Libreboot with Debian on Chromebook C201

libreboot logo
Libreboot logo made by Marcus Moeller (2014) – Creative Commons license CC0 1.0 Universal

A few months back I obtained a Google Chromebook Asus C201. It arrived preinstalled with Chrome OS as default operating system. This laptop was listed as one of the possible laptop models that can use Libreboot. Free Software developer Paul Kocialkowski has ported Libreboot to this Chromebook. Libreboot is a free BIOS or UEFI replacement (free as in freedom); libre boot firmware that initializes the hardware and starts a bootloader for your operating system. It’s also an open source BIOS, but open source fails to promote freedom; please call libreboot free software. Since I know Paul K. from the Internet, he helped me with the guidelines about creating bootable Debian image to be used on this laptop. In my next blog post I plan to describe how to successfully create these bootable Debian images. This laptop has three possibilities about using a secondary operating system.

  • First possibility is to install the system on internal storage and replace the default Chrome OS.
  • Second possibility is to use an external USB key and have it stored there and the
  • third possibility (which I have chosen) was to install Debian on the Micro-SD card.

With my current setup I prefer to keep Chrome OS on internal storage and I can select secondary booting method to boot up Debian from Micro-SD card. I used Debian stable (Jessie) image and afterwards I have upgraded to Debian testing (stretch) to use more recent Debian packages. Just a short info for people that don’t know about Debian. Debian has one of the best designed release methods amongst GNU/Linux distributions, and their “main” software pool contains only free software. The “main” pool is also the only software pool that I will use on this laptop. Currently there are no other suitable FSF authorised distributions that would run on this laptop, next possible ports will include the Guix system distribution and Paul Kocialkowski is working on porting the Parabola GNU/Linux-libre distribution. My goal is to use only free software on this laptop, but there are some limitations. First the BIOS needs to be replaced with Libreboot, and the integrated Wi-Fi chipset would only work with proprietary software. Therefore for this purpose I have purchased a free hardware replacement – Qualcomm Atheros external USB Wi-Fi card, that uses AR9271 chipset, which is known to operate with free software. The model of this access point card is Sophos AP 5 Rev. 1. More about the recommended steps will follow up soon …

Author: Jan Prunk

Jan Prunk, Free software / GNU Linux enthusiast from Slovenia.

5 thoughts on “Libreboot with Debian on Chromebook C201”

  1. Dear Jan,

    I enjoy your posts and cannot wait for the follow up as I have been trying to run pure free software on this ASUS C201 lappy. Libreboot is already done but I have trouble to create the Debian image to boot with.

    Your work is much appreciated,
    Best,
    Andy

  2. Hello Andy,

    I am glad you liked the post. It’s however not explaining (yet) how to put Debian onto the media to be used with C201. You could however contact “paulk” who designed the Debian image on Internet Relay Chat, server irc.freenode.net in channel #libreboot , or any other Libreboot developers there and they will be able to guide you through the installation procedure. I hope that I will soon be able to update this entry with the installation procedure.

    Kind regards,
    Jan

  3. Hi Jan,

    I’m really happy to know that someone managed to install Debian on this machine. Could you please guide us (I’m kind of certain that there are some people interested) through? I’ve followed the debian.org guide InstallingDebianOnAsusC201 which I have only modified by replacing “jessie” with “stretch”, but after I follow the steps (installing the distro on my SD card) all I get is a black screen. I’ve already installed libreboot (thanks to Paul of course) but installing Debian seems to be more difficult.

    Cheers,
    Nikolas

  4. Hello Nikolas,

    The same reply for user “Andy” applies also for you. Please contact “paulk” as he is the one who is in charge for Debian updates. He has the latest scripts available for compatibility with C201.

    Kind regards,
    Jan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *