Kitfox: Firefox for People Who Liked the Mozilla Browser (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source, Science, and Nature.

Wed, 16 Mar 2005

Kitfox: Firefox for People Who Liked the Mozilla Browser

Debate rages on the mozilla-seamonkey list since the Mozilla Foundation announced that there would be no 1.8 release of the Mozilla browser (also called "the suite", or by its code name, "seamonkey"). Suite users are frustrated at lack of notice: anyone who was paying attention knew that seamonkey was going to be dropped eventually, but everyone expected at least a 1.8 final release. Mozilla.org is frustrated because they wish suite users would quit whining and switch to Firefox. Various people are slinging flames and insults, while a few try to mediate with logic and sense. There's a volunteer effort ramping up to continue support for the suite, but no plans for what to do about fixing all the regressions. Go read the list if you want all the gory details.

Anyway, the writing on the wall (and on the newsgroup) is clear: if you want a browser with continuing support from mozilla.org, Firefox is your only choice. Unfortunately for Linux users, firefox is designed by and for Windows users, copying Internet Explorer's user interface and dropping support for a number of nice features which the old mozilla browser offered.

I've decided that the best way to get a usable browser is to take firefox and put back the mozilla features that I miss. Mostly these are easy user interface tweaks. I pulled a tree last week and had most of the items that were blocking me addressed in a few hours. Building wasn't entirely straightforward: the build page doesn't make all the options clear, like the fact that xft and freetype are both enabled by default, so one of them has to be explicitly disabled. Updating the tree turns out to be a bit problematic: firefox' build dependencies turn out to be dicy, so sometimes changing a single .xul file causes the entire tree to rebuild, while other times an update builds a few files and the resulting build fails to run, and requires a clobber and a rebuild. Still, those problems are relatively minor.

So far, I have fixes for these bugs:

Next up: try to figure out why firefox takes so much longer than mozilla to start up. Fortunately, once it's up, it seems just as fast at browsing, but startup takes forever, and firefox doesn't even offer a splash option to tell me that something is happening.

Here is my patch, in case anyone else is bothered by these issues.

Perhaps this could be built as an extension. Some day I'll look into that. Certainly the current set of patches could be implemented as a script which exploded, edited, and re-packed the .jar archives in a firefox binary build, since the patch touches no C++ code as yet.

I'm calling my firefox-derived browser "Kitfox".

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[ 11:03 Mar 16, 2005    More programming | permalink to this entry ]