WordPress Admin Slow…

After a recent server migration, I noticed that the TTFB (Time To First Byte) of the WordPress admin tools of one of my sites was abysmal – it would literally take over 10 seconds to get the page to open – sometimes up to 20

“Site health check” on the admin panel was telling me that the REST API was not working and that loopback was failing among other things.

I diligently googled the errors I was seeing, and folks had advice about adding entries to /etc/hosts and running (buying) plugins to check queries and “tune” WordPress. I went down a bunch of rabbit holes only to realize that my root issue was my Ethernet interface definition. It turns out that when I moved my server hosting, the address for the internal DNS server on the new hosting network was different .. I had the old DNS entry deep down in the network config files and this was the root of my issue.

The second I corrected that my site started working at lightning speed.

The take-away on this is – before you go down that insane rabbit hole, go back to your basics and just verify that the fundamental stuff is right.

I do this all the time with my customers – so often finding a panicked developer who has been throwing thing after thing at the wall and actually creating more problems for themself (that I then have to help them undo) and when I convince them to stop and take a deep breath and start from square one and lets just sanity check the basics.. BINGO!

I am not immune to this – Clearly, I need to take my own advice.

Cooking With Induction

I have an admission to make…

I changed my mind about a deeply held personal belief (that gas was the best/only way to cook.

I was wrong, and I admit it.

I’ve wanted a gas range/cooktop in my house ever since I first had a viewing here and saw that it had gas (heat and hot water) but in the kitchen, sat this functional but very electric… Kenmore ceramic top electric range.

Ceramic top electric ranges are easy to clean compared to older style spiral burners and compared to most gas stoves. In fact, you can just take a razor blade like you use for scraping paint to get the really burnt on stuff and the ceramic top is none the worse for the wear

But it’s so horrible for control of heat – pans take forever to respond to changes in the control and with the ceramic top if your pan is even a tiny bit warped on the bottom the contact surface makes horrible hot spots and severely reduces the ability to .. actually cook things.

I’ve had this plan to replace the stove with a gas model – a really high end (expensive) one since I first laid eyes on this house. Since the house has gas it would be a case of having to pay a plumber to pipe into the kitchen – a task I did once before in my previous house. It cost me a few hundred bucks then. However, I also know I want to redo my kitchen – I a specific plan – but it involves knocking down a whole wall, converting a picture window in the dining room into a sliding glass door which itself requires moving a heating register.. it’s pretty much going to be a “gut the kitchen and start over with new floor, ceiling, counters, cabinets, etc.. the only things that would not be totally replaced would be my fridge and dishwasher as I updated those already.

It’s a BIG project – expensive – I’ve been OK with that.

However, that current (pardon the pun) stove is on its last legs – I’ve already had to repair it twice – replacing a heating element as well as a control switch. The ceramic top is scratched from years of wear etc. And several of my pans are warping such that I need to replace them so they contact the bottom. Were it not for COVID-19, I’d likely have already done the kitchen remodel, but alas.

However, I was watching one of my favorite youtube food-related channels, Adam Ragusea, and ran across this video on “cooking with magnets” from 2019.

hmm…

I checked on a few of my other favorite food types (including seeing what Alton Brown had to say on the subject) and discussed the idea with my wife, Miranda, who does most of the cooking. She agreed that we should give it a try

The Sciencing…

We decided to do a bit of an experiment: we bought a counter top induction burner that we could test with. We know that any pan that has a non-magnetic bottom would not be usable. This immediately did put an entry into our “cons” column… we would need to replace a fair amount of our pots and pans. However, as I mentioned, I already was looking to do that with some of them simply because they were a bit wobbly on the bottom.

My biggest surprise there while testing with a magnet though was that I assumed my beautiful and heavy Calphlon stainless steel pans would work beautif… what? the magnet doesn’t stick at all? huh? – I do some research and find that indeed these older pans were made before modern induction cookers.. and were solid 18/10 stainless which is non-magnetic. It seems that modern stainless steel pots and pans which are made with induction in mind have a layer of 18/0 or a disk of 18/0 at the bottom so that they work with magnetic cooktops.

OK, I learned a thing… and part of that thing is that several more of my pots and pans would need replacing.

Still, I had a couple decent pans including some nice nonstick which were modern enough to have a heavy steel disk in their base for induction.

We did end up buying a couple new nonstick pans as all the smaller size (good for omelettes) pans we had were not induction compatible.

We knew really quickly that we liked it.

The puny countertop cook top could heat a kettle of water from faucet-cold to boiling in a bit less than half the time the same kettle took to boil on the standard cooktop. The particular countertop model we got let you set a specific temperature or power level so certain dishes like eggs were (once the learning curve in terms of best temps to set was past) an absolute dream to work with.

So after a few weeks, we were absolutely certain we wanted to go with an induction range, and Frigidaire Gallery line had exactly what we wanted. We got pretty lucky too – the MSRP on this stove is around $2099, but Home Depot had it on sale for $1399. We ordered and it was delivered the same week.

