Moving back to Mozilla Firefox

Mozilla Firefox with Quantum Dark theme

Back in the days following the browser wars, there was a new browser that rose from the ashes of Netscape: Mozilla Firefox. I was a massive fan when it first launched. I literally bought the t-shirt. And the umbrella.

But like many, sometime after Firefox 3 or 3.5, I was seduced by the simplicity of Google Chrome and I made the switch.

Recently, however, I have become more aware of and concerned about security and privacy, two things that Mozilla have really been putting in the effort to improve in Firefox over the last few years. I’ve also grown more cynical about Google after they removed their “do no evil” clause from their code of conduct in 2018.

This is obviously an opinionated piece, but Mozilla does provide quite a nice comparison of various features of seven of the most popular browsers currently.

So, this week, after 12 years using Chrome almost exclusively, I made the switch back to Mozilla Firefox. From Firefx v3.5 to v89.

I imported my bookmarks from Google Chrome, logged into Firefox on my Android phone and initiated a synchronised relationship between the two. I have installed my favourite plugins/add-ons and have this gorgeous Quantum Dark theme.

I’m going to give it a go for the next month and see how I get on.

So far, I am really impressed.

Observations

Friday 18 June 2021

I thought I would update this post with any observations that I have during this experiment.

I miss the ability to natively group tabs the way that you can now in Google Chrome. I used that a lot to keep certain collections of tabs together.

I also don’t like the way that Firefox renders Gmail—the internal scrollbars are very intrusive. I spent a little while today trying to restyle them using the Stylish plugin but to no avail.

In terms of speed, rendering pages, and general usability: no problems at all. I actually prefer the tabs in Firefox, and I prefer how it displays when you rip off a tab and move it another monitor.

I am getting used to the inspect source code (developer tools) option not being right at the bottom of the context menu in Firefox, as it is in Chrome.

I miss the JoinTabs plugin in Chrome but I found one with a similar functionality (Merge all windows) which works via the right-click context menu rather than a standalone button on the toolbar.

The experiment continues…

Kiwi for Gmail—initial impressions

For the last few years, I’ve been faithfully using eM Client as my preferred way of accessing my Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts. But this past weekend—having vowed to myself that during 2018 I wouldn’t change any of my productivity tools and instead just focus on getting stuff done—I made the switch to Kiwi for Gmail 2.0 and I have to say that I’m delighted.

Gmail as a native, windowed desktop app... kinda
Gmail as a native, windowed desktop app… kinda

Move away from eM Client

Since Google upgraded their calendar to Material Design I’ve been hugely impressed and have found myself using it almost as much as eM Client’s API view of the calendar. I now prefer the default web app view more than the desktop client.

Similarly, I’ve also found myself using the Gmail webapp almost as much as eM Client, find it to be a little quicker but also feeling that I should get to know the web interface more because it’s the default view.

But what really tipped me over the edge towards moving away from eM Client is how long it takes to open Google Contacts.

Move towards Kiwi for Gmail

I had used Kiwi for Gmail before, but version 2.0 seems to have been a cosmic leap forward compared with what I remembered of the first iteration.

Kiwi for Gmail appears to be a wrapper application that quickly—very quickly—loads the default Google web apps, with a little magic thrown in for good measure.

One of the most immediate is that I now have immediate access to five different Gmail accounts, without the need to log out of one before checking the other.

(This feature is only available in the paid-for version, which is currently on special offer for free with the code: WikiForFree.)

I now have immediate access to five Gmail accounts
I now have immediate access to five Gmail accounts

I’m really looking forward to Gmail getting the Material Design treatment. This will take Kiwi for Gmail to another level.

In the meantime, I’m going to see how I get on with Kiwi for Gmail. But for what it does, I can’t see myself going back to eM Client any time soon. I’ll try to remember to report back after a few months to give an update on how this experience is going.

