Crouton is a set of scripts that allows Linux flavors Ubuntu, Debian, and Kali Linux to run parallel to a Chrome OS system.

This method is no doubt convenient but having insecure userspace sitting right next to Chrome OS is a security nightmare for both Google and Chromebook users.

On the other hand, Crostini uses a different working mechanically.

Using two near-indestructible walls– a Kernel-based virtual machine and a secure container– where Linux apps run to their utmost potential alongside Chrome without interference with each other.

Tux on the Pixelbook

Does My Chromebook Support Crostini?

When Crostini was first announced, only the Pixelbook came with initial support for the platform but with recent shifts in both the hardware and software side of Chromebooks, every device released in 2019 going forward, will arrive with support for Linux beta — Surf our device catalog page for devices that already support Linux.

Steam Games Via Linux?

Since Crostini would mean support for Linux apps, I reckon some would be wondering if they can run Linux-supported Steam games.

This, however, is a difficult question to answer since it is unclear as to how much of the system’s resources will be allocated to the apps running within the container.

Furthermore, since the communication between Chrome OS itself the container will be tightly controlled, there is a perceived issue of latency which can be a huge turn off while gaming. This, of course, maybe considered a huge letdown for developers despite Google’s recent push to support web apps in Flutter. At this point, Android seems like the best place if Google’s vision for a Gamer-friendly operating system is to be achieved.

But one can only hope as GPU acceleration for Linux apps on Chrome OS will reportedly arrive soon. As expected, it will be limited to select devices, but there’s no denying that it is a step in the right direction for gaming via Linux on Chrome devices.

On the other hand, Google Stadia in my honest opinion, it is highly likely the platform that the next generation Chrome OS users will be accustomed to if you put all the positive factors in place that may influence this outcome. While Stadia’s adoption is bound to be slow (considering the lack of the required infrastructure in most parts of the world to support the minimum network speed for an optimal run), there’s a good chance that Google Stadia will be at the forefront of the Gaming industry if not a leader within the next decade and this will just fall in line with Chrome OS’s explosive success.

Google stadia welcome
Google Stadia

Like Chrome OS at launch, Stadia is quite honestly ahead of its time. At the end of the day, Stadia’s (hopeful) ultimate success or failure here in the US will determine its adoption on a global scale.

Rounding Up

In conclusion, I can’t say Crostini is there yet (cause the reality is certainly far from it) but Google has a good track record with the development of Chrome OS and that has, unmistakably, given them an edge over the competition in terms of public approval. With time, the stereotypes of Chromebooks being simplistic machines with only so much as a browser will fade and we’ll be here to celebrate its progress together.


Lamin Kanteh

I live, breath, and dream technology. I've only known myself to push the boundaries on what's possible in my mental scope in relation to technology. And having been a writer for the good part of the past three years (covering varying subjects on the major mobile platforms), No place has ever felt more like home than Chrome OS. And as you may know, Chrome OS is ushering us into a future of the unknown and I'm here to help in the process of easing the way into that future via ItsChromeOS.

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