Installing Google Earth in a Linux Mint 18 x64 Virtual Machine

As described in another post, I was installing programs in a VirtualBox virtual machine (VM) running Linux Mint MATE (LMM) 18. Google Earth (GE) was not cooperating. This post describes the steps I took to troubleshoot it. The Recap at the end provides a simple summary of what worked.

Attempted Solutions

I had previously had some success with GE in, I think, a Linux Mint Cinnamon 17.3 installation. At first, I failed: I started with the suggestion, by Instructables, that I could install GE with a single command. But when I ran it, it didn’t seem to work. It did add an icon to the Start menu, but that icon did nothing when I clicked on it. I right-clicked on it and chose Uninstall. That gave me a message: “This menu item is not associated to any package.” I went ahead with the uninstall.

But then I tried the Linux Mint Community instructions, which involved the following commands, entered one at a time, after making sure Synaptic and similar programs were closed, making sure that none failed to complete successfully. The net result was a working GE installation.

sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386 && sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ia32-libs
sudo apt-get install googleearth-package
sudo apt-get install google-earth-stable:i386

In my LMM 18 VM, unfortunately, that last line gave me an error: “Unable to locate package google-earth-stable:i386.” A search led to advice to download the x64 .deb package and then run sudo dpkg -i google-earth-stable_current_amd64.deb. But I felt that just double-clicking on the .deb file and running the GUI installer should achieve the same thing. It did, more or less: the icon at Start > Internet > GE worked. But mousing over the Earth produced flickering and undesirable graphic effects. I killed GE and tried adding –disable-gpu to the Command associated with the Start menu icon. That didn’t help. MintGuide recommended a different approach, requiring these commands:

sudo apt install -y msttcorefonts
cd /tmp; wget -O
chmod +x; sudo ./

The first of those commands was corrected: “Note, selecting ‘ttf-mscorefonts-installer’ instead of ‘msttcorefonts.’ ttf-mscorefonts-installer is already the newest version (3.4+nmu1ubuntu2).” It probably did that because I had previously installed ttf-mscorefonts-installer. The third of those commands produced some errors:

dpkg: dependency problems prevent configuration of lsb-core:
lsb-core depends on libc6-i386; however:
Package libc6-i386 is not installed.
lsb-core depends on lib32z1; however:
Package lib32z1 is not installed.

I addressed that with another command (sudo apt-get install libc6-i386 lib32z1). Then I ran the last of the three commands again (chmod +x; sudo ./ This time, no errors. The flickering was still there. But maybe that was because the previous efforts had messed things up? I reverted to an earlier snapshot, in the VirtualBox VM, and (in light of what I had just learned) I tried this:

sudo apt install -y msttcorefonts libc6-i386 lib32z1
cd /tmp; wget -O
chmod +x; sudo ./

The third command seemed to produce some dependency errors, different from those quoted above. I re-ran that command. The errors now seemed to be resolved. But there was still no improvement in the flickering. Taking another approach, for installation in Ubuntu 16.04, Backyard suggested a series of commands, starting with sudo apt-get update. That triggered a message:

Skipping acquire of configured file ‘main/binary-i386/Packages’ as repository ‘ stable InRelease’ doesn’t support architecture ‘i386

A search led to this command as a solution: sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list.d/google-chrome.list. In that google-chrome.list file, edit the relevant line to add [arch=amd64], so that it looks like this: deb [arch=amd64] stable main. With that in place, I re-ran the command. No further problems. I proceeded with the next commands recommended by Backyard:

sudo apt-get install libgstreamer0.10-dev libgstreamer-plugins-base0.10-dev flashplugin-installer libfreeimage3 libc6:i386
mkdir ~/lsb
cd ~/lsb
sudo dpkg -i *.deb

The last of those produced notices of dependency problems. It seemed that the sudo apt-get install command should also have named these packages: at, ncurses-term, pax, alien, libc6-i386, and lib32z1. I ran that command again, with those packages included. That produced an “unmet dependencies” error and a suggestion that I try sudo apt-get -f install. That command seemed to run OK, so I tried the sudo apt-get install command again. That, too, ran OK. So maybe I should have just proceeded as Backyard suggested, which was to run sudo apt-get -f install after the sudo dpkg -i *.deb command, and then run that sudo dpkg -i *.deb command again.

