Firefox stopped accepting remote commands (Shallow Thoughts)

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

Tue, 24 Apr 2012

Firefox stopped accepting remote commands

When I upgraded to Firefox 11 a month or so ago, I got a surprise: I couldn't invoke firefox from other applications any more. Clicking on a link in an app such as xchat just gave me the Firefox Profile Manager dialog, instead of opening the link in the browser I was already running.

I couldn't find anything written about it, so I've been putting up with it, copying each link then switching to the desktop where Firefox is running and middleclick-pasting it into the browser. But this morning, I did a new round of searching, and finally found the answer, in bug 716110. and its duplicate, 716361.

Quoting from bug 716110::

[The developers] changed the -no-remote flag's behavior in a
surprising, backward incompatible way. Before, it just meant "start a
new instance." Now, it also means "don't listen for remote commands."
Apparently the change went in for Firefox 9, because of bug 650078.

Indeed, that was the problem. I have multiple Firefox profiles, so I use -no-remote -P profilename when I start Firefox, so each profile doesn't conflict with one that might already be running.

But with Firefox 9 or later, you can't do that. Instead, run your first, primary profile without -no-remote; then if you start up other profiles later, run them with -no-remote so they don't conflict with the first one. That works okay for my typical usage, fortunately: I have a main Firefox window I run all day, and only start up other profiles for short periods.

But since not everyone uses this model, fortunately, some upcoming Firefox version will fix the problem by adding a new runtime flag, -new-instance, to do what -no-remote used to do: start up a window for a new profile, rather than talking to the running Firefox. Here's the new --help text:
-no-remote Do not accept or send remote commands; implies -new-instance.\n
-new-instance Open new instance, not a new window in running instance.\n
The web Command Line Options page doesn't seem to have been updated yet, but perhaps it will when the Firefox with the fix is released.

Of course, it would have been much simpler if Firefox just honored the -P flag and used whatever profile it was given, as suggested by a commenter in bug 650078. But bsmedberg replies that the complexity of the code makes that difficult.

The new arguments look more sensible than the old -no-remote, though it's frustrating that it was so hard to find information about changes like this. All three bugs are filled with comments from people who, like me, lost a lot of time trying to figure out what broke and how to launch URLs remotely after the change. Thanks to Ryan for clarifying the issue and filing the bug to fix the problem, and to Jed, who added the new flag with his first Mozilla patch. Hooray for open source!

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[ 11:26 Apr 24, 2012    More tech/web | permalink to this entry | ]

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