We realized that the Frigidaire did not actually have the same “cook by temperature” control that the countertop model has – this was only a minor disappointment, as we still have the countertop model so we can access that feature if we need to do something super delicate like tempering chocolate, or perhaps other candy making or maybe even frying…

Speaking of frying – one really nifty feature of this oven is that it has an “air fryer” mode – though you may be disappointed to learn that this really just kind of means “broiler with a fan” – the convection oven is very nice and a feature I’ve wanted for some time and basically air frying is just broil with the convection fan on – still, Miranda reported great success air frying fish for fish tacos just last night – it was indeed delicious.

The oven is still only a week old so we don’t really have enough data other than to say that the same kettle of water that took 9.5 minutes on the old stove, took 4.5 minutes on the single burner countertop induction.. took only 2.5 minutes on the induction range. Boiling water and fine, even control of low temps is really where the induction cooktop will stand out and it’s already delivering

Also, being able to cook with a silicone baking mat on the ceramic top keeps the pans from sliding, protects the ceramic and is a really nifty “party trick”

We did go to Costco and buy a decent set of induction-friendly stainless pots and pans and will be committing the old ones to use in the outdoor kitchen and/or doing a tag sale this spring.

Cons:

  • A bit expensive
  • Must have the right (magnetic and preferably very heavy bottom) pots and pans
  • Like the ceramic top electric: warped pans don’t do well

Pros:

  • Way more efficient than gas
  • Doesn’t heat up the kitchen as much as electric and nowhere near as much as gas
  • Wicked easy to clean
  • Cooking with silicone mat protects the ceramic nicely
  • Super fast water boiling
  • Much better / even control of lower heat (doesn’t cycle hi/off to maintain temp like electric)
  • Very reduced risk of fires (the cook top itself stays quite cool and the heat is directed into the pan and is not nearly as over-powered as the heat on standard electric needs to be

In summary: we’re super happy we made the leap.

Even More Server Migration Fun

I finally did it – I “pulled the plug” on my very long time web hosting provider. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Netsonic has been a great provider through the years. Their tech staff Adam and Bleau have been phenomenal, but my hosting needs have changed/evolved and so I’ve moved on.

In the 15+ years I hosted with Netsonic, I never had an outage due to an issue with power or network connectivity at their site. When I was hosting web sites for others, that reliability and their redundancy was important for both my piece of mind and those whom I was hosting.

Fare thee well!

Drinking Apple Flavored Kool-Aid

… or how I learned to stop winging and like the Apple Watch

When Apple first released their Apple Watch in 2015, I looked at it with some suspicion, perhaps even a bit of derision.

“Here is a solution in search of a problem”, I thought.

“Do people even wear watches anymore?”, I pondered.

Other hardware manufacturers quickly started making “smart watch” models and such, but those same questions were what ran through my mind. I thought I have my phone with me right here, and it’s easy enough to hold it up and see the time or interact with stuff.

However, when I started dating someone who happened to be an avid user of iPhone and Apple Watch, I saw her using the watch in ways that actually seemed useful.

Using the watch to quickly add items to the grocery list, using it to ping her phone (whee did I leave that darn thing), using it to track the calories burned/steps taken on a walk around the block (more accurately than my Android phone did and without yet another device like a FitBit), even seeing her say “oh crap, forgot my phone but be able to use the watch to get directions and make calls/respond to messages/texts due to it being cellular enabled: it generally felt to me like I was seeing more than just a ‘solution in search of a problem’ I was seeing novel ways to interact. Yes, I could do most of these things with the voice assistant on my phone, but dragging it in an out of my purse (or wearing earbuds, etc) just did not fit as easily as the wearable nature of the watch.

So, when she upgraded her iPhone to the latest model, she gave me her old unlocked iPhone 7 and her old series 1 Apple watch (She had been using a series 4 for some time) so I could play with them. I started out fiddling just with the iPhone without cell service; just using them at home to see how I liked it.

I quickly got used to the convenience that I would leave my phone on the charger upstairs and could quickly add items to my ToDo list or respond to a quick IM, or direct music to play to one of our speakers (yeah she brought some AirPlay stuff into the house and I quickly got used to having options to use various speakers etc..) and to tall it to turn our smart bulbs on and off.

Again, the things I was doing were not things you can’t do with Android, they were not things you had to do with a smartwatdh. I have Google Home set up and could use my phone to control lights, but it was just little design things that really set the Apple Watch / iPhone apart: like the fact that “OK Google turn on bedroom light” would often be replied to with “you’ll need to unlock your phone” whereas “Hey Siri, turn on bedroom light” just worked.. even with the phone locked.

