Section 3.1. Firefox Isn t Working as It Should

3.1. Firefox Isn't Working as It Should

Mozilla's Firefox is perhaps the hottest web browser on the market. With a reputation for convenience, robust code, and fun plug-ins, Firefox is one way to avoid the virus, worm, and spyware problems associated with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. With these advantages, Firefox is quickly gaining market share. It is almost certainly the preferred browser for most regular users on a Linux workstation; in addition, perhaps tens of millions have loaded it on their Microsoft Windows computers at home.

However, installing Firefox with appropriate plug-ins on Linux is not a task for newbies. As of this writing, when you upgrade Firefox, you have to reinstall associated plug-ins. Therefore, it's important that you document what you do. Briefly, I'll show you how you can:

  • Install the latest appropriate version of Firefox

  • Select the plug-ins you need

  • Customize Firefox for your organization

3.1.1. Installing the Latest Version of Firefox

In practice, you may not want to install the absolute latest version of Firefox. Instead, it's generally preferred to install Firefox as customized for your distribution. Even if it doesn't have the latest features, you'll know that a Firefox package customized for your distribution will at least place key configuration files in the appropriate directories.

I'll show you how you can install Firefox on our selected distributions, and then how you can make the absolute latest version of Firefox work, if you can't wait for the latest hot feature. SUSE installations

If you run SUSE's YaST Online Update on a regular basis, you may already have the latest version of Firefox. However, SUSE updates are not automatic and occur only if there are security issues associated with an application. Even automatic updates don't upgrade your browser just because new features were added.

If you want to just install and/or upgrade the Firefox browser on your SUSE workstations, take the following steps:

  1. Start the GUI version of YaST with a command such as yast2 (you can also start it from a GUI menu).

  2. Run the Online Update system and let it retrieve information about available updates. (Alternatively, you can jump directly to this screen with the yast2 online_update command.)

  3. When you see available updates, click the Filter drop-down text box and select Search.

  4. Enter firefox in the Search text box and click Search. You'll find appropriate SUSE packages that you can upgrade onlinein this case, MozillaFirefox.

  5. Proceed with the upgrade. Pay attention to any dependencies, especially if you're going to upgrade more than one SUSE workstation.

  6. You can use the downloaded RPMs on the other SUSE workstations on your network. In this case, you'll find the MozillaFirefox RPM, as well as any dependencies, in the /var/lib/YaST2/you/mnt/i386/update/9.3/rpm/i586/ directory (substitute your version of SUSE for 9.3).

Naturally, you can always download and install the latest MozillaFirefox RPMs directly from SUSE repositories or mirrors. For example, if I wanted to upgrade to the latest version of the Firefox browser using the Oregon State download servers, I'd run the following command:

 rpm -Uvh 

Naturally, this command won't work if the Firefox RPM depends on other packages that aren't installed yet. Red Hat/Fedora installations

With Red Hat/Fedora distributions, it's easy to install or update to the latest version of the Firefox browser. As long as you're properly connected to the Internet and appropriate repositories, all you need to do is to run the following command:

 up2date -u firefox 

The Red Hat up2date system automatically installs any dependent packages along with the latest version of the Firefox browser. As of Fedora Core 5, up2date is no longer installed by default, so you'll have to run the following command:

 yum update firefox Debian installations

If you've installed Debian Linux on your workstation computers, you've probably already installed Firefox. Even if you haven't already done so, the command is the same; the following command installs or upgrades Firefox on Debian Sarge:

 apt-get install mozilla-firefox 

If this doesn't work, remember that, with Debian and allied distributions, the name of the package can vary by version or distribution (Debian Etch uses firefox). If you want a bit more information on the available Firefox browser package options, run the following command:

 apt-cache search firefox 

When you use apt-get to install or upgrade any package, you may see a number of "grave bugs" before you're asked to confirm the installation. In that case, one option is to install the Firefox browser as released by the Mozilla Foundation. I describe the installation process from the Mozilla package in the next section. Tarball installations

Sometimes, the package system of your distribution doesn't offer the absolute latest version of Firefox you need. Sometimes, the version of a distribution-specific update package does not work. In either case, you can download and install Firefox from the associated tarball package.

