Chromium on Fedora Linux is closing in on Firefox

Vincent Danen is becoming a fan of Chromium on Fedora Linux and here he shows a few tweaks that he's made that get it a little closer to nudging out Firefox.

The browser wars are far from over, and Google Chrome is a top contender for the prize. Google's Chrome browser is based on WebKit, the same technology used to power Apple's Safari, which is based on KHTML, the technology that drives KDE's Konqueror browser.

While Chrome is the "commercial" browser, it is based on Chromium, which is open source. And as Chrome runs on many operating systems, so does Chromium. Unlike Google Chrome, Chromium is available in source form only — you have to compile it yourself (or use a third-party that will compile it for you). Fedora does not come with Chromium, so Fedora developer Tom Callaway has graciously made a third-party repository where you can download pre-compiled Chromium packages for all supported versions of Fedora, including the upcoming Fedora 15.

To begin, you need to download the repository's configuration file:

# cd /etc/yum.repos.d/
# curl -OL
# yum update

Once the repository configuration file is downloaded and the metadata updated, you can install the Chromium browser using:

# yum install chromium

Now, as new versions of Chromium come out quite often, they will get pulled in any time you run a "yum update." If you do not want to run the stable version of Chromium, but the development version, change the repo file to download in the above command and download instead.

To start Chromium, you can launch it from the command-line, /usr/bin/chromium-browser, or via the launcher in Applications | Internet | Chromium Web Browser.

One thing I dislike about Chromium, and Chrome, is that a lot of its functionality is defined by command-line options. This makes Chromium a little annoying to work with on OS X, but it's nice enough with Linux. For instance, creating a ~/bin/chromium script (provided that $HOME/bin is in your $PATH) can be used to set a number of options. To see what some of these options are, execute:

$ chromium-browser —help

Not all options are noted there, however. You can find a good list of available command-line options here.

In my case, for Chromium to replace Firefox, it needs to support Kerberos authentication. Kerberos is used extensively in my LAN, so any browser I use must support it. Unfortunately, Chromium offers no place in its preferences to configure this, but it does via a command-line option. Creating a script like ~/bin/chromium allows me to set these options and forget it:

/usr/bin/chromium-browser —auth-server-whitelist=* @$

A lot of the other switches are useful for those developing Chrome plugins, for the ultra-paranoid, or for those wanting to play with experimental features.

If you want to use a custom script like ~/bin/chromium, it is easy to set an icon to launch that script as opposed to the chromium-browser directly. In GNOME, right-click the menu item and select Add Launcher To Panel (or to the desktop if you prefer). Right-click the new icon and select Properties. In the Command field change the default to /home/user/bin/chromium %U. Now, if you launch "chromium" on the command-line or via the launcher you just defined, Chromium will start with your specified arguments.

I'm becoming a big fan of Chrome and Chromium; I really like how snappy it is and I appreciate how Google quickly responds to reported security issues. While there are a few plugins that are missing (I would love a NoScript plugin for Chromium!), there is very little keeping me back from using Chromium instead of Firefox on Linux. I also appreciate the work and effort Tom has put into making it possible to run Chromium on Fedora. And for those of you running Fedora with SELinux enabled: don't worry, there are policies in place so that Chromium will work without having to change anything related to SELinux.