Express your individuality, but within these confines

My own personal Two Minutes Hate that came in the wake of the Firefox 29 release last week subsided in just about that much time. I saw enough to know that for my purposes, Firefox no longer fit the bill, and immediately sought out a different solution.

For what I’ve seen around the web, I was not the only one disappointed in a Chrome-like redesign. I’ve tried Chrome, and even used it in the office for a short period a couple of years ago, but I wouldn’t ever adopt it at home.

Chrome, and a lot of modern web-based tools, are quickly slanting toward smartphone users, and I don’t belong to that trend. I’ve had touchscreens and ultralight laptops. I even tried a tablet computer once, but I know what I like. To each his own.

It doesn’t really bother me if Firefox tries to meld with Unity or some other cellphone-ish desktop, or if dropping the window size down below 800×600 causes the WordPress.com backend to contort and grow giant thumb-sized buttons.

I don’t even mind it terribly when someone sends me to a mobile Wikipedia page. It’s an oversight and a slight hassle, but I don’t care. It’s just not something that is aimed at me, so I don’t sweat it.

But I’m not part of that crowd. I do my work at glorious 1600×1200, and smartphones don’t appeal to me. Carving the interface to fit a phone’s dimensions tells me where Mozilla’s priorities are, and I can nod and walk away calmly.

That nonchalance isn’t shared in all corners though. At more than one site that I peruse (under a pseudonym, of course), most questions or complaints about FF29 were met with a lot less tolerance.

People seeking alternatives were told to simply learn to use it. Quit your complaining. Shake it off and move on. I even saw a few threads locked and removed by moderators, who apparently were unhappy with the angle of the criticism.

All that is beside the point, since it’s a sad day for Linux when someone with a legitimate request for a substitute is told to stop complaining and “learn to use it.” Haul in a potential Windows convert, and suggestions on alternate software rain from the sky like manna from heaven.

But express distaste with an arbitrary interface change though … and you’ll just have to get used to it. It’s not that big a difference. This is progress. It’ll grow on you. Keep your mouth shut. Conform. By all means, express your individuality, but keep within these confines.

That’s human nature I guess, and I blame biology more than culture or society. But out of deference to those who might prefer something else, I collected quite a few links on how to fix What Mozilla Hath Wrought.

Provided your machine has adequate muscle, you have the option to pull in a couple of extensions that supposedly give better control over the interface.

  • The Classic Theme Restorer not only allows you to resculpt the UI, it allows you a lot of control that otherwise is only avaiable through about:config. In that sense, it’s worth installing even if you like the new arrangement. This might be your best option overall, especially if Mozilla itself suggests this in their support pages.
  • Australis Slimmr also gives you control over spacing in titlebars and so forth, plus a few other options. I found I didn’t need this as much as I initially thought I would.
  • Tabs on Bottom restores the bottom tab arrangement, which to be honest, I’d be shocked if someone still used.
  • Status-4-Evar is another extenion worthy of including even if you like the new interface. This adds options for your status bar that you probably didn’t even know existed.

There are lots more, but I won’t list them because honestly, my hardware begins to suffer if I bog down Firefox, which is already a pig, with too many extensions. Start times grow longer, basic functions start to lag, and overall performance takes a hit.

Short of overloading Firefox with corrections to Mozilla’s tectonic drift, you could downshift and stick with Firefox 28 — and that was my initial reaction, if I must be honest.

Reinstalling in Arch is as simple as pointing pacman -U at the old package, and for what I hear, life is even easier with Debian and Iceweasel. Ubuntu users should probably read through this for advice.

It’s also worth thinking about complete alternatives. I gave Opera a try during my exodus from Firefox-land, and to be honest, it was quick, snappy and replete with features. If I had taken the time to find analogues for Disconnect.me, HTTPS Everywhere and Adblock Edge, I daresay I would I have stayed there.

