Tag Archives: Firefox

Firefox is Still King When It Comes to Development

At home, I prefer Camino.  At work, I use Google Chrome.  I find both to be very pleasurable experiences.  But no browser out there comes even close to challenging Firefox when it comes to development.  

First of all, extensions such as Stylish and Firebug are invaluable.  In fact, scratch Firebug, the default Firefox error console alone is aces to me.

Is there anyone who can tell me why no browser besides Firefox has a “View Background Image” link even as an option? How come no other browser has developer friendly stuff? I know that the Web Inspector in Webkit browsers is really cool – I love Webkit – but ultimately, it’s Firefox I often resort to when I’m doing real work.

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Firefox: Like An Old Shoe

Opera Browser

Opera Browser

I’ve had a long and painful war with which browser to use on my Windows machine at work. Firefox has let me down many times before, and the Mozilla Firefox developers have disappointed me. So I switched to Opera, and it’s made me very happy. I have really learned to love Speed Dial, and user javascript is nice. I enjoy the built-in BitTorrent client, the fact that it runs all day without consuming a terabyte of virtual memory, and the fact that it’s about as standards compliant as it gets. But, I’ve had my share of problems with it — small problems that, for the most part, are tiny nitpicks that on most days wouldn’t bug me too much. But today, they got me.

First of all, sometime in the last few months, Gmail version 2 starting working in Opera. It’s frustrating enough that Google rarely support Opera, but in this case, by shooting Gmail the ?nobrowsercheck query string, things were functioning. In the last few weeks, though, that ceased working after about 5 minutes. Things would get stuck on “Still loading…” and I’d have to revert to the “old version.” Easy enough, albeit frustrating losing my “Quick Links.”

I’ve also noticed that the Flashblock component I have installed works so aggressively that about 50% of the time, I can’t actually properly authorize Flash I want to play. I will sit there clicking on the “Play” button over and over to no avail. This one has annoyed me time and again.

Somehow, over the last 30 days, something happened that made Opera crash on a semi-daily basis. At least twice a week, I get the Vista grey-out “This application is no longer responsive. Would you like to Close the App and check online for a solution, or just close the app?” Yeah, thanks. Except, it’s just Opera that’s been doing this.

I'm Back on Firefox

Firefox: Like an old shoe

As a web developer, this was maybe the killer item for me: for the last month, the “View Source” menu on any web page doesn’t work, or if it does, it’s once in 50 tries. I’ve adjusted the “view source” menu to point to the built in viewer, Programmer’s Notepad, and Windows Notepad. None work. Most of the time, I simply have to open Firefox.

Therefore, I find myself, today, back on Firefox. Like an old shoe, it just fits. Once I slapped on the CamiFox theme, I felt right at home. I imported my Opera bookmarks, updated my extensions, and it was very nice. Now I have a very capable Javascript console, Firebug, Stylish, and a host of other useful tools at my fingers. I’m very happy here 5 hours into the day and feeling comfortable with the choice. Yes, I’m still pissed that I can’t style my RSS, but then, I haven’t gotten around to tinkering with that via WordPress anyway. I’ll let you know how life in Firefox 3 turns out.

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The Equal Accessibility Paradox

Whilst reading Bruce Byfield’s “Divining from the Entrails of Ubuntu’s Gutsy Gibbon” today, I began pondering the evolution of Ubuntu. Ubuntu began live as Warty Warthog back in 2004, and rose quickly to fame. Its biggest selling point was that it was user friendly Linux, the best, most accessible Linux distribution to date. Now, just a few short years later, Ubuntu has truly conquered the Linux market with an estimated 30% of the field, and suddenly, there is some pushback.

I’ve seen a project take this path before, but project was Mozilla Firefox. The Firefox devs suddenly turned their back on their userbase in favor of catering to a wider audience. As a result, I – an obsessively dedicated Firefox user since at least Phoenix 0.2 – have sworn off the software completely.

Enter the “equal accessibility paradox.” I see this often with software projects especially, but it exists in all sorts of arenas, from websites to cell phones, cameras to iPods, from cars to TVs, even in restaurants and stores. The problem exists as such: you have two distinct groups of customers, one who prefers additional options or features even if it introduces complexity; and another, possibly larger, audience who prefers elegant simplicity at the expense of features. The goal is to provide everyone with the options and abilities they expect without overwhelming them. Can a new, non-savvy user control the product to do what they want equally as well as an advanced user can configure the product to do what he wants?

The problem comes from the fact that all too often, like with both Ubuntu and Firefox, you begin to favor one community over the other. I believe the Mozilla Foundation, at least in the provided example, unfortunately decided to cater to a wider audience by making decisions at the expense of its current users. They have made decisions that have cost them at least one user. Ubuntu, if the article is to be believed, has provided plenty of advanced options but over-simplified the non-advanced procedures. In short, if you aren’t a complete novice, you’re an expert. Thus the paradox takes shape: the gap between your two user groups becomes greater. Hopefully, along the way, you don’t so aggravate your most vigilant supporters so that they abandon you.

