Linux Laptop Under $50


What if I told you that you could get a lightweight Linux laptop which you could throw into your backpack and carry with you wherever you go, for less than $50 (or potentially for free)? Well, I've been wanting to try Linux out for a while, and I've had this 10-year-old Chromebook just lying around unused. Sure, its physical appearance is a bit rough with the worn away keys and all, but it's still a peppy little machine with plenty of life left in it!

Unfortunately, I just don't have much use for a device that can only use Google apps, and it wasn't worth selling because I've been seeing listings for Chromebooks newer than this one for as low as $25.. Nevertheless, as someone who really enjoys the idea of repurposing old electronics, I simply couldn't bear to throw it away. I really wanted to find some use for this machine, so I began thinking of ways I could utilize it again.

That's when I began to wonder, could I run Linux on a Chromebook? Well, it turns out that not only can you do just that, but it's also fairly easy to install a bootable Linux OS. You can even do away with the ChromeOS entirely! In fact, it was easy enough that someone like myself decided to give it a go. How did that turn out? It should be telling enough that I'm using it to write this post right now.

At this moment, I am running Linux Mint 21.1 MATE Edition running on an Acer C720, and let me tell you, it is both quaint and fun! It's not a fast machine, but the battery life is okay (6 hours), it's small and lightweight, and because old Chromebooks are so cheap (seriously, there's a better and newer Chromebook than this listed on Craigslist for $25 right now) I really do not care too much about what happens to it. There's something so light feeling about working on a functional device that you're simply not concerned about breaking. Spilled coffee? Oh well. Sitting outside and it just began to rain? Let me get up and stretch before shutting the screen.

My plan for this Chromebook Linuxbook is to use it to make websites and write blog posts with while I'm travelling or hanging out at the cafe. I think it'll make a great little companion for bike rides into town, or even just keeping in my backpack in case random inspiration strikes and I want to write something big down. Heck, I could even just throw it in the backseat of my vehicle and forget about it until the day comes when I need it.

All said and done, this is a very affordable approach (as low as $25, or free) to dipping your toes into the Linux OS, and I think this conversion is a cool little project for you if any of the following apply: A.) You want to learn Linux, but want to do it on a separate device, B.) you have a Chromebook lying around that never gets used, C.) you want something lightweight, small, and something you're not worried about damaging, which you can use anywhere.

I guess my next question would be if there are any options for lightweight flexible solarpanels that I could glue to the surface of this and use it to charge it on a sunny day. Now that would be the bee's knees.

EDIT: I do want to be clear and reassert the fact that this is not fast on my particular machine, but it's still functional. My Chromebook has a measly 2gb of RAM, which means I need to be careful about how many tabs I have open while I'm on Firefox. I had Discord and 5 tabs open earlier and it slowed down to a crawl. That being said, you can purchase a Chromebook new with 8gb of RAM and 32gb of SSD space in the $120-$180 range. That's seriously an option worth considering, though at that point, I'd recommend also hunting around for old laptops, as you might get lucky with something on eBay.

All that being said, having kept my expectations low and understanding that I'm on a machine with 2GB of ram, I'm very happy with this project and how it runs. I may consider selling my old Macbook pro for a few hundred dollars and investing in a more powerful Chromebook just for Linux in the future.

- Onio

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