The other thing was simply a better experience since we no longer had to have me living in Google world and her in Apple.. (shared Google Keep lists, calendars, contacts all could work but required extra steps from her or me to get to sync to each other)

So, using that setup for a bit, I became convinced that it was maybe time to consider going “all in” back to Apple for my mobile needs.

I’m still using her iPhone 7… and am going to wait for the new “iPhone SE2 / iPhone 9” or whatever they decide to call it… which should come out end of March 2020. I’ve gotten my Series 5 Apple Watch and switched carriers (a remarkably good experience with Verizon Wireless which surprised the heck out of me)

The other big thing for me has been this: Apple is a hardware company.. their product is their phones, their watches, their tablets, and thir computers. Yes they have worked to build a very nice walled garden and integrate their thigns, but most importantly, you are buying their hardware, and thus you are not the product.

Google is first and foremost an advertising company, and even with paying for their cell service and buying a phone through them, their dedication to customer data privacy can not compete with Apple.

Yes, I’ve had a good long drink from the Apple Kool-Aid, and I feel fine.

Hey Microsoft, Why the Southpaw Hate?

Disclaimer first: I’m not left handed, but this particular issue brought home how the default right-handedness of things must be seriously frustrating to left handed people.

I have one or two Windows 8.1 machines that have touch screens. They’re full windows machines, not tablets, but they have the feature. I actually use the touch very rarely – usually only on the MS Surface when I’m sitting somewhere away from my office and need to do a bit of a quick thing online and haven’t got a proper mouse with me (Or haven’t bothered to pull it out of my bag and plug it in) … I find the touch screen to be more useful for some tasks than the touch pad… but over all I rarely if ever use the feature.

Now, there’s this little design feature of tablet mode.. someone somewhere reasoned that if you’re right handed then the interactions you do with menu items like drop downs etc… well, using a mouse, there’s no hand to get in the way so they all drop down a certain way top left toward bottom right. It’s intuitive with a mouse, but when you’re using your finger to touch, it’s true that your hand kind of blocks the menus when they orient this way.

So, Microsoft helpfully has a tablet mode feature that changes how menus work .. so that they expand to the left to stay out of the way of your hand. When touching a screen this actually does make some sense.

However, there are two issues in this. First is that being on the Autism spectrum, I’m a bit prickly about when anyone changes my user interface in any way without my express buy-in. I am very fond of things working exactly as I expect them.. but the other is this: you can easily turn off that feature .. or more to to the point, go into the control panel under tablet options and tell it you want “left-hand” mode.

Essentially, this is the setting I would assume that many left-handed users would want to use so that the default tablet behavior of left hand menus can be flipped for their use.

PERFECT! I just turn that over as if I were left handed, and presto, my menus work the way I want them (I’ll deal with moving my hand out of the way just fine thanks)

And all is well with the world .. until the next windows update.

EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Every time Windows update updates my pc, it seems that one of the things it “helpfully” does is set that tablet mode back to right handed.

Now, this is a total “first world problem” I get it..nobody’s going to die because I have to go back and re-select left handed.

But it got me thinking/realizing.. if you’re a left handed person you’re likely really annoyed with how the world defaults to right handed for everything. In often subtle, but frequently annoying ways, things like scissors literally not working well, with notebooks having rings in the way etc.. little annoyances.

And so what bugs me so darn much here is that MS seems to feel the need to keep resetting the setting I’ve chosen. And this must be likewise annoying to left handed people who would also have to reset the setting every damn time it Windows updates.

So, I just want to say to my southpaw friends/family, I may not really know your pain, but I’ve touched a tiny corner of it and can empathize. It really sucks when the default excludes you.

I am well aware that this whole issue of “world just assumes X is the default and it really throws up a lot of annoying barriers for people with Y” applies to issues of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs etc…

In its own little way, this little annoyance illustrates that we should all be paying attention to the default assumptions we face every day and maybe just maybe, to question / push back against them.

Discovering Synthwave

I often think of myself as having a rather limited range of musical interest as a fan/listener. My wife teases me that “If it wasn’t written in the 80’s it doesn’t even exist for you”.. and I guess I’ve internalized that a bit.

I’m not nearly so narrow really… I’m a fan of Goth-Industrial (and a host of related subgenres), as well as 80’s New Wave (and subgenres springing from them such as synthpop etc..), and I also like a lot of EDM (Trance, Techno, Electronica, and yes I’ll admit it – even Dubstep)

When I step back a bit I realize “If it’s electronic or strongly synth-backed, I’ll probably like it”

So, in that vein it’s not at all surprising that I like Synthwave and Darksynth…. what is surprising to me is that I only just discovered the genres (as a named thing) recently thanks to a fascinating interview with Glitbiter over at spinditty.

Of course, I immediately found her on SoundCloud and had a listen. I want to share my favorite track of hers here. It’s called See You in the Trees. It’s got this kind of Tangerine Dream vibe to it at first, but then the beat comes in and she starts singing and it truly becomes something unique.

