Chrome OS gets even more powerful as Google’s “Bruschetta” project adds support for using your Linux distribution of choice.
One of the biggest changes for Chrome OS in recent years has been support for Linux apps that run a full version of Debian GNU/Linux in a virtual machine. This project was carried out under the codename “Crostini”, which itself is a pun on a previous collaborative project called a crouton.
The introduction of Linux apps in Chrome OS opened up a whole new category of applications for Chromebooks, especially for developers, but it’s designed to be deeply integrated into your day-to-day experience. From its inception, enthusiasts have eagerly toyed with Chrome OS’s virtual machine system — or “CrosVM” — to run other operating systems, usually other flavors of Linux. Google itself even offered some documentation and a Interview at Google I/O about how to do exactly that.
It seems the next step for Linux on Chrome OS is to make it easier for enthusiasts to use their favorite flavor of Linux. The project is codenamed “Bruschetta” and continues the bread theme. As with many other Chrome OS features, things will be like this be closed first behind a flag in chrome://flags.
Enable the third-party VM feature
Enables UI support for third-party/generic VMs
The main difference from the previous do-it-yourself method of bringing your own Linux is that these “third-party VMs” do it tap the same “sommelier” system that makes each of your Linux apps appear like a native Chrome OS window. In comparison, the DIY method resulted in a single window hosting the other operating system, similar to using software like VirtualBox or VMWare.
For this to be possible, we can assume that the Linux distros that Chromebook owners can choose from are optimized for use in Chrome OS. Tools like Garcon and Sommelier need to be preinstalled, and it seems Google has even started preparing for your files to be accessible through the Files app, just like how Linux apps are used today.
A second flag in chrome://flags indicates that the Files app has access to your “guest OS” files. Besides being an apt description of Bruschetta (and other projects like Borealis) that the flag is associated with the same error number as used to add a “BruschettaService” to Chrome OS.
Enabled Guest OS Service + File Manager integration
The Files app gets information about guests from the guest operating system service instead of querying each type individually.
Another aspect worth mentioning is that Google wants to offer comprehensive compatibility and security by allowing it a whole BIOS/UEFI can be run virtually if required.
So what sort of Linux distributions should we expect when Chrome OS rolls out broader Linux support? This part is not entirely clear yet. Given the need for these distros to include Google’s tools, it’s likely things will start with a select few partners before expanding more broadly.
Windows 10 & 11 today actually offer a similar feature with their Windows subsystem for Linux. The Microsoft Store allows you to install official versions of popular distributions such as Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Kali. Or with a little expertise You can install others like Mint and Fedora.
With development just seeming to be fully and publicly ramping up, we’ll likely have to wait a few more months or more before Chrome OS expands its support for Linux distributions.
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