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Transcript

Firefox Web Browser

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Monday, November 15, 2004; 2:00 PM

Fast Forward's Rob Pegoraro was online on Monday, Nov. 15 to discuss his latest column, on the Firefox Web browser, and answer personal technology questions from readers.

A transcript of the discussion is below:

Rob Pegoraro (The Post)

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Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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washingtonpost.com: Rob Pegoraro will begin his discussion at 2:00 p.m. ET. He'll be talking about the Firefox Web browser, which he reviewed on Sunday. Firefox Leaves No Reason to Endure IE (The Washington Post, Nov. 14, 2004)

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Rob Pegoraro: My producer just told me we've got 224 questions submitted so far. Apparently I'm not going anywhere for a while :)

I'll try to get to as many of these queries as I can; please pardon the typos. Let's go!

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Annandale, VA: No question, I just wanted to say, Thanks. I didn't know about ctrl-click to open a new tab. Easier than right-click, select open in new tab. And the new incremental find is great!;

I do computer repair/tuneup/upgrades/etc and most of my customers call because they're deluged with popups and spyware. I don't leave a customer until they have Spybot, AdAware, a firewall, AND firefox on their computer. It's the easiest security step they can take.

Rob Pegoraro: Glad to be of help. This security angle is, I think, the single biggest reason to switch to Firefox.

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Fairfax, Va.: I've already dumped IE. My question is: if I have Netscape, it is worth changing to Firefox 1.0 ?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes. Firefox is a lot faster and simpler, and it now has a few features that Netscape does not (the RSS reader, the Find bar, the anti-phishing measures). All you lose is the AOL tie-ins bundled with Netscape.

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Pembroke Pines, Fla.: Hi Rob,

Love all your columns. Looking forward to product reviews. Comes at a good time.

I downloaded Firefox and Thunderbird and cannot get my email. I get an "Alert" message "connection to server postoffice.att.net timed out" What does that mean and what can I do?

Rob Pegoraro: Not sure; I don't use AT&T myself. Anybody using Thunderbird with an ATT WorldNet account?

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Vienna Va.: I just installed the firefox browser and I like it but I find that there are several web sites that will not load up completely. My son tried to load a site that has music and it would allow the music to play.

Any ideas?

Rob Pegoraro: Name names and I might have an idea...

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Deale, Md.: Hi Rob, I'm already a Firefox user and, like you, need to keep IE for occasional duty. Very frustrating when major players like PC Magazine list "Shutterfly" as their Editor's Choice for online photo service and to have Shutterfly inform you that Mozilla is not supported by them. Adding insult to injury is their suggestion to download an Active X program to facilitate image uploading. Don't they get it?

Rob Pegoraro: When Firefox hits 10 percent of the browser market, and sites have to choose between firing their ActiveX-addicted Web designer or losing 10 percent of their audience, they'll change their act.

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Wake Forest, N.C.: I'm currently using Mozilla as my web browser. What is the difference between this and Mozilla Firefox? And this may be a very elementary question but I can't seem to locate an answer. How do I keep the 'View', 'Text Zoom' permanently at 150%. Everytime I change the screen it reverts to a default 100%. Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: Firefox is the less=more version of Mozilla: Fewer features, no e-mail/Web-authoring/Internet Relay Chat components, but it's faster and simpler.

Hit the Options screen and select "Fonts & Colors" under the General category to change the minimum text size.

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Middletown, Md.: I've downloaded the Firefox as you suggested, now I seem to have lost the "Back" and "Forward" arrows. How do I get them back? Charlie.

Rob Pegoraro: Right-click on the toolbar and select "Customize..."

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Left Coast: As I was reading about all the security issues around Explorer and the kind of patch-work repairs that are being made to it, the image of the forever plagued Russian built Mir Space Station came to mind.

Being a non tech guy, it's hard for me to get just how bad a shape internet explorer is in, but is the Mir comparison not far off? Is it THAT bad?

Rob Pegoraro: Well, the Russians kept working on Mir all the time, while Microsoft basically stopped developing anything but security fixes for IE after version 6 shipped.

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Rochester, N.Y.: Rob: I like to sometimes save web pages as PDFs. Is there a way that Firefox allows for PDF conversion within the browser like I can in IE6?

Is there a way to set icons for Bookmarks within Firefox?

Lastly, when I close the Bookmarks window and then re-open it, the Bookmarks tree begins from the top down. Is there a way for it to retain the same location when closed and then re-opened?

Thanks! Keep up the great work!

Rob Pegoraro: Not sure about PDF save; that might require downloading an extension, or one of the free print-to-PDF drivers (somebody remind us to run a review of one).

Bookmark icons are set automatically by Web sites. You can't add your own; I think that's one feature that got set aside in the effort to simplify Firefox.

Not sure about how to change the default bookmark view; maybe try one of the sort-order options under the View menu.

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Capitol Hill: Rob -- I just ordered a Palm Zire 72, along w/ the PalmOne WiFi card. So, I will have Bluetooth & WiFi capability. I've got a DSL on my desktop at home. I plan to set up a home WiFi network so I can get my mp3s, etc. to play thru stereo, as well as get on the web w/ the Palm at home. Is there any benefit to also getting a Bluetooth adapter (about $35 from Dell)? Or is this just redundant?

There's so few places to go for straight answers on all this stuff. Thanks for trying to set all of us on the right path. Cheers!;

Rob Pegoraro: One of the few non-Firefox questions here... skip the Bluetooth for now. Hot-syncs via Bt are really, really slow, plus a regular USB cable will allow the Zire 72 to trickle-charge from the Dell.

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Beltsville, Md.: Rob, general comment and specific question not on today's main topic:

I'd been putting off getting a digital camera until the price for good-quality basic models was as low as could be reasonably expected, since I was sure I'd outgrow my first one quickly but wanted to take decent pics until I did.

