Firefox’s market share stuck below 25%?

Last week Ars Technica reported that Firefox may never hit 25% market share.  Firefox has certainly put a big dent in Internet Explorer’s share over the past few years, but it seems to have stalled out. Certainly Google Chrome is one reason, as it has attracted the attention of many web users in the past year. Since its 1.0 release in 2004, Firefox has been the most widely-adopted success of the open source world, but now it appears to be stuck.  And my response is “who cares?”

I’ve been a Firefox user since the 1.something days, with occasional forays into Opera and Chrome.  I appreciate the work the developers have done, and I think Firefox has been an excellent product, but I don’t particularly care what the market share is.  In fact, the more browsers that are in widespread use, the better I think it is for the web.  Having a larger number of browsers forces browser and site developers alike to adhere to standards instead of implementing however they see fit.

The whole point is that users should have a choice, and that websites should work no matter what browser is used.  Realistically, we’re not to that point yet, but look what’s happened in the past six years with less than a quarter of the market. I’ll continue to use whatever browser I feel is best for me, and I won’t care how many others agree.  It’s just a tool, people.

Using bookmark synchronization on Google Chrome for Linux and Mac

For a long time, I blamed the sluggish performance of the web browser on my Linux machine at home on the ancientness of the hardware.  However, when my much nicer Linux machine at work showed the same problem, I began to think maybe it was just Firefox.  I’ve been an avid Firefox user for many years, but my loyalty wavers when my browser can’t keep up with my keyboard.  Based on the advice of strangers on the Internet, I decided to give Google’s Chrome browser a try.

Chrome is still a maturing browser, but it is fast and capable.  There’s only one real drawback: bookmark synchronization.  With Firefox, I had been using Xmarks to synchronize my bookmarks, but that’s not currently available for Chrome.  In the “Early Access” builds of the Linux and Mac versions of Chrome, the bookmark sync that the Windows version has is available.  This syncs the bookmarks to your Google Docs account, which makes it rather handy.  However, synchronization is not enabled by default.  To enable it, you have to pass the –enable-sync option at launch time, which is easier said than done.  Fortunately, it’s not too terribly difficult.

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Accessing Taleo from Mac or Linux

Some companies (including my own employer) use a company called Taleo to manage the hiring and recruitment process.  As an applicant, I’ve not been very impressed with it, but that’s neither here nor there.  From the applicant side, you can use just about any browser to fill out the forms and submit your application.  However, if you’re a hiring manager, Taleo expects that you’ll be using the Internet Explorer browser.  If you’re on a Windows machine, that’s probably available to you.  For Mac and Linux users, it’s not an option.

So what can you do?  You can either go find a Windows machine to use, or you can try to run Internet Explorer using Wine.  Neither of those are necessarily that appealing.  Fortunately, there’s a third option, which is to use the (closed-source but free-as-in-beer) Opera browser.  Once you’ve got that installed, it’s a quick process to get Taleo workin* In Preferences, click on the “Advanced” tab and select “Content”

  • Click the “Manage Site Preferences…” button
  • Click the “Add…” button
  • Enter your Taleo site (e.g. “” or “”) in the “Site” field
  • Choose “Open all pop-ups” in the “Pop-ups” drop-down menu
  • Click the “Network tab”
  • Select “Mask as Internet Explorer” in the “Browser identification” drop-down menu (note that “Identify as Internet Explorer” will NOT work)
  • Click “OK”
  • Click “Close”
  • Click “OK”

That’s all it takes.  As a bonus, you now have the very capable, stable, and secure Opera browser installed.

SOCKS it to me

(This is the first in a series of “there’s already a thousand other articles about this out there, but I’m writing my own so that I’ll have something to put on my blog” articles).

For security’s sake, some of the services I run in my department aren’t accessible off-campus, or even outside of my department’s subnets.  This is normally a good thing, but it can be a bit of a hassle sometimes.  If I’m at home and I want to check my Exchange e-mail with Entourage, or if I need to access my Samba server, I can always just fire up a VPN connection.  But if I need to play around with CUPS, and I’m not wired in to my department (say, for example, I’m sitting in a meeting and I want to get actual work done instead), then I’m just up a creek.  The VPN is at the University level, and I don’t really feel like letting the whole campus print to my printers.  We spend too much on printing anyway.

This is where SOCKS comes in.  SOCKS is a proxy protocol — instead of traffic going directly from a server to you, it goes through the proxy first.  SOCKS can be used to pass all kinds of traffic, but probably the most common use is to encrypt, hide, or otherwise mangle web traffic.

Some uses of SOCKS are completely honest, like my example above to access restriced resources when I’m away from my office.  Another reason to use SOCKS is if you’re on an untrusted network, like at a coffee house, and you don’t want anyone who is trying to snoop your network traffic to see what web pages you’re viewing.  A less noble case is tunneling your web traffic through somewhere else while you’re at work, thus allowing you to visit sites your boss would not approve of.  I suppose you could also use a SOCKS proxy to visit sites that the law would not approve of, but you’ll still get caught.

So I’ve gone on for over three hundred words so far, and I still haven’t said how you can actually do this.  As it turns out, it is surprisingly simple.  All you need is an SSH server, and SSH client, and a web browser.  The SSH server runs on whatever you want to use as a proxy, in this case my Linux desktop at work.  The SSH client and web browser run on the computer you’re using to surf ye olde intertubes.  (If you’re using Linux or Mac OS X, you’ve probably already got the SSH client and SSH server available, but you might have to get it started.  Windows users will need Cygwin or something similar.  In any case, Google is your friend).

To get started, just make an SSH connection to your proxy host.  Something like

   ssh -ND 8120

will do quite nicely.  The “-ND” option does not mean to root for Notre Dame.  Do not do that under any circumstances.  “N” tells SSH not to run a command, so you won’t get a command line, which in this case is fine.  “D” specifies the local port to use.  I chose 8120, but you can choose pretty much whatever you want between 1025 and 65535.  The important thing is to remember it.  The rest is your username and then the server you want to connect to.

Okay, so now you’ve got the connection set up.  The next thing to do is to tell your browser to use it.  Firefox users, go to Preferences and select the “Advanced” tab.  Next, select the “Network” section.  You’ll see a line that reads “Configure how Firefox connects to the internet.”  Click on the “Settings” button next to that.  Select the “Manual Proxy Configuration.”  In the box labeled “SOCKS Host” enter “localhost” and in the “Port” box next to that, enter the port you chose when you set up your SSH connection.  Click “OK” and then you’re done.

If you did it right, you’re now sending all of your web traffic through the proxy.  Well done!