Google announced the chromebook yesterday (11 May 2011). While this is surely a nice thing, I have no clue whether it was interesting to buy one for a (non-javascript)-programmer.

What do you think? Will there be, for instance, a Java IDE in the cloud? A command line, even?

8 Answers 8


There's already a web-based terminal emulator that offers a remote command-line: http://servermonitoringhq.com/blog/the_ultimate_web_based_ide

There are also two different VNC implementations in JavaScript, in case you need to access a graphical desktop remotely:

I expect remote desktop software makers to start targeting the browser. It makes business sense to have a plugin-free citrix client for example.

It doesn't have to be the whole desktop though, as there are experiments to run Gnome applications with their output rendered to a browser: http://blogs.gnome.org/alexl/2011/03/15/gtk-html-backend-update/

And finally there are a few web-based IDE projects out there:

So, in summary, you already have choices today, and more are coming.

I expect that the advantages in having a web-based IDE (universal access, ease of deployment, ease of integration with build and test infrastructure) will pull some non-web app developers onto web-based IDE's.

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    The sticking point I see here is that companies are unlikely to allow proprietary code to be compiled and run on remote untrusted sites.
    – dma
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 14:38
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    You forgot to mention cloud9 as an IDE.
    – Raynos
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 21:51
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    @dominic: what's the difference between uploading via FTP from your IDE to a remote server and hosting the editor directly on the remote server? Companies will be able to host the entire stack in-house if they want. Commented May 13, 2011 at 13:28
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    @Joeri - If you can host the IDE, then that makes sense. I was thinking about the web-based IDE projects that you mention being external to a company.
    – dma
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 20:17

Not until you can have a full development environment available online, including access to a test platform.

That means it depends on the kind of software you want. System programming will be hard to provide online while web development might be easier.

So in all cases, I think just getting "real" computers will be cheaper (in infrastructure setup) than having to put everything online.

I guess developers need high-end computers anyway to make all their tools work together smoothly.

  • Whenever Chromebook manages to get a serious shell (and there are a couple maturing very rapidly), that'll be good enough to ssh into any number of more powerful/versatile instances remotely. Also, installing Ubuntu is still an option with ChrUbuntu and it's not all that messy to install anymore.
    – Workman
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 18:18
  • Which don't change my point about "it depends on what you do" and "certainly not for system programming".
    – Klaim
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 18:31

If you look at the hardware, it's got specs of typical netbook:

  • Intel® ATOM Processor N570
  • 2GB Standard System Memory
  • 16GB SSD (mSATA)

Even if you'd "jailbreak" it somehow, low specs would prevent you from running any kind of developing environment on the netbook itself.

That leaves you it the option of development "in the clouds", which isn't just there yet. For example if you look at developer tools Google currently provides, it's mostly based on Eclipse (GAE, GWT, Android and even part of Chrome SDK toolkit). There is no way in world, that you'll be able to run these on Chromebook.

I think Chromebooks should be considered to be more like communication devices, than general purpose computers.

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    Last time I checked I could run eclipse very well on a single core notebook with 1GB. Regarding jailbreaking, it's not needed. So even if would be too slow for Eclipse, one could still do some Java stuff with jEdit and maybe javac from the command line if the need arises.
    – Ingo
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 12:37
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    @Ingo: on this setup Eclipse will be too slow and unresponsive to work comfortably with
    – vartec
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 13:31
  • The 16GB disk will be tight, but other than that I think that you could easily develop on this. I have an eeepc 1000he that I use to develop on all the time, and it has lower specs than this. You might not be able to run eclipse on it, but then I'd say that's a problem with eclipse being bloated and not with the hardware.
    – Cercerilla
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 20:45
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    @CodeninjaTim: Eclipse is bloated, but it so are most IDEs. And it happens to be the single most popular platform for building IDEs for just about any language and framework. So machine which cannot run it comfortably is not a development machine.
    – vartec
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 21:36
  • @vartec: Sure it's no powerhouse, and the heavyweight IDEs wont run well on it, but the way I see it any machine you develop on becomes a development machine, so it just depends on your needs. Certainly if someone wanted to they could use lighter weight tools when on this machine and still get some development done.
    – Cercerilla
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 21:45

I think we are at the start of a market shift towards this sort of programming (i.e. everything is web-based).

