The Joy of Chromium

by steve on November 4, 2011

So, you’ve probably heard of Google Chrome.  Chrome is a fine web browser produced at Google.  What you probably haven’t heard about is the open source version known as Chromium.

You probably wouldn’t care, unless you’re like me and you want to run modern software on your old computers.  Let’s say you’re a web developer and you’d like to run the latest browsers on your old, unsupported OS.

In this case, I’ve got an old mac which won’t run anything newer than OSX 10.4.  Yet, using the tools of X11 we can make it do all kinds of modern things!

That previous Tiki:Mojo blog post addresses how to run an app on one mac and display it on a completely different computer over the local network.  What happens if when you need to use a linux/unix app that doesn’t run under OS X?

In this case, how can I run Google’s Chrome web browser, but display it on my old Powerbook?  Here’s how I’m doing it.  This trick requires a newer Intel-based mac (or anything that can run Linux) and almost any older mac.

  1. On the newer mac you need a way to run a Linux installation.  This could be a dual-boot or through some kind of Virtual Machine software.  I’m using Parallels Desktop, but the clever monkey can adapt this info to any virtual machine system.
  2. I’m running Ubuntu on Parallels virtual machine in this case.  Inside Ubuntu, install Google Chrome.  Consult your local linux nerd if you can’t figure out how to do that.
  3. The next step is to make sure another computer on your local network can talk to the linux install you are running inside your virtual machine.  I’m not going to teach you networking 101 in this blog post, but if you’re using Parallels Desktop:
    1. In Parallels you’ll need to have the virtual machine “shut down” to make these changes
    2. open hardware settings
    3. choose “network 1”
    4. under “type” choose a bridged network, and the one your computer uses to connect to other computers on the local network
    5. then click OK
  4. Now, since you’re a smooth computer operator, you’ve done all that correctly and a machine on your local network can talk to the virtual machine on your physical machine on that network.  Genius!  Ok.  On that machine, open a Terminal window.
  5. If you’re in OS X 10.4, start the X11 app.  If you’re in Windows, use Google to find yourself an X Server.  If you’re in some kind of Linux or Unix, you most likely already have X11 nearby.  In OS X 10.5 and newer, X11 is built in and your friendly computer is just ready t0 go.
  6. The first thing we need to do is to allow another computer to send us a window.  Open a terminal window and type this:
    • xhost +
  7. Now connect from the old machine to the newer machine that’s going to run Chrome for you.  In your terminal window follow these examples:
    • ssh username@ipaddress_of_the_newer_machine
    • ssh steve@10.0.2.1
  8. Ok, now we need to tell the computer where to send the Chromium window.  Follow these examples:
    • export DISPLAY=your_ip_address:0
    • export DISPLAY=10.0.2.3:0
  9. But wait! There’s a shortcut to all these commands to set your display.  Skip back to step 6.  You just opened a terminal window.  Skip the xhost bit, this time our ssh command will connect us AND set the display correctly with just one line:
    • ssh -Y username@ipaddress_of_the_newer_machine
  10. You should be ready to launch Chrome.  Here’s the command:
    • chromium-browser
  11. Chrome should now appear on your old computer!  Hooray for Zoidberg!  You now have the latest in web browsing technology on whatever old cranky computer you’ve got laying around.
  12. By now you’ve noticed that Chromium and Chrome are the same thing, but it’s all confusing.  Chromium is the open source project behind Chrome.  Go read about it here.
  13. There is no step 12.  You’re done!  Go off and web it up!

Note:experienced computer nerds will note that “xhost +” allows anyone on your network to open windows on your machine.  If you’re concerned about this, you can restrict this to just the ip address of the machine that’s running Firefox for you.  Example:

xhost +10.0.2.1

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