Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Foxy Rebuild, T-Bird Mods, and Rocket Swap

Rebuilding Firefox

All of the sudden my Firefox 2.0 build started acting kinda sluggish and was exhibiting unexpected behaviors.

It wasn't a memory issue...that has been stable for me. No, I was starting to have problems with the bookmarks. I couldn't delete them unless it was from within the Firefox Bookmark manager window. Grrr.

And then there has been that ever present problem in Firefox with it refusing to copy-paste sometimes. It is like the event action doesn't get handed off to the clipboard. I've been keeping the clipboard viewer open so I can monitor it and sometimes I can copy some text in Firefox but it doesn't show up on the clipboard. If I click in the clipboard viewer, then go back into Firefox and try again it works fine. Or if my keys get "funky" in a web form field, I can click in the clipboard viewer window and back in Firefox and everything goes back to normal. Weird.

So I decided to nuke my Firefox 2.0 install completely and rebuild it from (almost) scratch. I was feeling a fresh start might do some good.

  1. I used the bookmarks manager to export my bookmarks to an html file.

  2. I used Sage to export my RSS feeds to an opml file. (This really wasn't necessary as Sage is using a folder in my bookmarks for the feed lists, but I figured it would be smart.)

  3. I used my Linkzilla Add-on for Firefox to export a html file of all my installed themes and Add-ons. This way I could quickly restore them.

  4. I downloaded the latest version of Firefox and had it ready to go.

  5. I uninstalled Firefox from my system and rebooted.

  6. I ran the Firefox installer, but chose not to launch Firefox immediately.

  7. I went to Windows Start > Run and typed in the following command: firefox.exe -ProfileManager

  8. I created a whole new and fresh profile to use (my old ones were still untouched).

  9. Once I got it launched, I reinstalled all the extensions (24) and themes (2) again using my Linkzilla html file created in step 3.

  10. Finally, I had to make some custom setting changes to the about:config for my memory handling preferences for Firefox. Then I recustomized my toolbars. Done!

So far so good. My bookmarking issues have gone away and the copy/paste "thing" isn't as bad (but it is still present).

Not nearly as painful as it could have been.

I didn't save any cookies or passwords or forms or stuff like that. So it was a fresh start on all that.

FEBE - Where were you?

Then I found the FEBE (Firefox Extension Backup Extension) - This slick Add-on can back up extensions, themes as well as bookmarks, preferences, passwords, cookies, userChrome.css file, usernames and passwords, security certificates, search plugins, history, form fill history, and permissions. Wow.

It can also be set to run scheduled backups on your selected items. It is a Jim-Dandy little application and probably a "Must-Have" for any power firefox user. (screenshots)

Would have saved me some you know.

See also CLEO (Compact Library Extension Organizer) - bundles all your extensions up into a single xpi file you can use for reinstalls.

Fun Firefox Extension Finds

SearchLoad Options extension - Clears Search Box after "x" seconds, resets search engine to default after "x" seconds, sets preference for searches to auto-load in new tab.

MidnightFox - very dark/black theme for Firefox. I'm using it with my "Minefield" Nightly Firefox 3.0a2pre build so it can match my Zune desktop theme. I think it is a little too dark for daily use...but it does have a slick look to it.

Splash - adds a splash-screen to Mozilla apps as they launch. It is a nice touch and doesn't seem to delay the launch time. Works for Firefox, Sunbird, and Thunderbird (including betas). What else is cool is that the options allow you to change the splash image to almost anything you want! It's a very classy touch. And a commenter there reports that PNG alpha transparent image files can be used as well...slick.

T-Bird Mods

I use Mozilla's Thunderbird as my email client at home. I like it a lot, but there are times I'm digging for a calendar, like when Mom is planning a visit. I like Mozilla's Sunbird colander application a lot, but it just doesn't seem handy as a standalone application to me.

So I was reading CyberNet Technology News and got alerted to Mozilla's Lightning project, which basically integrates the Sunbird calendar into Thunderbird. Now we are talking! I've been using it for about a week now and really am finding it handy. I can't believe how wonderful it is! Lightning in Thunderbird makes calendaring events as I get notified via email a snap. And it allows for To-Do lists and Reminder alters as well. Handy!

FYI - We are still waiting on the Thunderbird 2.0 release. I haven't tried it (yet) but Thunderbird 2 Beta 1 is out. I'll probably switch on over when it gets to Beta 2 level. It looks to have some major changes incorporated.

Rocket Swaps

I've really loved the slick Apple Dock bar. So when I found RKLauncher (freeware) for Windows that mimics the Apple Dock bar, I thought I was in heaven. It supported PNG icon images for really fine quality. It is highly customizable, and runs smooth and fast. I've been using it on all my machines for quite a while now. And it is very stable.

But there was just one bad-habit of RKLauncher that I didn't feel comfortable about. Every time I would open up FileMon to see what disk activity was going on, RKLauncher.exe would be constantly popping up on the list accessing the hard-drive. Now, I can't say I ever saw my system performance impacted, but all those disk-reads were a little worrisome. I eventually tossed it off my work system, but kept it on my home desktop.

So I decided to take another look at the other Dock bar like application, RocketDock (freeware).

I had actually found this one first, before RKLauncher, but it was kinda sluggish in performance and the icons just didn't look quite as polished so I had adopted use of RKLauncher.

So I got the latest version and fired up Process Monitor and Process Explorer to compare them.

Wow. Punk Software's RocketDock has grown up!

First, it makes almost no disk requests in comparison to RKLauncher. It was like night and day! Next the icon support has been improved and I can now use high-quality icons and get smooth and sharp icon zooming. (The default ones are kinda plain, but get some high quality icons and you can see a real difference). It was very simple to configure and in about 20 minutes I had an exact match of RocketDock to my RKLauncher bar. As an added bonus, it supports dual-screen monitors and allows placement anywhere among them, including on the sides. The dual-monitor support is a feature that I didn't find in RKLauncher. Memory usage is about the same; low.

Now that's a rocket I think I can ride on, daily!



Michael said...

Claus - another great post. I had been using FEBE for some time but just recently added CLEO when I decided to try and make my Firefox at work look like my home version. This is a great way to sync all your Firefox extensions and themes on multiple computers as well as have a good backup for a re-install.

Good posting!

Claus said...


That's one of my biggest issues as well: Sync'ing of my "Work" Firefox and "Home" Firefox builds.

On my primary work machine there are a few more Add-on's I use, and my Sage (RSS) feeds and bookmarks are much more "business" focused.

At home, I have a few more "fun" Add-ons...and quite a few more bookmarks...that probably wouldn't pass the muster at work ;-)

But then I end up having issues when I want to refer to some business profile bookmarks/feeds that I want to blog about or monitor. Usually that means exporting a new bookmark.html file to keep on a Gmail draft for easy access.

It's a pain, but at least it's just two files. And Gmail makes it easy to access from work and home (or the backup copies I keep on USB stick)