The latest version of Firefox is available from, which redirects you to Naturally, not all systems include web browsers. In that case, you can also download the latest version of Firefox from Mozilla's FTP server at

The following steps vary by Firefox version. For example, Firefox 1.5 supports direct installation from tarball to the desired directory. If you have a previous version of Firefox on your system, you'll want to use the directory associated with your distribution, as noted near the end of these steps.

I've downloaded the package built by the Mozilla Foundation in tarball format, and have installed it using the following steps:

  1. Log in to the Mozilla FTP server, which supports anonymous access. You can do so using any standard text or GUI FTP client. Navigate to the appropriate subdirectory. As of this writing, it's /pub/

  2. Review available directories and navigate to the one with the latest available official release.

  3. Navigate to the directory with the appropriate operating system and languagein my case, linux-i686/en-US/.

  4. Download the package with the Firefox installerin my case, firefox-1.0.6.installer.tar.gz.

  5. Save a copy of the installer package for use on other workstations.

  6. Unpack the downloaded package; in my case, I ran the following command (your version number will probably be different):

     tar xzvf firefox-1.0.6.installer.tar.gz 

  7. Navigate to the directory this createdin this case, firefox-installer/and run the Firefox installer. You may find two executable files in the firefox-installer/ subdirectory: firefox-installer and firefox-installer-bin. Run the first of these files, as it configures directories and environment variables, and then serves as a frontend to the second executable. From the firefox-installer/ directory, run the following command:

     sudo ./firefox-installer 

    Note how I use the sudo command to run the Firefox installation script. This allows the Firefox installer to run in the GUI with the environment variables associated with a regular user, and with the root permissions needed to write files to the common directory that you're about to create.

  8. Follow the instructions associated with the Firefox installer, which told me to close all currently running instances of Firefox and then accept the License Agreement (which cites the Mozilla Public License and other open source licenses).

  9. When prompted for a Setup Type, select a Custom Setup and a more standard Destination Directory. While I selected /usr/local/firefox (which is a good generic directory), you may prefer a different directory better suited to your distribution. For example, SUSE specifies /opt/MozillaFirefox, Red Hat/Fedora specifies /usr/lib/firefox-versionum, and Debian specifies /usr/lib/mozilla-firefox/.

    However, installing a Firefox tarball in a distribution-specific directory includes risks, if you install a distribution-based version of Firefox in the future.

    Don't forget to delete firefox-installer from the Selection text box, or that will become part of the directory where Firefox is installed.

    If you don't choose a standard directory that's on every user's default PATH, the browser you install may be executable only by one specific user on that workstation.

  10. Depending on how much responsibility you want to burden your users with, you may want to disable the Firefox Quality Feedback Agent. Developer tools are appropriate for web developers but generally not for end users.

  11. Once you've completed the installation process, the Firefox browser starts. You can proceed to the next sections to add Firefox plug-ins to your system.

If you've installed Firefox directly from the generic package from the Mozilla Foundation, you may not get an appropriate entry in your GUI menu. For more information on how you can customize GUI menus, see Chapter 1. For most Linux distributions, you'll want to add a menu entry for Firefox in the Internet submenu; SUSE uses the Internet Web Browsers submenu.

3.1.2. Firefox Plug-ins

There are a wide variety of plug-ins available for Mozilla Firefox. While the size of this book does not allow me to show you how to install every plug-in, I can provide some examples.

In this section, I'll show you how you can install and activate Adobe Acrobat Reader and the Java Runtime Environment. While they're almost certainly not the only plug-ins that you'll want or need for your users, they will establish a pattern. If you know how to make these plug-ins work on Firefox, you have the skills to make other plug-ins work as well.

To see what plug-ins are already installed for Firefox, open the browser and type the following in the address bar:


For a detailed review of plug-ins that you can install for the Firefox browser, see

It's possible that Firefox will make it easier to install plug-ins on the Linux version of its browser in the future, perhaps even as easy as it is in Microsoft Windows. At that point, if your users have a reasonable skill level on Microsoft Windows, they may be able to handle plug-ins on their own. But then again . . . . Installing Acrobat for Firefox

Acrobat has become an essential tool online. A huge number of documents are available in PDF format, and it can be a terrific convenience to view such documents directly in the Firefox browser.

