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Firefox is Zapping my Happy Linux Buzz

| | Comments (24)

Confession: I've never been much of a Firefox fan, but I am very happy for its success and I use it a lot. I have to, because even though my favorite Web browser is Konqueror there are a lot of sites that it doesn't handle very well. Firefox takes pretty much whatever you throw at it and it comes up smiling. My job requires that I spend most of the day online, so Web browsers are big deals.

But it has some quirks that some days make me want to slap Firefox silly, like when it crashes and there are multiple Firefox windows open, all of them vanish. This is the sort of thing that makes me wonder if Firefox isn't just a little too Windows-happy.

Konqueror, like any good Linux application, behaves differently. When I have multiple Konqueror windows open and one of them crashes it doesn't take the rest of them down. With Firefox it's all or nothing. The newest Firefox update on my main PC is so unstable it's crashing and disappearing several times a day, and I'm having flashbacks to Windows.

I've been thoroughly spoiled by my various Linux PCs: I can open and close applications all day long, and surf the Web, and check email, and run various system and network administration commands, and install or remove apps, and run remote graphical desktops via VNC, and open NFS and Samba shares, and do all of this whenever I feel like it, and nothing bad happens. Unlike Windows which must be babied along, you can't have too many apps open, and you certainly don't open and close things all over the place without suffering the consequences. So when Firefox behaves like a frail Windows application it stands out like the weakling at a body-building convention.

Another amusing Firefox quirk is inconsistent Ctrl+T behavior. This is supposed to open a new tab. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

The Location Bar History has gone insane. On normal browsers you click the little arrow to see a drop-down menu of the most recent pages you have visited, in order. I love this. But Firefox horked it and now it shows old pages I haven't visited in ages, and recent entries are nowhere.

The Google toolbar does not automatically clear seaches. What the heck is that about? I just love having extra work because Firefox thinks I need it. Konqueror on Debian automatically clears entries in the Google bar, and if I want to repeat a search there is a nice dropdown menu with recent searches.

People rave about how great having huge thundering herds of plugins to use is such a wonderful thing, and it is. But there is no easy way to tell which ones are FOSS and which ones are proprietary, and I do get tired of wading through mass pages to try to figure that out.

Another thing that troubles me about Firefox extensions is they bypass your distribution's package manager. One of the great strengths of Linux is having trusted software repositories. We can install whatever we want and not have to worry that's it's some nasty piece of malware. I have cron jobs that run updaters every day. No worries, this isn't Windows where updates break your system as often as they fix it. But Firefox extensions operate far outside of this safety net, just like Windows applications. This is extra-scary in this shiny new era of Web threats and Web browsers being the dominant security worries.

Probably the next update will fix the instability. After all, the infamous Firefox memory leak is mostly fixed, though not completely, even though the devs were bothered by us silly users calling it a memory leak when they said it really wasn't, but something else that behaved like a memory leak, and how were they supposed to fix something when we weren't even right about defining the problem? Or it was a feature, depending on who was doing the explaining.

About the Firefox "memory leak"

http://kb.mozillazine.org/Reducing_memory_usage_%28Firefox%29 only mentions Windows users.

Calling a bug a feature is rather Windows-ish, is it not? At any rate the Web is a better place thanks to Firefox, and for that I give thanks.


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