Writing to the Google Chrome console from PHP

Chrome Logger is a Google Chrome extension for debugging server side applications in the Chrome console.
Chrome Logger is a Google Chrome extension for debugging server side applications in the Chrome console.

This afternoon I finally got round to figuring out why my workaround for changing the Divi projects custom post type to anything you want had broken in Divi 2.5.

In the end it was deceptively simple. I’d set the priority values for the add_action($hook, $function_to_add, $priority) and remove_action($hook, $function_to_add, $priority) functions too low.

WordPress uses the priority value to determine in which order particular actions are run. The default value is 10. The higher the value, the later it will be executed.

While I was investigating this, it crossed my mind that it would be really useful if I could write values to the Google Chrome console in the same way that you can when writing and debugging JavaScript.

It turns out you can, using Chrome Logger plus the ChromePhp library.

With the Chrome Logger extension installed and enabled on the tab I wanted to write to, all I had to do was include the library and log some data. Like this:

<?php
    include 'ChromePhp.php';
    ChromePhp::log('Hello console!');
    ChromePhp::log($_SERVER);
    ChromePhp::warn('something went wrong!');
?>

Very useful. And as well as a library for PHP there are also libraries for

  • ColdFusion
  • Go
  • Java
  • .NET
  • Node.js
  • Perl
  • Python
  • Ruby

You can find details on the Chrome Logger website.

 

Software removal tool fixed my problem with Chrome running slowly

Progress cursor shows an egg-timer next to a pointer
They call this progress…?

Me and Google Chrome had another falling out this week. This time it wasn’t about bookmarks but speed.

For some reason, over the last couple of days Google Chrome suddenly felt very sluggish. Whenever I opened a new tab it would take a few seconds to open and a few more to load the page—notably longer than usual.

And a similar experience after closing a tab: the cursor would change to the ‘progress’ cursor (arrow with egg-timer) for a few seconds.

Having put up with it for a couple of days I couldn’t stand it any longer.

Things I tried that didn’t fix it

  1. Running system file checker (sfc /scannow) from an elevated command prompt.
  2. Disable all extensions (chrome://extensions/).
  3. Disable all plugins (chrome://plugins).
  4. Disable hardware acceleration in settings.
  5. Uninstall Chrome, reinstall dev channel version.
  6. Uninstall other recently-installed applications.
  7. Run Malwarebytes scan (0 threats found).

One forum suggested installing the latest NVIDIA graphics card drivers. Another pondered whether it was related to the recent Windows update. Plenty of people advised switching off hardware acceleration (I’d tried that, it didn’t help).

What I tried that did

The Chrome software removal tool — still currently in beta — is a clever application that scans and removes any software that may cause problems with Google Chrome.

This application will scan and remove software that may cause problems with Chrome, such as crashes, unusual startup pages or toolbars, unexpected ads you can't get rid of, or otherwise changing your browsing experience.
This application will scan and remove software that may cause problems with Chrome, such as crashes, unusual startup pages or toolbars, unexpected ads you can’t get rid of, or otherwise changing your browsing experience.

I ran it. I waited, and hoped, and it worked! I have my whizzy Chrome back. I guess that something was corrupted.

As well as scanning for typical malware that can corrupt your installation of Google Chrome it also kindly offers to perform a ‘factory reset’ and return your browser settings to defaults.

In a way I find it curious that Google are only now offering this as a currently beta standalone application when Microsoft Internet Explorer (for all its criticism) has had this built-in for years.

I ran the software removal tool which quickly returned this dialog:

No programs found
No programs found

Nothing suspicious found. I clicked Continue and was invited to reset my browser.

Reset Chrome settings — that's what fixed things for me
Reset Chrome settings — that’s what fixed things for me

That’s what fixed it.

This is definitely another useful tool in my diagnostics toolkit. Thanks Google.

It’s a relief to have had this fixed. That said, I’ve said it before that if there were the same Trello plugins available I would move to Opera tomorrow.