I think we've reached that point. Looking through the Sunday circulars since Christmas season began (i.e. October) it looks like most of the digital manufacturers now have a 3.1 megapixel model for about $100 without an optical zoom or $150 with a 3-power. The one I got (Kodak CX7300) is just about spot-on as the replacement for my point-and-shoot film auto-loader.

Question: the next accessory I want to get is a set of NiMH batters and charger. Do they need to go with each other (i.e. same brand, or both 'quick charge') or will any NiMH batteries work with any charger?

Rob Pegoraro: Glad to hear the new digicam is working out. In general, if the camera requires a proprietary brand of battery (read: $$), you're stuck with that. If it takes AA-size cells, you can use any old rechargeable as long as it's the same basic technology--in most cases, NiMH (nickel metal-hydride).

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Yorba Linda, Calif.: Hey Rob, thanks for your objective viewpoint...I certainly feel educated about all sides of the browser issue. Sure, I'm real comfortable relying on a "small nonprofit group with extensive volunteer help" assisting with my enterprise computing needs.

Rob Pegoraro: If you're going to turn down a superior product just because it's open-source, I would submit that your enterprise is going to have its butt kicked by competitors who aren't handcuffed to an all-Microsoft mindset.

(Hint: the most popular Web server on the Internet isn't Microsoft's IIS, it's the open-source Apache, which is also run by a "small nonprofit group with extensive volunteer help.")

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Ijamsville, MD: Does the Google toolbar work with FireFox?

Rob Pegoraro: No, but why would you need it? Firefox already blocks pop-ups and already has a built-in Google search.

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Deltona, Fla.: Can you run Firefox on netscape and not lose I.E. until you know for sure you like it? Stupid question? Any info would be appreciated...Thanx

Rob Pegoraro: You can't lose IE--Microsoft won't let you! You can't uninstall IE, and in any case you still need it for at least Microsoft's Windows Update site.

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Seattle: Hi Rob,

I recently upgraded from Microsoft Windows 98 to Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition. I would like to stop using IE. Will Firefox work with Windows XP?

Also, what software do you recommend for dealing with spyware/adware problems?

Thanks!

Christy

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, Firefox works great in XP. Our usual anti-spyware recommendations are AdAware and SpyBot Search & Destroy.

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Palm Springs, Calif.: In your article about Firefox, did you visit the support forum at Mozilla to see the numerous problems being reported with this software?

Rob Pegoraro: I've been reading the forums at Mozillazine.org for a long time. But I've also been using Firefox as my default browser since February. I have installed it on a dozen or more computers without incident.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Have you tried the Mozilla e-mail program called Thunderbird? If you have how does that compare to MS Outlook and will it transfer your Outlook addresses?

Rob Pegoraro: T-bird's my default mail client on Windows. I like it, although parts of it drive me nuts (could its address book suck any more?). If you've got an IMAP account, as I do, T-bird shuts down Outlook. With POP, it's a tougher competition. And if you have an Exchange account, Outlook is your only option.

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Middletown, Md.: Firefox will not work with Microsoft's Windows Update site. I have taken to keeping and using MSIE only for updating Windows, and using Firefox for everything else. What do you suggest?

Rob Pegoraro: Doing exactly what you're doing. Windows Update requires ActiveX (it uses an ActiveX applet to scan the system software on your hard drive to see what needs updating). Personally, I wish Microsoft would take the approach used by Apple and most Linux distributions--create a separate software-update program, so the Web browser doesn't need such a deep set of hooks into the operating system.

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Phoenix, AZ: I agree with everything you have said, except: If Microsoft "cemented a monopoly" on browsers, how can you be writing about an alternative?

Rob Pegoraro: Ever see what happens to cement that's left alone for a while? A few years of freeze/thaw cycles and it starts to crack.

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Bellingham, WA: Have you tried Maxthon? Maxthon uses the IE engine and provides more features and is more customizable than FireFox.

Rob Pegoraro: I have tried Maxthon--er, its prior incarnation as MyIE2--and, sorry, I can't stand it. It is *hideously* complex, ugly as sin and, thanks to relying on IE code, doesn't solve the underlying security problem at all.

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Las Vegas, Nev: Rob, I am trying Firefox on your recommendation, even though I don't really have too much of a quarrel with IE. What I really hate is managing contacts with Outlook. I need a recommendation for a free email client that is good enough to make me to dump Outlook. Is it out there? Frank

Rob Pegoraro: Try Thunderbird, the e-mail app the Mozilla Foundation is developing. It's only at version .9 and, honestly, feels a little underdone, but it is usable as a day-to-day client. I like it, but I don't quite love it. www.mozilla.org/thunderbird/

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London, Ontario, Canada: Hi Rob. Your column has been a must-read for me ever since I discovered it online. On behalf of everyone who simply tries to make technology work, thanks.

Now, on with my questions...

Now that Firefox has gone gold and is taking away increasingly noticeable chunks of market share from Internet Explorer, do you think Microsoft will, like the sleeping giant it has become, wake up and try to compete with the upstart by introducing innovation into its long-dormant browser product?

Similarly, do you think web developers will start to move away from an IE-only development track, which will result in fewer and fewer sites breaking under Firefox?

Thanks again for all you do.

Carmi

Rob Pegoraro: I hope both of your predictions come true.

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San Francisco, CA: Hi Rob, just clarification - there is a Google toolbar for Firefox, for people who would like to have it; go to http://googlebar.mozdev.org/ to download it.

Rob Pegoraro: Good tip. Thanks!

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Rob!;: You're a superfast typer!; Thanks for answering so many of our questions.

Rob Pegoraro: I'm getting paid per keystroke. Right? :)

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Washington, D.C.: Can I run on my computer both Mozilla web browser and Google search? If not why?

Irene

Rob Pegoraro: You mean, Google Desktop, the search program I reviewed a few weeks ago? Firefox includes quick access to Google Web searches, but the Desktop does not--yet--search through Firefox's browsing history. (You can still use Google Desktop through Firefox to look for other types of files on your PC.)

