Using Firefox (3 Weeks)

I’ve been using Firefox as my primary browser for 3 weeks now. Here’s a status update.

Things were really sluggish and slow at first compared to Chrome. After poking around at a handful of combinations, I’ve settled on some adjustments.

  1. Changed my “Content processes” setting from 4 to 8, which is the max allowed in the drop-down. I have 16GB of memory on this laptop, which should be plenty. This made an immediate difference, so I may try hacking it to -1 at some point.
  2. Went back to using Google Chrome for all Google products. At the risk of being overdramatic, Google products are almost unusable in Firefox.
  3. Went back to using Google Chrome for development. The developer console in Chrome is just too good and fast.
  4. Removed my userChrome.css. This seems to have improved performance, and I’m starting to get used to the look and feel of default Firefox.
  5. Disabled Privacy Badger. It seems that having uBlock Origin enabled is enough to block the many annoying scripts of the internet.

There are a few things that I’m still getting used to or haven’t figured a way around yet.

A screenshot of Feedly with a black box where the list of subscriptions should normally be.

This weird blackout effect happens pretty frequently in Feedly. If I restart the browser, it goes back to normal. I’m not able to fix it any other way. I thought this was due to my userChrome.css changes, but it has persisted. Every once in a while the blackout effect happens elsewhere—I’ve seen it in Github and just now it happened in some hover modal thing in Gutenberg. I dunno. 🤷🏼‍♂️

Firefox’s auto-complete in the address bar is not as good as Chrome’s. In Chrome, if I start typing “j”, I’m immediately shown the most common URL starting with “j” that I visit, which is this site’s admin dashboard. In Firefox, I get the domain – jeremyfelt.com – but not the wp-admin part. The dashboard requires a down arrow key press, where in Chrome I could rely on “j + Enter”. Small annoyance, but still an annoyance! 🙂

Every so often my screen locks up for 10 seconds or so. I think it’s happened most frequently when switching from Slack to Firefox, though I noted once that it happened when switching from iTerm to Firefox. Nothing has actually crashed, it just takes a break for a bit and then goes back to normal.

All small annoyances, but they’re starting to add up. I’ve thought once or twice a week about switching back to Chrome, but I’ve gotten more and more used to things, so I may be able to stick it out.

The balance between the Google internet and the open internet is a fine one!

Highdive, 1999

Well this is a blast from the past.

I was stumbling through one playlist or another on Spotify today, trying to find a good listen while I worked. One song—I forget which—reminded me a bit of Hum, so I started playing You’d Prefer An Astronaut. That only lasted a few seconds because it was much slower than I needed.

All of a sudden the name Sarge, another Champaign–Urbana band from the late 90s, popped into my head and I went to go find them. Because Spotify now seems to have everything ever recorded, I had a lot of fun listening to The Glass Intact and Charcoal for the first time in years.

The "Dear Josie, Love Robyn" 7" album cover.

For some reason this made me start poking around at my archives, trying to find out which 7″ vinyl I had of theirs from way back when. I never found the exact answer, though I’m fairly confident it’s Dear Josie, Love Robyn (pictured above).

While searching pictures on Google Drive, I ran into a couple ticket stubs that brought back more memories and I decided to write this all here so that they’re easier to remember in the future. 🙂

A ticket stub for a Local H, Sarge, and Dismemberment Plan show at the High Dive in Urbana, IL on November 12, 1999.

On November 12, 1999, we saw Sarge play with Local H at the Highdive in Champaign, IL. I believe I was somewhat familiar with Sarge, but only barely with Local H at the time. Local H’s setlist is available, but I can’t find anything for Sarge.

I don’t remember Dismemberment Plan at all, though I’ve now enjoyed a handful of tracks and I’m happy to have stumbled upon the name for future listening.

The discovery of that first ticket stub was great because I hadn’t thought of that show in a long, long time. I had only ever remembered seeing Veruca Salt at the Highdive with The Cupcakes, which apparently was just a few weeks later.

