Category Archives: Mozilla

Mozilla and Firefox

Allow more JavaScript, maintain privacy

I’ve long regarded JavaScript in the browser to be one of the biggest security holes in web-browsing, and at the same time the Internet works less and less well without it. In 2008 Joel Spolsky made the observation that for some people the Internet is just broken:

Spolsky:   Does anybody really turn off JavaScript nowadays, and like successfully surf the Internets?

Atwood:   Yeah, I was going through my blog…

Spolsky:   It seems like half of all sites would be broken.

Which is not wrong.  Things have changed in the last five years, and now the Internet is even more broken if you’re not willing to do whatever random things the site you’re looking at tells you to, and whatever other random sites that site links off to tell you to, plus whatever their JavaScript in turn tells you to. This bugs me because it marginalizes the vulnerable (the visually impaired, specifically), and is also a gaping security hole.  And the performance drain!

Normally I rock with JavaScript disabling tools and part of my tin-foil-hat approach to the Internet, but I’m now seeing that the Internet is increasingly dependent on fat clients. I’ve seen blogging sites that come up empty, because they can’t lay out their content without client-side scripting and refuse to fall back gracefully.

So, I need finer granularity of control.  Part one is RequestPolicy for FireFox, similar to which (but not as fine-grained) is Cross-Domain Request Filter for Chrome.

The extensive tracking performed by Google, Facebook, Twitter et al gives me the willys. These particular organisations can be blocked by ShareMeNot, but the galling thing is that the ShareMeNot download page demands JavaScript to display a screenshot and a clickable graphical button – which could easily been implemented as an image with a href. What the hell is wrong with kids these days?

Anyway, here’s the base configuration for my browsers these days:

FireFox Chrome Reason
HTTPSEverywhere HTTPSEverywhere Avoid inadvertent privacy leakage
Self Destructing Cookies “Third party cookies and site data” is blocked via the browser’s Settings, manual approval of individual third party cookies. Avoid tracking; StackOverflow (for example) completely breaks without cookies
RequestPolicy Cross-Domain Request Filter for Chrome Browser security and performance, avoid tracking
NoScript NotScripts Browser security and performance, avoid tracking
AdBlock Edge Adblock Plus Ad blocking
DoNotTrackMe DoNotTrackMe Avoid tracking – use social media when you want, not all the time
Firegloves (no longer available), could replace with Blender or Blend In I’ve have had layout issues when using Firegloves and couldn’t turn it off site-by-site

Thunderbird does error message wrong

Thunderbird discovered that yahoo have changed their mail server’s POP3 behaviour, meaning you can’t leave mail on their server and download it locally. So it pops up the following message box:
POP3 has failed
This message box is app-modal. You can’t just fix the problem, you’ve got to take notes (a screenshot suffices) and then fix the problem. A bunch of faffing around, when it could have just said “Do you want your Server Settings automatically changed so that your mail can be fetched? Yes/No”. Or you could have this pile of technical information in a non-modal dialog box, and bring up the settings dialog for the user to solve the problem. Or just have this pile of technical information in a non-modal dialog box, so a screenshot isn’t necessary.

Or you could just make people angry, that works too.

Less crazy than the Acid Tests is

Here’s what I get from a few random browsers I have lying around the place:

Firefox 3.5.9 scores 100 out of 160.

Chrome 4.1 scores 118 out of 160.

IE6? 11 out of 160.

IE8? Surprisingly, only 19 out of 160.

The browser on my Nokia N95 phone doesn’t load the page properly; it just says “Working…” and 0 out of 4 (eg it stalls on the first round of tests).

Interestingly, I also tried IE6 with the Google Chrome Frame in it; it scored 137 out of 160, better than Chrome itself. Weird.

Obviously all the browser authors have a way to go to support this if it’s going to be the bold new standard on the web.

(Found via Andrew)

Google Chrome on Linux: slow, memory hog

I’ve run the Google Chrome on Linux beta since it first become available, and my impression is: slow. I might be unusual, in that I typically have dozens and dozens of tabs open, and that may break Chrome’s model of shoving each page into its own process, and this PC has “only” a gig of RAM, but it’s slower than FireFox for the same task. Things were a lot worse before I loaded AdBlock and FlashBlock for Chrome. Now my CPU isn’t pegged at 100%.

Embedded JavaScript is affected by this performance hit, so that particular tools that I have help do my stuff, well, don’t anymore.

Most annoyingly, it seems, although I haven’t confirmed it, that the back button causes a page reload: it doesn’t come out of the cache. Or the slowness could make it look that way. But how long can it possibly take to render a page anyway?