Having grown up in the 80s and having played keyboards/synth as well as having been an avid gamer in those early years of arcade and PC gaming, Synthwave and Darksynth truly speak to me. This is a genre I’ve been waiting for… how it took me this long to discover, I’m not sure.

Synthwave is what you get when you apply modern synths/music production and stylizing to a core 80’s aesthetic. Or maybe a better way to say it is it’s kind of a retro-80s vibe for modern electronic music?

There’s a strong element of “postcard from Los Angeles from the 80s” to the genre’s core though I’m more into it for the “Modern synths/electronic music calling back to the visions we had of the future of science and technology in the 80’s”

Eh Maybe I should let someone who knows it better say it:
I found a really good deep dive over at Iron Skullet.





More Server Migration Fun

Back in April of 2015, I underwent a server migration from a dedicated physical server to virtual servers. It marked an end to me hosting web sites for other folks. I’ve been running along smoothly with those, but recently I received a notice that a key part of my hosting environment was going end of life.

So, I went to update that and found out that I could not because the OS I was on was too out of date. Time for a new migration.

I’m still with Netsonic. They continue to provide excellent service and support. Their tech, Adam S. was very helpful. We got the new instance up and running within a day and I was able to migrate my domains and services by the end of the next day.

I’ve spent this weekend making some long-needed updates to my web sites (migration is well and done, but just updating security and updating to newer versions of various server components, and tweaking site design etc.. You might even notice a whole new look and feel for digitalsorceress.com.

I managed to get back into the groove of Linux administration fairly quickly – I will admit I felt a bit rusty, so it’s good to pull out those skills and use them again.


More stuff to tame FireFox…

In my previous note HOWTO: Tame FireFox Quantum so it Stops Trying to be Google Chrome … I missed some important things that also matter to me

Disabling Video Auto Play

I find automatic playing of video to be incredibly annoying. In my previous note I mentioned the add-on FlashBlock Plus. This does a great job of blocking Flash video.. my purpose for that add-on was not just video but other annoying and possibly dangerous Flash scripts. However, I was just browsing a story today and hit a Yahoo.News page and OMG ANNOYING AUTO PLAY VIDEO. I thought I had properly set up my browser to prevent this

  • Go to about:config
  • Search for: media.autoplay.enabled
  • Set it to false

However, for whatever reason this was not stopping this embedded video. So, I found this extension which did the trick:

Disable HTML5 Autoplay
by Afnan Khan

Preventing Search From the Address Bar

This is a real security issue. In older days, you searched by going to a search engine.. and then browsers started adding a search bar to the UI. I liked this … it was convenient to not have to go to a separate site. However, somewhere along the line, browsers started just searching from the URL bar directly (Chrome, I blame you for this trend).Why is it a security issue? because If I am searching I know to be “on guard” but with the way browsers do it they don’t just send the query to google .. they will first directly try to take you to THING_YOU_TYPED.com ad www dot THING_YOU_TYPED.com. Typoing in the address bar should lead you to a “server not found” for maximum safety – search is search, URL bar is URL bar – keep them separate… for me anyway. There are two things you need to do to properly prevent the URL bar from just taking you places / trying to interpret what you’re typing:

  • Go to about:config
  • search for: keyword.enabled
  • set it to false
  • now search for: browser.fixup.alternate.enabled
  • set this to false as well

You’re now no longer going to get search from the address bar… make sure you go to customize toolbar and drag your search bar.. or that you’re OK with going to google.com or your favorite search engine manually

Force Search Results Into New Tab

This is an update: I was applying my changes to a new instance of FireFox and was getting annoyed that when I’d type in the search box, it was overwriting my currently open tab with the results… The behavior I want is for the search to go into a new tab and not mess with what I already have. To enable this behavior:

  • go to about:config
  • search for browser.search.openintab
  • set this to true

Conclusion

Sorry I had forgotten these. The Autoplay surprised me when I went to that site .. thought I had it nailed down.. the searching.. I had fixed this so long ago I forgot I had done it.

~Tananda

HOWTO: Tame FireFox Quantum so it Stops Trying to be Google Chrome

I wrote in a previous note ( You’ve heard of “Browser Wars” this is my “Browser Woes” (An Aspie Brain Coping With Change for Change’s Sake) about my battle with change for change’s sake when it comes to browsers / FireFox specifically. I won’t rehash that here. But what I will do here is tell you the “must have” changes I need to make to tame that wild FireFox into a friendly companion.

Must-Have Extensions / Add-ons

NoScript

For my main browser, I MUST have this.. I may dislike Chrome but it has its uses.. when I run into a site that needs a bunch of scripting that is too complex to sort out with NoScript, if I trust the site, I’ll use Chrome to open it. I also use Chrome to open YouTube and other places where I actually want video

The Internet is dangerous – so many web sites end up with malicious code .. sometimes embedded in ads (see uBlock Origin below for more on that) and sometimes you just accidentally click on a link to a deliberately bad site (or typo a link – do not go to micorsfot dot com for instance… )

NoScript disables all scripts on a page and lets you manually pick which to allow. This is pretty heady stuff.. it’s NOT EASY these days to see the 30+ script sources on a given page and determine which are OK to allow and which should stay blocked for maximum usability without ads or over aggressive tracking etc.

