5 yr. anniversary: Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs

I just happened to notice that it's been just over FIVE YEARS since i first published the Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs.

Averaging roughly 2000 visits per month, the guide has also been the most trafficked page on 12bytes.org pretty much since it was first published i believe. Coming in at #2 at just a few hundred visits less is The Firefox Privacy Guide For Dummies! which i kind of expected to surpass the 'Privacy Freaks' guide in popularity, but that hasn't been the case.

The irony regarding these Firefox configuration guides is that i shouldn't be the one writing them. I really don't feel qualified, at least not to the extent that i think would be optimal. I'm not hugely technically inclined and the only programming languages i'm somewhat familiar with in regard to software are AutoIt (Windows only, and i don't do Windows) and Bash scripting. This shortcoming cripples my ability to dig into both the Firefox source code and the extensions. I also know little about current web technologies. That being fully admitted, i believe, so far as i'm aware, that these guides are some of the most comprehensive out there and i think that's kind of sad. Certainly there's a ton of excellent and detailed info floating around regarding specific browser technologies and components and privacy issues and such that is authored by geeks who are orders of magnitude geekier than i am, but i have yet to come across a single, comprehensive Firefox guide that covers privacy, security, speed and extensions in an all-in-one package which i feel is better than my own. And frankly, i couldn't have done it on my own.

The folks running and contributing to the 'ghacks' user js project have been super valuable to me in this endeavor, as have many other people whose work i've referred to in order to build and maintain these guides. I also give my thanks to the many people who have left comments on the guides. Such comments have been very helpful in correcting errors and pointing out new ideas, shortcuts, etc.. I am especially grateful to those who help me keep the guides up to date since this removes some of the weight from my back.

Content update: Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs

I updated the Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs with some info regarding uMatrix breaking file downloads in Firefox. I found and solved this issue before but apparently failed to document it and so i had to repeat the process. Here's what was added to the guide:

One caveat with uMatrix is that it will break some downloads when right-clicking a link and selecting the 'Save Link As...' context menu item. In some cases an error dialog will be presented that may state "The download cannot be saved because an unknown error occurred.". If you open the uM logger and try the download again, you'll find that uM is blocking something and often this seems to be an 'other' network request ('other' requests are requests that are not associated with a tab). There are a few ways to remedy the situation:

  • temporarily (or permanently) allow the 'other' request from the uM logger tab and try the download again
  • temporarily (or permanently, but not recommended) allow the 'other' request globally from the main UI pop-up
  • drag the link to your desktop

Got a website? Why the hell not?

Intro

If you have something to say, i would suggest that relying on social media is not the only place you should be saying it since ultimately you have no control over your content.

Virtually all social media platforms, unless perhaps they are distributed and not controlled by corporations, are subject to censorship, or they may simply disappear. Furthermore there are often limitations as to what and how you can present your content.

I've also noticed a somewhat disturbing trend as social media gained traction in that many people have either stopped using email, or do not provide a method to contact them outside of whatever social media platform(s) they use. This is particularly annoying for those of us who want nothing to do with the likes of privacy-hating, data-mining mega-corporations like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., since one is forced to join such platforms in order to contact the person. This shouldn't be the case.

A personal website is easy to setup and can be very inexpensive, plus you have far more control over your content and are less prone to censorship, shadow banning, and whatever other crap the Facebook's of the world subject users to. You also have far more control over how you present your content.

If you'd like to explore setting up a website of your own and this is all new to you, and you want to go the least expensive route, then shared hosting is the answer. With a shared hosting provider you can easily keep the cost down to a few bucks a month and still have a great website with good support, if you need it.

Pitfalls

There are some pitfalls and while most of them won't matter to anyone just starting out with a personal website, there is one that you really want to avoid and that is signing up with any company owned by Endurance International Group (EIG). This ultra-shitty company owns a ton of web hosting companies and the complaints about their incredibly poor service can be found everywhere. To make matters worse, many of the companies they take over do not advertise that they are owned by EIG. Here's some guidelines i'd suggest considering if you want to start your very own website:

  • STAY AWAY FROM ANY COMPANY OWNED BY ENDURANCE INTERNATIONAL GROUP (EIG)!!!
  • Beware of companies advertising all unlimited resources, such as unlimited disk space, bandwidth and traffic.
  • Make sure they include a free SSL certificate. All websites nowadays should be served over an encrypted connection (https).
  • Look for unbiased reviews for the host you're considering and be aware that many "review" sites are run by hosting companies.
  • You generally get what you pay for, but even a good shared hosting provider will often cost less than $10 dollars a month.

Personally i gave up shared hosting long ago since my needs are greater. In the interest of full disclosure, i wrote the article, Why shared web hosting sucks, but understand that the article is geared more toward those wanting to up their game and extend beyond the limitations of shared hosting, however this also requires a greater degree of technical knowledge. For those just starting out however, or who just want a small, personal website for private or business use, shared hosting can be fine and it is by far the lease expensive route.

Recommendations

Given that i currently do not use a shared host, i'm not up to date with the brands and their services, however SiteGround keeps making an appearance in my research. While they are a bit more expensive in the shared hosting market ($6.99/mo. as of this writing for their smallest package), they seem to get good reviews by what appears to be honest people and they are apparently not owned by EIG. A2 Hosting also seems to be very popular. Another potentially interesting company i found is VeeroTech Systems which claims to be 100% independently owned. If you want my personal recommendation, then i'd suggest trying the host i use, KnownHost. I have a managed VPS (virtual private server) with them, but they also do shared hosting and their support staff, reliability and speed have all been absolutely excellent since i signed on in December of 2019.

There are many good hosts that are ethical and not owned by EIG, it's just a matter of doing some research and LowEndTalk is a good place to go for that. Their forum is only lightly moderated and if a hosting company is crap, believe me, you'll discover this very quickly. LowEndTalk is affiliated with LowEndBox which offers lots of resources for cheap hosting services. Both websites are geared primarily toward resellers, however they are still great resources for discovering a good hosting provider.

Resources

Content update: Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs

The Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs page was updated slightly to include information about DNS over HTPS (DoH) and the policies.json configuration file. And, as i mentioned in a previous post, i removed all Content Security Policy (CSP) stuff from the guide since this issue seems to be more or less resolved with Firefox v77 ... finally! And it only took like THREE YEARS, multiple issues, and a lot of griping from the community to prompt Mozilla to actually do something about what was indeed a significant privacy and security issue for many users.