When I first went into the developer shell I saw approximately 1000 different binaries to run, but not one of them was a text editor. Eventually I stumbled upon qemacs, but we're just on a CR-48 not the middle ages. It was time to figure out how to get vim up and running.
Although ChromeOS is it's own GNU/Linux distro, it appears to mimic Debian/Ubuntu and is adhering somewhat to the LSB. I first just tried a straight copy of the vim binary from a Ubuntu 10.04 system but after some investigating with ldd saw it had a lot of shared libraries that weren't available on the CR-48 (most notably libselinux.so). So the quickest way to get around this was to build a static binary on a 32-bit Debian host (Ubuntu works as well).
On a 32-bit Debian Squeeze I downloaded latest VIM source code and built a static binary with a limited set of features and disabling GUI and selinux options:
USER@DEBIAN ~ $ wget ftp://ftp.vim.org/pub/vim/unix/vim-7.3.tar.bz2
USER@DEBIAN ~ $ tar -xvjf vim-7.3.tar.bz2
USER@DEBIAN ~ $ cd vim73
USER@DEBIAN ~ $ export LDFLAGS=-static
USER@DEBIAN ~ $ ./configure --with-features=small --disable-gui --with-vim-name=vi --disable-selinux
USER@DEBIAN ~ $ make
This will make a static binary called vi in the src directory. On the CR-48 in /home/chronos/user make a directory called bin and scp the vi binary to it.
Try and execute it, but you'll get a Permission Denied error because by default the /home/chronos/user directory is mounted with the noexec option. Fix this by remounting it with exec.
chronos@localhost ~ $ sudo mount -i -o remount,exec /home/chronos/user
Now the binary will run and you have a basic vi editor.
Rdesktop is much easier to put on the CR-48 since all of the libraries are available. From a 32-bit Debian/Ubuntu host, or by downloading the rdesktop i686 package from packages.debian.org, copy the rdesktop binary to the /home/chronos/user/bin directory. If it's mounted with exec then it will just run. Pass it whatever options you like, and it will open a new GUI window on the CR-48, completely independent of the Chrome UI and any shells.
chronos@localhost ~ $ ~/bin/rdesktop -u USERNAME -g 1280x800 -K -z -r clipboard:PRIMARYCLIPBOARD HOSTNAME
Copy/paste works well, although the arrow keys may not function properly due to the keymap not getting set correctly. This may be due to a libiconv issue and I'll need to spend some more time figuring it out.
While the CR-48 works just fine with it's VGA output without much tweaking, you'll either need to sign in/out or reboot the laptop for it to display to an external monitor. In dev mode xrandr is available making it easy to switch between display resolutions.
Mirror to a monitor that can do 1024x768:
chronos@localhost ~ $ xrandr --output LVDS1 --mode 1024x768 --output VGA1 --mode 1024x768
Turn off the external display and reset the CR-48 display back to the default 1280x800:
chronos@localhost ~ $ xrandr --output LVDS1 --mode 1280x800 --output VGA1 --off
The simplest piece to enable is X-forwarding from a remote X client. Connect over ssh with the& -Y option and run any X applications:
chronos@localhost ~ $ ssh -Y USER@HOSTNAME
Bringing It All Together
Now that all the binaries are in place let's set it up so they work across reboots.
Edit /home/chronos/user/.bashrc with our new vi editor and append the following:
#Setup our environment
#Remount /home/chronos/user as exec so anything in ~/bin runs
sudo mount -i -o remount,exec /home/chronos/user
Create a /home/chronos/user/.bash_aliases and add in any aliases:
alias rdesktop-home='~/bin/rdesktop -g 1280x800 -u USER -K -z -r clipboard=PRIMARYCLIPBOARD HOSTNAME'
alias projon='xrandr --output LVDS1 --mode 1024x768 --output VGA1 --mode 1024x768'
alias projoff='xrandr --output LVDS1 --mode 1280x800 --output VGA1 --off'
alias ssh-host='ssh -Y USER@HOSTNAME'
Now you have a much more flexible environment to add your own aliases, functions, and binaries.