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6/8/2005
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Firefox Users Sound Off: Fix Those Bugs!

Even ardent Firefox fans can experience problems with their favorite browser. What are these bugs, and what can you do about them?

Foaming-At-The-Mouth Firefox Fans
Several users complained that the Firefox community has a bad attitude.

"I encountered a surprising amount of hostility from the admins when I decided to post what I thought was a new issue as a new bug. The admins told me I was wasting their time and that I should search the bug database before posting. Anyway, this attitude seems fairly common among open-source folks. I think the problem is that although you can find all kinds of people who want to do the programming, nobody wants to do support or documentation on open source projects, particularly as they will not be paid for it. In my opinion, this will prevent open-source solutions from ever going fully mainstream," said user Jeff Rivett.

"Firefox is slow, slower than IE, way slower than Opera," said user Gord Braun. "Mostly though, it's the foaming-at-the-mouth FF fans who keep me turned off on the browser. Imo, Firefox is like Linux — more religion than reality."

Print Problems
Several users reported problems with printing pages, and with Print Preview.

Firefox doesn't allow users to view two pages in one window, and prints too much white space when printing tables, said user Tidmore.

User Dick Scott said pages that use frames don't print correctly, printing separate pages for each frame.

But Wait, There's More
Users cited a range of miscellaneous problems that bug them about Firefox.

User Dominic Gill complained that Firefox doesn't copy the title of a page when copying an URL to the clipboard, making it difficult to use a clipboard-extender utility, like ClipCache, to build a clip library. Internet Explorer does carry the title of a page into the clipboard.

Reading Adobe Acrobat pages is a pain in the neck. I've noticed this myself; the page will take a minute or more to load, and the browser will freeze up while waiting for the page to finish loading.

User Michael Fessler said, "The big thing that caused problems for me was the Adobe Acrobat plugin. Often, Acrobat would be hung invisibly as a background process — somehow, it was still holding a Firefox instance hostage so no new one would launch. Killing the Acrobat process freed things up." He said he thinks the problem has been solved with the current version of Adobe Acrobat.

Two users, Roger Dickey and a user signing his name as "Bluie," reported that Firefox is incompatible with Zone Alarm, where page access slows or is blocked entirely.

Click Link, Take Nap
And, finally, there's a bug that's been bedeviling me for months, and it's the top of my list of Firefox problems:

After several months, I found that Firefox was responding very slowly after clicking links in e-mail. Response time could be more than a minute. During that time, my e-mail software (and I've tried this in Microsoft OutlookThunderbird, and Barca), would be locked up and unresponsive, which pretty much prevented me from doing more e-mail reading while waiting for Firefox to wake up and respond.

It's not just e-mail; I've noticed this problem in all external applications, including Word, text documents, and my Usenet client.

The problem appears to be related to a bad extension or combination of extensions, which I surmised after running Firefox in safe mode — which disables all extensions —, and seeing the problem disappear. However, I haven't been able to figure out which extension (or extensions) to blame. Simply uninstalling all extensions does not (as far as I can see) solve the problem. Apparently you also need to re-boot.

I've been able to fix the bug by removing all my extensions, rebooting, and then re-installing the extensions one at a time. I have not, however, been able to reproduce the bug, so I'm not sure this is a permanent solution.

Conclusion
After all this, you'd expect that I'd hate Firefox. On the contrary — I like it a lot, and I plan to continue using it as my default browser indefinitely. (I had a brief flirtation with Netscape recently, but it didn't last, and I came running home to Firefox.) Firefox's advantages when compared with Internet Explorer — such as tabbed browsing, customization through extension, and heightened security — overshadow any difficulties that I've been having so far.

However, there are problems, and those problems must be solved if Firefox is to become a real challenger to Intenet Explorer.

Right now, it's a novelty, the first browser in the 21st Century to actually reduce Microsoft's market share. But Microsoft is fighting back, with a new version of Internet Explorer — including tabbed browsing — due this summer. Firefox developers are generally conscientious about fixing bugs, but they need to get even more so, or else Firefox will join the long list of once-promising applications that were flattened by the Redmond juggernaut.

Mitch Wagner is editor of Security Pipeline.

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