back to article Remake, remodel: Toshiba Chromebook 2

Of the Chromebook ilk, Toshiba’s original CB30 was one of my favourites from 2014. Slim, light and stylish and, of course, affordable. This year, you’d think that all the company would need to do is refresh a few components and it could keep on going with this design. Yet with the arrival of Toshiba’s Chromebook 2 that also …

  1. msknight

    If...

    I could replace Chrome OS with Linux, then I'd be interested in this beast.

    I use an HP Stream for writing with. The AMD chip set in the 14" model works superbly. (Win 8 replaced with Mint Petra) However, one of the USB ports has already died and it could do with a bit more battery power.

    Something with a bit more quality, like this, would be a great little writing machine that I could keep in my backpack. There's a market out here (of at least one!) who want this form factor and are fine with this amount of storage, but want our own OS choice.

    1. Martin Silver badge
      Happy

      Your wish is granted.

      https://github.com/dnschneid/crouton

      I use it all the time - and it's very handy to be able to switch from Linux back to the "standard" Chromebook.

      Disclaimer - I'm just a very happy user of Crouton.

      1. Martin Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Your wish is granted.

        Hmm.

        Both msknight and I have been downvoted. Who could have done that?

        1) Chromebook fanboi who is deeply offended by the suggestion that anything else should run on a Chromebook?

        2) Militant windows user who thinks no laptop should have anything else but the beloved Microsoft on it?

        Apart from that, I can't see anything particularly upsetting about what either of us said.

        Oh, well.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Your wish is granted.

          Hm. My previous comment seems to have disappeared, so ...

          Chromebook + Crouton is the way to go if you want to run something close to a 'full fat' Linux in tandem with ChromeOS - installation is an absolute breeze and I've now got everything I need to do development on the move should I feel the need to - xfce4 on the full-HD screen really is rather nice, and the ability to switch between xfce and 'native' ChromeOS using the top row of the keyboard is an added bonus.

          Storage-wise, I trust Google about as far as I could physically spit Scotland so I've bolstered my local storage with a 16Gb SD card (interim measure, a 64Gb card is on order) which does the job nicely - especially, as the review mentions, you aren't left with half the card sticking out of the slot. Of course, if you want to go down the USB flash-drive route there's nothing to stop you. That said, I don't have zillions of Chrome apps/extensions installed (apart from uBlock, Ghostery and all the usual suspects) meaning I've got the best part of 7Gb free on the internal SSD.

          FWIW, I picked up the full-HD model for £219 at a certain high-street vendor who are never knowingly undersold - they were doing a £50 off deal at the time, although I don't know whether this offer is still running. Either way, I'd have happily paid full whack on the strength of the display alone. For a 'cheap' laptop it's an absolute belter.

        2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

          Re: Your wish is granted.

          Err.. Crouton stinks.

          I fought hard to get proper Debian on my Samsung (Arm) Chromebook and it was worth every second of the time spent. Now I have a machine that easily lasts 5h+, weights virtually nothing and cost ~ 200 quid out of the box. The performance is perfectly fine for an an conference/airport/in-flight typewriter and even for some light coding from time to time.

          The only downside is the rather limited disk space. The SD card slot is specifically designed to ensure that you cannot use it as a primary storage so a normal SD card will stick out. You have to use half-depth or an adapter instead.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Your wish is granted.

            Another happy owner (who annoying wasn't undersold by the fifty quid off offer <grr>) *but* I never use chromos, and I never shut the machine down; just sleep it on the lid.

            It's taken a while to get a usable desktop - I find Ubuntu/Unity unusable - and after a certain amount of jiggerypokery I have a cinnamon desktop, starting with Ubuntu/XFCE and adding a lot of Mint. This has been done through Crouton and to be honest I wish I could find a way of installing/booting a generic Linux image; my preference would be Mint 17.1. As far as I can tell, though, this doesn't work the Toshiba's flash memory; I can't find anyone who has done it.

            Which means there are still some outstanding issues:

            - the SD card is unmounted on sleep by the chrome OS and not remounted, which means it's fine as long as it lasts, but once it's unmounted the easiest way to remount is to drop out of linux, pop the card out, stick it in again, and restart.

            - the SMB link to a local-network store is equally non-persistant, though easier to restore.

            - worst, the Cinnamon desktop disappears if the screen lock (from Chrome, I think) activates - all that is left is the background image and the window you were working on. The only cure is to crash back to Chrome, and force a restart.

            I'm sure someone more knowledgeable than me could fix these issues but said person has not yet found time to post to the net...