A ticket stub for a Veruca Salt and The Cupcakes show at the High Dive in Urbana, IL on December 2, 1999.

This show was memorable because it was the first show for Veruca Salt after Nina Gordon left. We were also geeking out on The Cupcakes because their drummer was Matt Walker, who had recently left as Jimmy Chamberlin’s replacement in the Smashing Pumpkins.

What times. The things you could see for $8 in 1999!

P.S. I wrote this while listening to Smoking Popes songs. I’ll save that one for another time.

Adjusting to Firefox

I’m giving Firefox another shot as my default browser.

In December, when Microsoft announced they’d be using Chromium for their future browser, I was partially happy because it meant one less browser engine to worry about.

I was also partially unhappy because it meant one browser engine had that much more power in deciding the future of the web.

In January, when a program manager at Microsoft suggested Mozilla “get down from their philosophical ivory tower” and embrace Chromium, I started thinking more about what it meant to use Firefox rather than Chrome.

So here I am. A Twitter search shows it’s been just over a year since my last attempt, which lasted 2 months. I didn’t write a blog post that time, but instead mentioned two things in a tweet:

  • Chrome’s dev tools are still better (for me).
  • Firefox started off fast, but has been really clunky lately.

How helpful of me.

It looks like I also made attempts in 2012, 2014, and 2017. The frequency seems to be increasing? I should remember that Firefox was my default browser for years before Chrome came out. Maybe it will stick this time. 🤞🏻

My first impression upon opening Firefox 65 was that everything is boxy and feels sluggish. I have to remind myself that I’ve spent thousands of hours in Chrome and need to make time to get used to something new.

My first step was to switch to the light theme, which feels a bit better.

In general, typing feels slower in Firefox than in Chrome. Not a lot slower, but somewhat like walking through a mud. I dunno.

My immediate thoughts are all around look and feel. The spacing between bookmark icons and text in the toolbar is a bit off and the line height doesn’t feel right. Again, using Chrome for thousands of hours has my brain looking for something similar.

I do think the Firefox team would benefit from spending some more time tweaking defaults around text.

The default Firefox interface with the light theme applied.

I was able to immediately remove that “flexible space” to the left of “New Tab” through the “Customize” interface, which provides a nice amount of customization.

At this point I stumbled into the world of customized Firefox and started editing my userChrome.css file to make small adjustments. It was easy enough to tweak the toolbar height and adjust some line coloring. This is a task that could really be a time suck if you aren’t careful.

And then I found MaterialFox!

The Firefox interface with MaterialFox applied.

I replaced my userChrome.css file with the entire chrome directory provided by that project and now Firefox looks almost exactly like Chrome. I’m not sure if that’s a great thing, but it’s at least making my brain feel okay, so I’ll take it.

The look and feel is much better now, I just need to get used to whatever my brain is perceiving as sluggish.

The only other small annoyance right now is that in Chrome I can toggle the bookmarks toolbar with CMD-Shift-b. This toggles the bookmark sidebar in Firefox. There is no keyboard shortcut for toggling the bookmarks toolbar and I don’t think there’s a way to assign one without installing an extension, which I’m hesitant to do right away.

I’ll save that one for later and see how often I really want to toggle it.

That’s it for first impressions. I’m going to do my best at giving it at least a month. I haven’t used the developer tools yet, but I’ll try to stick it out and open Chrome for troubleshooting if I really need to. I’ll plan on keeping a running log of issues to publish if I decide to switch back so that I know what to check for next time. 🙂

Assorted Resources

These came in handy today.

  • Find your profile directory through “Help” -> “Troubleshooting”
  • If you use a custom userChrome.css file, don’t get smart and change the namespace URL to be HTTPS. It won’t work.
  • To inspect the styles for the “chrome” of the browser, enable the Browser Toolbox.