Usage note: the interface in Quantum is a bit unintuitive.. by default, all scripts are blocked. you visit a site and see all the script sources and you have a few choices. From left to right they are:

default (deny) | Temp: Trusted (this session Only) | Trusted (Always trust) | Untrusted (Always deny) | Custom When I’m testing out a site, I use temp trusted.. I only click trusted (always) if I have determined a particular script url is trustworthy

So, the process takes a bit of tweaking – most sites just don’t look/work right at the default level of untrusted. I will (if I trust the site) allow the site itself and then see if there are dependencies I can trust (jquery.com, GoogleTags, GoogleAssets, cloudflare instances etc) but I NEVER allow known advertisers (ads.anything, doubleclick.net, GoogleAdServices, etc..) and I am particularly suspicious of other stuff I have never seen before.

uBlock Origin (or AdBlock Plus)

Simply put, I need an Ad blocker. I used to use AdBlock Plus but they got kind of “sold out” ish in their behavior, taking money from advertisers who “met their standards” to not block… however, my whole point in blocking ads is that I don’t trust any advertisers. I’ve seen too many “legit” ad services get scammed into delivering ransomware and other malicious crap.. so NOPE.

uBlock Origin is my preferred Ad Blocker now. Do NOT confuse this with uBlock which was taken over by another dev and exploited for profit by the person who took it over.. the original uBlock author forked their pre-takeover version as uBlock Origin.

Disconnect for Facebook

It’s ironic that I moved to FireFox from PaleMoon in part because of PaleMoon not working correctly with Facebook.. and yet here I am using an add-on that disconnects one from Facebook. Let me tell you why I use this.

Facebook is “free” to use but like the axiom goes: when the product is free, the payment is often your privacy/data. Facebook is all about advertising, tracking and selling/curating your data. What a lot of users don’t realize is that part of how they do this is making sure that “partner websites” put bits of script in them pointing back to Facebook. The convenience can be that you log in to a site with your Facebook account and it knows you / links back. However I personally find the privacy implications to be .. horrific. I generally block facebook.net scripts on other (non Facebook) sites, but still, I just generally do not want the hassle of constantly having to log out of FB every time I want to browse without being connected back to my FB profile.

Enter “Disconnect for Facebook” this extension ensures that while I am directly using Facebook, it works as intended, but it stops Facebook and “partner sites” from exchanging data in ways I find unacceptable. Mostly, I just install this and forget about it. I’ve rarely if ever wanted/needed to disable it for a specific site, though it is possible if you have a site you’re explicitly using FB login to access.

FlashBlock (Plus)

I used to use this to block videos from playing. This is because before HTML5 video, there were only a few options for video on the web – MS Silverlight and Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Flash. With HTML5 video now, there’s a way for video to play that doesn’t use flash and this add-on does not block them (there are options for blocking all video, but my goal was more specifically flash-related.. read on).

Flash has (in my opinion) a lot of security concerns so I prefer to block it unless I EXPLICITLY trust the site in question. FlashBlock (Plus) does exactly what I want it to – blocks Flash from playing unless I explicitly allow it on a site. The extension has a low rating because folks seem to think it’s going to block all video… that’s not its purpose.

Features I Need / Used to get from Add-ons

So, I’ve got those add-ons but there are some things that I need that are either original FireFox features that are no longer present in Quantum or were from Add-ons which are not available for Quantum

TabMix Plus

TabMix Plus was an add-on which collected a lot of really useful features related to tabbed browsing into one. It had a “session manager” to also deal with restoring tabs when restarting but I always disabled that – I always like my browser to start fresh.

Sadly, when Quantum came out, it really broke this add-on in many many ways. The author seems to have gotten discouraged that so many API calls they relied upon were not available. It’s possible they’ll get it working and I’ll happily go back but in the meantime I found workarounds to my MUST HAVE items:

Open URLs Typed in Address Bar in a New Tab I don’t know about you, but when I type a new URL, I want it in a new tab. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be on a given site and need to look up something else and type in a new URL or search and realize I’d just left the site I was on. Yeah I can go back in history but.. COME ON this is literally one of the best things about tabbed browser interfaces. How to fix:

  • Go to the url about:config
  • Search for: browser.urlbar.openintab
  • set it to true

Open URLs From Bookmarks in a New Tab Similar to the address bar… sometimes I would be on a site and need to go to another to look something up.. I really HATE that the default behavior of FireFox is to just use the current tab when opening typed urls and bookmarks.. So to fix it so bookmarks always open in new tabs as well:

