Using macOS applications on Chrome OS in the cloud [A]

Introduction

If you own an old MacBook and now consider buying a Chromebook, but can’t do without macOS applications, there are reasonable solutions! In the long run, this can be cheaper than buying a new MacBook!

I’ll show you how you can do so in this post!

It will look something like this:

macOS Catalina within No Machine in Linux mode of Chrome OS
Image: own screenshot of the author

Important Notes

Notes for beginners: My posts usually contain some basics so that you can understand how to proceed. I partly repeat the basics in other posts, so you don’t have to jump back and forth all the time.

Here is the meaning of the abbreviations after the headings: [E] Everyone [A] Advanced [B] Beginner [P] Professional

If you still miss something, feel free to comment. The community will try to help you! πŸ™‚

Notes for professionals: My posts usually have the form of a knowledge database entry and should be equally suitable for beginners, advanced users, and professionals. Just pick out what you need right now. You can also find content specifically targeted to professionals. These are marked accordingly with [P] and other finger points.

Do you want to have more professional content on a topic? Add it to the comments πŸ˜‰

Disclaimer of liability: As always on this blog, I warn you that all changes to your system mentioned in this post are at your own risk! It is theoretically possible that there are system or application errors that could lead to data loss and further problems!

Your Mac in the Cloud

Are you dependent on continuing to use macOS applications as a Chrome OS user for various reasons? Like iMessage or other macOS tools in the private area? Are you a developer and can’t do without Xcode? Or are you a graphic designer and want to use Adobe Lightroom without restrictions? Do you even edit videos with Apple Finalcut Pro X or Adobe Premiere Pro?

Today, all this works almost seamlessly in the form of virtual machines or physical Macs in the cloud. You can access them with a variety of clients running Chrome OS. And it’s pretty cheap! More on this later.

However, if you want to use software that is very computationally intensive, such as video editing or rendering software, you must be willing to spend a lot more money. On the one hand, for a high-performance Internet connection, and on the other hand, for a compelling cloud offer. In other words, you would have to use hosted iMac Pros or Mac Pros, which are very expensive.

The providers

There are several providers in the market. These are, for example, in alphabetical order without a rating:

HostMyApple
Mac Bare Metal
macincloud
VirtualMacOSX 
XCLOUD

Just use Google search to find more providers, even in your home country.

I did so for Germany e.g., and directly found at least the following ones:

honds.de Mac Mini Hosting
inter.net Mac Server Hosting
KEYWEB
qutic development Mac Serverhousting

Important notes:

  • If you look at the offers, you will see that some of them are macOS servers. You have to check if this fits your purposes!
  • If you process personal data within the EU, an offer or at least server location from the EU may be reasonable because of the GDPR!

Some of the service providers mentioned above offer costly iMac Pros or Mac Pros in various configurations. The service providers host this hardware for you in their data centers, and you can remotely access it. These are said to enable video editing in the cloud. So this is not a clickbait article at all!

However, I want to present to you here a relatively cheap solution, which I am currently using for the creation of my “switching from macOS to Chrome OScontent and evaluating it over a more extended time.

A VM with macOS in the cloud

I use the offer from HostMyApple. There I currently booked the smallest package “macOS Catalina Cloud Lite / iMessage Package” for 24,99 $ monthly. This package is minimal in terms of memory, storage space, and performance, but is sufficient for the creation of my content, which affects Chrome OS and macOS at the same time. As a server location, I have chosen the latter of the three possible options Atlanta, Denver, and Amsterdam.

If you want to use Xcode or other development environments, you can book further expansion stages. The package “macOS Catalina Cloud Max” for 54,99 $ is the most powerful but also the most expensive one. If this is still not enough for you, have a look at the packages of the dedicated Mac Host packages. There you will find the most potent physical machines that HostMyApple offers. But you have to expect high monthly costs!

Note: the provider does not sponsor me, nor do I receive any advertising revenue. I am a regular paying customer, just like you!

How to access your Mac in the cloud on Chrome OS?

On Chrome OS, you can use the VM with remote desktop applications such as No Machine or RealVNC. No Machine is available as an Android and Linux version. So far, only the Linux version has been running smoothly and stable.

