Archive for the 'firefox' Category

5 years ago, Firefox (re)entered Debian

5 years ago today, I was declaring Iceweasel dead, and Firefox was making a come back in Debian. I hadn't planned to make this post, and in fact, I thought it had been much longer. But coincidentally, I was binge-watching Mr. Robot recently, which prominently featured Iceweasel.

iceweasel command in a terminal

Mr. Robot is set in the year 2015, and I was surprised that Iceweasel was being used, which led me to search for that post where I announced Firefox was back... and realizing that we were close to the 5 years mark. Well, we are at the 5 years mark now.

iceweasel start page

I'd normally say time flies, but it turns out it hasn't flown as much as I thought it did. I wonder if the interminable pandemic is to blame for that.

2021-03-10 15:16:02+0900

firefox, p.m.o | 4 Comments »

Building a Firefox Debian package

It's actually been possible for some time, but I made that simpler recently, and I figured I should mention it.

  • Grab the iceweasel source
    $ apt-get source iceweasel
  • Install its build dependencies
    $ apt-get build-dep iceweasel
  • Build it
    $ cd iceweasel-*
    $ PRODUCT_NAME=firefox dpkg-buildpackage -rfakeroot

2014-11-11 11:26:38+0900

firefox | 2 Comments »

Ten years

Ten years ago, this very day, my first Debian package entered the Debian unstable repository. It was an addon for Mozilla Composer, Daniel Glazman's Cascades.

On the same day, my second Debian package entered the Debian unstable repository as well. It was an addon for Mozilla Browser, Checky.

A few days later, my third Debian package entered Debian unstable. It was an addon for Mozilla Browser, Diggler.

Do you see a pattern? They are now abandoned software, although I made Checky and Diggler live a little longer (and I'm actually considering reviving Diggler) but they had their importance in my journey, and are part of the reason why I am where I am now.

My journey on the web started with NCSA Mosaic on VAX/VMS, then continued with Netscape Navigator, Netscape Communicator and Mozilla Suite on Linux.

That's where I was ten years ago, sailing between Galeon (a browser using the Mozilla engine) and Mozilla Suite, and filing some layout bugs.

Ten years ago, there was a new kid on the block. It used to be called Phoenix, it had just changed its name to Firebird. Eventually, it changed again for Firefox. You may have heard about it. Because Firebird was so much nicer than the browser in the Mozilla Suite, I started using its Debian package, and wanted my packaged addons to work with it. So I contacted Eric Dorland, Phoenix/Firebird package maintainer at the time, and got the addons working. I then ended up fixing a bunch of packaging issues.

This is how I got involved in Firefox packaging for Debian, and what eventually led me to work for Mozilla.

2013-02-19 22:45:30+0900

firefox, p.m.o | No Comments »

Firefox in Debian?

Got your attention? Don't hold your breath, we're not there yet, but we're a step closer: it's now possible to build Firefox from the Iceweasel package, since version 17.0.1-2 in experimental as of writing, 18.0~b6-1 from the iceweasel-beta repository, or 19.0~a2+20121228042015-1 from the iceweasel-aurora repository.

Before letting you know how you can get yourself a packaged Firefox based on the Iceweasel source, I'll remind you that redistribution of Firefox packages requires a trademark license from Mozilla, so please keep the packages you build for yourself for now.

That being said, now it's clear that such Firefox packages are not official, you can still test them for yourself. First download the Iceweasel source version of your liking, and extract it, then rename all source files from iceweasel_* to firefox_* (rename s/iceweasel/firefox/ iceweasel_* should do it). Edit debian/changelog so that the first line reads:

firefox (x.y.z-r) distribution; urgency=low

instead of:

iceweasel (x.y.z-r) distribution; urgency=low

and run the following command:

$ debian/rules debian/control

Now you're all set. You can build the package the usual way.

Note there are a few differences between the xulrunner packages you get from building Iceweasel vs. from building Firefox that need to be addressed, and a few other details to sort out.

2012-12-29 11:00:21+0900

firefox | 1 Comment »

Iceweasel ESR in squeeze-backports

In case this went unnoticed, Iceweasel ESR has been available in squeeze-backports for a few weeks, now. I highly recommend anyone using Iceweasel on the Debian stable release to upgrade to that version, at the very least. Even newer versions are available through the pkg-mozilla archive.