  • Go to the url about: config
  • Search for: browser.tabs.loadBookmarksInTabs
  • Set it to true

Use Blank Page for New Tabs / Home I hate the default “new tab” page – it’s got ads hidden as “suggested sites” and these don’t get blocked by my ad blockers. Also, I want empty/clean content till I am ready for it. TabMix Plus offered the ability to set new tabs and home page to blanks. It turns out this is actually now just a base setting in the browser. How to get this:

  • Go to the URL about:preferences#home
  • Find the setting homepage and new windows:
  • set it to blank page
  • Find the setting New Tabs:
  • set it to blank page

NOTE: in about:config there are ways to control the new tab page and maybe you’d prefer that – I like blank but you can search for browser.newtabpage.activity-stream and see the many options you have to really lock that down

Open Links in Tabs Instead of New Windows Another annoyance: I have a tabbed browser. This means I do NOT want new windows opening up .. use new tabs FFS. Luckily this is now a base app configuration.. which is not on by default. To fix it:

  • Go to the URL about:preferences
  • Under Tabs: Check the option for Open links in tabs instead of new windows

Prevent Closing of Last Tab from Closing FireFox Another small annoyance: when you close the last open tab, FireFox default behavior is to exit. I want to just go back to empty/blank browser. To fix this:

  • Go to the URL about:config
  • Search for: browser.tabs.closeWindowWithLastTab
  • Set it to false

Place Browser Tabs Underneath the Address Bar This is a small pet peeve but I really want the top-to-bottom order of my browser to be

  1. Menu bar
  2. Toolbar with Url bar and search bar, navigation tools and controls for extensions
  3. Favorites bar
  4. Tab bar (with multiple rows of tabs
  5. Main browser window
  6. Status bar

The old Firefox (pre v 28) and PaleMoon both have this.. there is no add-on that can do it that I’m aware of. However, there’s a really useful feature of FirefoxQuantum called “user chrome” and with the correct User Chrome settings, this is doable

  • Go to the url about:support
  • find the Profile Folder listing and click the Open Folder button
  • In that folder, look to see if there’s a folder named “chrome”
    • If not, Create it
    • Inside that folder, create a file named userChrome.css
  • Edit userChrome.css
  • Paste in the following CSS code
/* ************************************************************************** */
/* TABS BELOW BOOKMARKS   https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/1207891 */
/* ************************************************************************** */

/* Tab bar below Navigation & Bookmarks Toolbars
   For Firefox 57-64 -- No longer works in Firefox 65
   See https://www.userchrome.org/what-is-userchrome-css.html#movetabbar
*/
#nav-bar { /* main toolbar */
  -moz-box-ordinal-group: 1 !important;
  box-shadow: none !important;
}
#PersonalToolbar { /* bookmarks toolbar */
  -moz-box-ordinal-group: 2 !important;
}
#TabsToolbar { /* tab bar */
  -moz-box-ordinal-group: 3 !important;
  padding-top: 0 !important;
}
/* Clean up spacing */
.titlebar-placeholder {
  display: none !important;
}
toolbarbutton.bookmark-item {
  padding-top: 2px !important;
  padding-bottom: 2px !important;
}

/* Vertical space for min/max/close buttons above the main toolbar */
/* On Mac, if not showing title bar, allow 20 pixels */
#main-window[tabsintitlebar="true"]:not([inFullscreen="true"]) #toolbar-menubar:not([accesskey]) ~  #nav-bar {
  margin-top: 20px !important;
}
/* On Windows, if not showing title bar or menu bar, allow 20 pixels */
#main-window[tabsintitlebar="true"] #toolbar-menubar[autohide="true"][inactive="true"] ~ #nav-bar {
  margin-top: 20px !important; /* More px may be better on Win10 */
}
/* Sorry, Linux users, I don't know the best approach for you! */

/* Background for Light and Dark themes */
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="bright"] #TabsToolbar,
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] #TabsToolbar {
  background-color: var(--chrome-secondary-background-color) !important;
  background-image: none !important;
}
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] .scrollbutton-up,
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] .scrollbutton-down,
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] .tabs-newtab-button,
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] #new-tab-button,
#main-window[lwthemetextcolor="dark"] #alltabs-button {
  fill: var(--lwt-text-color) !important;
}
/* Left and right borders on Win 7 & 8, but not on 10 and later: */
@media (-moz-os-version: windows-win7), (-moz-os-version: windows-win8) {
  /* Vertical toolbar border */
  #main-window[sizemode=normal] #navigator-toolbox > toolbar#TabsToolbar {
    border-left: 1px solid hsla(240,5%,5%,0.3) !important;;
    border-right: 1px solid hsla(240,5%,5%,0.3) !important;;
    background-clip: padding-box;
  }
}

/* Override vertical shifts when moving a tab (9 Jan 2018) */
#TabsToolbar[movingtab] {
  padding-bottom: 0 !important;
}
#TabsToolbar[movingtab] > .tabbrowser-tabs {
  padding-bottom: 0 !important;
  margin-bottom: 0 !important;
}
#TabsToolbar[movingtab] + #nav-bar {
  margin-top: 0 !important;
}
  • Save userChrome.css
  • Restart FireFox

This gets you the tab bar underneath the browser favorites bar

Tab Block Multiple Rows Another minor thing: the tab bar on FireFox by default is one row and any overflow kind of shuffles off to the right. I really do have a LOT of tabs open often …

This is how my browser currently looks with both tabs below bookmarks and multi rows – I told you I kept a lot of tabs open. This is just the tabs while I was editing this article.

