My mother just asked me to get Google Earth (link to download page ) working on her machine so she can see where my sister  lives.
So I download all 20 megs of the sucker (of course it had a horrible license agreement that precludes packaging for Debian or any other sane distribution) and ran it (under a different account of course because I don’t trust non-free software). It’s unfortunate that Google weren’t prepared to put in the extra effort of making Debian and RPM packages for it. When I examined the contents of the file there were sym-links from FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD to Linux and from amd64 and x86_64 to x86. So much for portability, just assume that everything is an i386 running Linux!
The first problem I encountered is that it doesn’t support installing in text mode and demands X access, have the Google people never heard of sys-admins who do their work over low-bandwidth links and don’t use X? What happens if your sys-admin is using a braille terminal?
When I enabled X by “ssh -X” I encountered the error below (Error 1). It seems that the installation program was not written with the X11 Security Restrictions in mind and only works with “ssh -Y“. The same applies to actually running the program once it’s installed.
Finally it gave me a GNOME error dialogue about the Bitstream Vera Sans font not being installed. If they had made a Debian package then it could have depended on the package that provides the font in question. Now I’m left wondering which package provides it, and whether it’s even available (maybe they depend on non-free fonts).
Once I got it working I found it to be incredibly slow on my Pentium-M laptop with 1.5G of RAM. I ran it on a Pentium-D desktop system in a Xen DomU (it’s only 32bit and I couldn’t figure out how to get the AMD64 version of Debian to run i386 programs without a chroot or a Xen instance). But it still wasn’t particularly fast. One problem is that the GUI is not well written, so I drag the Earth to rotate it from the initial view and the Earth moves slowly long after I have released my mouse button. Another is that my X server started using significantly more memory while it was running (and has not returned to it’s previous size).
Google Earth is a really neat program that does some nice things. But I’m not going to buy a new Thinkpad to run it, and the experience of running it on a Pentium-D server is not that great either. I’ve just rm’d it from my laptop, I’ll leave it installed on the server but probably won’t run it often.
I’ll try installing it on my mother’s computer (Celeron 2.4GHz with 512M of RAM) but I am not expecting it to run well. The machine is still new to her, I replaced her Pentium3 800MHz with 384M of RAM about a week ago. She never found the Pentium3 to be slow (and I don’t think that Google Earth is a good reason for an upgrade).
Verifying archive integrity… All good.
Uncompressing Google Earth for GNU/Linux 188.8.131.524……………………………………………………..
The program ‘setup.gtk2′ received an X Window System error.
This probably reflects a bug in the program.
The error was ‘BadWindow (invalid Window parameter)’.
(Details: serial 122 error_code 3 request_code 38 minor_code 0)
(Note to programmers: normally, X errors are reported asynchronously;
that is, you will receive the error a while after causing it.
To debug your program, run it with the –sync command line
option to change this behavior. You can then get a meaningful
backtrace from your debugger if you break on the gdk_x_error() function.)