The Google browser

Looks like I’ve failed to mention that alongside the disposable Firefox I’m now using a regular Chrome window for all things Google. That means my Gmail, Google Calendar, Google+, some of my Hangouts use and age-verification requiring YouTube-viewing now happens within that profile.

This has freed me from having to sign in to Google in the disposable Firefox. It was a bit of hassle because of 2FV, but to be honest, I’m sure I could have lived with it; what I think this was more about was the satisfaction from dividing the uses between the two browsers: Google’s browser for the Googly stuff, disposable Firefox for everything else.

I’m still using Android on the mobile side, and prefer to use Chrome there because pretending to gain any privacy from alternatives would be just that, pretense. So the divide on the desktop follows this reasoning, to maintain the strong mental association of Google’s services to Google’s browser. I also picked Chrome proper instead of Chromium for this reason: I don’t see any point in pretending to be safe from Google’s prying eyes when using their services, signed in.

There’s one (perhaps notable) exception among those services: if I use Google to search things, I use Firefox. For me, search benefits from my being signed in mostly only on the mobile (where I do often want to repeat earlier searches to save typing), on the desktop not so much. And on the desktop, searching on Google proper is the exception for me, I usually just use Startpage.

On Chrome’s side (on the desktop), my use is pretty strictly limited to the Google services I listed. That means that any external links within those services I will copy and paste into a Firefox instance. Thankfully, of those services, Hangouts is currently the only one using redirect URLs causing some extra hassle. The same issue is much more severe on Twitter, which goes to irritating lengths to obscure the original addresses behind their stupid shortening service. It’s one of those issues I previously would have fixed simply by installing an add-on, but now have to contemplate whether those links are worth manually decrypting, or even the site worth browsing at all because of the irritation that it causes.

I should also mention that I’ve extended the disposable profile idea to Chrome, so that I can launch a disposable Chrome window (alongside the main profile) from Unity’s launcher. (Unlike Ubuntu’s Chromium package, the Google-provided .desktop for Chrome did not provide this function out of the box.) This is mainly to have a browser with Adobe Flash for the few remaining sites I still occasionally deem worth having it on (I can only think of one off the top of my head).

Stabilized Firefox and search engine switchback

I now officially take back any bad suspicions I may have cast over Firefox’s stability in the previous post: after I replaced the temporary profiles hack with properly isolated ephemeral profiles, Firefox has been rock solid. I would even venture so far as to say that it’s now more stable than Chromium was for me back when I still used it, though the comparison is slightly skewed to Firefox’s favor by my removing of Adobe Flash at the time of the switch.

V42 has already been supplanted by V43, and it broke the userChrome tweak I also mentioned in the last post, but in a good way: the irritating, obtrusive full-screen warning pop-up is so much more subtle in V43 that I no longer mind it at all. In fact, I should remove the CSS tweak altogether now that it no longer serves any purpose and, even if it did, doesn’t work.

Another major change that I made that coincided with the switch from Chromium to Firefox was to move from Startpage to’s Search page. I first became aquainted with the latter when trying out Tor Browser, which defaulted to Disconnect Search. I felt like experimenting with an alternative so I decided to give it a go as my default in regular Firefox too.

Unfortunately Disconnect’s results don’t feel as good as Startpage’s do for me. Disconnect apparently employ some kind of quick filtering which is triggered by an immediate (or -ish) return from a site you’ve picked from the search results listing, hiding or lowering the page/site in question from the search results listing from there on. I found it would often degrade my search results near or entirely to uselessness, as I tend to skip back and forth between the results listing and found pages themselves, and only settle for what I deem the best source after sampling a few of the top results. I obviously can’t do that if my search provider keeps hiding the links I’ve visited from me.

Sometime between the last post and this one Disconnect Search also began to occasionally show remarkably poor results for very basic searches — searches I would then take to Google proper to find that Disconnect had left out a huge portion of raw Google results (I exclusively used Google as Disconnect’s backend). Note that this was not caused by the aforementioned “quick filtering”, as these inferior results would also show up in a fresh, clean Firefox window quite often (that was the first thing I tried when I began to notice these poor results).

Hence I’ve now returned to Startpage as my search provider. It may very well be that Disconnect could be configured to not do the “quick filtering” thing it does, but I can’t be bothered to investigate the possibility, as switching back to Startpage is a much easier route out of this problem while also resolving the “generally poor results compared to Google proper” issue. (Doing an identical search in clean windows of both Disconnect and Startpage only seconds apart clearly showed Startpage’s superiority in this too.)

RIAs and Free Software

Some issues with RIAs I’ve been wondering:

  • How come there’s no Flash-based Ogg player? Actually, it seems that a Vorbis player is being worked on, which is great, but I’m still puzzled that this hasn’t come about way, way earlier.
  • How come there’s no Flash-based Ogg player that would work with the free Flash player implementations? Granted that having one that works with the non-free plugin, which is the most prevalent, is of massively bigger importance for spreading Ogg, than having a fully freedom-friendly one. And also, those of us who choose to use the free implementations probably have no problems playing back Oggs without a Flash-based player. However, I’m not trying to be critical here; these are just issues that I find confusing in how the free software community works. (More on this below.)
  • Is Flash a non-free format? Is there such a thing as a ‘non-free format’, or am I just confused in my terminology?
  • Are there any truly free RIA platforms? I know of none. Based on what I understand from the Wikipedia article, Moonlight can hardly be considered one, given its MS-imposed restrictions.
  • If there aren’t any truly free RIA platforms, why not?