This is another thing that is not possible currently with add-ons or built in settings, but can be accomplished through userChrome.css. So, here’s how:

  • Go to the url about:support
  • find the Profile Folder listing and click the Open Folder button
  • In that folder, look to see if there’s a folder named “chrome”
    • If not, Create it
    • Inside that folder, create a file named userChrome.css
  • Edit userChrome.css
  • Paste in the following CSS code
/* ************************************************************************** */
/* MULTIPLE ROWS OF TABS   https://wrw.is/multiple-tab-rows-in-firefox/       */
/* ************************************************************************** */
.tabbrowser-tab:not([pinned]) {min-width:35px;max-width:35px;}
.tabbrowser-tab,.tab-background {height:var(--tab-min-height);}
.tab-stack {width: 100%;}
#tabbrowser-tabs .scrollbox-innerbox {display: flex;flex-wrap: wrap;}
#tabbrowser-tabs .arrowscrollbox-scrollbox {overflow: visible;display: block;}
#titlebar,#titlebar-buttonbox{height:var(--tab-min-height) !important;}
#titlebar{margin-bottom:calc(var(--tab-min-height)*-1) !important;}
#main-window[sizemode="maximized"] #titlebar{margin-bottom:calc(6px + var(--tab-min-height)*-1) !important;}
#main-window[sizemode="maximized"] #TabsToolbar{margin-left:var(--tab-min-height);}
#titlebar:active{margin-bottom:0 !important;}
#titlebar:active #titlebar-content{margin-bottom:var(--tab-min-height) !important;}
#tabbrowser-tabs .scrollbutton-up,.tabbrowser-tabs .scrollbutton-down,#alltabs-but
  • Save userChrome.css
  • Restart FireFox

Now, your tabs will open in a big huge block with up to 3 rows as needed.

Close All Tabs Button Yet another thing TabMix Plus offered. In this case, we can get this from an add-on though.

  • Install Close All Tabs Button extension
  • (optional) I like mine to appear at the right of the tab bar. To do this right click on an empty space in the toolbar and choose customize. You can then drag/drop the button to where you want it

Status-4-evar

The extension Status-4-evar was needed after some random FireFox change removed the status bar at the bottom of the browser. The status bar is super useful – it’s where URLs preview when you mouse over them .. this is super helpful in sanity checking before you click a link.

This is another one that can be fixed using userChrome.css:

  • Go to the url about:support
  • find the Profile Folder listing and click the Open Folder button
  • In that folder, look to see if there’s a folder named “chrome”
    • If not, Create it
    • Inside that folder, create a file named userChrome.css
  • Edit userChrome.css
  • Paste in the following CSS code
/* ************************************************************************** */
/* STATUS BAR   http://www.optimiced.com/en/2018/02/11/restore-status-bar-in-firefox-quantum/ */
/* http://www.optimiced.com/wp-uploads/2018/06/userChromeLight61.css */
/* ************************************************************************** */

/*
    Display the status bar in Firefox Quantum (version 61+)
    permanently at the bottom of the browser window.
    Code below works best for the Light Firefox theme and is based on:
    https://github.com/MatMoul/firefox-gui-chrome-css/blob/master/chrome/userChrome.css
    This userChrome.css file was last modified on: 28-Jun-2018.
    Tested to work with Firefox 61 on Windows.
    Related blog post: http://www.optimiced.com/en/?p=1727
*/

#browser-bottombox { height: 20px; border-top: solid 1px #CCC; }

.browserContainer>#statuspanel { left: 4px !important; bottom: 0px; transition-duration: 0s !important; transition-delay: 0s !important; }
.browserContainer>#statuspanel>#statuspanel-inner>#statuspanel-label { margin-left: 0px !important; border: none !important; padding: 0px !important; }

window[inFullscreen="true"] #browser-bottombox { display:none !important; }
window[inFullscreen="true"] .browserContainer>#statuspanel[type="overLink"] #statuspanel-label { display:none !important; }
  • Save userChrome.css
  • Restart FireFox

This puts back a status bar

Conclusion

You may not be as resistant to change as I am.. or you may not be bothered by some of the behaviors I was bothered by, but I hope this has served as a useful guide to getting FireFox Quantum to behave for those of you who either liked the old original layout or who have become disappointed with PaleMoon

