Kudos to Firefox team on Quantum release

The new Firefox Quantum release is incredibly fast. It feels faster than Chrome, faster than old Firefox, and faster than all the other browsers on my Macbook.

Impressively, despite Firefox ditching the old extension model, all my extensions continue to work. I did have to manually reinstall the indispensable Tree Style Lab, but it works and Firefox is incredibly speedy.

Kudos on the great effort!

My Firefox Extensions

Run Firefox 5+ and Firefox 3.6 side by side on Windows

(Edit: Corrected instructions so that HTTP links in other apps will still open in Firefox.)

There’s an intranet application that I need to use that does not work in Firefox 4, Firefox 5, Chrome, Opera, or Safari. It also runs painfully slowly in Microsoft Internet Explorer 8. Since it does support Firefox 3.6, I thought I’d try running two different versions of Firefox side by side.

  1. Install Firefox if you don’t have it. At the time of writing, the latest stable version is Firefox 5.
  2. Download Firefox 3.6.
  3. Start the installation and choose the Custom installation type.
  4. Install it to a non-standard location such as “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox 3.6\”
  5. I recommend telling it to not create any shortcuts, as it will otherwise overwrite the Firefox 5 shortcuts.
  6. Open up the folder where you keep your Firefox shortcuts. Make a copy of one of them.
  7. Right-click -> Properties and add -ProfileManager to the target path (not the “Start in” field)
    • "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -ProfileManager
  8. Make sure Firefox is closed and launch that shortcut. It will open up the Firefox Profile Manager.
  9. Create a new profile. Name it something like: Firefox36
  10. Close the Profile Manager.
  11. Configure the main shortcut as follows:
    • Mozilla Firefox
    • "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -P default
    • "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\"
    • Note: An earlier version of this post added the -no-remote parameter to the command line above. This prevented HTML links in other applications (e.g. Outlook, Lotus Notes) from using this browser. You only need to set it on one of the two shortcuts, and I’ve modified the instructions accordingly with the assumption that this shortcut is to your primary browser.
  12. Configure the other shortcut as follows:
    • Mozilla Firefox 3.6
    • "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox 3.6\firefox.exe" -P Firefox36 -no-remote
    • "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox 3.6\"
  13. Voila!


Find out public information about the people you email with Rapportive

Rapportive is a great browser enhancement for Gmail. It automatically looks up email addresses and populates a sidebar with that person’s profile photo (from Google Talk or Flickr), job title (from LinkedIn), tweets, as well as links to their profiles on Facebook, Skype, etc.

I find it especially useful when reading mailing list messages, as it  lets me easily find the twitter accounts of interesting people.

It’s also useful for making you think critically about the information you have exposed online. By looking at your own profile, you can find out if there’s any information that you are exposing without meaning to. In my own case, I was surprised to see my ancient Flickr account from circa 2003 on it which I’ve since made private.

I think it ties in nicely with IBM’s recent study that 21% of email users would consider applications to complement email. Lotus is also cooking up a lot of neat things that integrate social media with email. A hat tip goes to Marius for the link.

Enable vertical tabs in Google Chrome

Note: Google unfortunately chose to remove the Side Tabs feature in Chrome 16. The instructions below will not work.


I am a big fan of using vertical tabs in my browsing. Vertical tabs have several advantages:

  • Their titles are always readable, even with 40 tabs open.
  • They free up precious vertical space for content. This is especially important on widescreen monitors.
  • They are easy to click on, being consistently big and predictably positioned.

I got addicted to them back when I used Opera. They followed me to Firefox with its excellent Tree Style Tab extension (and the Vertical Tabs extension in Firefox 4). Now that Chrome tempts me to switch with its amazing performance, it’s great that I can configure it to have vertical tabs too.

There are two steps to enabling them.

First, enter about:flags in your address bar. Enable “Side Tabs” and restart Chrome.

Second, right-click on a tab and choose “Use side tabs”.

Welcome to the wonderful world of vertical tabs!

Protect yourself from FireSheep with HTTPS Everywhere

FireSheep is a new Firefox extension that makes it very easy to take over other people’s Facebook/Twitter/etc logins on public wifi networks. This has always been possible for people familiar with HTTP internals, but FireSheep makes it accessible to a lay person.

The author put out a detailed essay examining the causes of the security issues FireSheep exposes. I highly recommend reading it as a good overview of the issues.

There are two Firefox extensions that will do a lot to protect you from FireSheep and similar tools.

HTTPS Everywhere is one of them. I’ve been using it since the first release. What it does is that forces the secure HTTPS protocol for sites like Facebook and Twitter that offer it as an option but default to HTTP.

The only site I’ve had issues with for HTTPS Everywhere is Wikipedia. Here’s my config with Wikipedia disabled:

HTTPS Everywhere configuration with Wikipedia disabled

The other one that I just found out about is Force-TLS. Whenever it encounters an X-Force-TLS HTTP header, it will force HTTPS connections to that site in the future. This is not immediately useful, but it will become more useful over time as more web sites support HTTPS.

I should mention that your Gmail accounts are safe, as Google wisely made it HTTPS-only earlier this year.

Next steps