Sunday, February 24, 2008

More Firefox (Minefield/FF3 beta) Tips, Mostly

As my regular readers may remember, I have Firefox loaded up on multiple systems at our home; on the main desktop system as well as both laptops.

Generally I still keep them all "sync'ed" by exporting the bookmarks file to a USB stick and "importing" it back to the system I am using.  I'm usually able to keep it all straight in my mind and the girls don't use bookmarks much at all, so I haven't overwritten anyone (well, not that I know of).

Last weekend, I did a MAJOR cleanup and reorganization of my bookmarks/folders in Minefield (Firefox 3.0 nightlies).  I've been using Minefield/Firefox 3.0 as my primary Firefox browser now that most all of the bugs in Places (the bookmarking system) have been worked out.  I REALLY like Firefox 3.0 now.  Wowzers.  Page rendering is awesome.

Download Firefox 3 Beta 3

Download Firefox "Minefield" - cutting-edge nightly builds of Firefox 3 - for brave idiots only.

Only when I went to do my usual plan of importing the bookmarks from the Vista laptop Minefield build into the desktop Minefield build, it completely blew out Places/bookmarking on my desktop system.  Weird.

I eventually was able to finally get it semi-working, but ended up completely blowing away my previous installation of Minefield and my Minefield associated user profile.  I rebuilt it from scratch.

In doing so I learned some helpful tips.

Extension/Add-on Handling Tip: Bypassing Compatibility & Security checks

More and more Mozilla extension "Add-ons" are being updated to releases compatible with Firefox 3.0(betas).  This generally means great compatibility with Minefield as well.

However, if you are running Minefield versions, just because the Add-on says it is compatible with Firefox 3.0beta3 doesn't mean it will install in the Nightlies.

To suppress the warning that appears when you attempt to use an extension that does not support "secure updates" (new Firefox 3.0 feature), do the following:

  • Type about:config into Firefox's address bar and click the "I'll be careful, I promise!" button.
  • Right-click anywhere. Choose New>Boolean. Make the name of your new config value extensions.checkCompatibility and set it to false.
  • Make another new boolean pair called extensions.checkUpdateSecurity and set the value to false.
  • Restart Firefox.

There you go!   

(tip via Lifehacker's post Firefox 3 Beta: Make Your Extensions Work with the Firefox 3 Beta)

See also this related article: Updating add-ons - MozillaZine Knowledge Base

Once you do this, you may need to use and run the Nightly Tester Tools Add-on to force compatibility on some of the extensions.  You may still see some warnings on associated Add-ons, but they should still work as intended.

Download Statusbar Add-on - Just for Nightly testers

I really like the changes to the Download Manager in Firefox 3.  However, I've been a big fan of the Download Statusbar Firefox Add-on for a long time.  It just doesn't seem natural to not see it going.

So when I installed it in Minefield, it just didn't work like I had expected.

I did a bit of digging and found the developer does have a special version (0.9.6.1) just for the nightly Minefield users.

Get it from this page.

More Firefox 3.0 Anti-Malware website blocking fallout

I'm still not satisfied after having gone through the work on my battle with Firefox 3's security blocking mechanism.

Firefox 3 Security Blocker: Going In Deep

I understand it.  I agree with it.  I still want a method to pass through to a blocked site (even if it must first be enabled in about:config to keep average users away from it) without having to disable the "suspected attack site" option in it's entirety.

(By the way, ScanWith.com is now no longer being blocked in Firefox 3 any more.  Mischief managed?)

I haven't see this become more of a pubic issue yet, but I think it very well might at more users move to Firefox 3 and encounter the behavior.

Techworld picked it up and determined that the Firebug add-on is the only one of 27 Mozilla "Recommended Add-ons" that is being blocked by Firefox 3.0 at this time. 

Techworld.com - Popular website falls foul of Firefox 3.0

The main Firebug developer's page hosted at joehewitt.com remains blocked. However you can still get to Firebug via this site, Firebug :: Firefox Add-ons or this one Firebug - Web Development Evolved.

Funny.

Firefox Crash Reporting

I've been crashing Firefox (Minefield) a lot more often lately than used to.

I suspect it is something to do with NewsFox and Minefield.  Seems that it is safest to just let Newsfox run in the background and keep running by itself until all the new feeds have been identified.  If I switch to a new tab and continue browsing, sometimes I crash Minefield.

I also had to reapply many of my NewsFox tweaks in my new Minefield profile.  However the latest version of NewsFox brings many of the options into the GUI Options settings in NewsFox so fewer about:config tweaks are required.

I mention this as I am now seeing the new Mozilla crash-reporting tool.  As a good Firefox citizen I make it a habit of sending on the crash data to Mozilla.  Way I see it, this is my little way of maybe helping out the development and fine-tuning of an awesome product.

Two Important Backup Tips

One lesson I learned through this experience is how to correctly back up and restore my Places bookmarks as well as my NewsFox feed list.

Minefield (Firefox 3) actually has two ways to manage the bookmarks.

On the menu bar to go "Bookmarks" > "Show All Bookmarks"

This will bring up the boomarks/Places management window called "Library".

Notice the "Import and Backup" menu-bar item.

The "Import" and "Export" options allow to you bring a html formatted bookmark file into your current bookmark structure.  Exporting sends your bookmarks out in a html formatted file.  This is useful if you wish to use them in another browser or application.

The real power-toys come in with the second set of options; "Backup" and "Restore".

Use the "Backup" option to create a snap-shot record of your entire Places/bookmark structure.  It will be saved (by default) with the current date in the filename.

