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

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.

And Jesus came and he looked upon the CSP issue and on the morning of the new millennium he (finally) fixed the damned thing.

I am happy to announce that the Content Security Policy (CSP) issue in Firefox which caused havoc with certain add-ons, including uBlock Origin and uMatrix, has been fixed in version 77 of the browser.

From reading the issues on Mozilla and the 'ghacks' user.js project, i'm not sure it's fixed entirely, but at least it is fixed to the point where i don't believe it is necessary any longer to disable and enable your most important extensions (uBlock, uMatrix) in order to make sure they work correctly and a quick test on my part confirms this.

The Firefox Configuration Guide for Privacy Freaks and Performance Buffs page, the Firefox Extensions - My Picks page, and the uBlock Origin Suggested Settings page have all been updated accordingly.

There are no changes readers of my guides need to make, other than to optionally enable the 'Block data URL pages' in the Misc. section of the Canvas Blocker settings if you use this add-on.