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Rockville, Md.: If I do not delete IE 6 and download FireFox will I be able to switch between the two?? Doing so would give me the option to use both and then delete the one I least liked.

Rob Pegoraro: Except you can't delete IE. What I do is have Firefox set as my default browser, but I keep IE in the Start Menu for quick access to sites that (pigheadedly) require me to use that browser. I also have IE set *not* to ask if it should be the default browser anymore.

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washingtonpost.com: Rob Pegoraro also discussed Mozilla Firefox today in his weekly Personal Tech e-letter. Read today's e-letter here, or sign-up to receive it in your e-mail in-box every Monday.

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Kensington, Md.: Gee, Rob, what perfect timing.

On a totally legit search starting with Google, I got hijacked this weekend. Yeah, using MSIE on Win2K with all patches except KB940987 (which I had to uninstall after they bluescreened me with what I later found out were known problems.) My appliance hardware didn't stop the hijack (no reason it should have) and I had turned down protection on my Tiny Personal Firewall to permit internal modifications. Well, suddenly I had popups everywhere, icons for commercial sites all over my desktop (which kept reappearing after deletion,) something installed on IE called "IE Menu Extension," and it kept "visiting" some website in Israel. To resolve it I ran SpyBot, AdAware, and an updated Symantec AV - but none of them detected the hijack. The takeover changed files in my system32 directory, added a new QuickLaunch toolbar, seems to have taken over the DNS process (when I deleted all the newly modified executable files I could identify it broke DNS lookups,)and may have redirected my traffic. Took all weekend to (mostly) clean it off. Yup, Firefox got installed yesterday afternoon.

So, other than sympathy and yesterday's column, what can you offer as further advice? (no, an Apple isn't in the works - I still think that's security by obscurity!)

Rob Pegoraro: Well, this is a very good argument for using Firefox. To start your cleanup operation, have a look at the utilities I mentioned in my column on browser hijacking.

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Montreal, Canada: If I want to install Firefox in order to try it out, Should I install it on the same drive as my O/S where I run IE, or should I install it on another drive?

Rob Pegoraro: It'll work on either a C: or D: drive.

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Centurion, South Africa: Do you think the rising popularity of FireFox will mean an increased awareness among developers to stick to standardised HTML and other content development languages and standards? We know from past experience that not all sites work equally well on all browsers because of non standard coding...

Thanks, Antowan

Rob Pegoraro: This is my hope too. I did not stress this point much in yesterday's review (not enough room), but it's valid: Firefox (with other Mozilla browsers) renders Web standards more accurately than IE.

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Sterling, Va.: Great article. I've been using Firefox in its various incarnations, including when it was once called Firebird. It's good to see someone publish what the techie community has known for a long time about ActiveX and its dangers. You can add VBScript to that list too, by the way. The question I have is, how do you convince corporations to allow use of this browser when some of them are so paranoid about any software on their networks? As an example, I see on an authorized list Netscape and IE, yet I don't see the Mozilla suite or Mozilla Firefox. Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: Find a co-conspirator in the IT department and get them to try out Firefox at home?

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Columbus, Ohio: Hi Rob. 2 quick questions. #1, I can't seem to find where FireFox stores my temporary internet files at on my PC. Any insight? #2, I noticed that some websites that look normal when viewed through IE don't display correctly when viewed with FireFox. I tried searching Mozilla's website for answers on why this is, but couldn't find anything. Have you noticed similar sites, and do you know why this might be? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Firefox's bookmarks and cache are stored in the hidden Application Data sub-directory:

C:\Documents and Settings\[your user name]\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\

You'll see a further directory below Profiles, with a randomly generated filename. This name is "salted" so viruses can't automatically get at the data in there by guessing the directory name.

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Thornville, Ohio: Whenever I try to import my IE bookmarks, etc., Firefox crashes. It notes a problem with JAVA script. I am, by no means, a techie, and am baffled how to solve this problem, as I would love to leave IE far behind in the dirt.

Rob Pegoraro: Is this the auto-import feature that runs when you start Firefox, or when you use the "Import" command in the File menu?

You could try first exporting your bookmarks out of Internet Explorer--use its "Import and Export" command, under the File menu, to put copies of your IE favorites in your My Documents folder, then open that file from within Firefox.

(BTW, I just ran IE for the first time all day, just to verify that command's name. Think I'll shut it down now :)

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Rochester, N.Y.: The password import didn't seem to work from the IE browser to Firefox. Did it work for you?

Rob Pegoraro: No, it did not, as I wrote.

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Arlington, Va.: My brother just adopted Firefox and loves it. He told me about a few features whose accuracy I thought I'd check with you.

1. He told me that, while there are still a few webpages that require IE, Firefox has a feature whereby you can make a note of those pages, and then the next time you go to load one of those pages, Firefox automatically opens IE just for that page (and shuts it down again afterward).

2. He told me that, using the tabbed browsing feature, you can have multiple home pages. Apparently, when you designate a home page, Firefox designates all of the tabs in that window, so that the next time you open Firefox, each of those tabs opens automatically.

Are these true?

Rob Pegoraro: 1 is true if you use one of the extensions available for Firefox.

2 is true out of the box. Group your top-three or top-four sites in one bookmark folder, then select that folder as your home page.

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New York: I'm sure you get a million digital camera questions and there's a different right one for everyone. But can you try to send me in the correct direction? We're using ours primarily for family/children photos and currently have great non-digital cameras(and are experienced darkroom people from the darkage of photo). We got a digital so long ago that it really doesn't take good photos anymore. We're now looking into the Sony cybershot 7.2 million pixels. But there's also a 5.1 or so for a lot less. What would you do? We don't mind spending $400. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Anything over 5 megapixels is overkill for most consumer use--you'd have to be cropping the heck out of a lot of photos, then blowing them up to 8-by-10 size, to get any benefit out of that extra resolution.

FWIW, I'm not a big fan of Sony's cameras these days; the Memory Stick media they require is looking a bit pricey compared to the CompactFlash and SD cards that most other cameras use.

