Saturday, August 22, 2015

I break things

I break things—mostly just software, fortunately. Unfortunately, it usually takes a lot of work to set things right. This week, I had yet another such breakage and subsequent repair job. At least there were no reported injuries.

I’ll admit something this one time only: Sometimes I don’t read instructions onscreen as carefully as I should. Mostly, this is because my attention span has shortened dramatically over the past decade or two, but the other thing is that sometimes what I think I read isn’t necessarily what an alert actually says. So, I click “Okay” at the wrong time, or I otherwise proceed when I shouldn’t.

In this case, it was web browser frustration that started it all.

I’ve used Firefox (mostly) for many years, and it’s had numerous upgrades over that time. The most recent one disabled all sorts of important extensions—ones I use every single day—because they “could not be verified”. This included my password manager among other important add-ons, which made Firefox basically useless to me (I accessed my passwords through Firefox, which no longer allowed me to access it).

When I went to investigate how to turn them back on anyway, Mozilla offered this, oh, so helpful, advice:
“If any of your installed add-ons gets disabled because it haven't been verified, contact the add-on developer or vendor to see if they can offer an updated and signed version of that add-on. You can also ask them to get their add-on signed by following the developer guidelines.”
This annoyed me even more, so I clicked on the page not being useful and, when it asked me for feedback, I told them I should be able to enable the add-ons, that I didn’t need them to be my mother. Only, I was a wee bit more direct.

So, I switched to Waterfox, which is supposedly much faster on a Mac, and it preserved the important things I’d lost in the Firefox “upgrade”. So, I used it for a few days, and then I remembered why I hated it so much and dropped it before: Video playback was about the same as from dial-up. I subscribe to several YouTube Channels, including that of a friend, and I quickly got sick of the video freezing momentarily, then carrying on, only to freeze again for a moment, carrying on again, and so on. Meanwhile, the audio carried on, quickly getting out of sync with the visual.

And this is where it all went horribly wrong.

Waterfox had a message telling me it noticed it was slow to start up (to say the very least) and it offered a solution if only I’d click through. So, I did. The solution was to reset Firefox—how bad could that be?—and I went ahead and did that without fully grasping what it meant: All my bookmarks, gathered over many, many, many years, all my extensions and plug ins—in short, everything that I’d spent years adding to Firefox was gone, and it was all my fault.

So, I went to reinstall my extensions, but the very Mozilla site that lists all the myriad extensions was blocked by Firefox as “untrustworthy”. So, I had no extensions and couldn’t get any (this seems to have been a brief bug, because today I was able to access add-ons).

I’d installed an add-on (back when I could…) that synchronised bookmarks between Firefox, Safari and Chrome, so two out of three had a complete set of bookmarks. I decided to try the others.

I tried Chrome first, and it was VERY fast for some things. But it was also maddeningly frustrating to customise. It also turned out that some add-ons weren’t available for Chrome, which was frustrating on its own.

Next I tried Safari, which I’ve used in the past. It’s easier to configure than Chrome, but add-ons aren’t as varied as for either Chrome or Firefox, in my opinion. It also doesn't seem to have a bookmarks toolbar like Firefox and Chrome have, but I haven't made an exhaustive search for it, so I might be wrong.

So, I started re-building Firefox, only to hit the weirdest thing yet: It let me sign into my Google account, but wouldn’t let me edit my blog posts or create a new one. That’s kind of important, obviously, so I tried Chrome, but it was returning error messages. I was finally able to edit old posts and add new ones in Safari (and I found all this out while working on my previous post earlier today).

Now, I have a partly re-built Firefox that doesn’t do enough of what it used to, Chrome that’s fast on some things, maddening on others, and Safari, which just doesn’t seem complete somehow. I use all three for different tasks, and I’m not happy about that.

On the other hand, I downloaded the App for my password manager so I can access and maintain my passwords without using a browser; this was a very good idea, so it's one good thing that came from the whole mess.

I said that this whole mess happened because I screwed up and clicked something too quickly. That’s true, but the other problem was that I had Firefox set to automatic upgrades, and that turned out to be a huge mistake. In the past, some add-ons wouldn’t work whenever there was an upgrade (until the add-on’s maker released an update). I should have turned off automatic upgrades much earlier, and if I had, none of this would have happened.

Whatever, all I know is that this repair job took hours and hours and still isn’t done. At least there were no reported injuries—yet.

Update: There's an update to this post (third item).


rogerogreen said...

which is why - as I'm sure I've said before - I'm a Luddite.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Well, as clumsy as I can be, it doesn't help when software updates make the product worse, as the Firefox updates have done recently.