~Tananda

UPDATE 2019-01-23: fixed up link in opening graph and spelling
UPDATE 2019-03-31: de-facebooked the links (originally I posted this as a FB note.. )

You’ve heard of “Browser Wars” this is my “Browser Woes” (An Aspie Brain Coping With Change for Change’s Sake)

I was a FireFox user for a long time. For years, its layout and rich extension community meant I could get it to work exactly “just so” for my needs. I had it laid out with the standard Windows Menu bar at the top.. the toolbar with URL bar next down but searching from the URL bar was disabled and there was an explicit search bar next to it so I never accidentally searched when I meant to type in a direct URL. It had my script and ad-blocking tools there too… then below that a marvelous tab bar with up to 3 rows of tabs and buttons to Close all tabs and new tab right there then the main browser window and a status bar at the bottom so when I hovered over a link I could sanity check before clicking.

All was good from FireFox 4 to version 28.

Then, DISASTER: everything changed.

Firefox for whatever reason (I assume because Google Chrome was beating them numbers wise) they completely redesigned their UI to look/act more like Google Chrome. They ditched the separate search bar, they moved where the address bar was in relation to tabs, they ditched the status bar…

In short, they made it look/feel just like Chrome which I was EXPLICITLY NOT USING BECAUSE I DIDN’T LIKE IT!

I was able to dig around and found that there was an official FireFox branch meant for enterprise/extended support, called ESR (Extended Support Release) where they would keep around an older build (I think roughly v26 was the last pre-Chromification .. and continue to support it for a couple years. This was what I did.. because .. UGH CHANGE!

As that clock was ticking down a project called PaleMoon came to my attention. Apparently I was not the only person who thought that the change in direction to “be more like Google Chrome” was a bad idea. They “forked” Chrome at v28 and started building/maintaining their own (FireFox is Open Source so this is totally fine) Every time FF would come out with security updates, they’d port in the updates but leave out the changes that related to the updated interface.

This was great – FireFox kept making it more like Chrome and PaleMoon kept just making it work like it always did.

Then, on November 14m, 2017, FireFox upturned the apple cart.. they released “Quantum” which entirely killed NPAPI plugin architecture. This is a fairly involved, geeky subject I’ll not delve into except to say that even though I was happily on PaleMoon, this was a problem for me. You see, PaleMoon was able to just use the same plugins as FireFox. Even with PaleMoon forked nicely there were customizations I used certain Extensions for. Those extension authors never heard of PaleMoon but they didn’t need to .. it “just worked” for us PaleMoon types.

However, with Quantum, FireFox utterly changed everything and every plugin author needed to make new ones. Some just /RageQuit and others dutifully replaced their old extensions with the new ones.. but that left PaleMoon users stuck – because very few if any extension authors continued to make updates/fixes/security patches for PaleMoon. Soon, the whole architecture of PaleMoon needed to be redesigned as it could not use Mozilla plugins site anymore. PaleMoon had a few dedicated extension devs who did maintain their extensions for that fork.. but over time, it got fewer and fewer.

However, what really did me in: Facebook (surprise)

I’ve been used to dealing with little issues on and off in lots of sites as I use heavy script and ad blocking.. but I’ve always mostly been able to work out how to adjust settings so I get minimally annoyed, but usually, I can get things working.

Facebook though.. they seem to design their client-side code (JavaScript and the like) for the current Google Chrome, and other browsers are left playing a “watch and update” game in some respects. FireFox is pretty on top of it as it may not have Google’s market share, they are still able to be reactive enough. However, PaleMoon, my savior since v28 changes in FireFox? not so much. They’ve been falling afoul of multiple glitches in FB caused by FB tweaking code to be Chrome-centric and not worrying about niche browsers (I don’t blame them for this – I blame them for a lot but not this).

So, I am stuck with not being able to use PaleMoon on the social site I use to keep up with my friends… I finally got upset enough that I installed FireFox so I could use it to get around a couple of the nastier glitches.. like one where I can’t post new posts to my timeline (but can to groups and other feeds .. just my own timeline)

And then I set about seeing if extension devs had come up with enough extensions to force some of the more egregious Chrome-Isms in FireFox to behave.

I’ve been digging a while but I think I managed to find all of the things I need between Extensions that finally updated and some hidden about:config options and some (ironically named) tweaks to userChrome.css

I’ve made a new note ( HOWTO: Tame FireFox Quantum so it Stops Trying to be Google Chrome ) with the details of what I did / do so anyone interested in fixing some of the deficiencies I’ve seen in FireFox can play along.

Ultimately, I recognize that most of this is my own “Aspie Brain” not coping well with change. But honestly, I’m mostly OK with change when there’s a need for it.. I HATE “change for change’s sake” and certain UI design decisions really feel like that.. and it really throws me for a loop some days.

~Tananda