Running Google Earth on Linux

For many years now, dedicated Linux users (including myself) have been complaining that Google Earth does not run properly on Linux. In fact, it crashes almost immediately after the program is started. Searching the web on this topic, it seems that the problem is common and long-standing, but somehow Google has not (yet) come up with a fix. However, it seems to be related to a network connectivity issue, and here is a (crude) way to avoid the program from crashing at start-up.

When you run Google Earth from the command line, it spits out a barrage of error messages that seem related to the program not being able to perform a network request:

[0829/080218:ERROR:nss_ocsp.cc(581)] No URLRequestContext for OCSP handler.

It then spits out a rather bizarre final error message before it crashes:

Another crash happened while handling crash!

Well, that leaves us pretty much in the dark about what is really going on. But here is a simple, if somewhat cumbersome, work-around to avoid this crash from happening and be able to use the program as intended.

First, turn off your Wi-Fi. You can do this by clicking on the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar, and then unselecting Enable Wi-Fi (see image below). Just make sure you do not have any other applications running that require an internet connection at this point. If you’re using a wired connection, you need to turn that off instead.

Turning off Wi-Fi from the main menu.

Once Wi-Fi is turned off, start up Google Earth. You will get some error message about not being able to contact the login server, but just click the OK button (see image below). You may get one or two more of such error messages, so just click the OK button each time.

The initial error message.

Now pan and zoom to the area you want to view, or load your GPS track, or do any of the first few steps of the actions you want to perform. Note that you may just get a very fuzzy image, because Google Earth is currently not able to load any new (and more detailed) images from the server.

Once you have performed these first steps, you can turn Wi-Fi back on (go to the Wi-Fi menu and select Enable Wi-Fi). Now wait a few seconds until your computer is connected to the Wi-Fi network again. Once connected, you should be able to use Google Earth without it crashing.

I realize this is not a very elegant solution, but it seems the only way to avoid it from crashing right at start-up. Let’s hope Google will fix this problem properly in the near future, but don’t hold your breath…