There are also Android and Linux versions for RealVNC. But since RealVNC, unlike No Machine, provides only unencrypted connections, you should not use this way. Technically, RealVNC works pretty well under Chrome OS! Also, other VNC software like Remmina should work, but I haven’t tested it yet. The package sources of the Debian distribution of the Linux of Chrome OS already includes it.

Another alternative is the Chrome Remote Desktop. However, since No Machine works very well, I haven’t checked this option yet either.

The installation of No Machine in the Linux of Chrome OS

If you have not yet activated and set up the Linux of Chrome OS or you don’t know it at all, take a look at this post from me: link. There you will find everything you need to know about this topic.

You can download the Linux version of No Machine here on the manufacturer’s website: link.

You can find the correct package in the section “NoMachine for Linux -x86_64, amd64” under the name “NoMachine for Linux DEB amd64“:

Downloading No Machine for the Linux of Chrome OS as a Debian package Step 1
Image: own screenshot of the author

You will need to download and place it in a folder under “Linux files” on your Chrome OS device for the installation:

Downloading No Machine for the Linux of Chrome OS as a Debian package Step 2
Image: own screenshot of the author

You can install the Debian package with a double-click from there:

Downloading No Machine for the Linux of Chrome OS as a Debian package Step 3
Image: own screenshot of the author
Downloading No Machine for the Linux of Chrome OS as a Debian package Step 4
Image: own screenshot of the author
Downloading No Machine for the Linux of Chrome OS as a Debian package Step 5
Image: own screenshot of the author
Downloading No Machine for the Linux of Chrome OS as a Debian package Step 5
Image: own screenshot of the author

After that, you should restart your Chrome OS device and then start the Terminal or another Linux application to find the icon of the application in the launcher:

Starting No Machine from the Chrome OS Launcher
Image: own screenshot of the author

Setting up and using No Machine on Chrome OS

Shortly after you have booked your package at HostMyApple, you will receive an email with all the necessary information on how to get access to the VM. There you will also find explanations on how to use No Machine.

You only need the IP address and the password from the email, and you are ready to go:

No Machine started in the Linux of Chrome OS
Image: own screenshot of the author
Connecting to the macOS VM of HostMyApple via No Machine in the Linux of Chrome OS
Image: own screenshot of the author
Connecting to the macOS VM of HostMyApple via No Machine in the Linux of Chrome OS
Image: own screenshot of the author

However, on my Google Pixelbook and currently rented Acer Chromebook 714, I had the problem that the display was much too small. If your Chromebook has a rather sizeable Full-HD screen or a large external monitor, this should not be a problem.

I have experimented a bit and can recommend the following settings:

The display settings of No Machine in the Linux of Chrome OS
Image: own screenshot of the author
The input settings of No Machine in the Linux of Chrome OS
Image: own screenshot of the author

Well, there’s not much else to say for now. The connection runs very stable with a good internet connection. The interaction with mouse and keyboard is excellent. macOS applications can be used without any problems as long as the booked package has enough performance:

macOS Catalina within No Machine in Linux mode of Chrome OS
Image: own screenshot of the author

What else would interest you? I would like to try out other things for you and let you know the result here in the comments or other posts. πŸ™‚

Conclusion

I am thrilled with the offer of HostMyApple and how the No Machine client runs in the Linux of Chrome OS.

What I also like is that the network traffic is not limited and therefore does not lead to additional costs. With some other services, if you are not careful, you have to pay an arm and a leg.

Small insertion: Maybe this or another solution will replace my little 2017 MacBook with 12″, which I take along on my travels next to my Google Pixelbook and a Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook Tablet. It runs macOS Catalina and Windows 10 via Bootcamp, which I use to make screenshots for my posts. Although it is small and light, it adds about 1 kg to my hand luggage.

Uncertainties about that: what about macOS Big Sur? Will there still be a “mac in the cloud” in the future?

Which service can you currently recommend without restriction?

Which macOS applications, besides the usual suspects like Finalcut Pro or the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, can you not do without?

I’m looking for the best alternative, just like you! πŸ™‚ Or I decide not to post anything about “switching from macOS/Windows to Chrome OS” anymore, then I wouldn’t need both! πŸ˜‰

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