Google Hangout problem in Iceweasel - Debian Jessie

18 Jul 2015
Posted by stylesen

Iceweasel is my primary web browser in Debian Jessie and I use it for Google Hangouts too. Recently a month back one fine day when I was about to start with a meeting after an 'apt-get upgrade' on my Debian machine, Google Hangouts stopped working in Iceweasel. Google marked Iceweasel as an unsupported browser and I was left without an option. Enormous searching asked me to use a different user-agent string to act as a supported browser, which also failed in my case. Even with a changed user-agent string Google rejected my Hangout sessions. I haven't been so very comfortable with Google Chrome web browser (experienced from past usages) and didn't want to try it on my Debian Jessie machines, just for Google Hangouts.

Another option I was left with is to install Firefox web browser which is in the supported list of web browsers for Google Hangouts. But the problem with installing Firefox on Debian Jessie is, there isn't a Debian package or an apt repository provided by Mozilla :( I did experienced installing Firefox from source in the past, but that is a maintainance headache when it comes to updates and also managing the paths. These days I ve become very lazy - I am looking for Debian packages for installation rather than installing from source, except for projects that I develop ;) With no options left though, I was using the Firefox installed from source in my Debian Jessie box.

Yesterday, I saw some light in the tunnel to have a Debianistic way to solve this problem. I met with "Iceweasel Aurora" which is the bleeding edge release of Firefox that is ready to get into Debian Experimental (I do not care on experimental tag on Debian, since people run full-fledged GNU/Linux server OS based on Debian sid :D ). Interestingly Iceweasel Aurora didn't had any problems with starting a Google Hangout session, partly due to the following user-agent string found in Aurora release.

Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:41.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/41.0 Iceweasel/41.0a2

I wouldn't say this is the only way to make Google Hangouts work in Debian Jessie, but this worked for me and I am happy with it. I extend my thanks to Debian Mozilla Team who provide the aurora release.  In order to install Iceweasel Aurora follow the steps as explained in http://mozilla.debian.net/

For convenience I am providing the same steps here to install Iceweasel Aurora release in Debian Jessie:

Open /etc/apt/sources.list file and add the following line, which is nothing but the Debian Jessie backports repository for installing Iceweasel Aurora:

deb http://mozilla.debian.net/ jessie-backports iceweasel-aurora

Once the above line is added, use the following commands to install Iceweasel Aurora release.

$ wget http://mozilla.debian.net/archive.asc
$ apt-key add archive.asc
$ apt-get update
$ apt-get install -t jessie-backports iceweasel

And that made Google Hangouts work for me again.

RANT: Since Iceweasel is same as Firefox, Google should think about adding Iceweasel to its permanently supported browsers list!