Thursday, July 17, 2014

There's a Pale Moon Risin' or Why and How I Ditched Firefox

Firefox many versions ago finally overtook Internet Explorer in a way many anticipated but none of us wanted. It became bloatware: slower response time, chewing up memory like my dog ripping into a T-bone steak. We could all still live with that as it was just a plain better, more flexible browser than IE or other offerings such as Opera or Safari (for PC users anyway).

Then came along the Australis UI.

Actually, it didn't just come along, it was rammed down our throats.  Fortunately, we don't have to take it lying down.

Never Now Means Always

I'm not sure when it happened that Mozilla took it upon itself to ignore that little checkbox in the options that is supposed to tell them never(!) install updates, but somewhere in the version 20s they stopped paying attention to that user request, because, so much like Microsoft, they simply know better what is good for us stupid users.

Firefox Advanced Options Popup
To Firefox, Never apparently means Always
Didn't matter that I didn't want the next version of FF. The next time I booted my computer and opened FF, it had already installed current version+1.

That should have been bad enough, but when version 28 came along with the Australis UI that was the final straw.

A Focus Group Made Me Do It

In a cheap effort to look more like Google's Chrome, they ditched the lower status bar and adopted Chrome's clunky menu hidden under a single icon. Their justification? "Focus groups" had told them they preferred it that way.

The thing about focus groups (I've participated on both sides of the fence in numerous focus groups) is that they are highly susceptible to groupthink and they basically tell the facilitators what they think they want to hear. Furthermore, The people behind the one-way mirror, they pretty much hear what they want to hear to self-justify where they want to take the product anyway.

Mozilla decided to leave their user base in the dust of their new we-know-best management. They had done that a while ago, but now they've made it clear that what real users want vs. focus groups is not so important to them.

No Status Bar

I'm a fairly heavy user of the status bar as you can see in the picture below.
Palemoon browser status bar
My browser status bar
I find it an extremely handy place to put real-time widgets to monitor the browser, world time, page load progress, solar weather (I'm a ham radio operator), and a variety of other things. Try as I might, I can't cram all that stuff into a space above the tabs.

It seems that if Mozilla really gave a rat's ass about their users, they would at least have made the status bar an optional feature instead of pushing its absence down our craw.

Pale Moon to the Rescue

Fortunately, those who still like the basic Firefox UI including the status bar and who can do with a little less attitude have an alternative: Pale Moon

The Pale Moon project has built their browser upon the Firefox code base, so all the FF features you still love are there, including the status bar. In fact, they state very clearly in their FAQ that they will never adopt the Australis UI. Yay! Additionally, they issue versions for Windows that are optimized for your hardware, so it generally runs more efficiently on your hardward. Use the Web Installer and it will download the correct version for your PC or laptop based on your hardware, whether or not it is 32 or 64-bit, Intel or AMD and based on your particular processor model.

There is a Pale Moon for Linux as well, though it is a third-party build and I have not yet installed it on any of my dual-boot systems, but I intend to as I'm very pleased with this browser. I've been using Chromium on my Linux boxes, but it's an unsatisfying experience.

Update: Now you can download Pale Moon for Linux at SourceForge: http://sourceforge.net/projects/pm4linux/

Comes with an installer script that is easy to use. The browser on Linux behaves perfectly, so now I have it on all my 'puters.

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