What if... The Chromebook 10 Wishes Edition
I'm a Chromebook user, I'm the person who gets it, and I'm the person who figured out enough of my workflow to use ChromeOS as my daily driver, this isn't a new thing, I've been doing this for a LONG time almost as long as there have been Chromebooks.
I work in IT and over the years have used all the mainstream operating systems in both a work and a home capacity, Windows MacOS, Linux in most of its forms and BSD and if there is one thing I've learned over many years, it's that each of these is the right tool for someone and someone's workflow.
We don't live in a world where you can only be Windows or Mac, Where KDE is better than Gnome or any of the other Psudo flame wars out there. A computer is a tool to do a job and for me the best tool is ChromeOS.
As a person who drives a Chromebook (Asus CX34 Vibe Flip) daily, I like the minimal approach, the access to Android and the Linux shell, however there are a few things I'd like to see Google add which I feel would make my experience a little better
💡 I'm going to call this out right now, I'm very aware that Google has a design philosophy a design and delivery roadmap, this is a wish list and not an I need this tomorrow or I give up on chromeOS and Google list.
So here are the things I'd like to see in a perfect world added to Google ChromeOS
A scripting language, which I could use to automate tasks, even an IFTTT or shortcut system would work
While I can obviously create scripts in the Linux shell, I'd dearly love an interface to be able to create automation within ChromeOS. When I'm using Linux one of its (for me) killer features is being able to knock up a bash script to be able to do something in the background.
Even within the ChromeOS Linux shell, it would be nice for Startup services to be honoured and startup with the shell (enabled systemd services don't start when the shell is restarted)
What do I mean by all this?
I'd like for example when I attach to my mobile hotspot or a wifi network NOT at home for my Chromebook to launch the Tailscale app automatically and connect to the Tailnet.
If I connect to my home wifi I'd like a specific set of PWA's and Android Apps to open, virtual screens configured, a particular setup. However, if I connect to my work Wifi it starts a different configuration up. Maybe prompt me if I want to do this or choose a different layout.
In the same vein, if automation to mount shares depending on my location and network connectivity
Small automations which I think Google has the basis of in Routines in the Google Assistant.
The ability to schedule a regular backup to Google Drive of my Linux environment
This of all the things on this list Irks me a little, its a good example of almost there
Backups are something which should be taken often, and in my case, I use the Linux shell a LOT, there is an option to take a manual backup of the Linux environment, so why not on a schedule?
What I'd like to see here is a schedule button with the option to schedule a backup of the Linux shell, to a specific location, keeping the number of copies of the backup (keep the last 10).
While I'm at it
There should be a button HERE to take a backup not hidden in the Settings -> Developer area.
Allow me to cast to the Chromebook screen
This is a bit of a niche one, however, while in hotels and travelling I've often thought it would be nice if I could cast my phone's output to my Chromebook's larger screen.
It's not something I'd use a lot, however as an option if it was there, I've a feeling I might use it more than I think I would.
Backup Chrome flags
This is an interesting one as ChromeOS does a good job all things considered of replicating its environment when you move to a new Chromebook. Settings, extensions android apps, and PWA's all come over.
Something which I've noted doesn't are the chrome://flags options (os://flags if you're on LaCros)
As the message says, these are experimental features and I'd understand from Googles point of view the Security pillar may be in play here, again this is about options. even the ability with an option to tick the box for flags when migrating to a new device would be nice.
Run Bard by voice instead of Google Assistant
This may well in the course of time however I'm impatient.
Give me an option under the settings menu to choose between Google Assistant which it not great right now and Bard. If voice for Bard isn't a thing, I'll live with it. Have my search button pop up and use your AI chatbot..
there are plenty of examples in the Chrome web store of this integrating into the browser and I'm sure it's not a huge leap of faith to make it an actual useful voice-controlled question-and-answer solution on a Chromebook.
I don't need Bard to control my lights, look at the doorbell or any of Google Assistants' sometimes working features, what I need is something to answer questions for me when I press a button to say "Hi Bard"
Move the ability to mount SFTP into files.
there is a feature I've blogged about before which uses the Terminal app allows me to mount an SFTP connection in the files app.
This is 100% in ChromeOS Beta, I don't think I activated a flag to get it.
Again, this is a design choice, I'd ask why is this hidden away here?
I'd suggest if you're looking to mount something in the files app, the ability to do that within the files app is the place to show that feature?
As an example, if I want to share files with a Linux container, I do that in the Files app.