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Phoenix, Ariz.: How can I install Roboform so that it works with Firefox?

Rob Pegoraro: Roboform isn't available (IIRC) for Firefox, but there is a form auto-fill extension that provides the same basic feature.

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Palo Alto, CA: Could you say a bit (e.g., nuances, challenges, recommendations) about using Mozilla for RSS, XML and other means for handling news feeds? I just downloaded Mozilla a few days ago, in part, because of advertisements that RSS and XML are handled easily. Also, although I have not thought it through yet, I imagine there could be some powerful synergy by combining Mozilla, Outlook and the GOOGLE desktop search engine. Am I correct in this intuition?

Rob Pegoraro: Firefox offers a good introduction to how RSS works, but it's not much more than that. I use a separate program for reading news feeds--OTOH, a bit chunk of my job involves staring at this screen and digesting news as fast as possible, so my needs are a bit more intense than most. If you only use RSS to follow, say, the five or so blogs tracking the Expos/Senators/Nations/Grays (or whatever our team will be called), Firefox's built-in software should be fine.

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Williamsburg, Va.: I'd like to hear more about making the switch from Outlook Express to Mozilla FireFox. Please include how to get rid of OE, load Mozilla Firefox, transfer address lists, etc. My understanding is that Microsoft makes it pretty difficult to make this sort of switch. Can't be on line today, but always love your columns!

Rob Pegoraro: You can't make *that* switch--OE is an e-mail program, Firefox is a Web browser. (But have a look at Thunderbird, the e-mail sibling of Ffox.)

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Gaithersburg, Md.: Rob, I've been switching back and forth between Firefox, Maxthon and Opera trying to figure out which works best with the widest variety of web sites...and still blocks unwanted ads or spyware. I like Firefox and Opera (Maxthon is pretty-much) just an IE shell with tabs. However, both Firefox and Opera still don't seem to work well with web sites that require ActiveX and/or VB scripting. Are those of us who use Firefox/Opera destined to returned to IE6 for those web sites requiring ActiveX/VB? Or, is there a workaround in the wings? -Andrew

Rob Pegoraro: You probably are... I hear there is an ActiveX extension that adds support for that (hazardous) Microsoft technology to Firefox. The ultimate answer, however, has to be Web sites changing their conduct; the odds of Firefox hitting 10 percent of the market seem higher than the odds of even 10 percent of Firefox users installing some ActiveX-compatible extension.

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Riverdale, MD: Rob,

My Roboform works with Firefox. Download from Siber website.

Bill Carr

Rob Pegoraro: Oh. Thanks for the update! (And never mind my prior comment...)

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Chicago IL: Some webcast sites require that the popup blockers be disengaged. The google toolbar readily handles this requirement. Is there an easy way to turn off the Firefox popup blocker without going into properties?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes. Every time a site pop-up is blocked, you'll see a square icon in the bottom-right corner, sort of like a tiny stylized window. Right-click that, and you can disable pop-up blocking for that site.

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Homosassa, Fla.: When setting up a new Firefox browser is it really necessary to disable 3rd party cookies--and why?

Rob Pegoraro: Up to you. Third-party cookies are generally those set by advertising networks, such as the ones that publish the ads gracing the Post's site. They are *not* a security risk in any real way. They may be a privacy risk, but I would suggest that there are far bigger risks out there.

(That said, I've got third-party cookies disabled anyway. It doesn't impair my browsing in any way that I can see, so why not make Doubleclick's job a little harder?)

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Washington, DC: Rob,

Are alerts like the one below, passed on within our ITS Dept. which I am a member of, by the Security Team a legitimate source or from organizations supported by Microsoft to cast a shadow on the growing popularity of Firefox. I use Firefox and Thunderbird and home exclusively except for the required Windows Update features of IE and love them.

TITLE:

Mozilla Firefox Multiple Vulnerabilities

SECUNIA ADVISORY ID:

SA13144

VERIFY ADVISORY:

http://secunia.com/advisories/13144/

CRITICAL:

Moderately critical

IMPACT:

Security Bypass, Exposure of system information, Exposure of sensitive information, Privilege escalation, DoS

Rob Pegoraro: That's a reference to a problem that was fixed before Firefox hit version 1.0. That's not to say that Firefox doesn't have other bugs--I'm sure that it will.

But the fact that anybody can inspect and revise its code allows these mistakes to be found--and fixed--faster than in a proprietary, closed-software product. (It doesn't guarantee that'll happen, but things seem to work out that way most of the time.)

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Superior Bottom, WV: You wrote: "there is an ActiveX extension that adds support for that (hazardous) Microsoft technology"

Really, isn't Java just as hazardous? Shouldn't the watchword be "If it can make your computer do something, it can make your computer do anything?"

Rob Pegoraro: No, Java is not remotely as hazardous as ActiveX. Java is designed with inherent limits on what an applet can do--Java programs run in what's called a sandbox, enforced by the virtual-machine software running them, that denies them admin-level access to your system.

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Williamsburg, Va.: Is Firefox 1.0 Preview the version just released by Mozilla or is there just a plain v 1.0?

I can't get Firefox to open IBD charts. I assume it has to do with Active X. Is there a work-around?

G. James

Rob Pegoraro: Yes: Complain to the Web site and tell them to stop endangering their users by making them use such an inherently dangerous technology.

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Portland, Ore.: Hi Rob. We have a small (45 person) office running XP and IE. Our IT guy is OK with me installing Firefox, but a little concerned that others will jump as well, making his life more difficult. Also, he's made it clear that I'm on my own with updates and may be responsible any issues that may arise. Would any of this dissuade you? Could I be increasing risk to my firm? Thanks very much.

Mike

Rob Pegoraro: No, you're making your firm safer by switching away from IE. Given how blinkered some IT departments can be, you should be happy this guy is at least willing to consider an alternative. (If somebody else's copy of IE gets hijacked, try to be nice when you say "I told you so.")

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San Francisco, Calif.: Do you have any experience with Mozilla Calendar, and in tranferring events to Palm OS devices?

