Sunday, May 10, 2009

Firefox and Chrom(ium) News

First the Fox

Alex Faaborg - » Thinking about Refreshing the Firefox Icon – Alex Faaborg.  Alex begins to opine on the need to refresh the Firefox icon. Firefox has made some changes over the years on their icon and I’ve got mixed feelings on an iconic icon reboot.

Multi-processor support coming for Firefox – Mozilla Links blog.  From Percy Cabello’s post:

Mozilla has started a new project to make Firefox split in several processes at a time: one running the main user interface (chrome), and another or several others running the web content in each tab. Like Chrome or Internet Explorer 8 which have implemented this behavior to some degree, the main benefit would be the increase of stability: a single tab crash would not take down the whole session with it, as well as performance improvements in multiprocessor systems that are progressively becoming the norm.

The title is a bit misleading.  Firefox already runs just fine on multi-processors, and is in fact, multi-threaded as well.

What the MozillaWiki section on this feature build-in actually seems to describe is to run the chrome (GUI) element in it’s own process, and the tab content in a different process.  Then the feature would be expanded to have each tab operate in it’s own process; similar to Chrome as well as IE 8.  And eventually getting to the point of sandboxing each tab/process from each other.  As I understand it, this is a pretty complicated process.

Also, Mr. Cabello mentions that Mozilla developers might shed their current networking stack design and pick up the one in use by Chromium.

So it seems we won’t see a multiprocess Firefox for at least a year or so. However, some decisions like taking Chromium’s networking stack to replace Necko, could accelerate the process. As you may know, Chromium is the open source version of Google’s Chrome.

This consideration on merging platform elements is an interesting development as well.


Did you miss the NoScriptAdblock Plus stealth-war going on over the past few weeks?

I use both of these Firefox add-ons and I sure did.

NoScript Developer Apologizes For Meddling With AdBlock – InformationWeek

NoScript - AdBlock War Finds Closure… For Now – Information Week

Basically it’s like this:  AdBlock is designed to block ads for Firefox users.  NoScript is designed to block/control javascript and other page-load actions for Firefox users.  I, like many, use both and swear by both.  No Script is supported in part by GoogleAds.  AdBlock would block those ads.  The developer of NoScript programmed his extension to “white-list” those ads on his site by impacting the other extension AdBlock plus.  As changes were made by AdBlock plus to get around those efforts, NoScript escalated its attempts as well.

Eventually Giorgio Maone got called out and the whole thing turned public, shortly after he attempted to make amends and back off the whole bull-ride he found himself on.

Mr. Maone clarified his actions, intentions, and offered a surprisingly detailed and humble (IMHO) apology on his blogsite: » Dear Adblock Plus and NoScript Users, Dear Mozilla Community

Good enough for me as I didn’t really know there was an issue to begin with.  And I appreciate Mr. Maone’s repentance.

Granted, he’s got some major trust-rebuilding to do with the community at large, but I think everyone will come out of this much wiser and more focused than before…or at least I hope so.

Then the Chrome

Rather than using the installed version of Google Chrome, I much prefer to use the developer releases called Chromium.

I use a portable-wrapper for it created by Carsten “caschy” Knobloch which is an Auto-It scripted launcher.

I’ve been doing this for some time, but recently it seems to have been generating a page-memory fault error (BSOD)on my Vista system when I shut down after usage.  Or at least that has been the pattern.

So I was pleased to find that he has released some updated versions of his portable package: Portable Google Chrome or Portable Google Chrome  You can also find a mid-release version on Softpedia.

For the most current place to find updates you might want to keep a RSS feed on his Planet Chrome site.  It’s much thinner on content, but provides the update release information you should be looking for.

I “upgraded” to his version and haven’t had any more BSOD so although it was weird either the update in the launcher package, fixes in the Chromium builds, or the combo seems to have resolved the issue.  It never happened on my XP systems…just Vista.

Another “plus” is that he has created two separate Chrome launchers in his package. One launches Chrome regularly while the other (when used) launches Chrome in it’s “private-browsing” mode.

Maintaining things is very simple.  Get started by downloading and unpacking one of the portable Chrome packages noted above.

Then I use Dirhael’s (portable) Chromium Nightly Updater. Just download and unpack it as well.  I keep mine (a single exe) in the same folder as the Chromium launcher.  I run this tool which looks for the latest (good) nightly developer build of Chromium and then click the “download” button.  It opens up my default system browser and I save the zip package to my system.  I unpack that and then copy the appropriate materials over the corresponding portable Chrome folder.  Done.

I’ll get around to making a visual how-to post eventually but that should be enough to walk the hard-core fans through.

Of course, I would be remiss if I don’t also bring your attention to SRWare’s Iron version build based on Chrome.

Iron has been specially tweaked to remove all the elements that present privacy of usage concerns.  There are a number of features that cause browser-unique information on usage to be tracked back to the end user.  Iron removes these elements providing a more private-browsing experience.

This is not to say that Iron provides anonymous web-browsing like some TOR/Proxy-based browser builds.  It does not “anonomyze” web-surfing (IP) data source requests.  It only removes those bits that could tie a particular browser to the user based on internal ID’s and other elements.

I’ve now probably muddled that up now, so please just hop over to SRWare’s Chrome vs Iron page and see the details.  It will take just a sec.

Also nice, SRWare provides Iron in both a Installer for XP,Vista as well as a portable version.

However, you shouldn’t likely dump nightly update versions of builds into Iron the same way I outlined for the first portable Chrome package as you will almost assuredly overwrite the privacy tweaks/changes done in Iron.

I suppose you could make the changes manually again yourself, but that’s a bunch of work.

If you really are into finding a balance between a privacy-supported Chrome and the bleeding-edge Chromium builds, just go with the portable versions of both, and use each one according to your browsing needs.

Happy Surfing!

--Claus V.

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