Posts tagged ‘browser’

Google Chrome for Linux

I have seen a variety of stories around the web extolling the virtues of the new browser from Google: Google Chrome.  At the moment, it is still a beta available only for Windows and Mac, but it seems to be an, erm, internet browser I suppose.

To be perfectly honest and frank, I find it incredibly difficult to get excited about a web browser.  To me, the browser is a tool, not a way of life.  For comparison, go now and find a carpenter - I’ll wait.  Got one?  Good.  Now explain to your carpenter that there is a new hammer available.  Gauge the carpenter’s reaction.  Now contrast and compare with all the hoopla over Google’s offering.  Now decide who the hammer should be used on.

Gosh, I sound grumpy, don’t I?  The fact is that Chrome looks like a decent offering.  It has tabbed browsing, which we all should now expect.  It has a way to import your bookmarks from your existing browsers, again, we should all expect that.  It displays pages from the internet.  The best thing, in my opinion, is that it is very minimal and there is little that is not functional about it:

Chrome tab and menu bar

Chrome tab and menu bar - click for full pic

As you can see, it has a very clean look.  Unless Google decide to add masses of bolt ons, it should be a very useful browser indeed.  But they didn’t release it for Linux.  The bastards.  Many of Google’s apps have Linux counterparts - Picasa being one of them.  Now these aren’t direct ports, they usually have Wine embedded in them to make them work.  But not Chrome - Chrome can be beta tested by Windows and Mac users, but not Linux users.  This seems a little unfair to me.  After all, it is arguable that the only reason Internet Explorer was forced to improve and to offer tabbed browsing was down to the success of the Mozilla and Firefox browsers.  Even now, does anyone really care at all about Safari?

Luckily, innovation and awkwardness come naturally to the plucky programmers with an interest in Linux.  CodeWeavers have, again, stepped up to the mark.  With Crossover Chromium available for free (as in no cost) they have enabled us to use Chrome via the CodeWeavers Wine implementation.  Which means that I am able to download it and show you this (click the pic for full size):

Chrome on Debian Linux

Chrome on Debian Linux

In an ideal world, there would be no need for Wine, Cedega, Play on Linux or CodeWeavers to exist.  In an ideal world all apps would be available for all platforms.  In this world, though, they are needed and gratefully so.  It is the work of CodeWeavers and Wine that helps to break down the final barriers for a lot of people - those people who really need to run Microsoft applications but who want to also run Linux.

Anyway, to step down off my soapbox, Chrome (in it’s beta state) looks to be a useful addition to the current crop of browsers available.  It is one in a line of Google applications, along with GMail, Calendar, Talk, Docs, Video and the rest.

What Gael Did Next - Ulteo Online Desktop

Gael Duval is the creator of Mandrake Linux (now Mandriva, since the merger with Connectiva Linux). Gael left Mandriva in March 2006 and went on to start a new project called Ulteo. Mandrake was the first distro I persuaded to install and was, for some time, my alternate work PC. Interestingly, he was fairly quiet on the whole Ulteo project for some time - I guess he wanted to concentrate on setting it up and getting it working before talking about it. So what’s it all about?

I am going to assume that everyone who reads this blog is savvy enough to know about Google apps and to have, at least, tried them out for at least a few minutes. This is similar but bigger. Ulteo is an entire desktop available via your internet browser. It’s based on Ubuntu and gives you everything you need to be fairly productive as long as you have access to an internet connected PC. In the spirit of Linux, you can create an account and use it for no cost. So what does it look like? It looks like this:

Basic Desktop (click for bigger)

As you can see from the desktop, the whole thing is designed to help you be productive from the beginning - you have a shortcut to Konversation (for instant messaging), Thunderbird (for email), Firefox (for internet browsing) and to 3 of the most used OpenOffice.org programs. Ulteo saves your settings so that, no matter where you log on, your desktop will be as you left it. You are also given 1Gb of storage space, so if you absolutely need to work on a document you can. Duval has also come up with a great idea for printing: when you hit print a pdf copy of your document is created allowing you to send it to a print enabled machine, to a colleague or to a USB key.

The product is dependent on the PC having Sun Java installed, other versions will produce errors and problems. Usage speed also seems to be dependent on your connection speed, as with any remote desktop. I will admit that I haven’t played with it that much, so this review is a bit limited. That said, if you are away from your home machine, your office machine or even your home country, you can be working fairly quickly whether you carry a laptop or not.

If you are interested, go to the Ulteo homepage and sign up and try it out. It’s still in it’s relatively early stages (the software included in the desktop is not current) but already you can see that you have much more than Google are offering.

More screenshots:

Office_OptionsGraphics AppsMultimedia AppsFirefox within Firefox!

I Can No Longer Recommend Google Browser Sync

As those who know me will know, I tend to change distros a lot. One of the problems I have encountered with this is that you lose your internet browser bookmarks and tend to forget your passwords and this rapidly becomes a pain. One of the solutions to this is to use the Google Browser Sync Firefox addon.

The program itself (if we assume, as I did, that it works flawlessly) is a godsend. It saves your bookmark list to a Google server along with your passwords, your cookies and the tabs/windows you last looked at. It’s also configurable, in a very limited sense, so you don’t have to save everything. As I said, it’s useful if you reinstall a lot but even more so if you wish to keep things sync’d across multiple PCs. And, because it’s Google, you feel all safe and helped.

But. A couple of months ago I reinstalled a distro and reinstalled the addon and discovered that all my bookmarks had gone. My passwords appeared to have been saved and worked, but all my carefully gathered bookmarks had disappeared. It wasn’t a total loss - I’m a bit of a hoarder and tend to save things even after they cease to be useful, so it was a good time to clear out my bookmarks and start again. But it was perturbing and so I hit the search trail - Google, not unsurprisingly.

I discovered that I am not alone. On a Google discussion group, there is a thread called “Wrath of GBS” which is now legendary. There are some workarounds discussed but none of them worked for me. Which seems par for the course. Michael Parekh seems to have pretty much the same experience. Well, he seems to have been affected more than me. By the way, I am, of course, aware that Firefox provides a backup version of your bookmarks - but if you reinstall your entire OS, that isn’t any help.

It seems that Google have ceased work on the addon, beyond a few people looking at it as part of the famous “20% work” at Google. (see here and here for a wee bit more detail) If true, this is a huge shame - this would not have been so attractive to me without the Google name.

So, having lost everything again today, I am looking into alternatives. Foxmarks is certainly an option, but what I want is a unified bookmark and password synchroniser. I am, though, resigned to using two projects for this.

So, if you want to recommend Google Browser Sync, go ahead. But expect me to be right next to you shaking my head :)