Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Firefox 4 Beta 4

Posted by Alan at 8:10 AM on September 1, 2010

Recently Mozilla released the Beta 4 version of Firefox 4.0.  Like all Firefox Betas in the past it will break your add-ons, but it also adds some REALLY cool new eye-candy.  The biggest additions are Panorama and Sync, but there’s also a slick new interface.

The first thing you’ll notice is the interface – specifically the toolbars.  It’s not vastly different and you won’t be lost, but it’s definitely different.  It’s cleaner and more modern and the tabs are in a different place.  It has a very “Windows 7-ish” type of interface.  I found the tabs being moved to a different location to be the toughest part to get used to.  At the far right of the tabs bar you will will find options to group your tabs and also to list all of your tabs.  If you work with lots of tabs, like I do, this is a great new feature.  The other toolbars are all there, just as you know them, but the icons are different and fewer.  That part will not slow anyone down and it really does look better.

(click picture to view full size)

The next thing you will notice is what Mozilla is calling “Panorama”.  It’s essentially a Window’s 7 type view that shows all of your opens tabs when you hover over the Firefox icon in your Window’s toolbar.  It sounds simple, and it is, but it is also very useful.  Once you hover over the icon then you will have to choose which tab you want to click on.

(click picture to view full size)

The last big feature in version 4 is called Sync.  You can actually download a Sync add-on for Firefox 3.5 and 3.6 here.  It allows you to encrypt and save your settings, bookmarks, passwords, and other cuntomizations so that you can not only restore them if you change computers, but also keep them the same across multiple PC’s and mobile devices.  You can set it up by clicking Tools and then Set Up Sync.

And that brings me to the add-ons.  As I said, Firefox betas frequently break these, but they are normally fixed quickly.  Sync is an obvious swipe at my favorite Firefox add-on, Xmarks, which has done all of this (except customizations) for a while now.  I set it up, but for now I consider it a backup solution in case Xmarks has a problem.  Until it’s been tested and retested I don’t want to trust my settings to it.  It’s an interesting feature though, and building it in to the browser puts Mozilla at the forefront, once again, in the browser battle.

As of this writing the Firefox add-on, Xmarks, has been updated to be compatible with 4.0, but most are still not there.

(click picture to view full size)

Despite the lack of support for add-ons, which, as I said, is common in Firefox betas, this latest version is worth checking out.  And, add-ons are coming quickly.  The interface, with its aero-glass look, plays nicely in Windows 7.  Sync is cool and Panorama makes it especially worth the download.  You may not want to put it on your production machine quite yet – not because of stability issues because there aren’t any that I can see – but, because of the add-ons that you may need.  If you don’t rely on those, though, then go for it.

(click picture to view full size)

Firefox’s Tab Candy Extension

Posted by susabelle at 6:30 AM on July 27, 2010

An Introduction to Firefox’s Tab Candy from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

I think I’m in love.  This is exactly what I’ve needed for a very long time.  I keep a lot of bookmarks, which are organized in folders, but I also tend to leave Firefox open for days and days with the tabs open that I need.  To be able to group tabs and create the groups I need to hold the things I need together…I’m just in awe.  Can’t wait for this to get out of Beta.

My only request?  Let me share those tabs and the tab candy in the cloud, so that I can access my tab candy’d stuff no matter what computer I’m using (since I float between at least four on a daily basis).  This would be totally awesome for me!

Microsoft Gets No Love From IBM

Posted by susabelle at 1:26 PM on July 2, 2010

“Firefox is now the gold standard for what an open, secure, and standards-compliant browser should be.”

So says Bob Sutor, vice president of Open Source and Linux at IBM.  The new default browser for half a million IBM employees worldwide is now Firefox.  All newly deployed computers at IBM offices will be set with Firefox as its default browser, and IBM has gone so far as to recommend that home and business customers it deals with use Firefox as well.   They are also encouraging vendors who may be supplying to IBM to be sure their products are Firefox-friendly.

As a Firefox zealot myself (I’m not just a lover of Firefox, I preach its gospel as well), I am happy to see this.  I’ve been using Firefox since almost the beginning, on every Windows or Apple-based machine I have any control over.  I have successfully dissuaded the parents, siblings, children, and spouses of same to leave the Internet Explorer foolishness behind and use Firefox exclusively.  The only time I use Internet Explorer at all is when I’m using our backwards and stodgy business systems at my job, and we are still on IE 7 with no plans to move forward anytime soon. (We were on IE 6 until about four months ago because newer versions are not compatible with our business systems.)

IBM is a huge player, and to make such a public statement says something about both Microsoft, and Firefox.  I am glad to see it, and hope more companies, especially big ones, will make the same move.