Rob Pegoraro: Nope. (Calendar, aka Sunbird, is yet another Mozilla project, but I haven't tried it since loading an early preview release several months back.)

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McLean VA: What extensions do you use?

Rob Pegoraro: At the moment, none. I didn't want to encumber the browser with software that would need reinstallation when 1.0 was released, and I find I don't actually need any at the moment. Plus, I'd like to try the browser "as is" so I can honestly assess its utility without any after-the-fact tinkering.

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Austin, TX: I really like this open-source concept. I know that there are several browsers and email clients available. But what about word processors? Is there a serious alternative to MSWord available? (It would have to be reliably compatible with Word, because I need to share documents with my Microsoft-loving friends and colleagues.)

Rob Pegoraro: There are two. One's OpenOffice (www.openoffice.org), which is a complete suite replacement for Microsoft Office. I like it, but it is more complex than it should be, and the pace of development seems to have stagnated a little.

The other's a program called AbiWord (www.abisource.com), which is fast and simple, but maybe too simple if you use Word's more esoteric features.

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Peekskill, N.Y.: Thanks for giving Firefox its due. While speed is a hallmark of the browser, my only complaint with it is that when cutting and pasting from the browser into documents, it's incredibly slow- infact there are times I've thought my system has hung up. It seems to be worse pasting into MSWord docs, and just unbearable if the what I'm copying contains a hotlink to a url. The problem shouldn't be memory or the speed of my system: I run an Athlon64 3200 2gig processor with a gig of RAM memory and an ATI Radeon 9800XT (256meg) video card. This doesn't happen with MS Exploder, so I wonder if there is something proprietary that is keeping Firefox from doing this as well, or if Mozilla just needs to buff up the code in this area, or if there may be a system problem I'm overlooking. By the way - I use the Sun Java engine, not the MS version.

Thanks for a neat article.

Rob Pegoraro: Not sure what's holding up your system, as I haven't seen any such slowdown. (Just copied/pasted your question into Word with no delay at all.)

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Twincities, Minn.: Hi,

I had downloaded Firefox software about a month back (before the 1.0 version was released). Do I need to download the new 1.0 version? Or, will I automatically be upgraded to the new version? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Try the auto-update feature (Tools menu, Options screen, Advanced category; scroll down to "Software Update" and click "Check Now"). Or just download the 1.0 version and install that.

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Laurel, Md.: Rob,

Starting using Firefox recently and it is a big improvement over Internet Explorer. One question - any idea how to change the setting so that when I visit a page using Java, that the Java Console doesn't always have to pop up?

Rob Pegoraro: That's a setting in Sun's Java software... it should show up in the Control Panel window as "Java Plug-In." Either "Hide Java Console" or "Do Not Start Java Console" should be checked.

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Arlington, VA: Hi Rob,

I couldn't find an answer to this on Mozilla's site, so maybe you can help. I downloaded the 1.0 preview release about a month ago. Should I bother installing the official release?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes.

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Munich, Germany: I have used firefox for more than 6 months now, and I love it. Unfortunately, there seems an annoying bug when I use it on my Vaio laptop: The space key or the page-down key sometimes simply induce no response whatever. Is there a fix? Is it a more widespread problem?

Mario Liu

Rob Pegoraro: I saw this happen with some preview releases, but not 1.0. Install that and you should be fine.

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Baltimore: Dear Rob,

I've been using Firefox for nearly a year now and love it. The only problem I have is that I can't seem to install the Shockwave plug-in. I've tried all the fixes on the Mozilla site and the Shockwave site and managed to reinstall Shockwave to IE at least 15 times. Any tips?

Rob Pegoraro: ?? I don't think I've had any such problem, but I also don't recall running across a site that uses Shockwave instead of Flash (the much more popular plug-in from Macromedia, which does work fine in Firefox) in years. If you've got Flash running, you shouldn't really need anything else from that source.

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Toronto, Canada: A few weeks ago I installed the Mozilla Firefox browser on my laptop (running Windows 2000). I love it. I think it's a phenomenal tool and the tabbed browsing is great. I've been having some trouble with .pdf files, though. Often, when I click on a pdf file link, the browser just hangs there or it crashes. I've found some information on this online but I wondered if you have any good tips on troubleshooting this.

Cheers,

PL - Firefox Fan in Toronto

Rob Pegoraro: Make sure you've got the latest Adobe Reader software installed, and that it's not prompting you in the background (I used to have problems w/ the PDF plug-in spawning a window asking if I wanted to update the Adobe software, which I could never see at the time). That setting is under the "Startup" category in Adobe Reader's preferences window.

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Falls Church, Va.: And I always thought Bill Gates lived in Redmond, not Yorba Linda...

Someone asked about extension recommendations... as someone who's been using Firefox since it was still called Phoenix, my favorite extension has always been the Mouse Gestures. It may take a little while to get used to, but they're completely invaluable now -- I have trouble browsing the web without them (well, them plus the tabs).

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the suggestion...

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Boston, MA: Hi Bob: I am using Firefox v1.0 Preview Release and I get the following error on some sites that I cannot remedy:

"This page must be viewed with IE4 or above, and with Active Scripting enabled."

Any thoughts on how to make that work in Firefox?

Thanks in advance.

John S.

Rob Pegoraro: First, try the 1.0 release. Second, you just may have found a site that's designed to block non-IE browsers. Stupid idea, but it happens... all you can do is complain to the Webmaster and ask them to stick to Web standards.

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Yorktown, VA: I use Firefox all the time and found that a couple of the extensions are extremely useful.

"All-In-One Gestures" allows me to use mouse gestures instead of menus and buttons to control Firefox.

"Adblock" goes beyond the pop-up blocker to squash the ads that appear with a webpage.

"ieview" adds an entry to the right-click pop-up menu which fires up MSIE to load the current page if it doesn't load properly in Firefox.

and finally "SpellBound" is a spell-checker for use in web forums like this one.

