Monday, September 8, 2008

How Shiny is Chrome?

Like everybody else, I was intrigued by Google's latest venture.

A new browser, promising to redesign the browsing experience. Introduced by the company who redesigned all of our browsing habits.

In their introductory press release, (already a plus to the Comic nerd in us all), the big G hit all the right notes.Read the Rest

New Javascript VM, Tab Centric, Open Source, sandboxed pages, process manager. Where do I sign up? Oh, here (and no sign up required.)

If you've been here before you know MrCopilot runs on Linux. Sure, occasionally a VM safely encompasses a Windows OS for testing. Imagine my surprise at discovering that in such an environment was the only place I could try Chrome.

Which brings me to the first dulling of the shine. Chrome's download page is a little different for us Linux Users, you'll notice right off that the download link is nowhere to be found. Instead you will see links to Chromium.
Chromium is the open source project Chrome is built from. Containing parts WebKit, V8 -the new JavaScript VM Engine and some other nifty bits.

If you are having trouble reading the fine print in the Red Box let me clarify it.

Note: There is no working Chromium-based browser on Linux. Although many Chromium submodules build under Linux and a few unit tests pass, all that runs is a command-line "all tests pass" executable.

This may be the reason that Google has decided to call it Chrome for Windows "Beta" but considering every other Google product spends a lifetime (for software) in Beta it may not be as likely as first thought.

Undettered, having a Windows user send along the executable for Linux emulation testing, my attempts in Wine, and Cedega were unsuccessful.

This is a HUGE disappointment for us Linux users, and perhaps a missed opportunity for Google. A Linux port would give them a leg up in the mobile and netbook arena. Here's hoping that Google does the obvious and fixes this omission before Android's 1.0 release.

Now if you happen to be still in the clutches of Windows, Chrome is a breath of fresh air. Speedy and out of your way. Features, like the ability to get more of the user interface out of your way by creating an application shortcut for your favorite web sites, and the default new tab (no longer a blank page ala FireFox but an Opera like thumbnail collection of most visited pages), are welcome newcomers.

Also handy are the inclusions of the process manager, Most Visited button and the pop-up capture feature.

Only once in my testing did I have a tab crash, and that was using a shortcut provided by Google to do so. It had a strange effect on my system taking down TortoiseSVN with it, for reasons unknown, requiring a reboot to get it back.

More on Shortcuts

The usual problems did rear their ugly head in a few places, the "just released" security vulnerabilities, Sites refusing to run due to the unknown Browser ID. Virgin Radio UK's online player, for instance. Which brings up another point.

One of the many Firefox features that drew so many users to the fold, was its customization, through extensions, themes and add-ons. None of which is offered in Chrome (although a few careful inspectors did find an OS specific themes folder. untested Howto to create your own themes)

On the Whole, I give Google a thumbs up on their new browser for Windows, with a huge wag of the finger on it's lack of Linux support.


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