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Thunderbird startup hang (hint: Add-Ons)

Debian

If you see Thunderbird hanging during startup for a minute and then continuing to load fine, you are probably running into an issue similar to what I saw when Debian migrated Icedove back to the "official" Mozilla Thunderbird branding and changed ~/.icedove to ~/.thunderbird in the process (one symlinked to the other).

Looking at the console log (=start Thunderbird from a terminal so you see its messages), I got:

console.log: foxclocks.bootstrap._loadIntoWindow(): got xul-overlay-merged - waiting for overlay-loaded
[.. one minute delay ..]
console.log: foxclocks.bootstrap._windowListener(): got window load chrome://global/content/commonDialog.xul

Stracing confirms it hangs because Thunderbird loops waiting for a FUTEX until that apparently gets kicked by a XUL core timeout.
(Thanks for defensive programming folks!)

So in my case uninstalling the Add-On Foxclocks easily solved the problem.

I assume other Thunderbird Add-Ons may cause the same issue, hence the more generic description above.

Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird Menu font sizes

Open Source

The font size Mozilla chose for Firefox and Thunderbird menus looks awfully large on Netbook screens. It wastes space and is visually at odds with reasonably sized content. And for some weird reason you can set the content font and size via the menu but not the font and size for the drop-down menus themselves.

As the "Theme Font & Size Changer" Add-On doesn't work reliably and phones home way too often (showing a nag screen), I dug back into how to do this "manually". Probably a decade after I fixed this the first time...

You need to create the file ~/.mozilla/firefox/*/chrome/userChrome.css with * being your profile directory (<random_number>.default usually) and you most probably have to create the chrome directory first.

The same for Thunderbird resides in ~/.thunderbird/*/chrome/userChrome.css. Here again the chrome directory will most probably need to be created first.


/* Global UI font */
* { font-size: 10pt !important;
  font-family: Ubuntu !important;
}
 

needs to go into these files for Firefox or Thunderbird respectively. The curly braces are important. So copy & paste correctly. Symlinks or hardlinks are fine if those files do not need to differ between your web browser and your email client.

Restart Firefox and/or Thunderbird to see the effect.

Obviously you can choose any other font and font size in the snippet above to suit your taste and requirements.

If you are massively space-confined and don't mind a quite ugly UI, check out the Littlefox Add-on. Ugly but optimal use of the minimal screen estate with very small screens.

SyncPlaces, SortPlaces ... preserving these and other excellent Firefox add-ons

Internet

A few days ago I was re-installing a laptop of mine. Downloading the default add-ons for Firefox came to a stall as I could not find SyncPlaces, which I've been using for a few years to synchronize my bookmarks between the systems I use. As I knew the author, Andy Halford, has a homepage I surfed there and found...

"So long Mozilla and thanks for all the fish

If you are here looking for any of my extensions (SyncPlaces, SortPlaces, CheckPlaces or SearchPlaces) then I'm sad to inform you that these are no longer available.

Unfortunately I do not have the time or the motivation to continue to support these in light of the close-minded, short-sighted and increasingly inflexible organisation that Mozilla has become. Apparently spending 1000's of hours promoting their products and providing my extensions to the general public to fill the gaps in their product, and repair bookmarks destroyed by Firefox Sync, counts for little and does not deserve any flexibility or support from them. Apparently add-on developers are second-class citizens to them whatever they may say. Surprising given that these are the main USP of Firefox, and developers are providing their time and efforts for free. My decision was taken after a series of problems the last one being the final straw."
Andy Halford, 17.06.12 screenshot

I was unable to find any details what caused this rant and the serious decision to remove his excellent add-ons from the Internet. There are a few discussions on the Mozillazine forums but nothing enlightening so far. Andy's personal homepage, family homepage and the TotalValidator product he and his wife offer are all still online, he just pulled all his popular Firefox add-ons.

Andy states on his homepage

"I will not be answering any further emails on this matter, I suggest that you direct any questions to Mozilla themselves and ask them why they were happier for me to leave than to use a little common sense." [ib.]

I still tried to contact him and asked for an interview but he has not come back to me so far. I've sent a second email with the URL of this blog post.

The SyncPlaces plug-in is still prominently featured on Wikipedia's Comparison of browser synchronizers at press time.

Now this is a mess. With some ungraciously licensed closed source software, you're probably used to plan migrations once license terms run out or you have to upgrade to the much improved successor product because "extended support" for your perfectly fine current version gets ridiculously expensive.

But with open source you have more rights and e.g. the security to use the product as long as you wish. If you have kept a copy of the code (and the license file). Because in this case the Mozilla Firefox installer .xpi's are hard to come by. Mozilla has a centralized add-on repository and once the files are pulled from there, they quickly vanish off the net. Now don't get me wrong, these plug-ins are now unmaintained software, so you will have to migrate at some point in time, but not necessarily now. You have some time for planning and evaluation of alternatives.

Continue reading "SyncPlaces, SortPlaces ... preserving these and other excellent Firefox add-ons"

Kubuntu 9.10 (karmic) 64bit firefox java plugin

Linux

For some unknown reason the (K)Ubuntu developers did not update the Java plugin for firefox after jaunty (yet?).

The version that Karmic (9.10) pulls out of the multiverse repository is still jaunty's (9.04).

So when you try:

apt-get install sun-java6-plugin

you'll get something like

   Reading package lists... Done
   Building dependency tree
   Reading state information... Done
   Some packages could not be installed. This may mean that you have
   requested an impossible situation or if you are using the unstable
   distribution that some required packages have not yet been created
   or been moved out of Incoming.
   The following information may help to resolve the situation:
   
   The following packages have unmet dependencies:
     sun-java6-plugin: Depends: sun-java6-bin (= 6-15-1) but 6-16-0ubuntu1.9.04 is to be installed
   E: Broken packages

Duh.

Actually if you have the Java Runtime Environment (JRE, package name sun-java6-jre) installed all files needed are already present.
Just not put in the right place on the filesystem.

So, run:

sudo apt-get install sun-java6-jre   # install JRE if needed
sudo ln -s /usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun/jre/lib/amd64/libnpjp2.so /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/

This will install the JRE (if it's not already installed) and will symlink the firefox plugin for java in place so that it'll be found after a browser restart.