Category Archives: Web Browsers

Firefox Thinks It’s Running an Older Version Than Last Time (But Isn’t!)

I finally upgraded to Fedora 30 today, and when I launched Firefox for the first time, it complained that I was running an older version than the last time I’d used it, and needed to create a new profile.

Using an older version of Firefox can corrupt bookmarks and browsing history already saved to an existing Firefox profile. To protect your information, create a new profile for this installation of Firefox.

Wait, what?

OK, Firefox did release two emergency updates yesterday. Maybe Fedora 29 got 67.0.4 and Fedora 30 got 67.0.3, and DNF decided it was important to downgrade to the Fedora 30-provided version?

No, both were still on 67.0.3. So what could be going on?

A quick search turmed up a Reddit thread on the problem that pointed me to the solution: Look for the compatibility.ini file in my Firefox profile, and delete the LastVersion line.

It worked! Firefox launched happily, with all my settings and everything.

I made a note of the version that was in there before, and the version that got placed when I launched it, and that cleared up what had caused the confusion.

Apparently, Fedora built the F30 package earlier in the day than the F29 package! 🤦‍♂️

Fedora 29: 67.0.3_20190619204842/20190619204842
Fedora 30: 67.0.3_20190619113000/20190619113000

So it was technically “older” … just not in any meaningful sense.

Mobile Firefox Frustrations

I’ve been using Firefox for Android as my main mobile browser for a few weeks now. There are a lot of things I like about it. It works well overall. Unlike Chrome, it supports extensions, so I can install (for instance) Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere. The share menu option includes the two most recent apps instead of just one. Things like that.

But there are a few things that I find incredibly frustrating:

  • PWAs aren’t as stable as Chrome.
  • Auto-fill is inconsistent and interacts badly with scrolling.
  • It’s slower than Chrome, though I’ve found that turning off web fonts helps a lot.
  • Private mode UI differs only by the color of the search bar, so whenever I use it, I have to double-check whether I’m actually in private mode or not.

Plus I miss a few Chrome UI features that just streamline common actions:

  • When clicking on the search bar, if you have a URL in the clipboard, Chrome offers to load that URL. (This is particularly helpful for opening email links in private mode.)
  • Auto-fill an entire address form at once
  • Clear the last X minutes of history

On the PWA front: These are packaged web applications that can be “installed” locally and used offline, powered by whichever web browser you used to install them. When I switched browsers, I also reinstalled the PWAs I was using on my phone and tablet, switching them from Chrome-powered to Firefox-powered. These amount to a couple of Mastodon instances and Twitter. (I don’t want to install the full Twitter app on my phone so I’ll be less tempted to get caught in infinite scroll.)

On Firefox, Mastodon’s PWA frequently logs me out. Every other day at least. Sometimes it stops being able to load any new statuses, and I have to close the app entirely and re-open it to get back to normal. (Fortunately that’s fast.) Twitter…well, it worked for a couple of days, then it got into a redirect loop where it kept switching between the regular UI and the login screen. I considered reinstalling it through Chrome, but finally decided I was better off without Twitter on my phone anyway.

Despite these issues, I’m going to stick with mobile Firefox for now. We’re entering another period of near-monopoly in web browser engines, and it’s important to keep a viable alternative going to ensure that the future of the web isn’t built on a single stakeholder’s goals.

Goodbye, Xmarks! (again)

I got an email from LastPass that they’re dropping Xmarks on May 1. Xmarks is a cross-browser bookmark sync service that I’ve used for a long time to keep Chrome, Firefox, IE, and Safari on multiple computers using the same set of bookmarks.

Once it’s gone I can still sync Firefox across devices, Chrome across devices, etc., but that doesn’t help with syncing Firefox, Chrome, etc. with each other.

That said, it’s been a bit flaky for a while:

  • Anytime I came back to a system without using it for a while, it would have trouble syncing and have to re-download everything.
  • Sometimes it gets confused by the different folder layouts.
  • Since Firefox dropped their old extension API, the new extension hasn’t worked well with my scheme that drops all cookies when I close the browser except those on sites I want to stay logged into.

Maybe someone will pick them up again, like when they planned to close down in 2010 but LastPass bought them and took it freemium. On the other hand, I’m not sure I would trust someone who wanted to buy them now. Maybe I should pull my data early.

Whatever the case: If you sync bookmarks across different browsers, what do you use? Would you recommend it?

Split Opera, Hold the Viking Helmets

Opera RingThe reporting is a bit confusing, but it looks like the Opera web browser has been sold to a Chinese consortium. The group wanted to buy the Norwegian company outright, but the bid failed, and they fell back to an alternate deal.

According to NewsWeb:

The following business units of Opera will be included in the Transaction:

· Mobile Browser, including Operator Co-brand solutions
· Desktop Browser
· Performance and Privacy Apps
· Opera’s technology licensing business outside of Opera TV
· Opera’s 29.09% ownership in the Chinese joint venture nHorizon

The Consumer Business will be reorganized into a separate company structure. For
clarity, the following businesses are not included in the Consumer Business or
the Transaction:

· Opera Mediaworks
· Opera Apps & Games (including Bemobi)
· Opera TV

It’s a shame to see Opera broken up and dispersed…but in a way, that already happened years ago. When they switched to WebKit in 2013, they lost what made them unique and (IMO) valuable: They’d been a solid third-party (well, fourth-party) that helped keep the web from collapsing back into a monopoly. Within a year the community portal was gone as well.

Since then I’ve only bothered with the desktop browser occasionally when I need to test multiple sessions at once. I used to keep a copy on my phone for times when I was stuck on a slow connection, but these days the cell network in my area is a lot faster. When it gets slow, it’s also unstable, so compression doesn’t help much.

VivaldiI think I will check out Vivaldi again, though. Founded in part by Opera co-founder Jon von Tetzchner, it started as a new home for the Opera community. When I first checked out their browser, it was a really rough preview, but it’s at 1.2 now. While it’s using Blink as the rendering engine, they seem to be trying to innovate through the UI instead, with a heavy emphasis on customizing everything.

(via Slashdot)

Don’t Hide Version Numbers

One of the problems with Mozilla’s plan to hide Firefox version numbers is that the replacement of “You’re running the latest version” only succeeds if people have confidence that the check is working. Speaking for myself, the last time I checked About:Firefox, I was convinced that it was broken until I verified that the update I was expecting was Mac-only, which was why it wasn’t showing up on Windows.

The biggest, of course, is breaking deeply ingrained user expectations (where to find the version number) for no real discernible benefit.