Firefox 64-bit Needed for Windows7 – NOW

Posted by J Powers at 1:17 AM on December 26, 2009

I remember when I decided to move to Firefox over Internet Explorer. IE6 was not cutting it and Mozilla was showing promise. Add to it all the security issues for some projects I was working on and the plugins to test code. I never thought I would move away from Firefox at that point.

Until Windows7 64-bit.

Everyone talked about how Firefox crashed, and in all reality, I didn’t see that problem. That was until I hit 64 bit mode. Firefox is still a 32 bit application, so I expected a few crashes during the inception.

Then the crashes started happening a little more than usual. I would be working – especially on a page that housed Flash – and the system would stop responding. I would restore what I was working on, but the same process would happen again within minutes. Just the other day I had the browser crash 6 times in an hour – halting my work every time.

Add to it the memory it starts to eat up. I pulled up Task Manager and watched how – while I was doing nothing in the program – the system was allocating more memory for it. Now you might think that it was because of Flash or a plugin I had installed, but I turned off all plugins and was on my homepage – which is a page I created with nothing but HTML links.

I decided to look for a 64 bit version of Firefox. One area said they are not even thinking of going 64 – at least not until version 4. I did find the alternate projects to FF 64. I installed a program called “Minefield”, which made me nervous to begin with. Who names a testing platform “Minefield”?

Alas, it wasn’t any better. I had no Adobe flash and it crashed within a few pages.

I don’t get it. It’s the only 32 bit program that crashes on a regular basis. I even tried compatibility mode, but the browser would still stop responding.

The big issue was the memory hog it became. I went to the about:config option to try and find a key that would limit or release memory. There was none that I could find. I might have overlooked it – anything is possible. But as far as I know, nothing to change how it works memory.

I didn’t think this would be a big issue for Mozilla. 64 bit OS has been around for a couple years now, and they have Firefox 64 for Linux and Mac users. But not for PCs

Therefore, for now I am using Chrome on the main system. Since the laptop is still 32 bit Windows XP, Firefox will be the browser of choice on that machine. It doesn’t crash there. I personally don’t like Chrome, but if I had to order the browsers I would use and like, it would be Firefox, Chrome, Opera, IE and then Safari.

Still, I implore Mozilla to get on the 64 Bit kick and get this browser out. I also want you to try and figure out why Firefox eats memory like a high scoring Pac-Man game. I like the plan of going to the ribbon style menu, but if it still causes crashes, I’ll have no choice but to switch off Firefox. After all, I cannot start working in a browser that might stop responding, especially if I am in the middle of writing a blog post.

Firefox 3.5 Mac Glitches

Posted by GNC at 6:48 AM on July 9, 2009

Mozilla Firefox 3.5 Release NotesI upgraded to Firefox 3.5 about a week ago.  To be honest I have been unimpressed.  I am sure that somehow there is better protection under the hood.  Perhaps even a slight speed increase.  However, I have found more problems than obvious cures.

  1. Upon opening it freezes if having trouble loading the home page for some reason.  The standard “X” in the corner is unresponsive along with the normal top menu. Leaving no choice but to force quit the application and relaunch.  It used to crash and relaunch itself at least.
  2. Firefox will sometimes hesitate and freeze while opening a new tab.  For instance, I have three tabs running and click a link to open in a new tab.  Generally, I keep reading the prior open tab’s article while the new tab finishes loading.  On occasion my current tab freezes not allowing me to scroll down.  It stays frozen until the other tab finishes rendering.  Not all of the time, just part of the time.
  3. Most recently it started to runaway with the processor.  I had one tab open on a very basic text only page.  There was nothing trying to auto-refresh on the page.  And yet it ran away with 80% of both cores.  Yikes.  Something in there went horribly wrong.  Once again a force quit and relaunch.

So as a whole, every day I eagerly await an update to this update.  Granted I am still a fan, just a bit frustrated not unlike when portions of my favorite highway go under construction.  I’ll be patient, but please hurry.

WebnoteHappy – Strange Name, Great Program

Posted by fogview at 4:27 PM on June 30, 2009

WebnoteHappy_128I’ve been using WebnoteHappy for the Mac for a few weeks and love it. I’m always surfing the Internet researching things and have tried various ways of capturing content on web pages that I visit and want to remember. The common way to do that is with your browser’s bookmark feature. I used that for a while but wasn’t happy with the results. In the Windows world I use a program called Azz Cardfile, that allows me to paste the contents of a web page or a link to the page in what looks like an electronic card file. I can then add notes about the site and click on the link within the card file to go back to the site in my browser. The notes are searchable too.

