How to run multiple Linux containers in Chrome OS for extra build environments


If you’d like to employ a Chromebook as a developer machine, you might be interested in a new multi-Linux container feature in Chrome OS 98. Jack Wallen shows you how to enable and use it.

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Image: CC Photo Labs/Shutterstock

Chrome OS has come a very long way from being just a browser. In fact, the developers have made it pretty simple to run full-blown Linux applications on Chromebooks. This has helped to evolve the mobile laptop platform into an impressive developer tool. 

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But, not being ones to rest on their laurels, the developers have taken Linux support on Chrome OS to yet another level by making it possible to run multiple Linux containers on a single device. This means you can have more than one instance of Linux on your Chromebook, each isolated from one another. With this, you could create specific build environments for different tasks and not worry that one would have any effect on another.

SEE: 40+ open source and Linux terms you need to know (TechRepublic Premium)

Handy stuff, this.

But how do you enable this feature? At the moment, it’s still experimental, so it’s only available on the Dev channel (note, in the newer iterations of the OS, you click About Chrome OS | Additional Details | Change Channel). If you’re anxious to check out this new feature (and you’re OK moving to the developer channel), go ahead and make the switch (with the understanding the dev channel is not as stable as the stable channel). 

With that said, let’s find out how to enable multiple Linux containers in Chrome OS.

What you’ll need

To make this work, you’ll need a Chromebook running at least version 98 of Chrome OS, so make sure to update to the latest release. That’s all you need.

How to enable multiple Linux containers on Chrome OS

Open Chrome and type:

chrome://flags#crostini-multi-container​

Hit Enter on your keyboard. In the resulting window (Figure A), click the Default drop-down associated with Allow Multiple Crostini Containers and select Enabled.

Figure A

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Enabling the experimental multiple Linux containers in Chrome OS.

When prompted, click Restart (Figure B).

Figure B

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Restart Chrome OS so the changes will take effect.

After your Chromebook restarts, login and open Settings. From within Settings, go to Advanced | Developers | Linux development environment. In this new screen (Figure C), click Manage Extra Containers.

Figure C

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You should now see the Manage Extra Containers section in the Linux development environment screen.

Click the new section and then click Create (Figure D).

Figure D

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Creating the new Linux container on Chrome OS.

You will be prompted to name the container and the VM. Add those two names and click Create (Figure E).

Figure E

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Make sure to give your new Linux container a name that helps describe the environment you’ll use it for.

After naming your new Linux container, click Create, and Chrome OS will build the environment and open a terminal window associated with it. Once the container is ready, you can start using your new Linux environment.

Make sure to pin the terminal window to your shelf. Once you’ve done that you can access any running Linux container via a two-finger tap of the launcher (Figure F).

Figure F

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Switching between running Linux containers is as simple as a two-finger tap.

And that’s all there is to running multiple Linux containers on Chrome OS. Give this a try and see if this new feature helps you create multiple build environments on your Chromebook.

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