Firefox and Chrome mixing up

Yesterday, when I started Firefox, I noticed that the Chrome’s interface shown up instead. I thought I picked the wrong icon, closed the window and tried to start Firefox again: no more Firefox icon in the start menu. I pressed the Windows key, typed Firefox, picked the Mozilla Firefox result and pressed Enter. I got Chrome again. Tired of stupid bugs making absolutely no sense, I closed the window and removed Chrome from my computer. I tried to start Firefox again: Chrome started once more. So even the removal failed. I searched for unwanted installed programs, found Speed Browser and removed it as well. After that, Firefox started normally.

I don’t know exactly if the problem came from Google Chrome or Windows 8. I suspect Windows 8 as Chrome is installed on other machines without issues and I got several other issues with Windows 8 and 8.1.


The Leopard dead end

Finally got it, trapped myself into a dead end. This afternoon, I wanted to get AdBlock Pus back into my own account’s Google Chrome on the Mac. I found out that extensions wouldn’t install unless I update my Google Chrome. I tried it, but that stupidly installed a version of Chrome incompatible with Mac OS X 10.5 and I just cannot revert back to the old Chrome. It cannot be downloaded anymore from Google and apparently anywhere else. So I end up with only Safari as a browser on this machine. I cannot get Chrome anymore, no matter how hard I try. However, one hour ago, after I put away this damned machine, I found out I was able to get Firefox 16, the last Firefox usable on Mac OS X 10.5. This wouldn’t get me access to Sync for my bookmarks and history (now requires Firefox 33 or something), but at least I would get a browser I’m used to and that supports HTML5.

Well, at worst, I can live with Safari as the only browser, but getting blocked to Mac OS X 10.5.8 is a more and more an handicap. It prevents me from getting Firefox with Sync, Chrome, SmoothMouse or Razer Synapse, I don’t have access to the Mac App Store so cannot get back my screen capture utility I started using on my Hackintosh, and cannot obtain XCode, which I would need to obtain MEncoder through MacPorts. MEncoder would be useful to encode videos into the QuickTime variant Final Cut Express prefers for optimum performance, as soon as I find this out, and assuming there is such an optimal format that would avoid lengty rendering or at least reduce its length.

The golden upgrade path: from scratch to Yosemite!

I was imagining an upgrade path capable of leading me to Yosemite. I was over-enthousiast with this, thrilled by the possibility it may be doable. The idea would be the following:

  1. Backup as much as I can the data from the hard drive.
  2. Optionnally replace the hard drive with a 120Gb SSD I don’t use anymore.
  3. Install, from scratch, the Mountain Lion I got during my Hackintosh venture.  The USB key Unibeast produced me is just a wrapped up prestine Mac OS X installer that can boot on MBR-based PCs. The Mac’s EFI will just ignore that part, find the EFI loader from Apple and boot that, bypassing the hacked part of the media. I was thus hopeful to get a fresh Mountain Lion system installed from my hacked USB stick! After all, I paid for Mountain Lion, so it was nice to be able to get a return over investment.
  4. Upgrade to Mavericks through Mac App Store, maybe even directly to Yosemite.
  5. Update to Yosemite through Mac App Store if I had to go through Mavericks.
  6. Find a way to get back Final Cut Express, maybe I will be able to copy it back from backed up hard drive, maybe not.
  7. Enjoy!

Unfortunately, things didn’t go so great. First, installation of a SSD would be a great undertaking, requiring almost tearing apart the whole laptop. Then I found out, by running uname -a from a terminal, that Apple did the same stupid mistake as all other manufacturers until Windows 7 comes out: supply a 32 bits OS on machines with a CPU capable of 64 bits operations!

But Apple went one step further: hard-code the EFI to boot only 32 bits loaders!!! There is apparently no work around. A PC with a 32 bit EFI could be worked around by using the legacy boot, which would allow an OS with 80×86 code to switch the CPU into 64-bits mode. But Mac’s EFI can only boot EFI executables, and EFI executables are incapable of switching the CPU mode, at least as far as I know. I didn’t get confirmation of this from EFI spec, so I may be surprised later on. So if EFI is 32 bits on a Mac, that Mac an only run 32 bits OSes!

