Having a portable light-weight development environment is important to me. I’m always on the lookout for a solution. There have been a number of solutions I’ve found for which I’ve been optimistic, but over a longer period of time they just haven’t worked out. Samsung had Linux on Dex, which allowed certain phones to run a full Ubunto Linux environment. But they later discontinued it and removed support for it. Microsoft Windows2Go, which allowed a full Windows environment to be installed on a portable USB drive and moved from one computer to another. I still have a few of these drives and use them, but Windows has dropped support for them and replacement drives are hard to find. I’ve managed to use a Raspberry Pi as a portable development environment before too. But now I have what looks to be an improved option. Many Chromebooks support a Linux environment.
I’m using a Samsung Chromebook Plus. While the unit that I have is older, it has seen some significant changes throughout its life. When I first received it, to edit code I had to use a code editor from the Chrome store. This was nowhere near the best editor that I have used, but it worked. The Chromebook later gained the ability to run Android applications. In the Google Play Store there were some code editors, but once again, not the best. My Chromebook has had a linux environment on it for a while, and I’ve recently installed the Visual Studio Code. Finally! A **real** code editor!
Before installing .Net Core or Visual Studio Code, the Chromebook must be enabled for Linux. Not all Chromebooks support this feature. To enable this feature, open the Chromebook settings. Search for “Linux.” If your Chromebook supports Linux you will see the option “Turn on.” Press the button and wait a few moments. The Chromebook will install the components needed for Linux. After the installation is complete, you may need to restart your Chromebook. Once the Chromebook has restarted you will have the program “Terminal” on your computer. If you open this, you will be within the Linux environment. Update the environment, and install a text editor to use at the terminal.
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get upgrade sudo apt-get install nano
From within the terminal, you can install dotnet core the same way that you would on a Raspberry Pi. Visit https://dotnet.microsoft.com and select “Downloads.” You will see options for downloading the .Net Framework or .Net Core. Select the “all .Net Core Downloads” link. The next screen has a list of the .Net Core downloads. At the time of this writing the most recent version is the .Net Core version 5.0. Select it to see the builds. My Chromebook uses an ARM processor, though there are some that use x86 processors. For my Chromebook I must download the ARM 32-bit Linux version. The next page will share a direct download link. Copy this link and open the terminal.
In the terminal, use the wget command to download the .Net Core installation. For the current version the command looks like the following.
After a few moments, the installation has downloaded. To install it, we must make a folder into which it till be installed, unpackage the tar file, and add this folder to the path.
sudo mkdir /usr/share/dotnet sudo tar xvf name_of_archive.tar.gz sudo nano ~/.profile
That last command will open your .profile file, which contains a list of commands that are run when you login. Go to the end of the file and add these two lines.
export PATH=$PATH:/usr/share/dotnet export DOTNET_ROOT=/usr/share/dotnet
.Net Core is installed, but we need to restart the Linux environment before it will work. Right-click on the terminal icon in the task bar and select the option to “Shut down Linux.” When open it again, the changes will be applied. If you find yourself opening the terminal frequently.
Installing Visual Studio Code is easier. Navigate to http://VisualStudio.com. You will see links to different editions of Visual Studio. Select the one for Visual Studio Code. Select the option to see More. On the next page select the download for the Linux deb ARM build of Visual Studio Code. After the file downloads, find it in your file system and double-click on it. An installer window will open. Select the option to Install. For me, the installation progress bar does not move for quite some time before it showed any change. After the installation is complete you can start it by typing ‘code’ in the command terminal or by finding it in your list of installed program.