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Thread: Format Wars, Standards & Competition

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Open the pod bay doors, please HAL

Chrome For Linux Looking Good


Chronogical Blog Entries:



Date: Sat, 20 Feb 2010 13:25:02 +1100

The Linux (beta) version of Chrome finally became available in December 2009. It took a long time but it was worth the wait. Chrome is a very slick product. It works very well with Linux ... And it is fast.

It seems almost like an eternity since your blogger registered his email address as an "interested party" concerning the "Chrome for Linux" project. It was easy to understand that most of the development effort seems to have gone into Windows and Mac ... But since Chrome OS is essentially a Chrome browser running on top of a Linux OS, one would have expected a Linux version of Chrome to have shipped promptly.

And eventually a "beta" version did arrive. In January, your blogger installed Chrome on Kubuntu 8.10 and Ubuntu 8.04

The first question was which type of download? .deb or .rpm? If you decide on .deb ... you can download it and use the command line to install it:

	sudo dpkg -i google-chrome-beta_current_i386.deb

As part of the installation, your APT sourcese are updated, so that regular updates can be applied automatically.

There is an option to install it with a GUI ... But most Linux users are familiar with the command line or have a friend who is familiar with the command line.

Google Chrome is an impressive browser. The interface is sufficiently different from other browsers that you have to learn how it works ... Although, in many ways it is similar to Firefox .. It will do similar things but wih a few extra frills and speed ... For example, Chrome offers the ability to grab a tab and drag it it to a new position on the tab-bar ... Firefox will do that also ... But the animation on Chrome is very fancy ... And considering that it involves additional eye-candy ... It is quick! There are a few "Safari" type features ... When you open a new tab you get presented with a choice of preview pages (Well the new version of Firefox does that also)... But the pages are taken from your actual history ... and there are extra doo-dads and frills, but none of them intrusive ... And some are "features" which seem unique to Chrome.

And Chrome does seem to be fast, Faster than Firefox or Opera. Possibly as fast as Safari (although to be fair a true comparison would use a Linux version of Safari -- which doesn't exist!). In Chrome, sites like the iGoogle desktop and youtube render faster, and the videos play with less of the occasional pauses that seem to occur when bandwidth is limited.

Also the browser seems to discover where to find stuff on Kubuntu. It works out how to display PDFs (In Kubuntu you have to tell Firefox to use Okular) ... And even though downloads actually get stored in the $HOME/Downloads folder, it shows up on the left hand corner of your browser as if it was actually part of the browser ... This is a nice touch, that gives the illusion of integration, whilst maintaining a physical separation between the Internet and the local client ... And Chrome puts those downloads in a readily accessible folder called $HOME/Downloads by default, rather than hiding them in some obscure location.

The configuration menu is easy to use ... Though like all menus, you have to work out where the various menu trees and sub-menu trees reside ... And the online documentation hasn't caught up with the current release ... For example to import settings from Firefox you have to go to the utility menu (look for the "spanner" in the right hand corner) and then go to Options->Personal Stuff->Import data from another browser ... Oh! And there is only one choice ... Firefox! Looks like Google know who the real competition is! All you dedicated Konqueror users dip out! ... (Perhaps your humble blogger should have put sarcasm tags around that last comment).

For the time being it is most important that browsers maintain a strict separation between the Internet and the client. Although the appalling lack of security in Microsoft Outlook is probably the most outstanding security risk in the world, the browser is the most widely used and therefore the most critical potential vector for malevolent software. It looks as though Chrome has been designed to keep the user and Internet spaces separate.

And now Chrome works well in Linux, OS X and Windows. And there is a growing library of extensions.

And since installing Chrome on Kubuntu, a large number of updates have come down. At the time of writing it is already up to version 5. Contrast this with Opera, which has not had any updates for the Linux version since September last year ... Of course that could be because the Linux version of Opera is such a solid Gold classic that it doesn't need any further improvement (yes -- missing sarcasm tags again). But it is more likely due to the fact that most of the development effort is going into the mobile versions of Opera.

Although despite the rapidly growing library of applications for Chrome, there doesn't seem to be a ready made citrix client around ... So if you have to use your Linux browser to connect to a Citrix server, you had better hang on to Firefox for the time being.

And, your humble blogger was somewhat bemused to discover that "Google Gears" doesn't seem to work with the Kubuntu version of Chrome (huh?). And yet the Windows version of Chrome has supported it for quite a while ... Another reason to hang on to your version of Firefox?

Meanwhile on the hardware front things are moving slowly. For some reason there are bureaucratic impediments to getting the Nexus One in Australia. And in the OS front, it looks as though Microsoft has sewn up the OEMs and effectively headed off the threat of netbooks.

But on the browser front at least it looks as though we might be heading towards a free market ... Which is right, proper and fitting for a product that is actually free! It is (gasp) one of the few areas of computing where there is something approaching a free market. One indicator of this trend is the number of sites that now work with "any browser". Obscure browsers like Konqueror (which your humble blogger uses often because it is the Kubuntu default browser), will render many sites which in the past were broken. Add to this the recent decision of the European Commission to impose restriction on Microsoft in Europe (on anti-trust grounds) and the continuing growth of portable devices ... And that means that we might have genuine competition in the Browser market for quite a while.

And that has to be good! Right? Because that's what we all want! ... Isn't it?


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