How To Install Skype on a Chromebook Using Digital Ocean and VNC

skype on chromebook

I picked up a Google Chromebook a few weeks ago because I was looking for a cheap lightweight laptop we could use around the house.  I enjoy using tablets but I miss the keyboard and  form-factor with a laptop.  Chromebooks offer a good compromise and peace-of-mind (in that if one of my kids were to drop it, I would not totally freak out).

The only thing really missing from Chromebooks is access to some windows (and Android) applications like Skype.

I am going to show you how to use a Digital Ocean Droplet (server) and Chrome Store’s VNC program to help you add that missing link  to your Chromebook. So let’s get started….

 

Skype On Chromebook

This is what you are after. Click to enlarge.

How To Install Skype on a Chromebook

First off, Log in to Digital Ocean (it is very cheap to test this out) and set up a new account (or use your existing).

 

1. Create a new Digital Ocean droplet

digitaloceanThe domain can be anything, but I like to name it a sub-domain of my website domain so I can access the server by that instead of the IP address that Digital Ocean will assign.  I also like the 1GB / 30 GB drive so that I have enough RAM to run it. The more the better, but Skype ran well for me on this plan.

In this example I am using the region New York 2.

The Image used in this example is Ubuntu 14.04 x64.

Leave the rest of the settings as is and click Create Droplet**.

** Access details to your droplet will be emailed to you.

 

Once your droplet has been created you are ready to start setting it up.  You will receive an email with the IP address, Username, and Password for the droplet.  Make sure you have access to this.

 

2. Log Into Terminal

Digital Ocean - Console AccessClick on the Access tab of your droplet on Digital Ocean and then click Console Access.

 

 

 

Login Console - Digital Ocean

You may need to click on the empty area for the console to show up.  Once it does, use the login and password sent to you in the droplet creation email.

You should a line similar to root@vnc:~#
If you do, you have command line access to your new droplet.  Congrats!

 

3. Install the Desktop and VNC Server

Some of this was taken from an article by Fili Wiese on Installing on Screaming Frog Spider on the Google Cloud.  I picked a different desktop environment mainly due to aesthetics (this one is still very light weight)

At the command line type:

Type “y + enter” when it asks you if you want to continue. This installs the vnc server and a light graphic interface. Go get a cup of coffee. Actually, get two.

When it is finished, type:

Type in the password for the new user and click enter for all the questions.  Then type “y” to say the information is complete.

Next, switch to that user:

Then, type:

Enter and verify a password (it can only be 8 characters long).  Answer (N)o to the question about view-only password.  This will be the password you use to login via VNC.

 

4. Setting up Startup Scripts

Now that the VNC user has been set up, a few startup scripts need to be installed that will run the VNC server every time the instance gets started and/or rebooted. First change back to the root user by typing the following command:

Now download the first startup script by executing the following command:

Then download the second startup script by executing the following command:

Now that the startup scripts have been downloaded and installed, you can make the VNCserver work by executing the following commands:

Now reboot the instance by executing the following command:

Ubuntu Login - DIgital OceanThe SSH connection will be closed at this time. When the console returns (this time it will be a login UI where you will need to select “other”, log in again using root.

After you have logged, in launch Xterm from the System Tools in the menu in the lower left.

Continue on in the new terminal window….

Now let’s start the VNC service by executing the following two commands:

Congratulations, you can now use any VNC-capable program to access the instance using a VNC connection.

 

5. Installing Skype

The following comes straight from the Ubuntu website.

Users of 64-bit Ubuntu, should enable MultiArch if it isn’t already enabled by running the command

Since Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx), Skype is part of the Canonical partner repository. To install Skype add the Canonical Partner Repository. You can do this by running the command

Then install Skype via the Software-Center or via the Terminal.

It is highly recommended to use the package provided in the Canonical partner repository, not the one distributed from the skype website, as the skype website currently points users to the wrong package for 64-bit systems of Ubuntu 11.10 and above.

Let’s reboot again by typing the following:

After the console has rebooted…  You have made it!!!

 

6. Launching VNC

Go to your Chromebook launcher (or install from the Chrome Store) the VNC Viewer for Google Chrome.

After it launches, type in the address of your droplet in the following format

111.222.333.444:5901 (where 111.222.333.444 is the IP address of your droplet that was mailed to you).
107.170.179.145:5901Pro Tip: You can go into your domain server and add an A record for vnc (or similar) and use your droplet IP address as the points to location.  This will make it much easier to remember.

Keep automatic selected for the Picture Quality.

A modal window will pop up asking for your password, enter the one that you created on the vncpasswd step above.

You should now see the desktop.

Go to the menu in the bottom left (I have no idea what that icon is), and hover over internet. Then right-click on Skype to add it to your desktop.

You can play around with some of the settings for the Appearance(Look and Feel) and Desktop background to make it look a little better.  I chose just a plain grey background and used the lubuntu-dark-panel appearance.

 

7. Success! You can now use Skype on your Chromebook

Enjoy…  You now have easy access to desktop apps from your Chromebook for only $10 per month.  If you have any tips or issues, please place them in the comments below.

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