Web programmers (as in, those who build websites :)) will be the first to benefit. There are already tools like Kodingen which are surprisingly good for prototyping and working on PHP/Python/Ruby. Once these sorts of sites can adequately work with services like Github/Bitbucket and cloud hosting like Heroku then pretty much all of my work could be web-based.

For me that is a big improvement because it allows you to be a little more mobile (i.e. working from home etc.)

For other types of development; I guess eventually we might see adequate tools on the cloud. But as it stands the tools for doing so are largely undeveloped. The major problem is, if you are developing desktop software you really need to build and test it on a desktop. Maybe in a few years the way people compute will be to rent computers in the cloud - and just attach themselves to what they need using a netbook-like head. Who knows :)

  • thanks for that link to Kodingen - it struck me as interesting. I had not come across it before.
    – temptar
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 14:38
  • I found it via the Chrome Web Store, when searching for a decent online IDE to use on ChromeOS. It has its problems, and is not quite there yet. But still a pretty decent effort.
    – Errant
    Commented May 12, 2011 at 14:56

I found this while googling "java chrome OS":

Getting to a command prompt If you're a Linux hacker, you probably know that Google Chrome OS is built on top of Linux and you're wondering how you can jailbreak your device so you can get to a command prompt. It turns out: there's no need. The command prompt is built in to your device!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before following these instructions, remember to put your device into Developer Mode (see above).

So what would keep one from installing, say, Eclipse and use the Chromebook even in the traditional way.

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    If you continue reading, you find this part: "By default, you can login with the chronos user with no password. This includes the ability to do password-less sudo.". Does this mean if I want to annoy a chromebook-user, I just have to go to the shell and type sudo apt-get purge google-chrome-stable? Commented May 19, 2011 at 19:29

ChromeBook + Remote Desktop/VNC + Large EC2 Instance** = Very cheap, very powerful development machine.

** Just remember to shut down your VM when you're not using it.

  • And Chromebook + RDP/VNC + sweet gaming machine + a good view of the other machine's physical screen == sweet gaming machine. :P A machine doesn't become a dev box just because it can connect to a dev box. It becomes a terminal, which still requires a real machine out there somewhere.
    – cHao
    Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 18:36

In much larger terms, a company or university can provide more powerful development systems (more CPUs/GPUs/RAID arrays, etc.) at a lower cost (both capital and energy and laptop/IP theft risk) per programmer in a server room, or in the cloud, than providing hardware capable of such to each developer.

Then either a web interface, or a streamed remote desktop, can be sent to each developer's less expensive iPads and Chromebooks, etc.

Except, of course, for specialized development needs (testing low-latency "twitch" games, real-time music, hardware interfacing, etc.)

For an individual coder, they might very likely prefer their own MacBook (Pro|Air), et.al., or something else driving a very large pair of monitors.


What if I want to develop a transcoding utility. To transcode video files (say like FFmpeg). I could not do that on ChromeBook itself. Because it has no IDE for C++? And if I have a 4GB file on my USB stick ready to be transcoded, and the transcoder itself is on a server. Then I would first have to sit and wait for the transfer of the 4GB video file to the server is completed. Before I could start testing my transcode utility.

And then again, a different file, a new test for transcoding. The idea is good, but I do not think for high-end users/programmers. Will you be able to run something like Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro?

Premiere Pro and Avid need good video cards in order to work. No way one would be able to shuttle a 220 mbps movieclip over any vnc/remote desktop client smoothly.

Just some of my concerns.

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