How to run Android app in Chrome using ARChon

The ARChon Runtime can be used to run Android apps in Chrome. This means you can run Android apps on any OS where Chrome runs: Windows or Linux.

  • Download the ARChon Runtime that matches your platform from here.
  • Unzip the downloaded file, rename its directory to something sensible and place it in a directory that is permanent. This is because Chrome will not install this runtime, but access it from this directory whenever it starts.
  • Open Chrome, go to chrome://extensions. Enable Developer Mode. Click Load unpacked extension and choose the directory you unzipped ARChon Runtime to. Chrome will load the extension and ARChon Runtime will appear among the extensions.
  • On your Android device, install ARChon Packager from the Google Play Store.
  • Open the ARChon Packager app and choose the app you want to be packaged. It will produce a zip file and store it in a ChromeAPKs directory. Transfer that zip to your computer.
  • Unzip the app file, rename its directory to something sensible and place it in a directory that is permanent.
  • Open Chrome, go to chrome://extensions and install the app just like you did for ARChon Runtime above.
  • To run the app, go to chrome://apps and click its icon. It should open and run.

Note that while I was able to run apps like this, they could not connect to the internet. I could not fix this problem.

Tried with: ARChon Runtime 2.1.0 Beta, ARChon Packager 0.9.6, Chrome 51.0.2704.103 (64-bit) and Ubuntu 15.10

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RefControl extension for Firefox

RefControl is an extension for Firefox that can be used to set the value of referer field sent to HTTP servers for certain webpages. This extension is similar to the Referer Control extension for Chrome.

You can change the referer directly in the extension preferences. A more friendly method is to visit the webpage and then click on this extension’s icon and choose RefControl options for this site to set for this specific website. The changes will take effect only if you start browsing from a new tab or might require a restart of Firefox.

More details on the usage of this extension from its author can be found here.

Tried with: RefControl 0.8.17.1, Firefox 41 and Ubuntu 14.04

uBlock Origin addon for browsers

I recently switched to an older notebook and my Chrome and Firefox browsers were quite slow on it. Using the Task Manager in Chrome I noticed that one of the main culprits was AdBlock Plus which was hogging memory.

Searching for a leaner alternative to ABP I switched to uBlock Origin. (Confusingly, there is also a uBlock addon, which is a fork of this.) Just install the addon and you are set! It uses many lists that are maintained online and the blocking is automatic. If you need to turn off blocking or change a configuration just click its button in the toolbar.

I clearly noticed a 50% or more reduction in memory usage with uBlock Origin compared to ABP. The improvement in actual usage was also clear.

Tried with: uBlock Origin 1.1.1, Firefox 41 and Ubuntu 15.04

How to customize Firefox UI

Most of the components of the Firefox user interface can be removed, added or moved around easily. This is quite a difference from Chrome, where such functionality is quite limited.

For example, I like to hide the search bar, remove or move around the buttons that my extensions put in the toolbar.

Doing all this is easy. Just go to Settings -> Customize. Now you can grab any UI component (bar or button) and move them between the toolbar, the Additional Tools and Features window or the Customize window.

Tried with: Firefox 41 and Ubuntu 15.10

How to import bookmarks from Chrome to Firefox

  1. Open the Bookmarks window. You can do this by clicking the Bookmarks icon beside the addressbar or by pressing Ctrl + Shift + O.

  2. Choose Import and Backup -> Import Data from Another Browser. Pick Chrome and choose to import only the bookmarks in the following dialogs.

Tried with: Chrome 43.0.2357.124 (64-bit), Firefox 38.0 and Ubuntu 14.04

How to remove GPU Process in Chrome

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Problem

Chrome can be quite a memory hog, this is especially felt on older systems with less RAM. If you bring up More Tools -> Task Manager, you might notice that GPU Process consumes a lot of memory and is usually at the top. What is this process and how to disable it?

Solution

Chrome tries to use GPU as much as possible as a hardware accelerator for video and graphics rendered on the webpage. This can be turned off, though you must be aware that it will be done on the slower CPU otherwise.

Go to Settings -> System and disable Use hardware acceleration when available option. You will need to restart Chrome for this to take effect. The GPU process should be gone after this change.

Tried with: Chrome 44.0.2403.155 (64-bit) and Ubuntu 14.04

How to remove Background Page in Chrome

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Problem

Google Chrome can slow down when it starts to occupy a lot of memory. By opening Settings -> More Tools -> Task Manager, I saw that a Background Page: Google Drive process was occupying 290 MB of memory. What is this process and how to remove it?

Solution

This is used by Google Drive when offline sync is enabled. To remove this, go to Google Drive -> Settings and disable Offline Sync. Chrome will immediately kill this process as soon as it is disabled. No need to restart Chrome.

Tried with: Chrome 43.0.2357.124 (64-bit) and Ubuntu 14.04

Emoji Input extension for Chrome

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Emoji has become a popular feature in smartphone messaging apps like Whatsapp. The Emoji Input extension can be used to similarly pick Emoji to insert into emails and other websites in Chrome.

Just install, click its smiley face icon in the taskbar and click on any emoticon to insert it into your text field. The emoticon can also be copied to clipboard, so this extension can also act as a emoji picker on Ubuntu/Linux where no such tool is available.

Tried with: Emoji Input 2.6.4, Chrome 44.0.2403.125 (64-bit) and Ubuntu 14.04

Viewport Resizer

I use a widescreen display on which many websites render dense text that occupies the full width. This makes it hard to read long form content. One solution is to resize the browser window. Another easier solution I have found is to use Viewport Resizer.

This is a bookmarklet that is aimed at web developers who want to test how their websites resized to smartphone, tablet and notebook display sizes. However, I have found that this is a good way to reduce the width of text on a website in a natural way.

Viewport Resizer can be installed easily by dragging the bookmarklet to the bookmarks bar in Chrome. Click on the bookmark when viewing any website and it offers display sizes of different types of devices. I like to pick the tablet size. The website is rendered in a nice format for reading 🙂

Tried with: Chrome 42.0.2311.135 (x64) and Ubuntu 14.04

LivePage extension for Chrome

The LivePage extension for Chrome is useful if you want to view a HTML page or file and want it to be refreshed as soon as it is updated. This can be useful if you are editing or producing the HTML file. For example, I use it to view the HTML file produced by compiling a ASCIIDoc or ASCIIDoctor file.

  • Open the local or internet webpage and click the LivePage icon. The page will be refreshed as soon as it is changed.

  • Note: If you want to refresh local HTML files, head to Chrome Extensions section, scroll down to LivePage and enable the Allow access to file URLs checkbox.

Tried with: LivePage 1.5.2, Chrome 40.0.2214.115 (64-bit) and Ubuntu 14.04