Saturday, December 16, 2006

Swiftly, My Browser

I've decided, for the time being at least, not to upgrade to Ubuntu 6.10 ("Edgy Eft"), instead staying with the Long Term Support version 6.06, "Dapper Drake." Nothing particularly against Edgy, just that it's awfully soon to upgrade, even for a former Fedora user. Anyway, there will be another Ubuntu, version 7.04, "Feisty Fawn," available around April. I'll probably upgrade then.

But this failure to upgrade on my part means that I'll be "stuck" with some older versions of software. In particular, Firefox will be stuck with the 1.5 series, although the current release is 2.0.

I wanted to at least try version 2.0. I could download the binaries directly from the Firefox site, but they wouldn't be in Debian package format and wouldn't automatically upgrade. I've heard that there are sites that package Firefox into .deb, but I found that Swiftfox, the Linux & CPU optimized rebuild of Firefox, has its own Debian distribution page. Indeed, by adding the line

deb unstable non-free

to /etc/apt/sources.list you can auto-upgrade Swiftfox with apt-get or synaptic.

But Swiftfox comes in different versions for different processors. Which one do I have? That's not too hard to find out. The first thing I did was

cat /proc/cpuinfo 
processor       : 0
vendor_id       : GenuineIntel
cpu family      : 15
model           : 2
model name      : Intel(R) Celeron(R) CPU 2.20GHz
stepping        : 7
cpu MHz         : 2193.109
cache size      : 128 KB
fdiv_bug        : no
hlt_bug         : no
f00f_bug        : no
coma_bug        : no
fpu             : yes
fpu_exception   : yes
cpuid level     : 2
wp              : yes
flags           : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe cid
bogomips        : 4391.39

which tells me that this is an Intel Celeron (duh), cpu family 15. That's fine, but on its installer page Swiftfox gives me a choice of three Celeron packages:

  • Celeron (Willamette, Northwood, Celeron D), which maps to the Pentium 4,
  • Celeron M, which maps to Pentium-M, and
  • Celeron (Coppermine, Tualatin), which is a Pentium 3 knockoff.

Of course, I know mine is a cheaper version of the Pentium 4, but if you're really curious about your CPU, Wikipedia defines family 15 as the "Northwood" line of processors.

So edit /etc/apt/sources.list, run

apt-get update && apt-get install swiftfox-pentium4

and we're set to go. You may want to do a little tweaking to get all of your pluggins in the right spot, but Swiftfox will run properly.

The best thing about Firefox/Swiftfox is that the browser has a large number of extensions that increase its capabilities. In the 2.0 line these are actually in the Tools => Add-ons menu. Every once in a while I like to take stock of what I have installed, and why. So here goes:

  • Adblock: Lets you remove annoying advertisements, or other junk, from web pages. Highly useful for getting rid of Flash advertisements.
  • BugMeNot: Adds a right-click option which queries the BugMeNot database to find a login and password that works on a site you haven't registered. Not available with the rest of the extensions, you have to look for RoachFiend.
  • Colorful Tabs: Makes the tabs different colors. Not as useful as it sounds, but pretty.
  • CookieCuller: Lets you manage cookies. Specific cookies, e.g. a password cookie for your Google account, can be protected, and will remain when you clean out other cookies
  • Download Statusbar: Highly useful. Replaces the annoying popup window with a bar at the bottom of your browser that fills itself in as you download a file.
  • Forecastfox: Weather information directly on the browser.
  • Sage: An RSS reader that lives in your sidebar.
  • translator: Right-click the little German flag at the bottom of your browser and you can translate the page into the language of your choice. This version lets you open the translated page in a new window or tab.
  • Unread Tabs: Tabs you haven't yet visited are in italics, making them easier to identify.
  • User Agent Switcher: For the brain-dead sites that "require" Internet Explorer but use no other Microsoft software. This makes them think you're an M$ groupie.
  • VideoDownloader: This lets you download videos from YouTube, Google Video, etc. You can view the resulting file with mplayer if you have the proper codecs installed.