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If I want to use http://yeoman.io/ or other commandline dev and build tools on a ChromeBook, what's the simplest way to do so that works EXACTLY like a regular Linux environment (i.e. Ubuntu)?

... Alternatively, are there any online services that essentially let me interact with commandline tools (running on a virtual Linux machine somewhere out there) via the browser, but without me actually having to manage a virtual machine myself?

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You can put the device into developer mode and access the more full-featured shell. Im not sure if that would work for Yeoman but you essentially get a full linux shell –  Andrew Hall Aug 13 '13 at 10:15
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The Chromebook ships with a limited shell. Developer mode unlocks a slightly better one, but still doesn't give you the ability to install things (that I've found anyway). So I'm gonna advocate for crouton here. It will let you install a full-blown desktop environment, but if you only want command line it works for that too.

These steps will let you run command-line Ubuntu in a Chrome tab:

  • put the chromebook into dev mode
  • download crouton
  • open a shell with ctrl alt t
  • type shell to access the better shell
  • cd into the directory you put crouton into and install Ubuntu using: sudo sh -e crouton -t cli-extra (this uses the cli-extra target available via crouton, and it's just basic command line Ubuntu, no X, no desktop, etc.)

Now, you have a command-line-only Ubuntu distro installed. To use it:

  • open a shell like before with ctrl alt t
  • get into the better shell with shell
  • open the crouton'd chroot using sudo enter-chroot

I did exactly these steps over the summer to do some light C++ work, and it was just so cool to have a whole other OS "inside" a Chrome tab.

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