Rob Pegoraro: More extensions advice...

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Reston, VA: Re the below question on AT&T Worldnet:

I use AT&T Worldnet with both Firefox and Thunderbird. I occasionally get the timeout message message trying to get my mail from AT&T, as well as other POP servers. The protocol stack in TB might have a problem. If I switch to Ffox and click on a site, then try to get my mail again, it will almost always work. It'll also generally start working if I close TB and reopen it. Sometimes it will start working for no apparent reason. So: who knows? I assume it's just an intermittent bug.

Pembroke Pines, Fla.: Hi Rob,

Love all your columns. Looking forward to product reviews. Comes at a good time.

I downloaded Firefox and Thunderbird and cannot get my email. I get an "Alert" message "connection to server postoffice.att.net timed out" What does that mean and what can I do?

Rob Pegoraro: Not sure; I don't use AT&T myself. Anybody using Thunderbird with an ATT WorldNet account?

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the update!

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Camden, NY: Hey!;

I love Firefox but I wanted to know if you have noticed that you can press your scroll wheel in on your mouse (if yours has one...) and that gives you a new tab too.

A good tip.

And I'm glad someone brought Firefox into the limelight; it is the best browser I have ever used.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes--this is one of my favorite "hidden" Ffox features. Sadly, can't use it on my laptop :)

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Baltimore: Rob, I have been using Firefox for about 6 months and have only 1 complaint. The extensions don't carry over from version to version. Are there plans to make this less painful? Also using Linux at home, have they come up with a version of shockwave for Linux yet?

Thanks, Will

Rob Pegoraro: Yes. The extension format has, I'm told, been frozen, so that anything working in 1.0 should function going forward. There's also an auto-update mechanism for extensions, so when their developers release new versions you can get them automatically.

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Anonymous: 11/15/04

8:44 A.M.

Re: Mozilla Firefox;

1-A few months ago, when I added the Firefox web browser, I questioned my security company, McAfee, as to whether they covered Firefox for Anti-Virus protection. Their answer was "not at this time". Thus, I've been reluctant to use it. I now have Norton Firewall, Norton Anti-Virus, and 3 Anti Spywares on my Dell 4600.

Are they covering the Mozilla Firefox in their protection?

Thanks,

A very interested and concerned John Lepik

Rob Pegoraro: Don't use McAfee myself, but I wouldn't let that stop me even if it doesn't scan Firefox downloads as they arrive. Just using Firefox instead of IE will increase your security, and you can always set McAfee or any other virus program to auto-scan your download folder, be it the desktop or any other location.

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Centreville, Va.: How does Firefox compare with Opera? I've used Opera as my primary browser for several years but would consider changing to a free open source product if it worked just as well. Does Firefox allow you to scale and resize the display on the fly?

Thanks, Mike

Rob Pegoraro: No, you can't do that in Firefox--well, not without an extension, at least.

For most users, I think Firefox is a lot better than Opera. It's focused on the features that the general public is interested in, while Opera's focus seems to be more in catering to power users. Also, Firefox is free and Opera is not (either you pay the reg. fee or you live with a banner ad in the browser toolbar).

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Bethesda, MD: Rob, I simply love Firefox and especially the little icons that appear next to the website name. It makes browsing so much more fun. My question is with regard to some websites that do not have the little icon or those that do but do not show up in the bookmarks/favorites. Is there some way to make all the bookmarks display their icons (the post has a lovely black and white W, Google of course the G)?

Rob Pegoraro: Write to the site and ask that they create a site icon... without that, Firefox can only display the generic blank-page icon.

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Missoula, MT: Hi Rob,

Thanks for taking this question.

I wonder if Mozilla makes downloading easier. My specific case involves downloading a recent version of QuickTime. SP-2 interfered with an "unsigned" provider (despite the fact it was right from the Apple site). It would not commence downloading until I actually turned OFF my ZoneLabs firewall--I tried resetting the firewall security settings, but still had problems. I also tried resetting my security to "low" in IE but still had problems with forcing the download. I do not like turning off my firewall for any reason. Are downloads easier with Mozilla?

Rob Pegoraro: In your case, maybe not... if a third-party firewall won't let a download proceed through IE, it wouldn't work through Firefox. However, the fact that you call this "unsigned" makes it sound like Apple used some kind of ActiveX installer--in which case, click the "standalone installer" link: http://www.apple.com/quicktime/download/standalone/

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Winchester, IL: TWP has been particularly bad about putting links in email that automatically opening IE. If another browser is the local default, both browsers will open. It seems to be less common now that it used to be, but the first link in your email today "a Web chat starting at 2 p.m. ET today," still does it.

washingtonpost.com: Hello Winchester. That's an interesting problem you are reporting. We don't believe we're using any settings that would do what you are reporting. Maybe we can work together to figure it out. Pls. send an e-mail with more specifics (i.e. what browser versions you're using, what type of computer etc.) and we'll be glad to check into it. Send that e-mail to editor@technews.com. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: FYI, I don't see any links in WPNI newsletters opening in IE either.

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Washington, DC: I work at a university in DC...which will remain anonymous (though, I'll give you a hint and let you know that it's in a fancy schmancy area of town with no Metro stop.) Anyhow, Our computer folks have been told to have us use Mozilla for email and IE for web. This doesn't seem very logical to me and I find it to be quite annoying. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Thanks!;

Rob Pegoraro: Tell them that this GU grad will not give another cent to his alma mater if they're going to be teaching that kind of nonsense :) I mean, this is a simple choice--spend money on browser-hijacking cleanups or financial aid? I doubt my old philosophy and theology profs would have any trouble picking the correct choice...

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Washington, DC: Pardon my ignorance but I am a novice and didn't understand your reply to a question about Thunderbird. I have a single computer at home with a dial-up connection (am not sure whether that is POP or IMAP). A better, more secure email program is more important to me than a better browser. Would you please tell me what are advantages and disadvantages of Firefox vs. Outlook 2003, whether contacts book and folders and rules can simply be transferred to T-bird. Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: If you don't know what kind of account you have, it's most likely POP. And for that, I would recommend the program that somebody else just reminded me of--Eudora, the grand-daddy of all POP mail programs. www.eudora.com, available in free/ad-supported and payware/no-ad versions.

