LaTeX forum ⇒ Decision GuidanceLaTeX on Chromebook? Or should I buy a normal laptop?

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LaTeX on Chromebook? Or should I buy a normal laptop?

Postby LaTexLearner » Sun Mar 22, 2015 9:54 pm

I'm in the market for a new laptop and I am also just now learning how to use LaTeX.

Are there any free ways to learn LaTeX on a browser on a Chromebook? I've only heard of a paid service, though I can't remember its name. Or would you recommend I spend a little more to buy a normal laptop?

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Stefan Kottwitz
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Postby Stefan Kottwitz » Sun Mar 22, 2015 11:01 pm

I would by a normal laptop. With a Chromebook, you are bound to google and the google app store, you should always have an internet connection for working in the cloud, which also means you are restricted to cloud services.

There are a very few LaTeX online services, most capable are Overleaf and ShareLaTeX. However, you need to pay for full features. Commercial things require money directly or indirectly (such as by advertisement). I know them as pretty slow, often, I'm impatient when writing and compiling. And it happened several times, that LaTeX cloud services were closed and vanished. There were MonkeyTeX and Spandex.io, both gone now.

With a normal Laptop, you have the power over it. You can choose and install an operating system, such as Windows, Ubuntu Linux, Mint, other Linuxes, and the version you like. You could work with applications also offline, when you don't have a good Internet connection. You don't depend on how quick the Internet is and how hard the cloud servers are use by others, maybe slow under load. Your laptop works fast and locally. You don't need to by apps, there's a huge amount of free Software, such as TeX. You can install the latest TeX version, online services sometimes don't have the latest version and only offer a subset (not XeLaTeX, not LuaLaTeX, not ConTeXt, when I checked some earlier at least).

A Chromebook is like an Amazon Fire PC or a Facebook tablet or a Microsoft PC. :shock: Commercial vendors try to make money binding users to them, up to making the operating system to a jail.

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LaTexLearner
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Postby LaTexLearner » Mon Mar 23, 2015 2:41 am

Ok.

Laptop it is, then. I definitely don't want to pay for online services... and ads or disappearing online tools sounds awful.

Hopefully I can find a good, cheap laptop.

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Postby LaTexLearner » Thu Mar 26, 2015 2:39 am

Stefan_K wrote:With a Chromebook, you are bound to google and the google app store, [and] cloud services.

There are a very few LaTeX online services, most capable are Overleaf and ShareLaTeX. However, you need to pay for full features. Commercial things require money directly or indirectly (such as by advertisement). I know them as pretty slow, often, I'm impatient when writing and compiling. And it happened several times, that LaTeX cloud services were closed and vanished. There were MonkeyTeX and Spandex.io, both gone now...


What about docs.latexlab.org?

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Johannes_B
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Postby Johannes_B » Thu Mar 26, 2015 10:50 am

I don't know that service, but with a local installation, you are on the save side. ;-)
The smart way: Calm down and take a deep breath, read posts and provided links attentively, try to understand and ask if necessary.

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Stefan Kottwitz
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Postby Stefan Kottwitz » Thu Mar 26, 2015 11:08 am

LaTexLearner wrote:What about docs.latexlab.org?


It's open source and a great idea, however it's not well maintained. Perhaps it's a one-man project. It's hosted on Google code, but Google will shut Google Code down. It's already announced.

I tested latexlab.org, which showed me that it bases on an old TeX version. I looked for the provided TikZ version: it is not the current version 3.0, not 2.10, not 2.0, ... it's 1.18 of 2007. This makes it unusable for me.

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datruck
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Postby datruck » Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:50 pm

Hi,

I realize my reply is a bit late as this post is over a month old. The original poster has likely already purchased a laptop. I wanted to make a quick replay and try to clear up some misconceptions about Chromebooks.

Contrary to what Stefan said you do have power over what software runs on your Chromebook. You actually can install and run full desktop Linux on Chromebooks turning it into a very lightweight, energy efficient, multipurpose, linux laptop with great battery life.

There are a few different ways you can get Linux running on a Chromebook. You can run Linux inside ChromeOS in a chroot, you can dual boot Linux/ChromeOS, or you can completely remove ChromeOS and have a dedicated linux laptop.

An open source program crouton allows you to easily install whatever Debian or Ubuntu release you like along with your choice of desktop, Gnome, KDE, XFCE, Enlightenment, etc. crouton can install it on your chromebooks internal storage or external usb stick, drive, or sd card. You can run linux desktop full screen, in a window or in a browser tab inside ChromeOS and switch seamlessly between the two, sharing clipboard and files if you like.

If you'd rather run Linux on a seperate dedicated partition you can configure the bios and execute a few ChromeOS commands to boot from usb and install your favorite linux distro from a usb stick containing bootable linux iso. You can use this traditional method or using the popular script Chrubuntu that does a lot of the grunt work of setting up correct partitions for you.