When I moved over to the Mac world, I missed Azz Cardfile, but I finally found something better from HappyApps.com. WebNoteHappy works with your browser to capture (bookmark) a link to a web page you find interesting. You can then add notes and other information and even search your links and notes and launch the web page in your browser. This program also allows you to create folders to help you organize what you find. You can even create Smart Folders where you set up rules to automatically move items into folders. All the links and notes are stored in a common library and only pointers are stored within the folders so items can reside in multiple folders. As an example, I have a Photographer folder with a Wish List subfolder. I also have Wish List folder under Gadgets and the program allows me to store the same item in both places (if it’s photography related).

WebnotHappy

When you install the program it places a “bookmarklet” in your browser’s toolbar. When you find a web page that you want to remember, just click the “Webnote It” bookmarklet, and it opens up WebNoteHappy and generates an entry. You can then type any notes you want about the site and even add tags.

The program sells for $24.95 USD and you can try it for 30 days before you buy it. There is also a free WebnoteHappy Lite program that works the same way except it doesn’t have folders to organize your bookmarks. The program works with both Firefox and Safari browsers.

I started out with the Lite version and moved up to the paid version because I found the program was a great time-saver for me. When I installed the paid version it found all the items I had saved in the Lite version and I didn’t loose a thing. After I upgraded to the paid version I had a few questions and received very fast response to my questions.

If you use a Mac and want to get a little more organized, give WebnoteHappy or WebnoteHappy Lite a try.

73’s, Tom

Intrusion Alert!

Posted by susabelle at 9:08 AM on June 1, 2009
Lightbulb Image

Lightbulb Image

I’ve spent a good amount of time this morning tracking down what I thought was a rumor about Microsoft forcing a .net add-on to Firefox.  Turns out the rumor was true.  And it’s not a pretty thing to contemplate.

Any Firefox user receiving a Microsoft update to either XP or Vista (and possibly Windows 7 but I cannot confirm this) in the last two weeks will have gotten this forced push, right into Firefox, and wouldn’t even have known it.  If you go to Tools > Add ons, you should see an entry for Microsoft .net Framework Assistant 1.0.  You will notice that you can disable it, but that the “uninstall” option is grayed out, meaning it is stuck there unless you do some fancy footwork to remove it.

This particular add-on is not something you want to have installed, in my opinion.  Upon installation, it provides a ClickOnce capability that pretty much lets Microsoft do what it wants when it comes to your browser, as well as opening you up to all kinds of other nasties out there, since we all know the .net Framework is riddled with bugs that are not always fixed as quickly as they should be.  The biggest security flaw with the ClickOnce install is that it allows easy installation of malicious software from websites, without your permission and knowledge.

Microsoft claims they were “helping” by providing a plug-in that “people were asking for.”  This is not something I would have asked for, and to be honest, I don’t trust Microsoft all that much to begin with so find this explanation a bit questionable.  One of the reasons I use Firefox instead of IE is the level of security Firefox offers, as well as an understanding that Firefox will continue to keep their product a safe alternative to less secure browsers.  For Microsoft to provide a “fix” I didn’t ask for is intrusive, at the least.

As of this morning, Microsoft will be sending out a patch to the patch which will make the add-on easy to uninstall, but if you just can’t wait to have this thing gone from your system, I located these instructions (the aforementioned fancy footwork).  I tested the removal steps and they do work.

  1. Open Registry Editor (type regedit in the Start menu Search box in Vista or in XP’s Run window).
  2. Expand the branches to the following key:
    • On 32-bit systems: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Mozilla \ Firefox \ Extensions
    • On x64 systems: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Wow6432Node \ Mozilla \ Firefox \ Extensions
  3. Delete the value named {20a82645-c095-46ed-80e3-08825760534b} from the right pane.
  4. Close the Registry Editor when you’re done.
  5. Open a new Firefox window, and in the address bar, type about:config and press Enter.
  6. Type microsoftdotnet in the Filter field to quickly find the general.useragent.extra.microsoftdotnet setting.
  7. Right-click general.useragent.extra.microsoftdotnet and select Reset.
  8. Restart Firefox.
  9. Open Windows Explorer, and navigate to %SYSTEMDRIVE%\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v3.5\Windows Presentation Foundation.
  10. Delete the DotNetAssistantExtension folder entirely.
  11. Open the Add-ons window in Firefox to confirm that the Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant extension has been removed.

