Preparing an FT8 Linux Laptop from a Chromebook

UPDATE – “It’s Alive! It talks!”  Using some hints from I got the audio working.  I’m also editing in a few hints.  See the Sat Oct 19,2019 1:04 pm post for the step-by-step.  Basically seemed to be a driver issue with this particular Chromebook model.   


The Audio Fix

[Edited 08FEB2020]


CAUTION [SEE ABOVE – Resolved with some research and work!] – I’m struggling to get the Audio I/O working.  Some users are reporting that the Dell 3120 (Candy) Chromebook running GalliumOS ends up with the audio inoperative, and few say they have it working.  I’ve undone the whole process and repeated with the same problem.  Might be better to pick a different Chromebook in the end.  More to follow!  [Edited 08FEB2020]


With some help from Vic KC9NWB I’ve mostly prepared a very inexpensive laptop to run WSJT-X with my soon to be built Midnight Design Solutions Phaser FT8 transceiver Kit.

I started with a Dell 3120 Chromebook which was a scratch-n-dent sale item at Amazon’s Woot.  With the larger memory Amazon usually gets $100 plus tax for one of these, but catching it on a short Woot offer saved about $30 in my case.  So with taxing delivered I’ve added $71 to my FT8 Phaser project for a dedicated computer.  At the time of my writing Amazon does have some on offer (again S&D/renewed) for the $75 range.

Rugged Chromebook

I followed the conversion to Linux Joshua Woehlke wrote up at

Some notes: Backup the firmware to a separate flashdrive, and do make a set of backup media to restore ChromeOS just in case you have to revert to solve problems like I did. is also another good reference. You can make a new ChromeOS restoration media drive through the chrome browser app plug-in as well.  But having the right stuff handy is helpful and saves time if you do have to go back.  [Edited 08FEB2020]

The particular distribution I used was GalliumOS from where I needed the Haswell version to match my Chromebook’s cpu.

The GalliumOS splash screen

The whole process worked rather well.  It was easy to install WSJT-X, the LibreOffice suite I favor on Linux boxes, and notepadqq which is a Linux clone of the Notepad++ I’ve been using.  Note – you need to make an effort to load a current version of WSJT-X as the GalliumOS repository is WAY out of date.  Also loading notepadqq is a fiddle. [Edited 08FEB2020]

Chromebook running GalliumOS

WSJT-X running

Everything is pretty plain-Jane and I do need to get the cable needed to interface to the Phaser, but it all seems to be working!  I have to do some testing with cables to make sure.

If you’re unfamiliar with a Chromebook the type I picked is intended for education and is pretty tough while inexpensive.  Not like they are ultra rugged like a Toughbook, but rather schoolroom ready tough.

Many thanks to Vic KC9NWB who watched over my shoulder and I guess it is time to build the transceiver kit rather than messing about on antennas and computers.



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One thought on “Preparing an FT8 Linux Laptop from a Chromebook

  1. Gwen NG3P says:

    I did this with 40m Phaser #004. I also did the transmit indicator mod (I suggested it and George supplied the parts), and got it working well! I just need to figure out why it doesn’t decode JS8 well. It’s probably some timing setting that’s wrong.

    I used an Acer 11.6″ Chromebook model CB3-111-C8UB, that I bought on Ebay for about $120 several years ago. I also used GalliumOS, and it’s very stable and works well!

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