As with other applications, it's generally best to install the plug-in packages built for your distribution. I list the packages associated with our selected distributions in Table 3-1.

Table 3-1. Adobe Acrobat packages




Red Hat Enterprise Linux

acroread, acroread-plugin

Requires access to the Extras channel; also applies to rebuilds such as CentOS-4; automatically includes the plug-in in the Plugin registry file, pluginreg.dat



Updating to the latest packages automatically includes the plug-in in the Plugin registry file, pluginreg.dat.


mozilla-acroread, acroread-plugins

Updating to the latest packages automatically includes the the plug-in in the Plugin registry file, pluginreg.dat

Adobe makes Acrobat Reader available for Linux/Unix workstations in both RPM and tarball formats. As of this writing, the downloads are available from

If you want the latest and greatest version of the Acrobat Reader, or your distribution's current version of Acrobat Reader has bugs, you may want to install directly from the tarball package available from Adobe. To do so, take the following steps:

  1. Download the tarball (in .tar.gz format) from the aforementioned web site.

  2. Unpack the tarball with a command such as:

     tar xzvf AdbeRdr701_linux_enu.tar.gz 

  3. Navigate to the directory where files were unpacked:

     cd AdobeReader 

  4. Start the installation process; as of this writing, it's available in the INSTALL script:

     sudo ./INSTALL 

    Running the installation script in this manner allows you to take advantage of regular user environment variables required for GUI installers, while supporting installations into directories that require administrative permissions.

  5. Scroll through the agreement and type accept to accept the license conditions.

  6. Enter the installation directory; unless you have another version of Adobe Acrobat in the specified directory, the default is generally acceptable.

  7. Run the install_browser_plugin script, in the /usr/local/Adobe/Acrobat7.0/Browser directory. If the firefox-installer directory is in a standard system directory, you probably need to use sudo to run the script as root.

  8. Confirm the installation directory for Acrobat, normally /usr/local/Adobe/Acrobat7.0/.

  9. Select a global installation to apply to all users on this workstation.

  10. Type in the directory where Firefox is installed, such as /usr/local/firefox.

  11. If it's the right directory, you'll see the following message:

     Installation successful. Added the file /usr/local/firefox/plugins/ 

  12. If Firefox is currently open, you'll have to close and reopen it before the plug-in takes effect. Installing Java for Firefox

Java is a key component of many web sites. If you allow your users to browse online, they'll need you to enable Java on their browsers. As of this writing, one relatively minor annoyance is how Firefox makes users believe that Java can be automatically installed. Unfortunately, that's not true. And until you install Java for your users, all they'll see is the message shown in Figure 3-1.

Figure 3-1. Java not properly installed for Firefox

The message in the browser suggests that all a user needs to do is click the Install Missing Plugins button. Yes, that starts the Plugin Finder Service and identifies the Java Runtime Environment. But most will be discouraged when they see the message requiring a manual installation. The few who proceed probably won't know which version of Java for Linux to install (if they even realize they're running Linux). Then the complaints will begin.

To avoid this annoyance, you should install Java on your users' workstations. The following steps work for the Java Runtime Environment on Firefox, as of this writing:

  1. Download the appropriate package from the Sun Microsystems web site at The RPM is designed to work on Red Hat/Fedora; the other "self-extracting file" is designed to work on Debian Linux.

    If you're running SUSE Linux, the required RPM should already be available from your installation DVD/CDs; for example, SUSE Linux Professional 9.3 uses the java-1_4_2-sun-plugin RPM. In that case, don't bother with the download from the Sun web site.

  2. Whichever package you've download, you'll first have to make it executable. To do so, run an appropriate chmod command such as:

     chmod u+x /tmp/jre-1_5_0_04-linux-i586.bin 

    If you're running Debian Linux and have downloaded the self-extracting file, navigate to the /usr/java directory. Create it if required.