Recently the ability to have Microsoft Onedrive mounted in the Files app became a thing. bit of a hinky process for getting it set, it however works, across boots (see image above)
I'd love to see this expanded out. there is the capability for Samba/SMB Windows shares to be mounted as well.
Personally, I'd like to see Linux Network File Share NFSv4 included in that list, alongside the SFTP mentioned above.
The more integrations provided to network resources the better especially across boots.
Editing the taskbar
I'm that guy, I have the apps I run the most in my taskbar. which when I'm connected to my home office setup is fine as it's on an ultrawide monitor. Not so much when out on the road.
My personal opinion is it's time for Google to start doing something with the Taskbar, maybe allow me to add groups of Icons, Location adaptive Icons etc. While this is the paradigm we stick to for interfaces then there needs to be more able to happen here.
If Google were to completely revamp the way they do the task bar.. What I'd love is something similar to the Arc Browser on the Mac's Interface
Something which slides in from the side or pins there) and from the top has
A URL Bar which Opens things in a browser, PWA or Android app.
An expandable area for my Desktop App Icons
A list of important bookmarks
Spaces so I can create a Taskbar for Home, travel and Work (for example)
Swap between Virtual Desktops
Connections to mounted Drives
Links to Terminal and SSH Connections
The ability for people to create plugins
Icons for background tasks with a bartender (Mac app) feature allowing me to decide what to show and what to hide,
This would work on touch as well,
This would provide much more real estate for new services, with most laptops being Bide screen also working better across different screen sizes.
Run it on a phone
This isn't a thing in ChromeOS, it's more using chromeOS.
Many years ago, Motorola and Ubuntu had a system which had Android on the phone, however when I plugged that phone into a dock, I could run Ubuntu desktop. these, however, were not separate environments, the contracts from the phone showed up as contacts on Ubuntu, when I got a call on the phone, I could answer it using Ubuntu, or dial out using Ubuntu too.
Unfortunately, the phones of the time made this, plus the rather lacklustre Ubuntu ARM support at the time just a technical showcase.
Samsung kind of does this with Dex, however, and I say this as someone who used dex exclusively for 2 weeks, it's not great.
Google needs to do this on the Pixel phone, they have the processing power, they have chromeOS Flex, they have mobile integration with the OS and they have hardware with the processing and RAM to do this.
Let me plug my phone into a Dock and have ChromeOS (Flex) run. Tailored to me, with the Android apps on the phone, in the OS, cross-service integration. A phone, a USB C dock, a monitor, I'm done
This isn't just a criticism of ChromeOS, it is one I have of many OS, the shift seems to be in desktop environments to move to the lowest user requirements, I'll be the first to admit that one of the huge benefits of ChromeOS is that it's NOT Windows, OSX or Linux, its about as simple an entry point for most users to computing you can get.
There is the ability if you need to go a little deeper, to enable Android apps, enable the Linux shell which are great features.
You need your OS to grow with your customer, and I'd be interested of there was a flag which could be enabled which added an advanced mode.
Where am I going with this?
Lets take Plex, under the settings there is a General Option which looks like this
to the right, there is an Advanced button and when i click on it, I get some extra options
so why not have a Flag which enables "advanced options" and when enabled I have a button which I can click in Settings to maybe display some advanced options, and associated flags,, and show me a warning, that's fine.
Let me grow with my OS.
Other Linux Versions
The Linux Shell is for me the most useful addon to ChromeOS in a very long time, why am I still locked to Debian?
Ok, I know, be safe, stable, secure.
It's possible to run another OS in the Linux shell, I can google that, and I do that.. what I'd prefer is a chromeOS button which provides me with the ability to use Fedora, Opensuse, and/or Ubuntu?
This isn't without president either, it is totally possible with a lot of work, however, head over to https://www.kasmweb.com/ and here are examples of containerised OS, spun up quickly, with the apps in them available, just as is in ChromeOS from an application only menu.
It took me all of 10 minutes to write my own Kasam container based on their Ubuntu template, add root access to all the apps I use and spin it up on their platform. Imagine if I could create my personal Linux spin and install that from the docker hub or another container repo (or my Google Drive)
There is a lot here, it's personal preference, as I said at the start, I love ChromeOS, and I use it as my only personal desktop OS. The observation however of providing a great low entry point for new users and the ability for them to grow into a more advanced OS isn't that far off the wall.
I don't expect anyone from Google to read this let alone make the changes, it's only one person's opinion after all. It is cathartic however to get it written down.