If you are really technically inclined it's possible on most of the Intel based chromebooks to flash the open source firmware coreboot and load a custom payload or the most recent SeaBIOS. You can also install Windows if you like (not sure why you would want to) however there are currently no keyboard or touchpad drivers for it. However, usb or wireless mouse/keyboard combo works fine.

Most Chromebooks are very inexpensive, $130-$350. They are extremely light (many weighing less than 1.3kg), portable, powerful, energy efficient and have long lasting battery life from 7-13hr!

The Chromebook I currently have is an Acer c720-3605 with an Intel Core i3-4005U
processor, 4GB RAM and 32GB SSD which I easily upgraded myself to a 128GB SSD, 11.6" HD 1366x760 display, a USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0, SDXC card reader, HDMI out, 3.5mm headset jack, stereo speakers, vga webcam, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0., up to 8.5hr battery life, weighing 1.2kg, I bought below retail for $275.

I'm currently running Ubuntu 14.04 with KDE desktop on it. I chose to keep the ChromeOS install and use the crouton method to install linux. I use the Ubuntu install for programming development and implementation with c, java, python, IntelliJ IDEA, (my work) and also to play some cool Linux games and recent Windows apps and games using the Wine emulator when I need some downtime. I use ChromeOS to do most of my web browsing and cloud work and entertainment.

Also, don't knock ChromeOS until you've tried it. Sure, it ties you into Google but it does not limit you to using the Chrome Web Store, it is what it is, and it does what it does extremely well. ChromeOS can handle anything I throw at it. HD video streaming, screen casting, projector presentations, etc... I'm also a tab-aholic. I start with a few tabs and before I know it I've got 50 tabs open along with about 15 different extentions loaded and running in their own processes in the backround, without a hiccup or slowdown. I'm working on the tab problem with my therapist. It's a daily battle. ;)

My normal windows laptop, a 2 year old Lenovo IdeaPad z580, with Intel Core i5-3210m, nvidia 630M graphics, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 1TB HD, weighing in at a whopping 2.7kg, sits in my living room barely used as an extra family pc. The linux mint partition I no longer use. I did not expect this when I bought the chromebook.

My chromebook has become my main computing device. I even bought a cheap, well made laptop bag designed to fit an 11.6" laptop for $13 from Amazon. I've become quite attached to it and want to take it everywhere. Its great waiting for the dr, dentist, while wife is shopping at the mall, trips in the car, on the train, bus, airplane.

Chromebooks are powerful, light weight, portable and have long lasting battery. They can run linux and they can take almost any computing task you throw at them. That said, they are not for everyone and many people will be perfectly happy with a normal windows pc. However, the options to use Chromebook as more than a browser and to use it for more than what ChromeOS was design for are there. They are not as limited as you think and should not be discounted as an option so easily.

If anyone sees this post, thanks for reading this quite long rant. I intended it to be short but could go on quite a while talking about all the cool stuff you can do with a Chromebook.

Datruck

There is also a broad and growing community of users around ChromeOS, crouton, chrubuntu and linux on chromebooks in general.

Below are some good starting points for more info:

ChromeOS subreddit
crouton subreddit
chrubuntu subreddit
Arch linux wiki on Chrome devices
Great compendium of chromebook specs and perfomance benchmarks
dnschneid's crouton github
Last edited by datruck on Tue Apr 21, 2015 10:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Stefan Kottwitz
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Postby Stefan Kottwitz » Tue Apr 21, 2015 10:03 pm

Hi Datruck,

welcome to the forum!

Thank you for your additional information! It's useful, and a Chromebook can be an option for me as well for some purpose. Since you did not mention LaTeX, I assume you came here just because we talked about Chromebooks. How did you find this topic? :shock:

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datruck
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Postby datruck » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:28 pm

Hi,

Thanks for the welcome.

Yes, I forgot to mention I'm a LateX newbie. Been using Linux for years and Unix before that but haven't had the need to use it that I remember. I may have used in back in college but I've lost a few brain cells since then. ;-)

A molecular biology student on the chrubuntu reddit was asking about running linux on their Samsung Series 3 Chromebook. They said they had only used ChromeOS on their Chromebook and mentioned using LateX. Since I have limited knowledge of LateX I googled "LateX and Chromebook" to see what Chrome apps, extensions or web apps were available and to refresh my LateX knowledge.

And here we are...I got side tracked and still haven't helped that student with their question! Oh well, they said they need it for next school year so I have some time. ;-)

Glad you found the information useful. When the first netbooks and Chromebooks started rolling out several years ago saw no use or need for them. I had a laptop could run windows and linux and smartphones were what I had on my mind. Times have certainly changed and I'm quite impressed with what they can do now and the value they provide.

Datruck

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Stefan Kottwitz
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Postby Stefan Kottwitz » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:38 pm

I got a netbook too, an Asus EEE pc, already with SSD at that time. Was nice, and worked with LaTeX. Now it's an additional network testing device for me.

Some people use laptops mainly for Internet, so a Chromebook may be sufficient and even better than a tablet since it got a real keyboard.

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