Monday, September 01, 2008

NewsFox Auto Feed Load “Fixed”


I’ve been a NewsFox fan for some time now.

It’s a RSS reader for Firefox and it is fast and has a lot of features that helps me power through hundreds of feed articles a day in minutes.

For the past month or so however, I’ve been battling a nuisance with it; NewsFox would not auto-update my feeds at startup or according to the fresh schedule.

At first I thought it might be due to the fact that NoScript or some other feature was blocking it.  I added some custom strings in but that didn’t help.

Nobody seemed to be complaining and the constant march of new and beta updates of NewsFox didn’t seem to fix it.

Was it a bug? Was it just me?

Yesterday I went over to Forums and started poking around, with the thought I might finally ask if anyone else was seeing the same thing.

Turns out, Schleeb had beat me to it: Auto-Refresh and Refresh all feeds on Startup not working | NewsFox

Schleeb’s report sounded exactly like mine.

While waiting for a response, Schleeb hit upon the solution.

Sweet, I actually just figured it out. I'm pretty sure NewsFox must have recently changed in such a way that it looks at the "general.useragent.extra.firefox" variable, and if it doesn't see Firefox (as is the case in custom builds like I run) it wouldn't auto-refresh or refresh all feeds on startup. Once I manually changed that variable (which I shouldn't have to do) it started working again just fine.

I opened up “about:config" in my Firefox build and found the following value for that key;


I modified the value to Firefox/3.0.1 which I found seemed to be fairly "standard" after a bit of Google searching.

I then went back and relaunched NewsFox and it began auto-updating the feeds again like old-times!  Hurray!

Way to go Schleeb!  Brilliant catch!

Schleeb's forum post seemed to get a cool response at first, but I posted a "thanks...worked for me as well" response.

Then one of the NewsFox developers (wa84it) posted an additional followup that was more positive;

Beginning in 1.0.4 for browsers that set general.useragent.extra.firefox(eg Firefox and Flock types):

1) if the string contains 'fox/1', Firefox 1.x will be assumed.
2) if the string contains 'fox/2', Firefox 2.x equivalent(Flock based on Gecko <= 1.8) will be assumed.
3) otherwise it will be assumed the browser is capable of Firefox 3 type stuff.

Currently, it goes the other direction. It seems weird that Minefield and Gran Paradiso would set this preference, or if they do that it wouldn't contain Firefox somewhere within it(at least Flock does that). They've already set navigator.userAgent equal to Minefield or Gran Paradiso, why are they setting this pref at all? I don't understand why Flock sets it either, they should set general.useragent.vendor?

So, it looks like my problem (and Schleeb's) was that we were using Firefox "nightly" builds of Grand Paradiso and/or Minefield, and that Newsfox was behaving funny due to a check on the general.useragent.extra.firefox value.  It didn't like the entry found.

Curiously, it doesn't look like Newsfox is the only thing this value can impact.

Turns out that by tweaking this value to a more "standard" release version, you can cure some more bad-behavior.

So far making that tweak hasn't seemed to make any difference on other Firefox Minefield operations.  But I'm having to keep a closer eye open now.

This field seems to be some additional information which is added to the "user agent" control that indicates what browser Firefox is reporting as.  Among other things it is used by the Add-ons site to do a extension compatiblity check, so if you tweak it, don't tweak it too far off from your current version or you may get offered Add-on's that aren't really compatible with the Firefox version you are really running.

I'll be working my way through my other systems applying this tweak until Newsfox 1.0.4 is released.

In the meantime, if you have that same problem, you might try this tweak of Schleeb's.

Worked like a charm for me.  Wasn't a deal-breaker with NewsFox but certainly an annoyance.



Nathaniel said...

That's good. But... is there a way to get NewsFox to automatically fetch your feeds when you start Firefox and show you a little notification from the bottom of the screen like it does when you've opened NewsFox and it refreshes your feeds? That would be great for me, but as it is I have to open NewsFox to know what's up with my feeds...

Claus said...

@ Nathaniel - thanks for the kind wishes.

I think there may indeed be an easy solution to your question--if I am understanding it correctly.

Try this.

In Firefox (I'm using 3.x minefield builds but it shouldn't be a problem regardless of version) go to the menu bar and select "Tools" then "Options".

Click on the "Main" button at the top and find the "Home Page" line where you have your home-page URL listed.

Go to the end of that URL and then add the following after putting a space after it:

| chrome://newsfox/content/newsfox.xul

Note that I used a "|" or "pipe" symbol. On my keyboard it is the one over the enter-key and shares the "\" key. This will tell Firefox at program launch to open each URL in that line as separated with a "|" as a new tab in the current window.

So for example, my line at home looks like this: | chrome://newsfox/content/newsfox.xul

What this will do is to open NewsFox in 2nd tab on launch. If you want it to be the lead-tab, just swap the URLS between the "pipe" symbol.

If you have set NewsFox's to automatically update and look for new feed posts at launch it should work perfectly.

That's how I have mine set up.


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