Google Chrome and CentOS 6

I have been meaning to sit down and write about this for a while now but with the summer upon us have not had time.

I use CentOS 6 on my home PC for many reasons, but mainly because I have been using RedHat versions of Linux for quite a long time and am comfortable with it.  CentOS, like its upstream parent RHEL, is good because it is well tested and stable and it is not absolutely necessary to perform a major version update every few months like its cousin Fedora. I do not have time for that and most security issues will be fixed with normal updates so this works well.

The downside of course is that RedHat can not afford to run bleeding edge versions of software which may be rather unstable and that can be a nuisance, if you need or want to use newer more recent versions.

An example of that, from my DBA perspective, is the version of MySQL which is shipped with RHEL 6.4: MySQL 5.1.66 is very old and I would not really want to run that on a production machine taking anything but toy load.  However, in this case, others provide drop-in replacements: Oracle with MySQL 5.6 (current GA version) and both MariaDB and Percona versions are other good alternatives.

In the browser world I moved over some time ago to use Chrome. It seems to work well on my Mac and at the time I moved over it avoided me having to restart Firefox frequently as it was eating all my memory.  There have been versions of Chrome available for CentOS 6 until rather recently, provided by Google and that was really good. It made life easy and I could switch machine with little trouble and use the same browser.

There are versions of Chrome for other Linux versions: Debian, SuSE and Fedora, but I want to keep using CentOS 6 for the reasons outlined above. Judging from other posts I have seen others feel the same.  My understanding is that CentOS 6 support was dropped as newer libraries on which it depended were not available on CentOS 6: Requires: says rpm when you try to install the latest version.

Upgrading the OS versions of these base libraries is just troublesome as it may break several things and while people sometimes do this to try and work around similar issues I do not think that is the way forward.  Something will eventually break. Yet if these libraries are needed why can they not be built and located like google-chrome itself in a different location to the system default, and then link google-chrome using RPATH settings to the expected directory.  I have done some stuff like this before in a previous job and unless I am mis-remembering the procedures this should work fine.  Rebuilding the required libstdc++ in a different location to the default, such as /opt/google/lib64, and naming it something like google-libstdc++, and then adjusting the google-chrome dependencies to require this package and not the system libstdc++ is not really that hard. Doing so would fix the issue for google-chrome, and potentially make the library usable for others who might also want this newer version on CentOS.  Given Google has already setup a yum repo for CentOS 6, the automatic install of these new dependencies would just work out of the box.

Others suggest moving over to Chromium, but I see it is not the same as Chrome and has given me a few issues since switching from Chrome. I would like to use the same browser on my different desktops and not have to worry.

It would also help if RedHat would recognise that some people will need to use newer versions of libraries that come with the OS, and if they do not want to make the effort to support this themselves, it would help if they would perhaps make recommendations on how this can be done by others, perhaps along the lines outlined above.  In the end for them this avoids people being frustrated that their “stable OS” is not out-of-date, and also avoids issues with people hacking things around themselves, or resorting to building from source, when the whole point of a package based system is that you should not need to do that and the packaged builds tend to be more consistent and complete.

So here is to keeping my fingers crossed that perhaps we will see Chrome on CentOS 6 return in the future and make a few people happier.

What do you think?