Signal Desktop without Chrome

I use Signal Messenger and quite like it. It’s definitely quirky, but I welcome a technology that generally works and secures my communications – it seems like it’s never a bad idea for private messages to be private. After about a year of living predominantly in a Linux VM on a Windows host, the recent changes to embed advertisements in the Windows file explorer pushed me over the edge and I decided to finally go native Linux. I’ve used Ubuntu most extensively, so I jumped on board.

The default in Ubuntu is Firefox, and while I’ve used it off and on through the years (I have virtually 0 browser loyalty), one of the tripping points has been that Signal runs in Chrome on the desktop. That kind of sucks. If all I want to do is run Signal, I find the Chrome process gobbles RAM and CPU completely disproportionate with the amount of work Signal is doing. Looking for non-Chrome installations of Signal lead me to this Signal Desktop ticket which had a handy comment here.

Noting that the link was a year old, I browsed over to the article – https://timtaubert.de/blog/2016/01/build-your-own-signal-desktop/ and took a look. The process looked pretty straightforward, so I figured I’d give it a try and see what happened.

I followed the first few steps (I had already installed Node with NVM):
$ git clone https://github.com/WhisperSystems/Signal-Desktop.git
$ cd Signal-Desktop/
$ npm install
$ node_modules/grunt-cli/bin/grunt

The grunt task didn’t work, as apparently I needed Ruby and Sass. Easy enough to install Ruby with RVM, followed by gem install sass. That put me on track to finish the grunt task – executing $ node_modules/grunt-cli/bin/grunt the second time was successful. I continued along with the rest of the steps, although NW.js is now at a stable version of 21.3 so I used the latest SDK instead of the listed 0.14.4.

Continued following the instructions, and what do you know – Signal starts! At first it had trouble drawing and generally blew up with a whole bunch of this:

[24887:24887:0323/205532.784593:ERROR:sandbox_linux.cc(345)] InitializeSandbox() called with multiple threads in process gpu-process.
[24887:24887:0323/205532.785373:ERROR:child_thread_impl.cc(762)] Request for unknown Channel-associated interface: ui::mojom::GpuMain
[24872:24893:0323/205532.841128:ERROR:render_media_log.cc(30)] MediaEvent: MEDIA_ERROR_LOG_ENTRY {"error":"FFmpegDemuxer: open context failed"}
[24872:24872:0323/205532.841234:ERROR:render_media_log.cc(30)] MediaEvent: PIPELINE_ERROR demuxer: could not open
[24887:24887:0323/205533.083205:ERROR:gles2_cmd_decoder_autogen.h(143)] [.DisplayCompositor-0x562e3b3d6940]GL ERROR :GL_INVALID_ENUM : glBindTexture: target was GL_FALSE
[24887:24887:0323/205533.083231:ERROR:gles2_cmd_decoder_autogen.h(2916)] [.DisplayCompositor-0x562e3b3d6940]GL ERROR :GL_INVALID_ENUM : glTexParameteri: target was GL_FALSE
[24887:24887:0323/205533.083245:ERROR:gles2_cmd_decoder_autogen.h(2916)] [.DisplayCompositor-0x562e3b3d6940]GL ERROR :GL_INVALID_ENUM : glTexParameteri: target was GL_FALSE
[24887:24887:0323/205533.089440:ERROR:gles2_cmd_decoder.cc(9573)] [.DisplayCompositor-0x562e3b3d6940]RENDER WARNING: there is no texture bound to the unit 0
...
repeated a whack load of times
...

but I stopped it and started again and there were far fewer errors! “Did you try turning it off and back on again?”

[24972:24972:0323/205724.338314:ERROR:sandbox_linux.cc(345)] InitializeSandbox() called with multiple threads in process gpu-process.
[24972:24972:0323/205724.339183:ERROR:child_thread_impl.cc(762)] Request for unknown Channel-associated interface: ui::mojom::GpuMain
[24974:24992:0323/205724.657233:ERROR:render_media_log.cc(30)] MediaEvent: MEDIA_ERROR_LOG_ENTRY {"error":"FFmpegDemuxer: open context failed"}
[24974:24974:0323/205724.657392:ERROR:render_media_log.cc(30)] MediaEvent: PIPELINE_ERROR demuxer: could not open
[24974:24979:0323/205959.628198:ERROR:broker_posix.cc(102)] Error sending sync broker message: Broken pipe

It appears as though (perhaps the way it’s invoked?) it doesn’t stay linked if you exit, so you’d have to link it every time you booted Signal, but other than that… it actually works. I’m not sure why I’m so surprised, but considering a non-Chrome desktop client is not supported by Signal, this is about the most successful display of “hey, try this code and see what happens” I can recall. Usually somebody’s blog post about how for one brief instant all the versions of whatever they’re integrating all aligned and they got something “working” generally means that it’s insanely brittle and about to explode. Looks like not this time though, so kudos to Signal, NW.js and Tim Taubert!

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