I’m positive I haven’t best expressed what I intended to say, but I think there’s a theory in there. As your userbase grows, the gap between your two user-types widens, and your target generally becomes one or the other.

As Apple grows and branches out from the Macintosh computer line, I can only hope they don’t cater to new users to a degree that forsakes the current users who kept them afloat for so long. As Microsoft has grown, they have taken more and more steps to frustrate the people who best support their products, so much so that my business now uses Linux on web servers and PHP for programming and I always recommend Macs and Linux to my friends and colleagues. As Firefox grew, I felt they left users like me behind. As Ubuntu grows, I hope they can control the divide before they find themselves head-to-head with the “equal accessibility paradox.”

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Take Three: Enter Opera

Using Flock was kind of a long shot. Flock is based on Gecko, like Firefox, which has given me a lot of problems. Flock served me well at first, but then starting gobbling up RAM. So, I’m pretty sure I’ve narrowed it down, for me, to XUL and extensions.

I’m not sure exactly what’s to blame for the specific problems I have: other programs on the computer? a single bad extension? I don’t know, but whatever it was, it was present in FF1.5, FF2, and Flock. And each had their own set of extensions installed. It’s not a core Gecko problem, because, as I showed before, Camino doesn’t have the same problem.

So, at the urging of Nate, who, I guess, also spends some time at his computer, I decided to go for a full time ride at Opera.

I don’t require THAT much from a computer: mainly, it has to be able to sustain my browser requirements. And those are tough, because I expect to be able to open 10-15 tabs and still have the browser function without (a) eating up greater than 200MB of RAM, (2) eating up > 10% of the CPU for more than a few seconds, and (third) locking up the browser or worse, the entire system. Enough use of Gmail, Flickr, or other AJAX apps and my Windows Gecko/XUL browsers toast themselves and everything around them. So I’m giving Opera a go.

The only crappy thing is that there’s no way to import form cookies, form history, cookie block list, ad-block filters, or history. And that sucks, because it’s going to take me a long time to rebuild that.

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Darn it! Something Bigger May Be Wrong Here

I switched to Flock, and you know what? I dig it! It’s really nice, and it’s got some great features to boot!

However – this is after a day’s work. Know what else slowly swallowed my RAM? Firefox.


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Goodbye, Firefox. Hello Flock.

Well, I’ve made the jump from Firefox to Flock. I’ve complained about Firefox for long enough, and a few days testing has shown that Flock will serve my needs just fine. I have a few observations though, so keep reading for the details.
Continue reading

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A Final Word on the Firefox Fiasco

So the Mozilla develpers – particularly the Firefox ones – appear to have adopted this stance:

We are going to bring the XML/RSS easy-subscribe feature to a new, wider group who isn’t demanding it yet, with no planned course of action for the people who are currently using it and came to rely upon it. Furthermore, we will leave them with no official way to reproduce the behavior which has been present now in our brower for years.

In short, when the Mozilla team mankes a decison, it’s final, and it appears that they are looking to expand their userbase, even at the expense of the most dedicated users now. So if you choose to have the search engine of your website return RSS for external apps but styled XML for a browser, turns out — you can’t.

It’s been days since I posted on this site about this; the goal was to make sure my new post was not overly dramatic. But here goes: I am now going to be suggesting that Windows users I support use IE7.

Why? Because IE7 is a nice upgrade. It supports most of the features that I think are necessary in a browser. Most people will never use AdBlock or any extensions at all, so that who construct is a non-starter. And it’s much more secure. Firefox, however, has notable memory leaks. IE7 uses far less memory when open for a long period. This is a FIREFOX issue, as you can see, Camino doesn’t have the same problems:

task manager
Firefox, open for ~8 hours

activity monitor
Camino, open for ~38 hours

Lastly, the IE team has done an AMAZING job at responding to their users. I’ve watched the IE blog, and I am really impressed with the level of communication and immersion the devs have. They are patient and appear to take an interested in their users.

The Firefox team, while mostly even tempered and polite, has pretty much given me the push off by suggesting that they know better than I do about how RSS is used in the real world, and therefore, decided that my website should work the way that /they/ want. In fact, they are SO sure of themselves, they won’t even provide me — the webmaster — a way to do what I used to do, even with extra steps. No, consistency is key – my wishes are second to a consistent web experience for someone who is new to the web (and likely won’t even know the term “RSS” until about 2009). Furthermore, the leader of the project himself, Asa Dotzler, posted a “slam” against me in the Firefox newsgroup that perfectly illustrates the point – the developers are missing the idea completely.