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Silver Spring, MD: Thanks for the very informative article on on FireFox. My wife coordinates laptop computer use at a nearby private school. There have been incidents recently with students visiting unauthorized sites. Would you happen to know what type of site blocking FireFox offers, if any, and whether it can be controlled by a computer administrator? Also, are there features in FireFox that might cater more to middle school computer users' needs than does IE?

Rob Pegoraro: Any blocking done at the server/gateway level will work regardless of browser.

The single biggest improvement in your school's case would be the defenses against browser hijacking. A lot of the sites that employ hijacking techniques are the sort that, um, teenage boys would find enjoyable to visit.

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Tallahassee, FL: Any ideas on getting Firefox to work with MSN messenger? Googling did not find any and need to convince the wife to make the switch.

Rob Pegoraro: Not sure what you mean by "worth with." Firefox is a Web browser, MSN Messenger is an instant-message client. One works independent of the other.

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Saint Louis, MO: Will Firefox have the ability to defend against browser high-jacking within its own program instructions?

IE does not have an internal program that locks the browser. It can be overcome and dll's written to take over the homepage

Rob Pegoraro: Firefox simply doesn't support the system-level access that IE provides, so it doesn't need that kind of defense. To oversimplify: With IE, all the windows in the house can be unlocked from the outside, so you need a security guard. W/ Firefox, the locks are on the inside of the windows.

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Jay, Arlington, VA: Question regarding Firefox and FTP Server access. I've noticed that my corporate FTP server is inaccessible using firefox. The advanced features of IE have a check box to enable folder view of FTP site -- is there something comparable in Firefox????

Rob Pegoraro: Firefox handles regular FTP sites fine, but your company's may be using some code that's IE specific. You'd have to ask your IT department about this one.

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New York: Followup on the digital camera question--That's good advice, thanks. What would you choose instead of a Sony?

Rob Pegoraro: We just reviewed 5-MP cameras recently; have a look.

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Tallahassee, FL: What i meant was when my wife clicks on the MSN messenger email notifier, i want it to open hotmail in Firefox, not MSIE. Right now setting Firefox as the default browser does not help. It still opens IE.

Thanks,

KV

Rob Pegoraro: Oh. How cute. I guess the people working on MSN Messenger at Microsoft didn't get the memo... this would be a bug in MSN Messenger. It ought to be fixed by now--we ran a story not too long ago about how Microsoft got itself in further hot water for not honoring users' browser selections elsewhere in Windows, and had said it would fix this problem.

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Wilmington, Del.: From a developer's perspective, it's challenging to create websites that work equally well in various browsers (IE vs Netscape). Do you have any information regarding the nuances of coding for Firefox? Also, do you think that the above challenge will prevent a de-consolidation of the browser market as developers (and companies) are reluctant to expend the resources necessary to code for all platforms?

Rob Pegoraro: If you code to the actual standards, the page should work for any browser. There aren't any Firefox- or Mozilla-specific extensions to HTML.

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Cedar Grove, NC: I've been using AvantBrowser because it offers one feature no other browser seems to offer: I can configure it to clear my temp internet files, recent pages, browser history, cookies, etc., automatically when the browser shuts down. Can Firefox do that? Where do you configure that? If so I'll switch in a heartbeat.

Rob Pegoraro: Firefox can't do that automatically, but you can erase all those items whenever you want: Tools: Options: Privacy: Clear All. (But why would you want to do that? I'm sorry, but going through that routine every time you browse is tinfoil-hat behavior.)

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Anonymous: Hi;

I use Safari. I have found that there are some web sites that don't work with Safari and do with Firefox. I am thinking of switching entirely to Firefox for this reason. In your article you imply Safari has functionality that Firefox doesn't. I haven't been able to figure out what this functionality is. Can you elaborate?

thanks, fletcher

Rob Pegoraro: The big difference is the form auto-fill button in Safari, followed by the "Snap-Back" command. I also like how Safari automatically shows Web sites contained in your Mac's address book (this last feature, however, is also offered in a Mac-only Mozilla-developed browser called Camino).

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Baltimore: Only tangentially related:

if you only use Firefox, except for a website or two (that you trust), do you still need SP2? I've gotten mixed messages, and when other people ask, your response seems to be: "Yes (unless...)." I also don't do P2P, IM, or download stuff off websites I don't know. Antivirus is up-to-date, and I run ZoneAlarm, as well as Spybot and AdAware (though the latter two have had little to do ever since I installed Firefox about a year ago).

At the same time, I understand that IE is still on my computer, so I suppose the vulnerability still exists.

Can you advise?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, you should still install SP2. Back up your data first (no update this complex is going to be risk-free), but definitely proceed with SP2. It fixes many problems much deeper-seated than just IE browser vulnerabilities.

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Arlington, VA: To what extent do you think that the security problems of Internet Explorer are related to its position as the most frequently used browser?

In other words, do virus writers target IE because they the biggest bang for the buck in terms of the number of users they can affect?

Or, is the technology behind IE that weak (vs. say Firefox) that it renders itself vulnerable to attack?

Rob Pegoraro: The latter--IE, especially in its pre-SP2 version and when left in its default settings, is hijack bait.

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Brewton, Alabama: Is firefox a new download from scratch or does it use part of Mozilla I already have downloaded?

About how long would it take at 50k dialup?

Charlie

Rob Pegoraro: It's 4.7 megabytes, so that should be maybe 20, 25 minutes.

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Washington, D.C.: But there's a catch to Firefox's popularity -- you still need IE to download updates for Windows, so Firefox can't be your only solution. Right?

Rob Pegoraro: Right. But you can't uninstall IE anyway, so the question is moot.

