Some Cookies Are Yummy!

Not all browser cookies are bad for you. Many of those little tasty files that get dumped on your system serve a useful purpose.

I am somewhat security conscious when it comes to my surfing habits. I prefer as much privacy as I can manage without ruining my browsing experience. Achieving that can be problematic, though, these days. Yes, I run some privacy extensions like NoScript, Adblock+, Better Privacy, DoNotTrackMe, and FlashBlock in my Firefox browser, but there are also other habits that I have when it comes to using that browser.

I like to clean my snail trails (history, cookies, etc.) occasionally, but unless you have some special settings set in your FF browser Preferences, you’ll be inconvenienced each time you toss your cookies by the fact that you’ll lose your active logins on your favorite oft-visited sites; forcing you to login again after you’ve cleaned and tossed everything.

Of course, you can selectively delete cookies in FF, but if you’ve been surfing for a week or so before you decide to clean things up, you may have hundreds of cookies you’ll have to cull through carefully without tossing your important ones. It’s a pain in the rear end to have to do it that way. There used to be some FF extensions that would “protect” certain cookies for you, but most have not been updated to be functional in the newer versions of FF.

I’m going to show you how you can easily protect your important cookies and login data within FF’s Preferences without the need for another extension or any other mind-boggling procedures. Note: I’m using FF in Linux here. It’s probably similar in MS Windows, but you’ll have to investigate that for yourself.

The following mini-tutorial will be referring to this image:

Click to open in new tab/page

OK, here we go…

In order to be able to dump your cookies and other flotsam and jetsam out of your browser and still retain your favorite website logins and site preferences, you’ll need to do the following within your Firefox Preferences:

  1. Open your FF Preferences (Menu: File –> Edit –> Preferences) and choose the Privacy tab as shown in the image above.
  2. Within the Privacy area, use the pull-down menu under History to make the selection shown. This will open up the sub-menu of options just underneath.
  3. Set your History sub-menu options as you want them to be. NOTE: Where you see “Keep until:” under Accept Cookies, you MUST set FF to “I close Firefox” for this to work at all. If you manually remove all cookies using the Clear Recent History tool (Menu: History –> Clear Recent History) or the Remove All button in Cookie Viewer, then you really will REMOVE ALL COOKIES, even those of your Exceptions white-listed sites (see next step).
  4. Click on the Exceptions to the right of the box and another small window will pop up showing you what websites are white or black-listed in FF. You should add your favorite sites’ website address as shown in the image above and Allow them. This will allow those sites to retain cookies after automatic cleaning takes place. You can also block sites from installing cookies on your computer by adding the website address and clicking on Block.

If all went will, your Firefox should clean itself (when you close it) of the detritus of browsing and  yet retain the login and site preferences for your favorite sites that you had added to the Exceptions list as Allowed in Step 4 above. Now your FF browsing experience will be bit less bothersome for you. Your FF will start back up next time with a clean slate; ready for your day’s surfing pleasure, but you won’t have to re-login to all of your favorite sites. :)

As always, comments, corrections, suggestions on better methods, etc. are always welcomed here.

Later…

~Eric

Image credit: screenshot of Firefox Preference setting windows (c) V. T. Eric Layton

 


Zoom! Zoom!

Most of you younger folks won’t have to worry about this for a few years, but…

… it’s a reality of life that as you get older, your eyes don’t work as well as they used to. Case in point: when you’re reading those websites with that minuscule font size, you have to grab your cheater glasses to see what’s going on. Unfortunately, not all website developers are nice enough to use a #16 Deja Vu Sans font for us older folks.

In cases like that, there are options. In Firefox, my browser of choice, I can go to Menu: Edit –> Preferences –> Content –> Fonts & Colors – Advanced button and set my font styles and sizes the way I want them to be. This is how I used to do this for many, many years now. However, last night, while poking and prodding FF a bit here and there, I found a neat way to set fonts that don’t affect every website.