As I said, this isn’t a criticism. I’m just genuinely puzzled by these questions and how the community works. More generally, I would presume that it would be natural for those striving to free people from non-free formats and software, to begin from their own side of things (the free software world), and from there to reach towards those still locked in. This would pave a nice, finished road for the unfree to flock back to the other side with them.

Let’s say a locked-in user comes to contact with Ogg through a Flash-based player on the web. They then, through proper evangelising, start to contemplate switching to a free Flash player. But if the free player can’t play the Ogg files displayed on their favourite sites, they face the added difficulty of having to try and get them to play otherwise.

If, instead, they’d find that the free Flash implementation they’ve now switched to plays the Ogg player just fine, they won’t have to go through the hoop of getting the Oggs to play otherwise — at least not until they start contemplating ditching Flash altogether for being a non-free format.

And what about ditching Flash, if you still want to have RIAs in your truly free world? With Ogg itself it seems to me that the work began as it should have, with laying the foundations by creating a free alternative. But what if there’s no free alternative for the non-free RIA platforms?

Lenny’s GStreamer plays Asao

I just discovered that Lenny’s GStreamer plays Nellymoser’s flash audio without any difficulty. This is awesome and definitely so much easier than with Ubuntu Hardy. Back then I had to convert such FLVs’ audio tracks into MP3 using ffmpeg built from source.

[Ratkaisu] Web-sivulla oleva Flash-elementti tekee vierityksestä hidasta

Pakettienhallinnassa flashplugin-nonfree ja libflashsupport ovat asennettuna. Lataan Firefox-selaimeen YouTube-sivustolta videon. Kaikki sivulla olevat kommentit eivät mahdu kerralla näyttöön, joten alan vierittää sivua pystysuunnassa tarttumalla selainikkunan oikeassa laidassa olevaan vierityspalkkiin hiiren osoittimella, ja liikuttamalla sitä pystysuunnassa.
Firefox nielee kaiken suoritintehon, ja sivun vieritys on sen takia hyppelehtivää.
Ongelman syy
Adoben flash-liitännäiseen liittyy ohjelmavirhe, jonka takia Firefox nielee liikaa suoritintehoa silloin, kun siihen on ladattu sivu, jolla on flash-sisältöä.
Suljen Firefoxin. Poistan Synaptic-pakettienhallinnassa flashplugin-nonfree- ja libflashsupport-paketin, ja asennan tilalle mozilla-plugin-gnash -paketin. Tämän jälkeen YouTube-sivustolla olevaa sivua pystyy vierittämään ilman, että Firefox nielisi kaiken suoritintehon, vaikka sivulla olisi flash-sisältöä.
Mikäli ei-vapaata flash-liitännäistä on pakko käyttää esimerkiksi siinä tapauksessa, että haluan katsella Adobe Flashin versio 9:llä katseltavaksi luotua sisältöä, libflashsupport-paketin poistaminen kannattaa silti, sillä sen jälkeen suoritintehojen hävikkiä ilmenee vain flash-sisällön ollessa näkyvillä selainikkunassa. Kun flash-sisältö vieritetään näkymättömiin, tai jos flashia sisältävän sivun näyttävä välilehti suljetaan, suoritintehon käyttö palautuu normaalitasolle.

Flash-videoiden (FLV) kesto on väärä, kelaaminen ei toimi

Pakettienhallinnassa gstreamer0.10-fmpeg on asennettuna.
Olen ladannut FLV-muotoisen flash-videotiedoston YouTubesta. Avaan videon Totem-elokuvasoittimella toistettavaksi ja valitsen Elokuva-valikosta kohdan Ominaisuudet, jolloin Totem-ikkunan oikeassa laidassa oleva sivupalkki näyttää videon tiedot.
Totem ilmoittaa videon ajalliseksi kestoksi 0 sekuntia, Ruutunopeudeksi 1000 kehystä per sekunti ja lisäksi tilarivi ilmoittaa, että meneillään on virtaustoisto. Mikään näistä tiedoista ei pidä paikkaansa.

Jos tartun Aika: -liukusäätimeen ja yritän hakeutua videossa eteen- tai taaksepäin, liukusäädin hyppää videon alkuun ja videon toisto alkaa alusta.

Ongelman syy
Gstreamer-ffmpeg -ohjelmistossa on ohjelmavirhe, jonka takia videon kelaaminen ei ole mahdollista, eivätkä videosta annetut tiedot pidä paikkaansa.
Ratkaisua ei vielä ole. Ohjelmavirhe on korjattu gstreamer-ffmpeg -ohjelmiston päivityksessä, mutta päivitys ei vielä ole saatavilla pakettivarastosta. Ongelman voi kiertää asentamalla vlc– ja vlc-nox -paketin ja toistamalla flash-videon sen jälkeen Sovellukset → Ääni & video -valikosta löytyvällä VLC media playerilla.