  3. Run the download as a script. If you're using the -rpm.bin file, the script automatically installs the RPM on your system.

  4. Accept the license terms; next, you can link to the appropriate plug-in file.

  5. If you want to enable Java only for specified users, link the plug-in file,, to each user's ~/.mozilla/plugins/ subdirectory. For example, I use the following command to create the link to my own home directory:

     In -s /usr/java/jre1.5.0_04/plugin/i386/ns7/  \/home/michael/.mozilla/plugins/ 

    You can create the link for each user individually, or you can create a script for this purpose.

    Alternatively, you can create a link for all users on a workstation. For Java, the standard plug-in directory is /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins; the required link command is:

     ln -s /usr/java/jre1.5.0_04/plugin/i386/ns7/ \/usr/lib/mozilla/ plugins/ 

  6. Now, you'll have to enable Java in the Firefox Preferences. Click Edit Preferences to open a window of the same name. In the left pane, click Web Features and then activate the "Enable Java and "Enable JavaScript" options.

  7. If you're currently running Firefox, you'll have to close all instances and restart to make sure it works.

  8. You can verify the installation of Java plug-ins; type about:plugins in the Firefox address text box. When I do, I see the locally configured web page shown in Figure 3-2.

    Figure 3-2. Java installed as a Firefox plug-in

3.1.3. Customize Firefox for Your Organization

While I can cover only a few of the many useful ways to customize the Firefox browser, there are a few key settings that can help your users. If you need more information on customizing this browser, see Firefox Hacks by Nigel McFarlane (O'Reilly).

As with many browsers, you can customize key settings in the associated preferences. Select Edit Preferences to access the Preferences window. You can navigate between sections in the Preferences by clicking the desired option in the left pane. In the following sections, I highlight a few key settings that can help you avoid annoyances. General Preferences

Under General Preferences, you may want to customize several settings, including:

Home Page

You may want to configure all users' browsers to start from a specific location, such as your internal or external corporate web site.

Fonts and Colors

You can set up different fonts and colors for a specific corporate "look and feel" for your browsers.


If you've installed an appropriate version of Firefox associated with more than one language, you can specify defaults. Many web servers allow you to choose whether home pages for more than one language are available.

Connection Settings

If you've configured a proxy server for your network, you'll definitely want to configure connection settings. Unless you point your users' browsers to your proxy server, you won't get the money-saving benefits associated with reduced traffic on your corporate Internet connection. Privacy Preferences

Depending on the function and location of the workstation, you may want to vary the level of privacy associated with Firefox. Under Privacy Preferences, you can regulate what Firefox saves on your system, including:

  • The history of previously viewed pages

  • Previously entered information in web forms

  • Passwords

  • Downloaded files

  • Cookies

  • Cache Web Features Preferences

The Web Features of Firefox allow you to manage the functionality associated with different web sites. For example, this section allows you to:

  • Block (most) pop-up windows

  • Support installation of software from a web site prompt

  • Load images

  • Enable Java

  • Enable JavaScript Download Preferences

The Download Preferences of Firefox allow you to manage how downloads are run through this browser, including:

  • Download directory location

  • Download manager supported users

  • Plug-ins associated with specific download file types Advanced Preferences

The Advanced Preferences associated with Firefox allow you to manage accessibility, browsing characteristics, tabs, software updates, security, certificates, and more. Details are beyond the scope of this book; for more information, see the aforementioned Firefox Hacks by Nigel McFarlane (O'Reilly).

3.1.4. Copying Preferences

Once you've configured preferences for the Firefox browser, you can share them with the rest of your organization by copying the directory where Firefox stores your preferences to the same location in other users' home directories. Your preferences are contained within your ~/.mozilla/firefox subdirectory, in a random subdirectory named with a .default extension, such as ev2junio.default/.

Linux Annoyances for Geeks
Linux Annoyances for Geeks: Getting the Most Flexible System in the World Just the Way You Want It
ISBN: 0596008015
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 144
Authors: Michael Jang © 2008-2017.
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