The problem with forcing font sizes and types globally in FF is that many web pages, this one right here on wordpress.com, for example, will not display certain characters properly. A while back WordPress, and Photobucket, too, started using these cute little html graphics to identify buttons and menu items. Well, if you’re forcing Deja Vu Sans in FF, those little images show up as weird Greek-looking icons that make no sense whatsoever in relation to their actual assigned purpose. That was beginning to annoy  me, particularly at Photobucket, so I stopped forcing fonts and sizes in FF, which allowed the browser to display the websites as they were designed.

Great! Just one problem. Now we’re back to the little font sizes again and the need for me to scramble around in the semi-darkness in the cave here feeling around for my cheater specs. They’re only 1x, but nice to have when you want a little boost in acuity. ;)

Hmm… what to do?

Well, anyone who has used Firefox for any length of time knows, or should know, that you can zoom text and images or just text alone on any web page just by using the combination of CTRL and the + or – keys on the keyboard. You can also do it by holding CTRL while rolling your mousewheel, if you happen to have one. Cool, huh? Here’s my problem, though. I visit many different websites every day. I don’t want to have to be zoom-zooming every time I go there. That’s why I had the global settings set as I did before.

Now for the OH, WOW! moment from the You Learn Something New Everyday department. I found that FF will actually remember zoom setting for individual pages even after you close the browser, log off your system, and climb into bed with hopes of pleasant dreams involving interesting book discussions on a desert island somewhere in a grass hut with a half-shell of coconut wine and this young lady by your side…

Er… but I digress.

Anyway, it’s very cool that FF remembers the zoom settings for individual pages. I haven’t tested it, but my guess is that if you toss your cookies or clear out your site preferences using the Clear Recent History tool, you’ll probably lose all those individual zoom settings and have to set them all over again as you visit the sites. Still, it’s COOL. I’m glad I found out how to do this. Now I don’t have to force fonts and sizes in FF and all the little weird characters makes sense again.

Ain’t technology wonderful?!

Later…

~Eric

Image credits: reading glasses clipart courtesy of http://www.clker.com/

Island girl courtesy of http://island-girl-boutique.com/ – used without their express permission, but hopefully they’ll cut me some slack on that because I’m posting a link for their fine establishment here on my very popular 500+ million hit-a-day blog site. ;)

 


SmoothWheel – Firefox Extension

Well, I don’t usually jump for joy about Firefox extensions; however, in this case…

For quite some time now, I’ve experienced herky-jerky scrolling and excessive CPU hogging in Firefox. It’s been very annoying. Some versions seem to fix it, then in a few weeks, when there’s another update, the jerkiness comes back. This happens to my Firefox in Slackware Linux, but I’ve experienced it in other distributions and in MS Windows, also. I’ve tweaked till I was nearly blind. I’ve searched for remedies all over the Internet. I’ve done the usual suggested “Safe Mode” operations and disabling selected extensions here and there to try to get FF to behave. Nothing has worked, until tonight…

I decided to install an extension that was recommended to me by someone quite some time ago. I apologize to that person here and now for not believing that this extension would resolve the issue. I had enough extensions. I didn’t really want another one. Well, a couple weeks ago I lightened the extension/addon load on my FF down to about 1/3 of what it was; just some Profile house-cleaning. It needed to be done. So now I have my leaner meaner FF to work with here. I decided to install this smooth scrolling extension and see if it would actually work as advertised.

The extension is called SmoothWheel by Avi Halachmi. Right out of the box, it performed miracles on my FF.  I didn’t even have to adjust the pre-set preferences. I mean this thing works! I can pull up a Bing Image search page for “cleavage” now and FF will scroll just as smoothly as all the curves on that search result page. It’s wonderful! I love my FF again. Thank you Avi! By the way, the $5 donation he asks for is well-worth it.