They are so focused on catering to the end user that they have decided that that the tech-savvy people, people who made Firefox successful in the first place, are no longer important. So unimportant that when they complain that the browser has changed its behaviors and things no longer work as they have for years, their only responses are “we aim for consistency and ease of use for the end user.”

If Firefox devs can *decide* one day that the trends of use are different than current use or even different than intended when a standard was written, and will make decisions that change the ways the browser behaves with very little notice or upgrade path, how can we invest ourselves in them by using the browser full time? Knowing they could pull the rug out from under us?

To address those who say that IE7 does the same thing, I have two responses:

1. IE /adds/ functionality to RSS. It’s less insulting when I can do things manipulate the data I couldn’t do before. It’s not my preference, but it’s at least a decent response.
2. Much more importantly, IE7 *IS* an aggregator. It will save posts, mark them read, allow you to filter them, track multiple feeds, etc. IE7 is a full feature RSS reader, and a full featured RSS reader can remove style. Firefox just wants to style a feed its own way.

So, am I blowing off Firefox completely? I’m not sure. No doubt I am invested in FF, from both a data standpoint (all my cookies, usernames, passwords, etc) , but also from a user standpoint. I’ve been using it for over 5 years, and it’s home to me. But it certainly looks like the day of switching (probably to Opera) is coming soon.

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More on Firefox

It’s not constructive to constantly rant with no action. So rather than just bitch and moan, I decided to give the Firefox devs the benefit of the doubt and move my complaints to their USENET group as requested.

Here’s the thread. I got a fairly nice response from one of the devs, and then two slightly shorter responses, including one that appears to do nothing more than suggest that since the way I style my feed sucks, it’s pointless to allow people to style threads.

One guy has a great point – if Firefox’s default style didn’t suck, would everyone be happier? Sheesh, hadn’t though about that, but you know what?? I admit, maybe I would be less upset.

I still think the browser behavior is bad, but if they’re going to intercept, at least do it with the same style Microsoft does with IE7.

I have to say, I’m fairly pleased with the Firefox guys’ responses. For a group that probably has to put up with plenty of people bitching about their bugs of choice, they have been pretty civil and well thought out in their responses.

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You’re Killing Me, Firefox

As I’ve said before, I’ve been a user of Firefox (albeit, by different names), since 0.2 (possibly 0.1). I’ve learned to love it. I love my core extensions, I love the tabs and the general feel. I have really enjoyed using Firefox.

As I’ve also detailed before, I have some problems with Firefox. In particular, a certain Firefox bug has pissed me off so much, not because of the bug, but rather, the fact that the Mozilla devs appear/appeared to be perfectly content with their decision, despite the arguments. I have blown off Firefox at home for the also-Gecko-based Camino. I am seriously considering blowing off Firefox at work for Opera.

But this is the real reason. It’s not just their XML arrogance. It’s this: Firefox is a mess when it comes to memory.

Click on the image for a full size view

Let’s break it down: Firefox allows developers to write extensions that utilize XUL, which means memory leaks could come from poorly written extensions. But as a user, my response is: I don’t care. If writing extensions can cause a WEB BROWSER to eat up over 1/2GB of memory, you’ve got a problem! Fix chrome! Fix XUL! Limit what the extensions can do! Otherwise, someone is going to release “Trusted Firefox,” or worse, offshoot Firefox to something simpler, something that is to Firefox what Firefox was to Seamonkey.

Camino, which doesn’t use XUL by the way, is much less featureful – sometimes annoyingly so, but guess what – it can runs for weeks without so much as a burp. This is Firefox after less than 24 hours with 6 tabs open, and the last 15 hours were of complete inactivity (overnight, while I was home).

I suspect this could be AJAX related (Gmail is always one tab). But since Firefox is my gateway to the web, it’s responsible for making sure the web plays nice through that window and correcting any behavior that makes it unhappy. And frankly, lately, it’s letting me down.

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Firefox 2 is RSS Stupid

I’ve used Firefox since at least 2002 when it was “Phoenix 0.2.” The internet trail proves it. I *think* I used Phoenix 0.1. Either way, I’ve been on the Firefox bandwagon since the very beginning – actually before it – since I used Mozilla on Linux even earlier when it was in the 0.9x days. So it really burns me to say that I’m VERY disappointed in the Firefox devs. They have intentionally deprecated an XML convention called “xml-stylesheet” by ignoring it alltogether and overriding what developers put in their code. I believe that RSS/XML is BROKEN in Firefox 2, no matter what anyone says.

This is the bug, check it out and please vote for it.

Update: 17 minutes after I added my comment, the bug was re-opened. Thanks, Jake Olefsky!

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