On the upside, it hasn’t crashed, and I would have expected FireFox to mysteriously die without any explanation by now (a sign that Firefox is going to die soon is that tab-swaps/page loads become very slow, indicating a similar root cause which I’m guessing is memory exhaustion). Firefox has always done the mysterious death thing, and I was hoping that upgrading to 3.5 would fix things, but no dice.

I’m trying to decide whether it’s preferable to have my browser snappy, but occasionally fall in a big pile and get back up again, or a laggard that rolls with the punches. Perhaps I’ll split my browsing between them simultaneously; vital stuff on Chrome and throw-away stuff on FF, but that’s going to be a bit tough on my brain.

Well, it turns out that Chrome is a memory hog. I bought another gig of RAM, and wouldn’t you know it, the PC is flying. My suspicions were tripped when all of the RAM was in use, most of the paging file and the little orange disk activity light was slowly burning a hole in the wall on the other side of the room.

Use FoxIt Reader in Chrome

Chrome fast. FoxIt reader fast. But by default they don’t work together so well, insisting on PDFs being saved to disk before FoxIt will open them.

Here’s how to get read PDFs inside Chrome using FoxIt reader:

  • Copy the file npFoxitReaderPlugin.dll from C:\Program Files\Foxit Software\Foxit Reader\plugins to C:\Program Files\Google\Chrome\Application\plugins
  • If the plugins directory doesn’t exist, then create it
  • C:\Program Files\Google\Chrome… only exists if you’ve used the Google Pack version of Chrome. If instead you’ve got the version that (oddly) shoves it into C:\Documents and Settings\USER\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Chrome\ then you’ll need to find the right place under there for it.
  • Restart Chrome

(Source: Chrome forum post, and some fiddling/experimentation)

UPDATE: As commenters have noted, unfortunately the relevant files may be in place only if you installed the Firefox plugin with FoxIt Reader — which may not offer to do so unless it detects Firefox is installed.

Flash crash

Is it just me who's having stability problems with Sometimes when I'm loading pages, it crashes the browser completely. Locks it up. It happens at home, on both my PCs, in both IE7 and Firefox on XP SP2, and appears to be linked to a video player Flash applet displayed on some pages, particularly at night and weekends when they appear not to have other content such as adverts to show.

Age crash

Oddly it doesn't occur at work, but it causes big problems at home. I've up

dated to the latest Flash plugin and that doesn't seem to help. I haven't found any other Flash applets that cause the issue.

I've put into IE's Restricted Sites list. That neatly zaps the use of plugins like Flash.

There appears to be no equivalent method in Firefox. Flashblock would do the job, but is a little like a sledgehammer to crack a nut. AdBlock Plus should do better.

Of course, none of this solves the root cause. I wonder if it's just me.


Byebye Google Browser Sync

If you've upgraded to Firefox 3 and are wondering when Google will update Browser Sync to work with it, you'd better find an alternative product.

Google has decided to dump the product.

It appears that for now, Mozilla's Weave might be the best substitute (though it's in beta at present). Or Foxmarks, though apparently it doesn't play well with the Web Developer Toolbar.


Firefox dictionary WTF (and FF3 is out)

Firefox typoFF WTF — is the AU English dictionary written by volunteers or something? How can it be missing so many basic words? It doesn't know reminds for instance?

Is this fixed in FF3 then?

I saw today is FF3 download day, world record, yadda yadda yadda and jumped over to download it. Bz

zt. 10am is too early here. Apparently it's all based around US time. Blargh.

Now it's well after 11pm AEST, and it's still not there. What time does this thing kick off? Even the Pledge bit doesn't work; keeps resetting the region dropdown every time I choose something.

No matter, a post in the forums on spreadfirefox has revealed where the FF3 download is: it's here.


Firefox ponderings

Is it just me who’s finding Firefox (on Windows XP) freezing way more than previous versions?’s used car search is a particularly notable crashing site; ditto NineMSN Video. Both are fine in IE6/7. But there are others too, and if I had to point to a pattern, it’s that many involve multimedia components on pages, such as during Flash video playback.

Ah, I see Firefox has just been issued. The main thing seems to be correcting a bug called “Crash in JavaScript garbage collector”… hopefully that fixes it. (Why does every update need the inline dictionary re-installed?)

By the way, anybody else notice how on Blogspot comment pages in FF (but not IE), it refreshes itself after loading, so if you’re quick at starting to type your comment, you have to start again? Annoying.