            The display is a cracker, though!

            Edit: no bloody delete key - stupid idea. The alt-backspace from Chrome does not persist into Cinammon.

            1. jason 7
              Happy

              Re: Your wish is granted.

              Erm have you thought about just using the ChromeOS it came with? You might have got some work done by now if you had.

              1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

                Re: Your wish is granted.

                Er, because Chrome OS doesn't provide the facilities I want?

                I want a linux-of-my-choice running on that hardware, as the only OS. It's not impossible (else Chrome OS wouldn't work) but I don't yet know how to do it and apparently neither does anyone else.

                I want to access my local servers; I want to access my local printer; I want to be able to work with the system off-line; I want local storage (not any great amount) and I want to be have full control over what the beast is doing.

                Chrome OS does not fit *my* use-cases, for exactly the same reasons that a tablet computer is no use to me and why I don't bother with internet access on a smart-phone. I am not a 'consumer' of internet resources to any great extent.

                What is missing so far is a way to boot a vanilla image (grub and its ilk appear not to work), and probably a couple of drivers.

                But as I said - the machine itself is *excellent*. It's just got the wrong OS on it.

                1. jason 7

                  Re: Your wish is granted.

                  But from the sound of your initial post you are trying to make a saw work like a chisel.

                2. Irongut Silver badge

                  Re: Your wish is granted. @Neil Barnes

                  So if a Chromebook is such a bad fit for your use case why are you so desparate to use a Chromebook? You'd be better off buying a decent laptop and loading your preferred flavour of Linux on that.

                  1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

                    Why I picked Linux on Chromebook instead of Linux on windows

                    It was really cheap. I haven't had such good value for money since Microsoft said Intel's latest chipset was too wimpy for Vista. Defeating Android lock-in hardware is a pain, but so is UEFI. If a cheap laptop gets broken or nicked, I haven't lost much, but I will not take an expensive laptop out of the house.

                    Given a choice, I buy would buy a Linux machine. If a Pi does the job then fine, and there are faster micro-desktop alternatives at good prices. Linux laptop prices are silly. Now if Microsoft would only come out with Vista2, I would happily buy a marked down too-small-for-Vista2 laptop with extra crapware.

                  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

                    Re: Your wish is granted. @Neil Barnes

                    @Irongut and Jason

                    Someone's having a fine time negging my posts today!

                    I *have* a decent laptop that has the linux of my choice on it, along with a lot of data and mass that I don't necessarily want to carry around with me all the time. The purchase of the Chromebook was based largely on the size, weight, battery life, and screen - and a cost that was somewhat cheaper than a similar windows box (and a distaste to buy *another* windows I'm never going to use).

                    Think of it as an experiment. I hadn't tried Chrome OS, but saw plenty of excellent reviews... but as I said, it turns out I'm not the target market; I don't use the internet the way Google would like me to. For example, I might want to parse a locally stored epub, display it for editing, run a rather specialised spelling checker over it (specifically, one that understands that the errors generated by an OCR program are not those you get from someone who can spell but can't type, or who can type but can't spell), modify the CSS definitions, and then wrap it up again as an epub. This is not a heavy computing task - in fact, it's more of a user interface issue - but it's not one for which there is any software of which I am currently aware. Equally, as it's a development project, I want to be able to run at least a minimal development environment - say Geany and Python3 and a handful of useful libraries.

                    These are not things which are at all easy, if indeed possible, to do in Chrome OS but which are a doddle in a generic linux with its depositories.

                    It's not difficult: I want to be able to use hardware I own in the way I choose. At the moment, it is difficult to *replace* the existing OS; I don't expect that state of affairs to last forever.

                    And as I said earlier: the hardware is *excellent* at any price. I could like more ram and more flash, but that's not the limiting factor.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Your wish is granted.

            "The SD card slot is specifically designed to ensure that you cannot use it as a primary storage so a normal SD card will stick out. You have to use half-depth or an adapter instead."

            Like an MBA. I just stick a micro SD into a half height adaptor, job done.

            Incidentally, the comment above about surviving drops. My Samsung 550 has survived a drop from 3 feet onto my rather substantial slate hearth, landing on a corner. The corner is a bit scraped, and in fact less damaged than my daughter's MBA, which got dented in similar circumstances. There was no other harm done and that was a year ago.

        3. GitMeMyShootinIrons

          Re: Your wish is granted.

          "Both msknight and I have been downvoted. "

          This is El Reg - the only thing you can count on is you'll always find someone who doesn't like what you say. I'd like to add to further options:

          3) Linux fanatic who thinks you shouldn't waste such a fine OS on such minor hardware.

