Categories
Bug

Firefox Sync duplicating bookmarks

A few months ago, there was an update to Firefox Sync. The system was completely changed, requiring the creation of a new account and the reupload of all bookmarks, history information, etc. The old system was still functional, but it wasn’t possible anymore to add devices.

Despite my frustration (yet another account to create), I registered with the new system and started removing my other instances of Firefox from the old system, to attach them to the new. I have a couple of such instances: one on the Windows side of my personal computer, one on its Ubuntu side, one on my personal ultrabook, one on my HTPC, another one on my company’s laptop, another instance on my company’s ultrabook, and three on different virtual machines! That seemed to go pretty well, just uselessly time consuming.

However, a few days later, I noticed it became almost impossible to find something in my bookmarks. Some bookmarks disappeared, but looking a bit deeper, I found multiple copies of bookmarks as well as folders of bookmarks. This was a total mess. It would have taken me hours and hours to clean this up. I though about exporting the mess to JSON and writing myself a script to clean it up and restore with the processed copy, but I wasn’t feeling at working on this during my spare time. I thus left this alone and almost stopped using bookmarks. Sometimes, typing text in the URL finds stuff on Google, in bookmarks or in history. Sometimes, I was getting the link from within an email. Other times, I had to open up the bookmark manager and search endlessly.

Last week, I decide to try something about this: simply restore a backup copy of my bookmarks. I thought about an old copy I had done in January after a clean up of the bookmarks, then I found that Firefox was proposing me options to restore bookmarks saved periodically. I took the latest day with 400k of bookmarks vs 700k, and that did the trick!

Unfortunately, a week later (yesterday in fact), I found out that duplication started again! So it seems that Firefox Sync now simply makes one copy of the bookmarks per instance of Firefox it syncs with! Why not, in this case, offer these copies in separate folders, so at least one would know what to expect?

I searched for a long time to find a better way to manage my bookmarks, and everyone is adopting its own inconvenient or outdated solution. Some are using iCloud with Safari to sync bookmarks and manually transferring to Firefox, others are proposing Xmarks which was discontinued years ago while its web page still offers the tool (last time I tried it, it couldn’t sync, just sit there and try to connect to a server), others are adopting EverSync, others swear that Delicious is the best, etc. It seems I would have to choose one of these and be prepared to start over research a few months later and find the one that would replace my choice which would go down again.

I tried to restore backup once more. Maybe there is a problem with my SQLite Firefox DB on Windows 8.1; this Windows 8 box is more and more flooded with crap and would require a reformat/downgrade to Windows 7, which I just don’t want to do. Maybe, I thought, if I restore the backup on the Windows 8 box, the DB will be clean, and that would sync up with the rest. I tried, then went on my HTPC to see if things would fix. No result. I found out that my HTPC Firefox was still using the old sync, so I updated it.

Then duplicate bookmarks came back again! I got fed up and removed all my bookmarks. There is no point in having bookmarks if Firefox Sync copies it once per machine it connects to, and I just cannot get rid of all my computers except one, otherwise that will have to be my company’s laptop and that will end any possibility of playing Minecraft, attempting to compose music with Ableton Live, and I don’t feel comfortable leaving a copy of my personal data, including my diary, on my company’s laptop! And I would have to do this just because of Firefox? No!!!

I was about to switch to another strategy consisting of using Evernote to store links. There is a capture tool, the Clipper, that allows to make a copy of a web page, with its original link, so that can act as a kind of bookmarking system. This is at least better than the poor man’s system I was considering more and more, consisting of writing a plain old HTML page with links, uploading it to my HostPapa account and updating it from time to time.

But today, I found out that multiple Firefox instances got the same name. My Windows and Ubuntu installation share the same host name since they don’t run simultaneously, and I am using the same login name, so Firefox gave the same default name to the computers. This may explain why it got mixed up with bookmarks! Moreover, update from old to new system may result in additional bookmark duplication.

With this hypothesis in mind, I started all my Firefox instances, one by one, and verified that they all have different names, and that the removal of bookmarks correctly spread. At this point, all my Firefox instances got their bookmarks removed, but I need to be extra sure there is no left over instance I forgot that could restart the duplication like a virus. While doing that, I felt a bit like Jean-Luc Picard going from one version of the Enterprise to the other, in different time periods, to repair a temporal anomaly. Of course, my bookmark problem is far less dangerous than this!

I don’t know yet if that will allow me to put back my bookmarks in one instance of Firefox and see them reappear elsewhere, without duplication.