So there, you have it…

~Eric

Image credits: “Squee” jumping emoticon by CookiemagiK (Joel) on devianART


Some Cool Addons for Firefox and Thunderbird

I recently added some extensions in FF and TB that are pretty cool. I thought I’d post about them here in case anyone was interested…

Old Default Image Style 1.0 – FF – This extension reverts back to the older style “view image” in Firefox. The newer FF centers the image on the page with a black background. In older versions, there was no centering and the image was on a plain white background page. I’m talking here about when you RIGHT click on an image on a website and choose “View Image” from the context menu.

Theme and Font Size Changer 5.3 – FF and/or TB – This extension allows you to change the colors, fonts, and font sizes within the FF and TB interfaces regardless of the settings of your desktop/windows manager.

QuickFox Notes 2.7.3 – FF and/or TB – This cool little extension adds a note pad/sticky note application to either your FF or your TB. I use it in TB for everyday “don’t forget the milk and bread” type notes. It’s pretty cool, I think.

Have FUN! :)

~Eric


Common Mozilla Product Profiles Across Operating Systems

Being able to have common profiles for my Mozilla products across operating systems on my main computer has been a dream for a few years now.

I tried this a few years ago between Slackware and my then secondary OS, Debian (stable). The way I had it set up then worked well until the day that Debian dropped FF and TB from their repos and started using their own IceCritters. Another problem I had back then was that Debian’s Mozilla apps were usually quite a bit older versions than the ones in Slackware. If the versions get too disparate, as they eventually did between Slack and Debian, the common profiles no longer function properly.

Later on, when I adopted Arch Linux as my secondary OS, I tried to run common profiles again. I had forgotten my lesson about needing similar versions of the Mozilla apps for the common profiles to work. Arch is much faster at getting newest versions into their repos than Slackware, so once again I had this version disparity issue. Since Mozilla’s recent change to the update-as-often-as-you-change-underwear schedule, I’ve learned to blacklist Mozila apps in Arch so they don’t get updated. Once Slackware puts out an update (I manualy download and install from current) for the Mozilla applications (Firefox, Thunderbird, Seamonkey), I allow the Arch update to go through.

Now that I have my Slack and Arch Moz versions the same or very similar, the common profiles should work. Below is a look at how I did it on my system. It will, of course, be different on yours, but the principles are about the same.

First, I used a common partition on a separate internal hard drive for my common profiles directory.

/home/vtel57/vtel57_common/common_mozilla

This partition automounts within my /home/<user> directory at boot up. You could theoretically use a thumb drive for this, if you wanted to. You’d just have to make sure that it automounts with the proper permissions at boot time.

Next, I copied the firefox and seamonkey directories from my Slackware (main OS) /home/vtel57/.mozilla directory into my newly created /home/vtel57/vtel57_common/common_mozilla directory. I also copied the contents of the .thunderbird directory into a directory called thunderbird also in /home/vtel5/vtel57_common/common_mozilla. You can perform these operations from the command line or in your GUI file manager app, as you prefer.

Photobucket

Now, in the /home/vtel57/.mozilla directory, I renamed the old firefox and seamonkey profiles to inoperative. The old profiles had some random <number/letter>.default as their name. I just added “inop” to the end of that to deactivate them. I did the same with the /home/vtel57/.thunderbird profile. This will prevent the apps from trying to use these old versions.

vtel57_Slackware~/.mozilla/firefox:$ mv 3mvew7qq.default 3mvew7qq.default_inop

Back in the new common directory shown above, I renamed the <number/letter>.default profiles to names that made more sense to me: ff_profile.default, tb_profile.default, and sm_profile.default.