If you ever want to revert your Firefox 3.0 bookmarks completely to a prior version, then use the "Restore" feature and point to the location where you saved this manual backup.  (Note: Firefox also seems to perform automatic bookmark library backups as well and you could use one of these also.)

What the restore does is to replace ALL the current bookmarks with the backup set.  It is a complete swap, so you don't have to do any rearranging and deleting of the old ones for the new ones like you would if you used the "Import" feature.

Darn handy!

So now, in my case as I move the bookmarks file between various systems, I always use the "Backup" and "Restore" options from within Firefox 3 instead of manually copying/pasting the profile's bookmark .html file(s).  That is what got me into trouble I believe with one of the newest nightly releases and led to my rebuild of Minefield/profile.

In contrast, making and restoring a backup copy of your NewsFox feeds couldn't be simpler.

Click the little gear looking icon to display the options for NewsFox.

Choose "Export OMPL" and pick the location of your backup file placement.

To restore, just choose the "Import OMPL" > "Start Fresh"  > "from file".  Browse to where your exported OMPL file is and bring it back in.

Using this method you get a full and clean replace of your NewsFox feeds.

Sweet.

NoScript and YouTube (and then some).

I'm a BIG fan of the Firefox Add-on NoScript.  It blocks all JavaScript and other XXS attacks.  Then you can enable scripts on a targeted basis permanently or temporarily depending on your needs.  I'm not comfortable doing any browsing without them.

However, I noticed that in Minefield I wasn't able to see any embedded YouTube videos on any websites.  No matter what I enabled and allowed in NoScript.

I finally got it solved.  Here's how.

I read through all the NoScript release threads in MozillaZine Forums for previous NoScript versions and up to through the current one.

I found the tip about adding "ytimg.com" to the NoScript whitelist and put that in (YouTube scripts now do a call to that web-domain so it must be allowed). Restarted. Nope. YouTube videos still not appearing. Yes, Flash was at the latest version.

I also tried toggling the noscript.forbidActiveContentParentTrustCheck about:config preference to false as found as a suggesting.

Still nothing.

So I disabled NoScript entirely in my Add-ons. Restarted Minefield. Still not getting them.

Just for kicks I installed the latest (beta) version of NoScript (1.4.4) to no improvement.

Hmmm.

So I closed out Minefield and popped over to my parallel Firefox 2.0.0.12 build which has an almost identical setup of extensions/settings. YouTube videos displayed just fine. NoScript settings were identical between the Minefield and Firefox 2.x.

At this point I began thinking that maybe NoScript wasn't responsible for the issue I was seeing after all.

So I went back to Minefield and started considering the extensions I have installed (some not yet "officially" supporting Minefield).

The only one I could find that might have an impact was Adblock. So I disabled it. Restarted Minefield. Nope.

Then I uninstalled it completely.

Voilla! YouTubes videos were displaying in pages correctly again!

Hurrah!

I ended up switching to Adblock Plus instead (which is way better anyway) in Minefield/Firefox 3 and (along with NoScript) everything is working great and the YouTube embeds are working as well.

My fault for "tweaking" unsupported extensions to work with Minefield. In most cases I've gotten away fine with it, but this time.....

So if anyone else has read all the tips and still can't get YouTube videos to display in Minefield/Firefox 3, AND is running NoScript (and has added ytimg.com to the whitelist), AND has installed the Adblock add-on, well, try uninstalling Adblock and switching to Adblock Plus.

Cheers!

--Claus

3 comments:

AJ said...

Hi Claus !!!!I am also impressed with Minefield's great features. However, I request you to please help me find the solutions to these problems. 1. In my home PC, minefield is doing great but I got some problems like the urlbar auto fill always being disabled, despite the "about:config" setting. 2.Inability to make replace my url bar search engine from Open DNS to Google despite the "about:config" adjustment; 3. Image thumbnails dont appear on some Image sites like Picasa and Webshots. In Multiply, there's no problem. Do I have to delete some registry entries? Uninstall and re install? For my home PC, I dont have problems like these when Im using Chrome, Safari, Opera, Netscape etc.

Thanks for the help in advance and for your time.

Minefield Fanatic/Blogger
AJ Ocampo
ocampoiii@gmail.com
Cebu City, Philippines

Claus said...

@ AJ - From the various issues you have described, it seems to me that you might have a "corrupted" Firefox user profile.

There have been a number of times (not many but it happens) where your user-profile for Firefox can get crossed up and lead to weird behavior in the browser.

If you do a regular "install/reinstall" of any of the Firefox builds, they will all attempt to use information from the same user profile. If you are using Minefield/nightly developer builds that can mess things up with the profile store as well.

Options?

1) First I would try to download and "install" a version of PortableApps Firefox: Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition 3.1 Beta 1 I recommend this one as though it is not a "Minefield" version, it is close. This will no-install and use a standard "default" profile and bypass what you have currently have installed as far as Firefox. If the sites/problems you are having go away using this one instead than it is not a Registry issue but likely a profile issue as I have described.

2) If the profile indeed is the issue, then look at this article: Creating a new default profile and either first save your existing profile folder to another name/location and create a new one, or just start fresh. Note you may loose your bookmarks, add-ons, etc and will have to recreate them, so be sure to at least export/back up your bookmarks first!

Cheers!

--Claus V.

neocoder said...

Thanks for this tip. It's very useful for people like myself who are developing for WebGL in firefox, who need firebug in the nightlies.