Linux on the Desktop: Google Pixelbook Edition

A friend of mine recently shared this post in our Slack group marking 2022 as the year of Linux on the Desktop.  While my own days of running Linux of self-built PCs are long gone, I’ve toyed with the Debian Linux distro occasionally since buying a Google Pixelbook back when the first came out in 2018.  I walked through post like this one explaining how to set up on Pixelbook for dev work.  I played a bit with some Go code.  But outside of those brief detours, I pretty much stuck to using it as intended.
I don’t recall why Google was selling them for $300 off back then, but $699 was an easier price point to rationalize than $999.  Though most of the mobile devices at home and some of the stationary ones are made by Apple (work and personal MacBook Pros, various sizes of iPad for myself and the twins, iPhones and watches for my wife and myself, and Apple TVs), I get a lot of use out of the Pixelbook.  The form factor makes it better than the iPad mini for watching streaming video (which came in handy numerous times when in-laws were in town and all the TVs in the house were occupied).  The keyboard and trackpad make it a capable device for web browsing, email, and social media.  It’s a great device for travel–pre-pandemic I took it on a work trip as a second device since I’m very strict about keeping work things and personal things separate.
Despite all these pluses, Google cancelled the Pixelbook earlier this year (not unlike many of its other projects).  It will get support through mid-2024 (it’s successor, the Pixelbook Go will get support through mid-2026) but that’s it.  Certain apps I used to be able to install and upgrade from the Google Play store (like Slack) have stopped releasing new versions for ChromeOS.  The aforementioned Linux distro came in handy when I got tired of using Slack in the browser.
I found this article with instructions for how to install the Debian Linux version of Slack.  Of course, the instructions didn’t work for me because it had been forever since I’d updated the Linux distro on my Pixelbook.  Following the fix problems with Linux device instructions took care of that.  But once I got Slack installed, signing into the browser didn’t redirect me to the app.  More searching yielded a Reddit thread, which said I needed to install the Chromium browser on Linux for the activation link to work properly.  So I followed these steps to install Chromium.  Now I’m back to running Slack as an app (instead of just another Chrome tab).

Does Your Business Card Run Linux?

Mine sure doesn’t, but George Hilliard’s does:

Though I’ve spent the majority of my career building web and desktop applications, I’ve always been fascinated by embedded systems. More than 20 years after earning my bachelor’s in CS, the most fun course by far was a robotics elective I took my final semester. I’ve forgotten the name of the boards we programmed, but we wrote the code for them in Objective-C and built the robots out of whatever sensors, gears, and LEGOs we had (this was years before LEGO Mindstorms).

The end-of-semester competition was to build a robot that navigated a maze, found a light, touched it, and played a little tune. The robot my team programmed and built placed 2nd (our robot got to the light and touched it first, but didn’t play the tune for some reason).

Since then, I’ve played around with the blink(1) a little bit, but not more complex things like Arduino or Raspberry Pi. I’ve not had much success with the whole new year’s resolution thing, but in 2020 I want to complete a project that runs on some hardware. I haven’t picked the hardware yet, but definitely something that involves sensors and data collection. A weather station is probably the most ambitious idea that comes to mind that I might pursue further. In the interest of crawling before walking (or running), I probably need to start with something much simpler.