          4) Toshiba Ninja who doesn't appreciate you using a Tosh in the way it was designed.

          5) Someone who just generally dislikes everything - because haterz gonna hate, yeah?

          1. jason 7

            Re: Your wish is granted.

            or -

            6) Oh look someone else saying "I installed linux on mine!" for the 75th time.

            Yawn...yes we know!

            1. Archaon
              Coat

              Re: Your wish is granted.

              "6) Oh look someone else saying "I installed linux on mine!" for the 75th time."

              If it helps I have one of these stupid cheap devices (Linx 10 in my case) and I didn't install Linux on it. For what little it may be worth I hope that makes you feel better. :-)

              1. jason 7
                Happy

                Re: Your wish is granted.

                To be honest...that's more interesting. Thanks for sharing.

        4. Longtemps, je me suis couche de bonne heure

          Re: Your wish is granted.

          Perhaps the guy that used to run the Scroogled campaign at Micrososft - I believe Microsoft recently "let him go", so he may be at a loose end now...

    2. sabroni Silver badge
      Meh

      Can I wipe it and put a PROPER linux on there!

      FTFY.

    3. Nigel 11

      Re: If...

      First thing I did was Google "Linux Toshiba Chromebook 2" and found

      https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Toshiba_Chromebook_2

      which says it won't work yet, because the boot device is UHCI not SATA. Anyone know more? I'd have liked a cheap full HD Linux laptop (I am one of those alleged nobodys who use Linux as their desktop of choice).

  2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    What's a "Chomebook"?

    Is that anything like a Chromebook, or is the lack of an "R" an indication it's not for Pirate consumption?

    *Runs away*

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Grace period on Google cloud storage

    I use Google Drive (cheap, easy, effective) and had around 60 Gb of largely photo files loaded up. Due to domestic distractions I allowed the plan to run out when my payment card details changed (Google didn't offer me a direct debit plan, so it is tied to the life of the payment card). Result, notice of account being deleted, not access to the non-free volume of files.

    About four days later I updated my payment details, and lo and behold all my files reappeared instantly. So there is some period of grace. The paranoid may have a concern that this means Google retain copies of your files after your plan ends, but (a) these people won't have signed up for Google Drive in the first place, and (b) isn't this what we'd expect?

    Can't say how long this works for, but I'm guessing it is for the thirty days that Drive holds deleted versions of files.

    1. Martin 47

      Re: Grace period on Google cloud storage

      I am pretty sure Google never actually delertes anything. The only thing that 'expires' is your ability to access them

    2. Craigness

      Re: Grace period on Google cloud storage

      That's what apparently happens with paid accounts. For the free space what's meant to happen is that you can't upload any more files, but can access everything you already have. Once you delete a file, you can't re-use the space.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That keyboard layout ...

    ... is not at all copied from a Macbook Air. Oh no.

    https://www.apple.com/euro/macbook-air/e/screens/images/design_multitouch.jpg

    1. jason 7

      Re: That keyboard layout ...

      And amazingly they can do it for a tenth of the price.

      Fancy that.

    2. Craigness

      Re: That keyboard layout ...

      Other (older?) MBA keyboards have symbols for Shift, Tab, delete etc whereas the one you linked to uses words. So whether Chromebooks use words or symbols, they are copying Apple. Similarly, Apple has at times gone with 2 keys to the left of the Z but there is 1 key on the model you linked to. And they have used 2 different orientations for the Enter key. Chromebooks are ripping off their design nomatter what they do!

      On the other hand, Toshiba's touchpad has square corners at the bottom and rounded at the top, the MBA has rounded all round. The MBA has 4 keys to the left of the spacebar whereas the Chromebook has 2, Chromebook has no Caps Lock, the brightness controls are in a different place, there are no f1-f10 keys on a Chromebook, it has Backspace instead of delete... But it does have ABC- all the way to Z, which Apple has been using for decades (we can ignore that Apple uses upper-case whereas Toshiba uses lower-case). Definite copy!

  5. TheProf Silver badge

    Small

    Why do Chromebooks mostly have screens smaller than the 'standard' 15.2"? I would have thought that using a less popular screen size would push the price up.

    1. jason 7

      Re: Small

      I say to folks they are to replace a tablet when you find that stabbing a screen with your finger to type doesn't cut it. I know a few folks that have dumped tablets for Chromebooks.

      So the smaller size works, plus they don't have as much hardware in them as a standard laptop so you can reduce the size again.

      My fave Chromebook size is 11".

