3 min read

At the Chrome Web Summit 2018, Dan Dascalescu, Partner Developer Advocate at Google provided a high-level overview of ChromeOS and discussed Chrome’s core and new features available to web developers. Topics included best practices for web development, including Progressive Web Apps, and optimizing input and touch for tablets while having desktop users in mind.

He specified that Chromebooks are convergence machines that run Linux, Android, and Google Play natively without emulation.

He explained why ChromeOS can be a good choice for web developers. It not only powers devices from sticks to tablets to desktops, but it can also run web, Android, and now Linux applications. ChromeOS brings together your own development workflow with a variety of form factors from mobiles, tablets, desktop, and browsers on Android and Linux.

Run Linux apps on ChromeOS with Crostini

Stephen Barber, an engineer on ChromeOS described Chrome’s container architecture which is based on Chrome’s principle of safety, security, and reliability.  By using lightweight containers and hardware virtualization support, Android and Linux code run natively in ChromeOS.

Developers can run Linux apps on ChromeOS through Project Crostini. Crostini is based on Debian stable and uses both virtualization and containers to provide security in depth. For now, they are starting out targeting web developers by providing integration features like port forwarding to localhost as a secure origin. They also provide a penguin.linux.test DNS alias, to treat a container like a separate system. For supporting more developer workflows than just web, they are soon providing USB, GPU, audio, FUSE, and file sharing support in upcoming releases.

Dan also shared how Crostini is actually used for developing web apps. He demonstrated how you can easily install Linux on your Chromebook. Although Crostini is still in development, most things work as expected. Developers can run IDEs, databases like MongoDB, or MySQL. Anything can be installed with an -apt. It also has a terminal.

Dan also mentioned Carlo, which is a Google project that is essentially a helpful node app framework. It provides applications with Chrome rendering capabilities. It uses a locally detected instance of chrome and it connects to your process pipe and then exposes the high-level API to render in Chrome from your NodeScript.

If you don’t need low-level features, you can make your app as a PWA which works without a LaunchBar once installed in ChromeOS. Windows Chrome desktop PWA support will be available from Chrome 70+ and Mac from Chrome 72+.

Dan also conducted a demo on how to run a PWA. These were the steps:

  • Set up Crostini
  • Install the development environment (node, npm, VSCode)
  • Checkout a PWA (Squoosh) from GitHub
  • Open in VSCode
  • Run the web server
  • Open PWA from Linux and Android browsers

He also provided guidance on optimizing forms, handling touch interactions, pointer events, and how to set up remote debugging.

What does the future look like for ChromeOS?

Chrome team is on improving the desktop PWA support. This includes support for keyboard shortcuts, badging for the launch icon, and link capturing. They are also working on low-latency canvas contexts which are introduced in Chrome 71 Beta. This context uses OpenGLES for rastering, writes directly to the Front Buffer, which bypasses several steps of the rendering process but risks tearing. It is used mainly for high-level interactive apps.

View the full talk on YouTube.

Read Next

Day 1 of Chrome Dev Summit 2018: new announcements and Google’s initiative to close the gap between web and native.

Meet Carlo, a web rendering surface for Node applications by the Google Chrome team.

Google Chrome 70 now supports WebAssembly threads to build multi-threaded web applications.


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