Reviving an Old Chromebook

I had an old Chromebook (Acer C720) sitting unused beside the cat tree for nearly a year. It hit EOL in mid 2019, meaning it can’t get any more ChromeOS updates including security patches, which was a great excuse to buy a spiffy new one. The old one had slowed down to a crawl anyway and couldn’t handle more than a few active tabs. However it bothered me to leave it laying idle doing nothing but collecting layers of cat hair. Since I recently setup an even older idle Raspberry Pi (Gen 1) as a PiHole, I figured I could ride that momentum to put the idle Chromebook to new uses too. All of its hardware was still working, including the webcam, so I decided to setup a webcam server and also run folding-at-home to keep it’s cpu busy.

After some research, I knew what I needed to do:

  • Replace ChromeOS with a lightweight Linux, Bodhi (based on Ubuntu).
  • Install folding-at-home.
  • Install IP camera software — motion.
  • Add the server to the private network.

Replacing ChromeOS was relatively straightforward. I found a youtube video to follow, which got the job done

Folding-at-home was easy to install. The setup guide was good. Although I did have to install a bunch of missing dependencies on Bodhi.

Installing Motion on Bodhi also required installing a bunch of missing packages, but it eventually worked. At this point I could see my webcam stream via localhost:8081.

I found Tailscale recently which provides an easy and secure way of setting up a private network for your devices. That made the whole process very simple. I just followed their Linux setup guide.

To view the webcam stream over the device’s Tailscale IP address, I setup apache2 to reverse proxy port 80 <–> 8081. And now I can view the webcam feed from my iPhone whenever and wherever I feel like it.

The revived Chromebook (or Bodhibook?) now lays next to the cat tree with renewed purpose. Monitoring cat activities, simulating protein folding, and still achieving it’s previous feat of collecting cat hair.

Here are a few pics of the setup and iPhone screenshots. Much thanks to our eager model @itsmeowball.

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