Tuesday, 21 February 2006

Burned by a burning fox

My last weekend was spent on doing something entirely unexpected: restoring my Firefox browser. It caught an unknown bug on Saturday and on Sunday I was reconstructing my previous settings piece by piece.

I use Firefox for many things, other than for browsing the web. I've customised Firefox to become my webmail client, my online dictionary and encyclopedia and for doing some other stuff including for listening to BBC Radio 4, occassionally.

I started the process by tracking down my bookmarks, and luckily Firefox makes periodic backups of them. I found the latest one, 'bookmarks-2006-02-19.html', and made a copy of it. It's actually the list of all my bookmarked websites in HTML form, which is something nifty because I can carry it in my USB drive can open my bookmarks from any computer using any browser.

Next was to track down the extensions (add-ons) that I used to customise my browser. To my surprise, I realised that I've installed over 40 kinds of them. Made a list and sorted them into esssential and under consideration. Ended up with a final list of 18.

I uninstalled the old installation, deleted the Profile folder in the Documents and Settings folder and launched a new installation.

I was happy at the moment. I thought I was well on my way to restoring everything as it was before. Until, I realised that I've been using Firefox for keeping my online passwords. All my passwords for all my emails, my forums, my online services like Friendster, Blogger and others. Cold sweat broke on the my previously dry forehead. I realised that I was on a verge on a very serious problem. My long list of saved password was gone.

I wanted to kick myself for being too lazy to remember my passwords. But given the limitations of the design of my legs, I tossed the idea aside and started racking my brain for a way out of this mess.

One thing I learn about troubleshooting computer problems is that the Internet is your very good friend. And alhamdulillah, I found a very good advice at one Mr. Kenneth Hunt's blog (thank you very much), based on the article at MozillaZine Knowledge Base. Without much fuss I managed to find and copy all my password-related files and copied them into the new installation.

Lesson to be learnt here:

Never become too dependent on your browser or any kind of software. If you want to be dependent on any software, don't just pick one. Pick two or more. That way if one crashes or becomes unavailable, you'll still have options.

Remember the 3 most important things about sensitive data: backup, backup and backup. Your passwords, contact information, confidential documents, etc., you never know when you might lose them.

Not my idea of a wonderful weekend, but I learnt a lot.


dzul said...

Hee, I was an avid Netscape user before I found out that IE is somewhat better, and not long after that I switched to Firefox. So far its still the prefered browser of mine although I've experienced few annoying problems with it not so long ago. I wonder how long that will be the case since people has started to discover bugs and weaknesses of it and then some fatal or malicious problems might surfaced anytime soon and at the same time somebody might just introduce cool features and stuff in their new browser which would attract people to make the switch again. Anyway just like you said, no matter how much the software we used "rules", when it comes to computer stuff the only rules that truly "rules" is "backup" indeed.

moon said...

apart of all the lesson u learnt, i bet Firefox is still the best to you.
haha, berapi sungguh musang itu..

Anonymous said...

There is a brand new Firefox extension that allows you to create a backup of all your installed extensions and themes. The backups are created in an installable xpi format so you can easily port them to another computer.

It’s called FEBE. More info/download here.

rollie said...

dzul: your opinions is actually similar to mine.

Netscape was THE browser that got the Internet popular (in Malaysia) in the beginning. People used to call it the killer app (application). That was back in the mid-90s. Unfortunately Netscape suffers from becoming a bloatware. It had tons of features: browser, HTML editor, chat and email client, but very few people actually used them. I personally found the features overwhelming.

Internet Explorer, IE, is the default browser for Windows and is tied to the OS. It also runs Microsoft's ActiveX technology which is supposed to make the web more media rich but ended being exploited by malware for implating spyware and Trojan Horses. I had an experience with that some time ago. I only use IE when a site incompatible with other browsers.

Firefox is a cool browser, no doubt about that. It has been developed to overcome most problems of Netcsape and IE. It's easy to install and to maintain. However, if you've been roaming the web lately, there have been talks about Firefox's most inherent flaw: memory leaks. If you open 8 or more tabs at one time, you'll probably notice Firefox will suck your memory (RAM to be exact) dry. Try installing Cachmeman or any other RAM monitor and see for yourself. The people at the Mozilla is already aware of this problem and they hope to fix by the time FF 2.0 beta comes out, later this year.

But the real underdog and IMHO, the speediest browser around is Opera. Most unappreciated member of the Windows browsers bunch, this rather lean browser has yet to let me down nor has it been threaten with a major bug or flaw. It rus fast and has some of the features that Netscape used to offer but without being sacrificing on speed.

Again in the case of FF and Opera, they're still underdogs (or underfoxes?). Not many people use them, there making them a lesser interest to hackers/malware writers etc. People use IE because it's there in Windows and think that it's enough for doing what they want. I'm not surprised if once FF and Opera become as much used as IE, the two will be battling hackers/malware right and left.

moon: Firefox in real life is not a fox. It is actually the red panda, the smaller cousin of the common (black and white) panda and doesn't burn anyone except maybe people's hearts with its extreme adorableness.

anonymous: thanks a lot for the tip!

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