      I think the smaller screen thing has been BS/laziness all along. Might have taken Google to push OEMs to deliver smaller screens at a lower price.

      1. BrightSpark

        Re: Small

        Agreed.

        The other half has dumped her Nexus and just loves the Chromebook. Upside is no maintenance from me and she can't break it. Downside is the clickety keyboard in bed whilst she plays the latest Facebook game tat.

  6. CAPS LOCK

    CPL 593H

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMBeqNfYEYY

    Best, most extraordinary gig I ever went to Leeds University 1974 or '75.

  7. Craigness

    A few things

    MTS support was introduced a few OS versions ago, so that would explain the iphone suddenly working when plugged in. It's read-only at the moment, with a new update due soon.

    There are some decent radio players on the store for you to paste your stream link into, but I had no problem running that radio station (or any other) from its website.

    Please stop telling us how long a Chromebook takes to boot! It's so stable that you only need to reboot when you get a new OS update every 6 weeks or so. The rest of the time you can use sleep and resume like a tablet, which works almost instantly.

  8. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Mattte Screen - Yay!

    1366x768 resolution? Boo Hiss

    What a load of old Tosh. IMHO Glossy screens are only there to make the latest hollywood/bollywood releast look half decent. For some of us the reflections on a gloss screen is a real PITA.

  9. Alfie

    Ch(r)ompromise

    Just got one of these a week ago, spent a couple of evenings playing with it, then an evening creating a recovery usb stick, then another evening following the instructions on setting up Crouton and installing the Ubuntu XFCE desktop image. It neednt take that long to do, I was just messing while doing other stuff with my free time.

    Now I have a jumped up tablet with a keyboard in ChromeOS and can quickly flip into Linux when I need something specific, like a printer or Firefox or VLC or other non-webby tasks. The combination of full depth SD slot and two USB slots means that I can copy and mangle photos and videos from camera cards to a low profile USB that lives in there permanently.

    I would prefer it if the lovely Full HD screen were matte like my old Samsung NC10, and I would prefer to wipe it completely and get a proper internal build of Mint Cinnamon on there, but it is a pretty decent compromise at the price. I still have a full desktop system for anything needing more horsepower, but my old Nook HD+ tablet and my NC10 running Mint XFCE have both been put out to pasture.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux is do-able on Toshiba CB-30 (original)

    I am running a full version of Fedora on my original Toshiba CB30.

    You need to remove a screw from the motherboard to enable setting BIOS flags.

    Besides that it is not too hard. See here for more info:

    https://johnlewis.ie/custom-chromebook-firmware/faq/

    https://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/developer-information-for-chrome-os-devices/toshiba-cb30-chromebook

  11. carlos_c

    puzzled ?

    If you are going for cheap and light there are loads of similarly specced cheap windows boxes such as the ASUS X205TA 11.6" (£179) that you should be able to install your favourite distros on .....and they have the correct keyboard layout and 32 gb drives rather than 16. Drivers - not sure about ?

    1. Craigness

      Re: puzzled ?

      BIOS, keyboard, storage, drivers. Chromebooks are exactly the wrong choice for someone who doesn't want Chrome OS!

  12. Robert E A Harvey

    words

    " see the doughnut rather than the hole" is my favourite quote of today.

  13. The last doughnut

    Yes you can get very cheap underpowered (windows 8.1) 'tops now. Just replace the 1TB hard drive with a 64GB SSD, load your choice of Linux and away you go.

    1. Alfie

      I couldnt find one with a full HD screen and only 1.3kg cheaper than the Tosh though.

  14. Sokolik

    Please have mercy...

    ...on my ignorance. It seems already what I studied hard and learned is now obsolete, "Oh, so yesterday". In short, I'm out-of-touch.

    This may be a stupid question, but I invite comments: Is'nt "Chromebook" just another word for "Netbook"? And am I incorrect, the Netbook is, like I, "Oh, so yesterday"?

    Thanks!

    1. Martin Silver badge

      Re: Please have mercy...

      Netbooks were originally small cheap computers (SCCs, El Reg used to call them), which were supplied without Windows; instead they had a basic version of Linux installed on them. They had SSDs to improve boot speed and, of course, limited storage. The first real netbook, I think, was the EEE701; another early one was the Acer Aspire One. They were around £250, which was pretty cheap at the time.

      These machines were quite successful - to the extent that Microsoft decided that they were a threat to them. I may have the precise facts wrong here - let someone who knows better correct me - but my understanding was that they enabled a very basic version of Windows 7 to be installed on similar machines at a very low price. This meant that people were able to get Windows boxes at a similar price level - normally with larger, non-SSD boxes.

