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How I turned my Raspberry Pi into a Chromebox

IMG_20160430_181119TeleRead readers will recall that I posted details of a new hack for the Raspberry Pi 2 and Pi 3 for Chromebook-using teachers and students, turning the ultra-cheap minicomputer into a Chromebox. With my own Raspberry Pi 2 lying idle at home, I decided to try this myself: and here are the results.

Installation of the new OS was as easy as expected. l unpacked the downloaded file with 7-zip and wrote it onto the Raspberry’s micro SD card with Win32diskimager; with this done, I set up my Raspberry with mouse, keyboard, HDMI cable and Ethernet plugged in, then powered it up from the monitor’s USB port. It started up first time with no problems.

How well does it work though? Startup is slow, but no slower than many Linux OS versions running on the Raspberry Pi 2. The display looks fine across a big screen, and with a Bluetooth USB adapter plugged in, the device can work fine with wireless mouse and keyboard. For web browsing, document editing on Google Docs, audio playback on YouTube, email composition on Gmail, and even Facebook, it should be enough. However, video playback is clunky and often plain inadequate, and the thing often locks up on complex web pages like Twitter. The Raspberry Chromebox does record most account settings for restart, but wifi doesn’t work, at least with the USB adapters I have – a known issue that may get fixed later.

How useful is it? For general purpose computing on the Raspberry Pi 2, it’s faster and more user-friendly than the Linux versions I’ve run on this device. I plan to use it for text editing and browsing, and am already listening to audiobooks on it. It may not be good for much more, but you get what you pay for, and with the Raspberry Pi 2, you’re paying almost nothing.

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