2012-06-02 11:33:08+0900

firefox | 9 Comments »

Debian Mozilla news

Here are the few noteworthy news about Mozilla packages in Debian:

  • Iceape 2.7 made its way to unstable. This is a huge jump from the previously available 2.0.14, and finally happened because Iceape was finally the top item on my TODO list.
  • Iceape 2.7 is also available for Squeeze users, on the Debian Mozilla team APT archive.
  • Localization is now part of Iceweasel uploads, which means that upgrades won't break localization anymore. It also means the Debian Mozilla team APT archive now also ships Iceweasel locales.

2012-02-18 09:37:10+0900

firefox, iceape | 4 Comments »

Extreme tab browsing

I have a pathological use of browser tabs: I use a lot of them. A lot is probably an understatement. We could say I use them as bookmarks of things I need to track. A couple weeks ago, I was saying I had around two hundred tabs opened. I now actually have much more.

It affected startup until I discovered that setting the browser.sessionstore.max_concurrent_tabs pref to 0 was making things much better by only loading tabs when they are selected. This preference has/will become browser.sessionstore.restore_on_demand. However, since I only start my main browser once a day, while other applications start and while I begin to read email, I hadn't noticed that this was still heavily affecting startup time: about:startup tells me reaching the sessionRestored state takes seven seconds, even on a warm startup.

It also affects memory usage, because even when tabs are only loaded on demand, there is a quite big overhead for each tab.

And more importantly, it gets worse with time. And I think the user interface is actively making it worse.

So, to get an idea how bad things were in my session, I wrote a little restartless extension. After installing it, you can go to the about:tabs url to see the damage on your session. Please note that the number of groups is currently wrong until you open the tab grouping interface.

This is what the extension has to say about my session 2 days ago, right after a startup:

  • 556 tabs across 4 groups in 1 window
  • 1 tab has been loaded
  • 444 unique addresses
  • 105 unique hosts
  • 9 empty tabs
  • 210 http:
  • 319 https:
  • 14 ftp:
  • 2 about:
  • 2 file:
  • 55 addresses in more than 1 tab
  • 39 hosts in more than 1 tab

The first thing to note is that when I filed the memory bug 4 days earlier, I had a bit more than 470 tabs in that session. You can see 4 days later, I now have 555 tabs (if excluding the about:tabs tab).

The second thing to note is something I suspected because it's so easy to get there: a lot of the tabs are opened on the same address. Since Firefox 4.0, if I'm not mistaken, there is a great feature in the awesomebar, that allows to jump to an existing tab matching what you type in the urlbar. That is very useful, and I use it a lot. However, there are a lot of cases where it's not as useful as it could be.

One of the addresses I visit a lot is It gives me the build status of the latest iceweasel package I uploaded to Debian unstable. That url is particularly known in my browsing history, and is the first hit when I type "buildd" in the urlbar (actually, even typing "b" brings it first). Unfortunately, that url redirects to through an HTTP redirection. I say unfortunately because when I type "buildd" in the urlbar, I get 6 suggestions for urls in the form (I also watch other packages build status), and the suggestion to switch to the existing tab for what the first hit would get me to is 7th. Guess what? The suggestion list only shows 6 items ; you have to scroll to see the 7th.

The result is that I effectively have fifteen tabs open on that url.

I also keep a lot of bugs open in different tabs. The extension tells me there are 255 of them... for 166 unique bugs. Largely, the duplicate bug tabs are due to having these bugs open in some tab, but accessing the same bugs from somewhere else, usually a dependent bug or TBPL. I also have 5 tabs opened on my request queue. I usually get there by going to the bugzilla home page and clicking on the "My Requests" link. And I have several tabs opened on the same bug lists. For the same reason.

When I started using tab groups, I splitted in very distinct groups. Basically, one for Mozilla, one for Debian, one for stuff I want to follow (usually blog posts I want to follow comments from), and one for the rest. While I was keeping up with grouping at the beginning, I don't anymore, and the result is that each group is now a real mess.