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Spokane, Wash.: Hi Rob,

Great article on Firefox. I've been non IE for several years, and have found the functionality to Opera far superior to anything out there. I will download Firefox and give it a try. Does firefox offer the "hold right button, click left button to go back" and vice versa to go forward? Does Firefox offer SSL encryption? Can I go to sites that list Netscape or IE browsers only and use it? (usually in https environments)

Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: You can add mouse gestures with an extension (somebody sent along a link to that earlier). Yes, Firefox supports SSL. If a site supports Netscape but not Opera, the odds are OK to good that Firefox will be tolerated there too. (In most of these cases, any browser would function, but the site is locking out all but a few specified programs.)

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Baltimore: Another non-Firefox question for you: I just moved, and the previous owner of the house had Verizon DSL. I wasn't happy with Earthlink, so I decided to get Verizon DSL too. They tried hooking me up, but I couldn't;t get sync on the line. Now they say I am just a tad too far from my central office to qualify. Various Verizon techs and salespeople have recommended that I (1) have a technician come out and see if he can shorten the loop length, (2) try changing my phone number to the same exchange as the previous owner, or (3) try adding a second line. Based on whatever you know about the actual physics of DSL, any thoughts on what to try? So far I haven;t been able to get a tech out, and options 2 or 3 involve either hassles or expenses ...

Rob Pegoraro: Try going with another DSL provider too. Start with EarthLink, for example... if they say DSL will work, you might want to call Verizon back and ask what their problem is. (E-mail me about how this develops, please.)

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Alexandria, Va.: Couple of days ago i installed Mozilla firefox. But since then i am unable to listen to any music or news. For example, when i tried to listen news from BBC via www.bbc.com.uk, i received a message on the screen that this program has performed an illegal operation and needs to be closed. As such i was unable to listen to the news. Please advise me what to do?

Rob Pegoraro: Reinstall RealPlayer? I listen/watch to Web audio and video in Ffox all the time, without any problems.

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Falls Church, VA: My firefox has a little triangle between the forward and back buttons, but it has the same function as the back button. In IE, that button pulls down a menu of previous pages. Can I get that with Firefox?

Rob Pegoraro: Click and hold on the little black triangle and you'll get that list of previous Web pages.

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USA: Rob,

I enjoy your columns and chats. This is a pretty basic question, but please help:

What's the difference between a "new tab" and a "new window"?

Rob Pegoraro: New tab = new page in the same window as before, behind a tab, but without a separate toolbar or a taskbar icon at the bottom of the Windows screen.

New window = exactly how things work in IE, with each page in its own separate window.

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Silver Spring, MD: Love You, Love You, Love You!; The column is fabulous and the information right on target. I, too, have been telling everyone I know get Mozilla, Thunderbird, spybot and adaware along with a personal firewall and virus protection but do they listen - NOT UNTIL THERE'S A PROBLEM so it's on them!;!;!;

Rob Pegoraro: But they ask you for help then anyway, right?

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Madison, WI: FireFox has put a 3-4% dent in IE's browser market share, something no other alternative browser (i.e., Opera, Mozilla, Netscape 6+) has been able to do. Given the relatively short amount of time it took FireFox to accomplish this, do you think that FireFox can upset Microsoft as the dominant browser within the next few years. Is so, what market and tech factors do you think will be most important to sway consumers.

Rob Pegoraro: I think Firefox has a better chance than any of the other rivals--if it can't do it, I can only conclude that people have an extraordinarily high tolerance for pain, or that the mass market has some strange, reflexive distrust of open-source software

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Falls Church, Va.: Hi Rob,

I don't really have much of a question, but I do have to admit I'm enjoying the schadenfreude of all the Windows problems, and especially the IE ones. In hindsight, the best thing to happen to us Mac users was MS dropping support for our version of IE.

I use Safari mostly, but will sometimes use Firefox and some of the others. The one question I do have is I was wondering if work on Camino has pretty much stopped. It got to about 90% of what I want, but hasn't really moved from there in quite a while. Any info?

Rob Pegoraro: Camino is still chugging along--there was a .81 test release recently, and a 1.0 version is on the roadmap someplace.

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Hyattsville, MD: Regarding an earlier post, you wrote:

(But why would you want to do that? I'm sorry, but going through that routine every time you browse is tinfoil-hat behavior.)

I'll go out on a very short limb and say porn. I'm sure it's simply a matter of time before an extension is crafted to handle this feature.

By the way, I'm a proud Firefox-on-Linux user since it was branched from Mozilla.

Rob Pegoraro: Sure, but this guy is clearing his cache/history/cookies Every. Single. Time. I mean, isn't he going to go blind at some point? :)

(BTW, the next version of Safari will have a feature called Private Browsing, which I'm sure is designed for this exact usage scenario.)

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WDC: OK, So I updated from the beta of Firefox to 1.0 this morning, based largely on your raves, and I do not have, and can't figure out how to add, the "find/find next" box that you mentioned in your column. This is a great idea, but how do I make it appear?

BTW, I HATE IE, and have been using Netscape or Firefox almost exclusively at work and Safari at home for years.

Rob Pegoraro: Hit Ctrl-F, or just type the "/" key, then type your query.

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Charlottesville, Va.: One criticism of the movement to promote Firefox is that its occasional bugs and slightly more advanced features will cause problems in companies that choose to switch everyone over from IE. It has been shown that Firefox is at least a little more likely to crash than IE, and many lazy web programmers don't make their sites compatible with Mozilla. Could this be a big annoyance for IT people who have to deal with clueless users?

Rob Pegoraro: I think the "clueless users" are also likely to get their browsers hijacked, which will impose a lot more work on the IT department.

This is just one anecdote, but on the two computers I've been using Firefox on nonstop since last Tuesday, it has crashed, um, never.

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Rob Pegoraro: Alright, I have to sign off. I think we set some sort of record here for questions submitted (394 at least count) and answered (if not always answered accurately :)

Thanks for keeping me so busy. I'll be here next Monday to talk about our tech buying guide... see you then.

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