      Now, what SHOULD have happened is that demand increased and the prices would drop. What actually happened was that the Windows boxes sold well (familiar) and the Linux boxes didn't. But what then also happened was that people found the boxes didn't run Windows very well - after all, they were not particularly powerful machines. So netbooks got an undeserved reputation of not being very useful. The prices also never did drop - two, three years later, they were still the same basic spec, for £250.

      And then the iPad came along and everyone thought they wanted tablets. So bye-bye to Netbooks.

      The Chromebook is an attempt to reinvent the netbook concept. It has more chance of succeeding as (a) people understand that you can't easily get Windows on them, and they are not designed for Windows. They don't even have the same keyboard layout: (b) tablets mean that people are now used to the idea that you don't HAVE to have Windows, so long as it works; and also people have realized that tablets are all very fine, but most of the time, a keyboard is better: (c) they are built to start quickly, be secure and restart quickly. None of this Windows lark of installing patches and rebooting - which with an old netbook could take up to half an hour! (d) they are supported by a name that people know and trust (I know, I know, but people do trust Google).

      I loved the original concept of netbooks, and I was sorry to see them die.

      I love Chromebooks even more, and in our family we use, most of the time, nothing else.

      1. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Please have mercy...

        These machines were quite successful - to the extent that Microsoft decided that they were a threat to them. I may have the precise facts wrong here - let someone who knows better correct me - but my understanding was that they enabled a very basic version of Windows 7 to be installed on similar machines at a very low price. This meant that people were able to get Windows boxes at a similar price level - normally with larger, non-SSD boxes.

        Yeah, more-or-less right.

        The original netbooks had barely enough storage to run the Linux distro with which they were supplied, and it was hard to squeeze Windows on at all, but various people did manage to trim XP to fit, usually without buying a licence, and Microsoft noticed. Later netbooks had more flash storage -- or even a hard drive -- and Microsoft started to offer very low cost OEM licences for XP for these machines.

        Some netbooks of the XP vintage were nice little machines, and although it was hard to find one for sale with anything other than Windows the "Microsoft Tax" on them was very small, and they made very nice portable and cost-effective Linux laptops for those that wanted them. I still have Ubuntu (14.04 -- the latest LTS) on my Acer AO751h.

        Microsoft later released the "Starter" edition of Windows 7 for netbooks. This was basically a customized Windows 7 Home that was limited to handling a maximum of 2GB of RAM and a 1024x600 pixel display. This is what really killed the netbook -- too little RAM and a crappy display resolution.

        I doubt that Microsoft imposed the limits specifically to kill the netbook, I suspect they did it so that people who wanted a "normal" home PC or laptop would have to pay more for at least Win7 Home ... but the effect was to ensure that all netbook hardware was limited to the Win7 Starter hardware spec. -- it was that or suffer a ~£70 (at retail) price hike.

        The manufacturers turned their attention to Ultrabooks -- MUCH higher spec hardware, and price tag in which the cost of the Windows licence could more easily be lost.

        Like it or not, Linux has too small a share of the market for it to have been worth the manufacturers' while to make higher-spec netbooks just for the Linux market.

  15. Doug Bostrom

    Inversion

    I've never once read a positive remark on glossy screens in reviews. Here we find the "premium" model afflicted with a glossy screen, with the otherwise less-desirable cheap version being praised for its matte display.

    But manufacturers continue to produce glossy screens? Why? Is this some kind of manufacturing cost issue recovered by selling a poorer, less expensive alternative as a feature, akin to track pads?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best laptop I have ever bought

    V good screen and doesn't need to be suspended as boot time is seconds. I love this device.

  17. captain veg Silver badge

    To be, or not to be a laptop?

    From the conclusion of the article:

    "[...] this is no laptop replacement and never designed to be.

    "If you can live with the limitations, and see the doughnut rather than the hole, then you have a lightweight, cloud-savvy laptop"

    So, a laptop that doesn't replace a laptop.

    -A.

  18. Sergey 1
    Paris Hilton

    Full HD

    What's that in pixels? Don't puzzle us with buzzwords, puh-leeeeaseee!

  19. Knieriemen

    My favorite Chromebook

    The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is my favorite Chromebook and I've used quite a few. Screen is fantastic, just enough power and it's fanless (a big place for portables, in my opinion).

    For *most* regular computer users, this could be a replacement. if you need specific Windows or Mac software than logically it is not. My Chromebook is my primary laptop at home but I do have a Macbook Air for work.

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