With that done, the advice was to proceed, at last, to install the .deb download for GE. In lieu of the recommended command, I just double-clicked on the .deb file and ran it that way. That completed and gave me a GE icon in Start > Internet. But it ran with flickering, just like before. Worse, when I killed and then restarted GE, its menus were unresponsive, and then it froze the system. I had to do a hard reset. I tried adding –disable-gpu to the Start menu icon’s Command again, as before, but that still didn’t help.

Workarounds and Alternatives

Searches (1 2) led to one source suggesting that the problem might be due to Compiz or compositing. To try that, I went into Start > Control Center > Windows > General tab > uncheck “Enable software compositing window manager.” That seemed to improve how the Tips dialog came up when I first started GE, but it did not kill the flickering.

To check another possible culprit, I shut down the VM and went into VirtualBox > Machine > Settings > Display > Screen tab > disable 3D acceleration. That fixed it.

I wondered whether that was the only possible solution. It seemed that using DirectX instead of OpenGL might also be a solution. But when I went into GE > Tools > Options, I saw no DirectX option. In later browsing someone confirmed that DirectX was not an option in the Linux version of GE. While I was in the Options window > 3D View tab, though, I tried checking the Use Safe Mode box, unchecking the Use 3D Imagery box, and playing with other options. I shut down the VM, enabled 3D acceleration, and started it back up. None of these tweaks seemed to have any effect.

Another possible workaround, I realized, was to use the Satellite (a/k/a Earth) option in Google Maps. A quick check confirmed that it was working within the VM.

This was GE 7.1.4. One person, using a Windows system, said that s/he had achieved better results using an older version of GE. A search led to (1 2) sites that offered miscellaneous links to older versions, and also to a page on the topic at Unfortunately, that page was for Windows versions. This raised the question of whether GE would run well in Wine. There was one WineHQ database entry indicating that it would. But I was concerned that running GE in Wine in a VM would result in new complexities, not to mention performance issues.

Panoramio Photos

The final issue involved Panoramio photos. These were little icons that, when clicked, would display photos linked with specific locations. Like others, I was finding that all I got was a blank white window when I clicked on a Panoramio icon. The commands that resolved this for me were as follows:

cd /opt/google/earth/free
sudo wget
sudo tar xvf ge7.1.1.1580-0.x86_64-new-qt-libs-debian7-ubuntu12.tar.xz
sudo apt-get install libfreeimage3
sudo apt-get install libgstreamer0.10-0
sudo apt-get install libgstreamer-plugins-base0.10-0

It tentatively appeared that 3D acceleration had to be disabled for this fix to work.


My efforts yielded the following impressions:

  • I could run GE in Windows via dual-boot or in a Windows VM within Linux.
  • I could obtain GE views (but not other functions) by using the Earth or Satellite mode in Google Maps within Firefox or some other web browser in a Linux host or (VM) guest.
  • I could run the Linux version of GE in VirtualBox, without undesirable flickering, by disabling the VM’s 3D acceleration.
  • There might be other avenues, such as running a Windows version of GE in Wine within a Linux VM. The Windows version of GE would presumably have a DirectX option that might or might not be needed to defeat the flickering.

To run GE in a VirtualBox VM, I disabled 3D acceleration, started the VM, double-clicked on the latest GE .deb download, and chose Install Package. That produced a functioning installation, without flickering, that would run from the Start menu icon. All that remained was to run the commands shown at the end of the preceding section in order to enable Panoramio photos.

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