New browser for my Chromebook

Every morning around 5am, I sit down in the rec room and watch the morning news and try to do some learning while reading stories on Flipboard. I’ve done it for years. I open my Chromebook and head to the Flipboard tab. The “For You” tab has a great collection typically and then I’ll head off to topic-specific links. Recently, I’ve had trouble with these links. Inevitably, I’ll end up with this error.

But I was just there a second ago!

It’s easy to solve; just reload the page and they’re back.

I’ve mentally speculated what the problem is and I know the old adage “it’s a poor man that blames his tools”. But with all the talk about the Chrome browser and its desire to chomp up all the available memory, I wonder if the 4GB on my machine has reached its capacity.

So, I thought I’d do a little experiment and see if I could find an answer. If it was Windows or MacOS, the switch to an alternate browser would be easy. On ChromeOS, the browser is so tightly integrated with the operating system as its user interface that you can’t download and run something else.

But, the Chromebook supports Linux. I’ve enabled Linux and poked around before and it works so nicely. There’s something cute about the @penguin command line…

I went to the Mozilla website to see if I could grab Firefox and run it. After all, it runs Firefox nicely on my Linux box over there. There was one catch though. My Chromebook is an Acer R13 with a MediaTek M8173C processor. All of the downloads were for computers with an Intel processor. The MediaTek is an ARM processor though.

What to do, what to do?

I poked around and ended up looking at Firefox esr (Extended Support Release) and it runs on an ARM processor. Downloading it was actually a breeze. There was no messing around with Flatpak, just run this from the command line.

sudo apt install firefox-esr

It installed so nicely and quickly. Would it actually work?

It fired up quickly. I added it to the Shelf so that I wouldn’t have to load Linux separately and then run it from the command line. It worked nicely.

Of course, I couldn’t remember any of my passwords so I loaded the Add-on to my Password Manager. That got me in but I couldn’t easily share things … on other browsers, I use Shareaholic but there’s Add-to-Any for Firefox. It added itself slickly as well.

The browser itself ran so nicely. I kept being amazed and I actually felt a bit bad about it. I wasn’t running things on top of the operating system; I was running things from Linux which is so powerful to begin with.

In terms of overall performance, both browsers seem to run equally as well. As for the Flipboard error, I didn’t get it this morning using Firefox but one morning is hardly the acid test.

For the moment, I’m just pleased that I was able to think my way through it and get it to install and run nicely.

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