a view into the sordid life i lead

Monday, October 30, 2006

Firefox wants to be Microsoft

There appears to be a trend in some of the larger open source projects where the apps are becoming "too friendly". This is the sort of thing that Apple and Microsoft have been doing for years - obfuscating the process to remove/uninstall some part of the system. I'm starting to find that Firefox is heading in that direction.

I upgraded our radio station (KRUU - from Ubuntu Dapper to Edgy yesterday. The upgrade went beautifully, with virtually no hiccups (i'll get to that virtually part later). However, I got a call at work today saying that the previous process of clicking on an MP3 bringing up a dialog asking whether to dowload the file or play it no longer came up, and the file just played with Totem in the browser, using a plugin. This is behaviour that I had explicitly not installed by default, and yet it suddenly appeared without my request.

It took me about 30 minutes to figure out that I needed to delete the plugins from the /usr/lib/firefox/plugins folder to stop the plugin from coming in. Not so big a deal, but WHY THE HELL is there not a way to disable the plugins (or even remove them) directly within Firefox?!!! I mean, the about:plugins link should at least list that the plugins are in the folder, and can be disabled. Would have been the appropriate and sensible thing to do. Instead I have to go delete the components!!

Anyway, this is not such a big deal, except if you're a complete tech-neophyte. I actually knew how to do this. But the average Firefox user on Ubuntu has absolutely no way to know how to change the plugin, or to alter the automatic behavior. Worst of all is if the user sets the plugin to perform an action (say XMMS to open all mp3s), but wishes to later undo this function. No convenient way to back out of this. There really should be something akin to Preferences->Plugins->Remove or Content->Behavior->AssociatedApplication.

Actually, worse than the above is the fact that Firefox 2.0 seems quite unstable on Ubuntu Edgy - I get at least one crash a day, which is surprisingly bad. Maybe there's something that still needs to be configured - like the "don't crash" option that I forgot to set.