Once I did all of the above, I needed to edit the profile.ini in each original application directory (/home/vtel57/.mozilla/firebird and seamonkey, /home/vtel57/.thunderbird) to point  to the newly created common profiles. You can open your favorite gui or command line editor and make these changes to each profile.ini file. Here is my profile.ini for Firefox, for example:

[General]
StartWithLastProfile=1

[Profile0]
Name=default
IsRelative=1  0
Path=<number/letter>.default  /home/vtel57/vtel57_common/common_mozilla/firefox/ff_profile.default
Default=1

*change the items in red to the ones in green

So now, whenever I fire up firefox, seamonkey, or thunderbird in either Slackware or Arch, they will be running off the same profiles; meaning all data, preferences, etc. are synch’d. Ain’t it great!?

I’m sure there are easier ways to do this, but this is how I managed it. You can experiment to find what works best for you on your systems.

Have fun!

Later…

~Eric


Mozilla Needs Your Support

Mozilla has done a lot of good in this world of greed.

They could sure use a little help from you, though. If you can spare a buck or two to assist in the continuing efforts of this fine organization to create quality free software and make the Internet a better place for all, then for sure… drop some dough in their tip jar. They’ll appreciate it… and so will I. :)

From their recent email newsletter:

Hi there,

As 2011 comes to a close, we at Mozilla want to say thank you to all of our Firefox users, supporters and community members. Quite simply, we do what we do because of you.

Mozilla is the force behind Firefox, but we’re also a whole lot more than that. And the more people I talk to, the clearer it becomes that not everyone knows what Mozilla is and how we’re different. So today, I wanted to make sure you understand it because you’re such an important part of our story.

Read the rest of Executive Director Mark Surman’s article, and thanks for anything you can do to help out.

Regards,

~Eric


Browser Testing

Check out the interesting results from this Lifehacker article:

Firefox 7 is set to be released today, and with a big focus on performance, we thought it time for another round of browser speed test. We pitted the four most popular Windows browsers against each other in a battle of startup times, tab-loading times, JavaScript powers, and memory usage, with some surprising results.

OK, so it’s a Windows ONLY test. Still, pretty interesting.

Results:

  1. Opera 11.51: 82%
  2. Firefox 7: 73%
  3. Internet Explorer 9: 47.5%
  4. Chrome 14: 43%

Opera is a damned good browser. Always was. It doesn’t get the respect it deserves, though.

Later…

~Eric


Tor On Slackware (and Arch)

Do you have a need for a bit of privacy when online? Do you want to be a ninny moose? Well, Tor can help you with that.

From Tor’s website:

Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers. Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses.

Pay attention to what I’m going to say now… You do NOT have to be a software pirate, a hacktivist, or a foreign operative of some sort to need a bit of privacy. It’s perfectly legal and normal for you to want to protect your privacy when online. You don’t paint your name, address, and phone number on the side of your minivan, do you? You don’t exchange personal data with the clerk at the mall shoe store, do you? Do you tell every caller who calls you on your phone the numbers of the last 10 people you spoke with?

Of course, you don’t do those things. So, why should you do them on the Internet. Your web browser, in many cases, is not your ally in your ongoing effort to protect your privacy online. Often, it is giving away all kinds of interesting info about you with every link you click on. That’s just how it was designed. It’s not an evil conspiracy by the government to track your Internet movements. Although, it is possible for them to do that should they want to. When TCP/IP and the WWW first came about, browsers were required to do these things to function.

If you want a tool that can give you a bit more privacy when you need it, try Tor. Read HERE to understand a bit better how Tor works to protect your privacy. BE AWARE, though… Tor is not the do-all, be-all privacy tool. It has foibles. However, it’s better than having your rear area totally exposed out there in the breeze. Below I will briefly explain how I got Tor up and running in Slackware and Arch Linux using Firefox and Seamonkey browsers with the Foxy Proxy Basic addon.

