As the story is told, George Mallory was asked: “Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?” His reported response would forever go down in the annals of history. “Because it’s there.” Slightly less famous is my response to the question, “why are you installing all of these apps on your Chromebook?” Well, because I can. That’s the heart behind our new series, Command Line. We’re setting out to see what Chrome OS is capable of now that official Linux support is part of the package.
So, in today’s post, we’ll be installing an alternative browser on a Chromebook but not just any browser. Mozilla’s Firefox. Now, Debian 9 (Stretch) already has a version of Firefox available but what many of you may not know is that it isn’t the latest release. Instead, Mozilla offers an ESR or extended support release for Stretch as well as enterprise users and it isn’t the latest version of the browser. Currently, Firefox is on version 73 and features all of the latest and greatest Mozilla has to offer. The ESR version of Firefox is actually on 68.5.0 and while it doesn’t have all of the newest features, it does come with all of the security of the 73 flavor.
Unfortunately, installing the stable newest version of Firefox on Debian 9 isn’t as cut and dry as other applications on Linux. Firefox Quantum, as it is called, isn’t available directly from the Debian 9 repositories so we have to do a little legwork to get it installed. Don’t worry, it’s relatively simple and who knows, we might learn a little on the way. Before we install Firefox, we’ll need to install another application that will allow us to add the needed repository. The app is a text editor called Nano. If you already have a go-to editor, use it but for our purposes, we’ll install and utilize Nano. If you haven’t done so already, make sure your Chromebook is set up for Linux apps and everything is up-to-date.
Okay, now we’re ready to get started. You will want to start by installing Nano. Do so by opening your Linux terminal and pasting the following command. It’s a relatively small bit of software so it won’t take long to install.
sudo apt install nano
Now that you’re text editor is installed, we will add the necessary repositories to download and install Firefox Quantum. In order to do this, we will open the source list with Nano and add the Sid (unstable) repositories. Sid is the developmental branch of Debian. To add the repositories, run the following command to open Nano.
sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list
Unless you’ve installed other repositories already, you should be greeted with a text editor with two lines already in place. Below those two lines, paste the following repositories each on their own line.
deb http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ sid main deb-src http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/ sid main
Once you’re done, press Ctrl+X to exit. You will be prompted to save the file. Press “Y” then enter to exit. Now you’ve added the Sid repository. Because it contains many of the same packages as Stretch, we will need to add some rules to prevent your device from updating everything from the Sid repositories. Do so by opening/creating a preferences file with Nano using the command below.
sudo nano /etc/apt/preferences
Now we will add rules to prefer Stretch but at the same time allow Firefox to download from Sid. In the blank editor, paste the following lines just as they are listed. When you’re finished, press Ctrl+X to exit. Press “Y” to confirm you want to save the file and hit enter to exit.
Package: * Pin: release a=stable Pin-Priority: 1000 Package: * Pin: release a=unstable Pin-Priority: 2 Package: firefox Pin: release a=unstable Pin-Priority: 1001 Package: libfontconfig1 Pin: release a=unstable Pin-Priority: 1001 Package: fontconfig-config Pin: release a=unstable Pin-Priority: 1001 Package: libnss3 Pin: release a=unstable Pin-Priority: 1001
Once you’ve saved and exited Nano, it is now time to install Firefox. First, we will update our package lists and upgrade any available packages. You can do this all with the single line below.
sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y
Now, let’s install Firefox. Run the following command and sit back while the process completes. Once it’s finished, you will find the Firefox icon in your launcher and you can see in the settings menu that you are running version 73.
sudo apt install -t sid firefox
So, there you have it. We’ve now successfully installed Firefox on Chrome OS. Personally, I’m totally content using Chrome on my Chromebook but that’s not why we’re here. Some users may be huge fans of Firefox and have been looking for a way to use the browser on Chrome OS. For me, it’s all about trying new things and seeing what Chrome OS can do. There are other methods to install Firefox on a Chromebook but I find this to be the cleanest path. to the destination. So, what now? I have a laundry list of applications that users have asked me to try and I’m working diligently to get them up and running for the next installment of Command Line. If you have an app you want me to try or perhaps you’ve hit a dead-end with a piece of software that you just can’t get running, let me know in the comments. I’ll be happy to see what I can do. Until next time my little penguins.
Shout out to linuxconfig.org for pointers on setting this up.