Monday, 26 October 2020

Goodbye Chromium, Hello Brave

Goodbye Chromium, hello Brave
After the admirably planned but terribly executed move from Deb packages to Snaps, Canonical has now broken faith yet again with the user base by installing a snap version of Chromium by the back door. It's time to say goodbye Chromium, hello Brave.


The trouble with the .deb package infrastructure, says Canonical, is it creates dependency hell, compatibility issues and security flaws. In contrast, a snap needs to be built only once per architecture, and will run on all systems that support snapd. The containerised snap package is the answer. Except when it creates dependecy hell, compatibility issues and performs worse than a snail on LSD.

Having discovered this with Ubuntu 19.04, 19.10 and 20.04, I've been removing snaps from my setup with extreme prejudice. I've now exorcised the snapd framework altogether. Just one problem: if you want the Chromium browser on Ubuntu, Canonical's empty .deb package is a Trojan horse that trapdoors into installing the snap version of Chromium from the Ubuntu repositories. Along with snapd. And so the whole thing begins again.

With Ubuntu imposing snaps by default, many users are finding themselves installing snap packages they didn't want and didn't ask for.

Chromium is the case in point. If you run:

apt-get install chromium-browser

it downloads a transitional dummy .deb file, and then installs a snap package:

Selecting previously unselected package chromium-browser.
(Reading database ... 227048 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack .../chromium-browser_77.0.3865.120-0ubuntu1~snap1_amd64.deb
...
=> Installing the chromium snap
==> Checking connectivity with the snap store
==> Installing the chromium snap
Warning: /snap/bin was not found in your $PATH. If you've not restarted your
         session since you installed snapd, try doing that. Please see
         https://forum.snapcraft.io/t/9469 for more details
.

So that's not happening.

I could go direct to Google and download a .deb file for Linux. Am I happy with the Google corporate behemoth with all it's tracking and privacy issues? No. So that's not happening either.

Instead, let's say hello to Brave, a fork of the Open Source Chromium code base, developed by Brave Software, Inc. It blocks ads and website trackers, and is notionally faster loading pages.

Brave has an official apt repository that supports .deb-based Linux distributions from Debian 9+, Ubuntu 14.04+ and Mint 17+ onward. Brave is only supported on 64-bit AMD/Intel architectures (amd64 / x86_64).

The company is at pains to point out that Linux is not presently supported within Brave’s referral program. At this time, supported platforms are Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.

The Brave Release Channel Installation runs like this:

sudo apt install apt-transport-https curl

curl -s https://brave-browser-apt-release.s3.brave.com/brave-core.asc | sudo apt-key --keyring /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/brave-browser-release.gpg add -

echo "deb [arch=amd64] https://brave-browser-apt-release.s3.brave.com/ stable main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/brave-browser-release.list

sudo apt update

sudo apt install brave-browser

That gets us a clean install of a Chromium-based browser without all the baggage of Canonical and Google.

I'll report back on how well it runs over the next weeks and months. RC

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