But in the end, the browser that shyly held up its hand and stole my patronage was Pale Moon. Everything I had used in FF28 was (more or less) supported in Pale Moon, and I didn’t have to do much more setup than I usually do with a fresh copy of pre-29 Firefox. Extensions all worked, bookmarks obediently shuffled into place, and the UI was what I knew and wanted. Don’t bother wrapping it up, I’ll wear it out of the store.

Best of all, it seems lighter and snappier than FF28 was, on the same machine. I call that a bonus.

Arch users can get this with the AUR package; others might have to wrangle a little bit to wedge it into place. From my perspective, it’s worth it.

So there it is then. You’re allowed to have choices, and you’re allowed to ask for directions when the status quo becomes untenable. Nobody will shout you down or tell you to live with the changes.

And maybe if you’re lucky, the new kid in town will end up being an improvement. ;)

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10 thoughts on “Express your individuality, but within these confines

  1. ~xtian

    I enjoyed this post immensely. I run Debian/Xfce on an old Dell with a 1280×800 LCD and a 1600×1200 Trinitron on the side. They will pry my fully functioning CRT from my very sore fingers. Anyway I was unimpressed with all the Australis crap we’ve had forced on us and the Classic Theme Restorer ws just what the doctor ordered.

    IF I WANTED TO USE CHROME I’D USE $COLOURFUL_ANGLO_SAXON CHROME!

    Reply
  2. Nicholas

    Try Midori.

    I switched to Midori a few weeks ago, and find it to run very fast and light on crunchbang. While the extensions and add-ons list is short, I find it much more appealing than the bloat of the more prevalent browsers. YMMV, but it is a good, lightweight alternative to the ff and chrome.

    Reply
  3. CorkyAgain

    But express distaste with an arbitrary interface change though … and you’ll just have to get used to it. It’s not that big a difference. This is progress. It’ll grow on you. Keep your mouth shut. Conform. By all means, express your individuality, but keep within these confines.

    Reminds me of the response to those of us who complained when freshmeat abandoned their old design for a “Web 2.0″ one using tags instead of troves. It used to be easy to find textmode apps there, for example, but even though it’s been several years now since the change, this is still a discouragingly difficult and clumsy task.

    Reply
  4. Theodore

    Today, after an absurd overuse of cpu from, i think, inoreader left open while cooking, I left that damn Firefox and imported the sync account in Palemoon. Seems nice, but god knows how I need to work on a feed/web news retrieval system that suits better my needs! And on GM scripts to scrap out useless stupidities on sites, so I can import them on a browser with lesser Red Hat stupidities, like surf, QtWeb or QupZilla!

    Reply
  5. L. Daniel Nordstrom

    Goddamnit, Andrew beat me to it.

    Well, I’m using Firefox Nightly (currently 32.0a1) so I used Australis long before it was officially released, and perhaps I just got used to it. But like I wrote in Mozilla’s survey: while I personally like it—or rather, I don’t mind it and don’t really care—I do understand how people dislike that fact that the UI became a bit less customizable. Although it’s not *that* big of a deal; I still find it clean and appealing with my userChrome.css, which still worked well: https://github.com/dnordstrom/firefox.userstyles

    But like Andrew said, then there’s Pentadactyl. I’ve been using it long enough now that I’m comfortable using it with the UI basically removed—no tab bar, no URL bar, no bookmarks bar. It’s awesome, and it’s really fast. So now my Firefox UI looks like this, and I couldn’t care less about it all: http://mrnordstrom.com/pentadactyl-a-fox-on-fire/

    (I hit Control-I and I’m suddenly editing this comment in Vim—I love it. On a Mac, even.)

    Chrome I wouldn’t use, because it’s a Google product. Mozilla aligns better with my philosophy on things, so I’ll keep using it. In the end, it’s just a browser anyway. It’s interesting though, what you’re saying about mobile interfaces eating up more and more of our desktops. It’s indeed merging. (But I still want to get my hands on a FirefoxOS phone at some point! :P)

    Nice blog—it’ll sit nicely in my RSS reader. Now that’s a type of software that needs innovation; can’t find a single truly great RSS reader these days.

    Reply
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