Intrusive Behavior in Software

Posted by susabelle at 6:02 AM on May 28, 2009

yahooA couple of days ago, I received some pushed upgrades here at work that caused a few things not to work, among them, Yahoo Instant Messenger.  I use Messenger a lot, not only to communicate with my children and husband during the day (they are home and there are the inevitable “Mom, have you seen my soccer cleats/socks/glasses/notebook/library book” questions on a near-daily basis), but to communicate directly with two developers and one trainer that are working on a project with me.  Having YIM fail to load is not acceptable, so I did the first thing that made sense:  downloaded and installed the upgrade to YIM.  So now it loads and logs in and works, albeit with a much bigger screen footprint than it had before (one of the reasons I’d not upgraded previously).

However, even though I un-clicked the check-box asking me if I wanted to install the Yahoo Toolbar and set Yahoo as my home page, I am getting daily reminders from Yahoo, every time I open Firefox, asking me if it can turn on Yahoo Toolbar and set Yahoo as my home page.  I checked installed programs, and removed the Yahoo toolbar that it installed without my permission, and when I got the popup box in Firefox asking me if I wanted to turn on the toolbar and reset the home page, I checked NO and also marked the box that says “don’t ask this again.”   Yet, this morning I booted up, logged in, and guess what?  Yup, the little box comes up asking me if I want to turn on the Yahoo toolbar and blah blah blah.  And this is in addition to the daily popup I get when opening Firefox asking me to “update extensions” and the only one on the list is the Yahoo Toolbar, even though I do not have it installed on this machine.

Then there’s the ongoing thing with iTunes.  Every time I turn it on, or just randomly when it is running, it asks me if I want to install Safari and the “Mobile” something-0r-other.  I always say no, but it just keeps asking me, over and over and over.

This type of pushy, intrusive behavior on the part of the software is just flat-out annoying.  No means no.  Once I say no, that should be it, and I should never be asked again.  I’m still looking for a fix for the Yahoo toolbar/Yahoo home page thing that has only been occurring since I upgraded YIM on Tuesday, and hopefully I’ll find one.  I don’t believe there is any kind of fix for the iTunes issue.  If anyone knows of a fix for either of these (and no, I’m not giving up YIM or Firefox, sorry), I’d love to hear about it.  Feel free to leave me a comment!

Listen to Youtube

Posted by GNC at 3:50 PM on August 31, 2008

I like online videos but I don’t have time to watch as much as I like. At work I can listen to podcasts as much as I like until it is time to go home. I have yet to figure a way to watch videos while I work so audio only is for my situation. The difference between video and audio is video requires complete attention. Audio can be enjoyed while actually doing other tasks. Well there are tons of online videos that are not action based that I would like to hear just the audio. Interviews, standup comedy, etc are in video format but work just as well as audio only formats. A Firefox add on helps me with this is media convertor. I can download a video & convert it to mp3 format to go on my mp3 player. It is a two step process so it is simple enough for anyone to use. You can convert into many more formats so it is as versatile as you need it to be. Youtube is full of stuff that does not need to be seen to be enjoyed. Audio only stuff will always be a huge market for new media producers. People have to work so listening to audio is possible for them while videos at work are not always possible. Firefox is turning into one stop shopping for anything internet related.

What bugs will FF3 fix?

Posted by todd at 11:50 PM on June 12, 2008

Susabelle posted earlier today about the release of Firefox 3 next week. I am wondering whether Flash will work properly now and end my extreme frustration. Since at least January I have had the intermitent problem that many other firefox users have had where flash video will play for 2 seconds then stop. The only way to get out of this is to stop and start firefox and then things start working again. Very annoying when you have a lot of tabs open, so I have taken to killing the process so that I can use the auto recover feature to get back to exactly where I was. This all takes time though, often longer than the video clip I have been unable to watch.

I have also found that sites with flash embedded apps (Slashdot in particular) will sometimes slow ff down so much it needs to be killed which I think may be related. The issue I have with Firefox is that the problem has been around for nearly 6 months, it is prevelant and hardly a secret, yet there seems to be nobody from Mozilla or Adobe taking it seriously enough to work on it. If they are doing anything they are being awfully quiet about it. The problem apparently goes away if you downgrade to an earlier version of Flash 9, which tells me that it should be relatively easy to narrow down what causes the problem to the changes made between those versions, and back out whichever is the culprit.

Although they are not being blatent about it, there is a tone on the support forums that Adobe and Mozilla each believe it is the others problem. What should be happening is the two companies working together to fix this. Flash video is a very small part of my web browsing time so for me the issue has only been a mild annoyance so far. With a major update I am expecting this to be addressed however. What happens with this issue will be a big indicator as to the maturity of the Mozilla support model, which is a big factor in the corporate sector supporting use of firefox on corporate workstations.

If you are experiencing this issue yourself here are some helpful links

Mozillazine support forum thread 1
Mozillazine support forum thread 2
Mozillazine Knowledge Base article
Firefox support forum thread
Adobe support forum thread