Firefox has hundreds of millions users. It's impossible to create a user experience that works for everyone. One thing is sure, it doesn't work for me. My usage is probably very wrong at different levels, but I don't feel my browser is encouraging me to use it better, except by making my number of opened tabs explode to an unmanageable level (I already have 30 tabs more than when I started writing this post 2 days ago).

There are a few other things I would like to know about my usage that my extension hasn't told me yet, either because it doesn't tell, or because I haven't looked:

  • How many tabs end up loaded at the end of a typical day?
  • How many tabs do I close?
  • How many duplicate tabs do I open and close?
  • How long has it been since I looked at a given tab?
  • How do the number of tabs and duplicates evolve with time?

Reflecting on my usage patterns, I think a few improvements, either in the stock browser, or through extensions, could make my browsing easier:

  • Auto-grouping tabs: When I click on a link to an url under, I most likely want it in the Mozilla group. An url under would most likely go in the Debian group.
  • Switch to an existing tab when following a link to an already opened url: That might not be very useful as a general rule, but at least for some domains, it would seem useful for me that the browser switches to an existing tab not only through the urlbar, but also when following links in a page. If I'm reading a bug, click on a bug it depends on, and that bug is already opened in another tab, get me there. There would be a history problem to solve, though. (e.g. where do back and forward bring?)

Maybe these exist as extensions, I don't know. It's hard to find very specific things like that through an add-on search (though I haven't searched very hard). [Looks like there is an experiment for the auto tab grouping part]

I think it would also be interesting to have something like Test Pilot, but for users that want to know the answer to "How do I use my browser?". As I understand it, Test Pilot can show individual user data, but it only can do so if there is such data, and you can't get data for past studies you didn't take.

In my case, I'm not entirely sure that, apart from the pinned tabs, I use the tab bar a lot. And even for pinned tabs, most of the time I use keyboard shortcuts. I'm not using the menu button that much either. I already removed the url and search bar (most of the time) with LessChrome HD. Maybe I could go further and use the full window for web browsing.

2011-08-29 09:27:55+0900

firefox, p.m.o | 47 Comments »

Prepare yourself for the upcoming changes on the repository

With the upcoming changes in the beta and aurora channels (6.0 is going to reach beta, and 7.0 to reach aurora), the repository is going to adapt, and drop versioned archives in favor of channel archives. The channel archives for beta and aurora already existed, however what is new is the "release" channel. Currently, that channel contains Iceweasel 5.0, but as soon as 6.0 is released, that's what the "release" channel will contain.

To summarize, if you added lines containing iceweasel-x.0 where x is 4, 5, or 6 in your /etc/apt/sources.list, you need to update it to the corresponding channel (don't forget 4.0 is dead, you should use "release" instead).

The iceweasel-5.0 and iceweasel-6.0 archives still exist at the moment but will be dropped as soon as the new aurora and beta releases are ready, which should be real soon now (only waiting for actual upstream releases).

As a somehow related note, it should be noted that Iceweasel 5.0 should (finally) enter Debian unstable on the 15th of July, at which point the latest 6.0 beta will also be uploaded to Debian experimental. It is still unclear how long it will take for Iceweasel 5.0 to reach Debian testing/wheezy, because of all the reverse dependencies, but when that happens, we'll also be able to push it to

2011-07-07 12:25:21+0900

firefox | 24 Comments »

Iceweasel 5.0 in experimental

I just pushed Iceweasel 5.0 to Debian experimental. Why not unstable, some will ask? Well, because we still need to give some time after a first notice before breaking plenty of packages (Thanks to Julien Cristau for the MBF, by the way).

I also discontinued the Iceweasel 4.0 backport for Squeeze, as Iceweasel 4.0 won't be receiving security updates. Speaking of security updates, 3.6.18 was also made available on for Wheezy, Squeeze and Lenny. However, I still have to backport the necessary patches to 3.5 in Squeeze and 3.0 in Lenny. My real life schedule wasn't compatible with the security release schedule, so I got late on the security backport train.

In the coming weeks, there will also be some additional changes to the repository, but I'll give more details when that happens.

2011-06-22 02:41:30+0900

firefox | 16 Comments »

Iceweasel 5.0b2

... would have been released today if was responding. But it's moving to a new server.

2011-05-21 08:17:50+0900

firefox | 5 Comments »