I am a full time Linux user who also uses Apple’s Mac OS X and iOS from time to time to access services or tools not available on Linux. There are times when I struggle to access a service or run some app on Linux. And sometimes I don’t want to turn to my Mac to do that. The quest for such apps or services leads me to Google’s Chrome browser, which is based on Chromium open source projects.
It would actually be an understatement to call Chrome a browser – thanks to extensions and web apps it works more or less like an OS in its own right. Actually there is an OS called Chrome OS, which is just a browser and powers Google’s laptops called Chromebooks.
Chrome for Linux provides almost all of the features of a Chromebook — and as a result I get the best of both worlds: The security, freedom and ownership of Linux, and the flexibility of gaining access to services and apps through Chrome.
These are the top 4 features which drive me to use Chrome for Linux:
1 Chrome brings Netflix to Linux
Netflix has changed the way we consume media; it has shaken the traditional cable TV model in the same way Apple shook the music album model. Netflix has been so successful that cable networks have started to adopt the same model and instead of fighting cable cutters they are reaching out to them.
Technically Netflix is not ‘supported’ on Linux the way it is on Apple’s Mac OS X or Windows 8.1 where the default browsers (Safari or Internet Explorer ) have native support for EME (Encrypted Media Extensions, which allows browsers to playback DRMed content). So you can’t play Netflix in Firefox, or distro specific browsers, on Linux because they have not yet implemented EME.
Google, due to their own platform Chrome OS, did need support for EME so as to ensure all streaming services are available to their customers. Still Chrome for Linux was not able to play Netflix because the creators of the House of Cards would detect Linux as an unsupported platform and thus block access. Recently they made some changes and as a result Linux users can now watch Netflix through Google Chrome without any workaround.
In order to watch Netflix on Linux. Log into your Netflix account and under Playback settings choose HTML5.
2 Editing images with Chrome
The rise of cloud has created many online services that were earlier unthinkable. When I am on my Chromebook, I have access to some of the best image editing software. These applications resemble Photoshop without having to install anything huge on your system.
Since these apps run in Chromebook, they should also work on Linux desktop. Unfortunately almost all of these services run on Adobe’s Flash.
That’s where Google Chrome comes in: Adobe and Google have been working together to develop the Flash plugin for Google Chrome (Google needed it more for the survival of Chrome OS as a competing platform).
What it means, is that you can access such image editing services on your Linux system through Chrome.
The two image editing services I use on my Chromebook are Pixlr and Sumo Paint. Just ensure that your system has enough (at least 4GB) of RAM because image editing can be resource hungry if you are dealing with large files.
I used to love Pixlr but they decided to put a huge skyscraper ad which not only encroached the valuable real estate, but also became a distraction when you wanted to focus on image elements. A neat trick to get rid of the ad is by switching the app to full screen mode.
Sumo Paint doesn’t have any such ads and instead offers a pro version with more features.
Both apps feature an interface similar to that of Photoshop so anyone familiar with PS will be able to use these apps.
These are more than basic apps – they support layers and a plethora of such features. What’s more, they even come with many filters and adjustment layers giving users enough tools to manage images.
I use these tools often when I am on my Chromebook and don’t mind them using on Linux from time to time.
Every photographer I know of swears by LightRoom; it’s undoubtedly _the_ best photo management tool out there. What if I told you that there is an online tool that can do almost everything LightRoom can do — and in a very elegant manner? And you don’t have to pay a dime.
Polarr is an awesome photo editing tool that, like Pixlr or Sumo, runs in a browser. The app also has an offline mode, which you can easily enable from the Chrome Web Store (we will talk about offline apps later in the article).
When I use adjectives in this article, I really mean them. Polarr has a stunningly gorgeous interface that matches that of LightRoom. And its beauty is not just skin deep, it has myriad features.
The most exciting features of all is its support for RAW image format. Unlike compressed formats like JPG, RAW formats retains almost all of the image data as captured by the sensor without it being processed and compressed by the camera processor.
This uncompressed data gives a photographer more room to play with an image by manipulating elements like exposure, lighting, temperature, tint.
Adjustments are on the right panel whereas different filters and presents are on the left panel.
I use Polarr on my Linux box, just for the sake of using this lovely piece of software. It’s just offers a sort of gratification of using Linux!
#4 Run Android apps
While not all Android apps will work on Chrome for Linux, Google has been working on bringing the two cousins – Android and Chrome OS – as close as possible by adding the capability to run Android apps on Chrome OS.
There is an active community on reddit which does a great job at keeping an eye on which Android apps are working on Chrome.
For Linux users, the word “impossible” doesn’t exist. Developers have found ways to re-package Android apps so they can work on Chrome. The process and procedure to install Android apps on Chrome is fairly easy and it doesn’t hurt to try.
These are only a few of the things that you can do with Google Chrome for Linux. Let us know what else you are missing on Linux and we may try to find a way of doing it through Chrome. If you use Chrome as a workaround, share your experience in the comments below.