Last year for Black Friday, Amazon.com had a fantastic deal on an Acer c720 Chromebook so I decided to grab one.  I'd been wanting to test ChromeOS and live "la vida google" for a while.  After 2-3 months I decided that ChromeOS wasn't for me.  I'm an old school computer user, I need a command line, and I need actual applications and not web apps.  This isn't to say that ChromeOS is a bad operating system, it wasn't, and if you live purely online I think it will get the job done.  

That said, I had this c720 which I now needed to find a purpose for.  I had heard that the c720 could be converted into a nice Linux laptop, and so for my maker project in February I decided that I would convert the c720 into an Ubuntu laptop so I could write code, and goof around online.

Here are the steps I followed to make this work.  I'll include the source URLs when I can.

Step 0 : Remove the screw.

SOURCE : http://www.chromium.org/chromium-os/developer-information-for-chrome-os-devices/acer-c720-chromebook

In order to get the c720 to boot consistently into Ubuntu you need to be able to flash the NVRAM of the c720.  There is physical write protection on the motherboard in the form of a screw, URL below has an excellent picture of the motherboard and where that screw is located.  It isn't hard to remove.  Once removed just replace the bottom cover but don't screw in the bottom panel, you'll need to replace the screw later.

Step 1: Enable Developer Mode and Flash the NVRAM

SOURCE : https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Chromebook#Installation

ChromeOS uses a special BIOS and so in order to have a reliable Ubuntu machine you first need to flash the BIOS to get SeaBios running.  

  1. Press and hold ESC + F3 then press the POWER button.  This puts the Chromebook in Recovery Mode
  2. Press CTRL+D to enable Developer Mode and CONFIRM.  The Chromebook will work for a bit and reboot.  Leave it alone for a few minutes while it completes.
  3. At this point you've restored the machine and it has losts its configurations.  When you get to the configuration screen press CTRL + ALT + F2 to bring up the prompt.
  4. Login with the userid chronos.  There is no password.
  5. At the prompt access the superuser shell
    1. sudo bash
  6. Enable SeaBIOS
    1. crossystem dev_boot_usb=1 dev_boot_legacy=1
  7. Reboot the machine

At the white splash screen you can press CTRL + L to boot into SeaBIOS.  Otherwise the machine will boot into ChromeOS if you wait a few seconds.  To make SeaBIOS boot by default we need to run a few more commands.  Return to the ChromeOS superuser shell and run the following.

sudo su

flashrom --wp-disable

flashrom --wp-status

set_gbb_flags.sh

This last command should return the following values (there could be more)

GBB_FLAG_DEV_SCREEN_SHORT_DELAY 0x00000001
GBB_FLAG_FORCE_DEV_SWITCH_ON 0x00000008
GBB_FLAG_FORCE_DEV_BOOT_LEGACY 0x00000080
GBB_FLAG_DEFAULT_DEV_BOOT_LEGACY 0x00000400

Set SeaBios as the default by running

set_gbb_flags.sh 0x489

flashrom --wp-enable

Turn off the c720 and return the screw you removed from Step 0.

With that done you can now install Ubuntu.  Insert your 14.04 install media and install Ubuntu normally.  Make sure to attach an external USB mouse to the c720, by default the trackpad on the c720 will not work with Ubuntu 14.04

Step 2 : Ubuntu

Once installed and online give Ubuntu a few minutes and it will prompt you to perform some updates.  Let Ubuntu update, once done we can fix the trackpad and boot time issues.

SOURCE : http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2223738


First we'll fix the trackpad.  Luckily someone online has written a script to get all the work done for us.  To get started open a Terminal window and enter the following:

wget http://goo.gl/kz917j
bash kz917j

Type in your administrator password when/if prompted and reboot when done.  Make sure not to touch the machine while processing.

To fix the boot time and other issues with the suspend, follow the instructions on this site.  I'm not including them here because it involves editing a couple of files and I like how the author of this site presented the information.

SOURCE : https://philipalban.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/fixing-suspend-in-xubuntu-on-the-acer-c720-a-simplified-guide/

With that done you should have a functional Ubuntu laptop for not a lot of money.  You may need to map some of the volume and brightness keys, but that can be easily done through the System Settings panels in Ubuntu.  In addition, I be careful with any update that involves changes to the kernel and that might break some of these fixes.

Posted
AuthorLee B Wilson
Categoriestechnology