The PixelBook Which Is Not ChromeOS

And here we go.

The Past

As I mentioned in a while back, I dropped the ChromeOS habit. Well, at least on the PixelBook.

This left me using the R180 again, which while it is still a very nice machine, I got used to the size and battery life of the PixelBook. I was getting maybe 3-4 hours of battery, which under most of my use cases is plenty, but sometimes, I need to be unplugged for longer.

I ran across a post on reddit in the subreddit for the PixelBook which got me thinking. This post had a link to a GitHub repp which had nice instructions on how to update the firmware to put an open UEFI firmware on, and then some scripts to finish setting things up.

After waiting to get back from my recent trip, I ordered the needed cable, and went to work.

The Install

Following the instructions on the GitHub page was straight forward, and easy. I did make a backup of the firmware if I ever want to put it back into ChromeOS, but I doubt it.

Then, I grabbed an Ubuntu 19.04 ISO, and installed per the normal instructions.

The only snag I hit during the running of the script was that it complained about a directory path, /etc/libinput/local-overrides.quirks, not exiting. I changed the line in ansible/roles/eve-tweaks/tasks/main.yml to /usr/share/libinput/local-overrides.quirks, and everything worked from there, script wise.

The Good

How do I like it, and am I glad I did it? Yes, I am. Whilst ChromeOS was getting better, I my work-flow is built around tools and a window paradigm which are not supported in ChromeOS. As an added advantage, I am not running Chrome full time, and can chose my tools.

The battery does not last as long as it did under ChromeOS, but it lasts long enough, and I need to spend a bit of time tuning the system for battery endurance. Google has had lots of time to tune things for this hardware, and I cannot expect the Ubuntu team to have invested the same amount of time, so I get to do that.

Things like WiFi, the USB-C ports, the touchpad, the keyboard lights, and the display lights all work.

The Bad

Some things are not fully supported, and bits of ChromeOS have to be used. There is work to try and get the support needed in the mainline kernel, but for now, I have to run a ChromeOS kernel. Going back to the mainstream kernel may actually help the battery endurance as well.

The Ugly

Sound. Even thought the instructions I followed say that they can get sound working from the speakers or the headphones, I can only get it working from the speakers. Now, the sound it great, but it means I cannot use it in most situations as I will bother folks with either my music, or my videos.

And, if I plug in headphones, any process which generates sound goes into a wait state and basically locks hard.

I have also tried a USB sound card, but I have not had luck there yet, nor have I been able to attach a BlueTooth speaker or headphones, but that may be all on me.

Next Steps

My primary goal is to get sound working properly, and then I will work on the battery life.

Do I think I made a mistake with this? Nope. I knew it was going to be a bit rough, but I wanted to get more than a year of life out of this laptop, and this is the best way to do it.

This is a post in the Ubuntu PixelBook series.
Other posts in this series:

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Don Harper Written by:

Don is a computer guy stumbling through life trying to raise his kids and take some pictures