Why is it so bad? Well, Mountain Lion and later versions only supply a 64-bits kernel, so they won’t run on a 32-bits EFI, no chance it can happen. So not only I am blocked to Mac OS X 10.7, but I don’t have the needed media to jump there.

This afternoon, I confirmed this theory by attempting to boot the Mac off my hacked Mountain Lion USB stick. Although the EFI displayed the loader from the USB stick, that simply resulted in a forbidden sign, no more.

From Leopard to Lion

Without an access to Mac App Store, getting my hands on Lion will be as hard as getting Mountain Lion. I would have to install an hacked version of Mac OS X into VirtualBox or rebuild my Hackintosh, use Mac App Store to download Lion (assuming it would let me do so without meeting requirements) and transfer that onto a USB stick or DVD.

Any Google search leads me to the need for purchasing the retail DVD of Snow Leopard from Apple Store. That would require ordering the disk online, waiting for it forever and it will be delivered to me while I am at work (unless I spend the whole week working from home, and maybe even then). Ideally, I would purchase a download link to an ISO image and burn it.

However, things are not as simple. This afternoon, pissed off beyond imagination, I tried to search for a Torrent that would allow me to grab that damned ISO. It found several, but I discovered that the ISO file was 7Gb large, so doesn’t fit a DVD. So even if I could download the ISO legally from Apple, I wouldn’t be able to burn it on a DVD. Somebody managed to unpack the ISO on an iPod Classic and installed Mac OS X from that through a Firewire port. Wow! I don’t have such an artillery, nor the iPod classic, nor the Firewire cable. Would I get some luck with a USB stick or external hard drive? Maybe, maybe not.

I kind of lost hope at this point. It seems that a Mac either works out of the box as it is, or requires divine intervention from an Apple technician. But getting an Apple technician to work on the machine is another headache, requiring scheduled appointment, probably during day time, so I would have to interrupt my work day to get that damned computer checked, and probably the tech, when looking at the empty battery slot, would stop there and simply recommend I purchase a brand new Macbook Pro, that would have not just Snow Leopard but prestine all-new super-great super-cool Yosemite. Yeah! But that would cost me more than 2000$, and still no more Final Cut Express.

I don’t know what to do at this point. I’m oscillating between switching gears and reinstalling my Hackintosh, ordering this damned Snow Leopard DVD and see or getting it (illegally, unfortunately) through BitTorrent and fiddling with external media workarounds to accomodate the oversized media. If I can get my hands on a couple of dual layer DVD+-R medias, maybe my burner would be able to write the large ISO on that, maybe not, I never tried.

I finally decided to try ordering the retail DVD. I tried upgrading to expedited shipping to make sure to get it a day I know I would be at home. I also found out that upgrading to Lion would require bumping up memory to 2Gb, so I will have to figure out how to replace the SO-DIMM modules before going from Snow Leopard to Lion.

Note that I also found out that the Mac has a 120Gb hard drive. As a result, if I later on switch to use my 120Gb OCZ Agility 3 SSD, I will have the same amount of disk space, with more speed.

Can this Mac be saved?

If I cannot get a more supported Mac OS X, can this machine be freed from this limiting plague which seems to be Mac OS X? The best thing I could install it is probably a Ubuntu version of some sort. But searches about this are not so positive. Some people succeeeded, but they used an hacked Ubuntu version. Some people are telling it is possible to install a 32-bits version of Ubuntu 14.04 from a DVD or USB stick (EFI could boot the live CD), some didn’t have success unless they used an hacked 12.04 DVD and jumped to 14.04. So this promises to be a very frustrating weekend (and maybe even whole Christmas holidays) of trial and errors! I’m not sure I want to venture into that.


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.