Slackware

  1. Download the libevent SlackBuild from SlackBuilds.org.
  2. Build and install libevent from the SlackBuild.
  3. Download Tor for Slack 13.37 in x686 or x86_64 versions from Linux Packages | Slackers.it.
  4. Install the package using pkgtool.
  5. Start Tor at startx using Xfce’s Session Manager GUI front end. (or start Tor as a service in Slack – /etc/rc.d)
  6. Download and install the Foxy Proxy Basic addon for FF and Seamonkey.
  7. Add new proxy in Foxy Proxy – Socks v5, 127.0.0.1, port 9050.

That’s it. You can start the Tor service by typing “tor” in Run Program (Xfce) or at the command line in terminal. Once it’s running, you can use the Foxy Proxy button to turn on the Tor proxy. Once you’ve done that, you can test by using THIS site.

Arch

  1. Install Tor from Arch repos using Pacman.
  2. Add Tor to your daemons – (/etc/rc.conf, daemons: …tor…).
  3. Follow steps 6 and 7 above to configure FF and Seamonkey.

There you go. Simple in Arch, huh? This is wee bit of a project for a neophyte Linux user, but it’s not really that difficult. In Slackware, there are always different ways to do things. If you’re running Slackware, odds are you ain’t no neophyte. In Arch, it’s easier to install and set up. Plus, there’s a Tor section with step-by-step in the always EXCELLENT Arch Wiki to help you.

Enjoy your privacy. Remember, practice safe intercourse, er… I mean Internet.

Later… gotta’ go pirate* some vids now. Just kidding! ;)

~Eric

* The author in no way supports theft of copyrighted materials of any type. A creator’s output is his own to do with as he pleases. If he chooses to freely share, that’s wonderful. If he chooses to limit the sharing and protect his creations by using copyright or other laws, that’s his right also. Taking something that isn’t yours without permission is stealing. Can’t get much plainer than that.

+ Some further reading should you be interested

–> EFF’s Top 12 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy from the Electronic Frontier Foundation

–> Copyright – Fair Usage

–> Internet Privacy


What’s Dragging On Your Firefox?

Mozilla posted a list of the worst offender addons for its Firefox browser. These are the addons that really slow down that FF start up.

Mozilla actually labels them as “slow performing addons”. You can view the entire list by clicking HERE. See if any of your favorite extensions are on the list; a few of mine were, but they were down toward the bottom (minimal footprint) of the list.

You can’t get something for nothing. That’s just a universal truth. If you want your browser to do a boat load of extra tasks or jump through hoops like a circus animal, then you’re going to have to feed it. Your browser eats RAM and CPU cycles. That’s just the nature of the beast. Some are picky eaters; others are voracious monsters with bottomless pits for stomachs.

If you want your FF to be a lean mean browsing machine, you have to trim the fat a bit. Break the candy-coated addon habit. If you don’t really need it or use it, why have it installed? There are some extensions that, were they not available, would probably deter me from using FF altogether. These are my must haves.

However, I also have some fluff in there. I have a smiley extension that’s pretty cool. I also have one that adds “Go to top” and “Go to bottom” of my R-click context menu. Could I live without those? Sure, but I don’t wanna’, so I keep them. They both have very minimal footprints and seem to use next to nothing in resources within FF, so what the hell?

The beauty of FF for me is its potential for customization. You can truly make FF your own, should you care to put the effort into it. I could never do that with IE back in my Windows daze. I had to use addons for the Trident engine such as Crazy Browser and Avant to get IE to be what I wanted it to be. And even with those tools, there were limitations.

Have I mentioned lately that I LOVE Mozilla! If you have some spare change lying around, they could always use a buck or two to help defray the expenses of running that project. Mozilla creates so much for so many with so little. Help if you can.

Later…

~Eric

Notes: Don’t forget to click on links within my articles, folks. They often lead to informational sites to help you in some way; be they definitions of an uncommon word, or Wikipedia articles about certain items.

Disclaimer: I was at one time involved with the Avant Browser Support Team. I’m now retired from that excellent group. If you decide to give Avant Browser a try, tell ‘em Eric sent ya’. ;)


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