How To Fix Broken about:home Search In Firefox

Not that I recommend it, well actually I have, and do for “advanced” users (I will update that at some point), but occasionally cleaning out your Firefox profile can be a good thing. Every so often I clean the cruft out of mine. Here’s a little quirk however. The new-ish browser start page won’t perform a search when localStorage is cleaned out. It will manifest by simply doing nothing when you try to search. The form goes nowhere. If you look for errors in the console you’ll see:

"gSearchEngine is null"

The best solution I’ve found to fixing this is to go into about:config and reset (right click -> reset) these properties and restart:


I suspect it’s just buildID, however neither should be harmful. Restart and they will be recreated.


iPhone OS 3.0

I’m rather thrilled with Apple’s iPhone OS 3.0 upgrade. They announced way more than I expected them too.

  • Cut & Paste – Great interface, long long overdue.
  • Push Notifications – Finally! Push notification will make the iPhone a million times more useful. I’m thrilled by this. Way better than background apps since it won’t consume as much power. Background apps sound better than they are.
  • Peer to Peer Support – Oh boy, apps are going “social”. I don’t buy into this too much, though I do think this will make some games much more fun. Wireless Game Link Cable!
  • Landscape Keyboard All Over – This just made Mail much more awesome.
  • Accessories API – This has by far the most potential for innovation. My only hope is Apple isn’t too nasty with hardware licensing. There’s so much room for innovation here it’s scary. Economic struggles will likely put a damper on all the accessory buying though.
  • Search For Built-In Apps – This is a killer feature in mail. I just hope it supports search over it’s own index as well as IMAP and Exchange.
  • Inline (In App) Purchases – Pretty cool but a potential for some serious annoyance. Paying $5 for an app and then realizing it costs you $30 to unlock it to meet the description will quickly become a nuisance. Apple should force developers to note specifically what will be behind a coin slot before the user buys the app. At the very least allow users to document when rating (though developers will hate that and request removal of such comments). This has the potential to be very controversial and abused.
  • Turn By Turn – Apple says it’s BYOM (Bring Your Own Maps). Regardless it will be very good if a large navigation provider decides to participate and plug their data in here.
  • MMS – I’m sure AT&T is thrilled to get to bill users for MMS. Should be a good source of revenue for them.
  • Tethering Support – Cool, but I suspect pricing to use this feature will cross it off the list for all but some business users who can expense it.
  • A2DP – I first mentioned this in 2007. This should be pretty cool but I wonder what the impact on battery life is.
  • CalDAV – Long overdue but I wonder how much use it will get now that Google Calendar can sync via Exchange. How many calendar providers out there support CalDAV other than Apple (Mac OS X Server)?

Lack of video recording is a major bummer. Not that the iPhone is a fantastic video device but it’s still a very cool feature that would be very handy for developers and users.

Firefox Tips Mozilla

Firefox Tip: What Does That Mean?

Ever read something online and wonder what that means? For example say I mention “Romulus and Remus”. Do you know who they are? If not, just select their names by highlighting them, then right click while they are highlighted. In the menu you will see the ability to search for them using Google (or your search engine of choice). Select that and you will see a list of search results for them. No need to open a new window and type their names in. Just another way to help you get the information you want quickly and easily.

This is a great tip for kids doing research on the web.

Firefox Tips Mozilla

Firefox Tip: Search The Web

Earlier we discussed searching a web page, but how about searching the web. Firefox has a box on the top right side for searching the web with ease. Don’t like using Google? That’s fine, just click on the logo to see a list of alternatives. If you still don’t find what you want to use, check this page for a list if more search engines that you can use. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t search with the search engine you want. Google is great for most of us, but some prefer something else.

Some sites can be added by simply visiting them. You’ll see the box get a blueish border. Open the menu and add the site right from there.

Firefox Tips Mozilla

Firefox Tip: Keeping Things Private

Using Firefox on a shared computer such as an office workstation, library, or school computer lab? Don’t want people seeing what you did/saw? That’s a very good idea. When your done browsing the web go to the “Tools” menu and select “Clear Private Data”. Check the data you want to delete and “Clear Private Data Now”. This will ensure the next person doesn’t see your browsing history, or have access to site you forgot to logout. Here’s a list of the options and what they mean in simple terms:

  • Browsing History – The list of sites web pages you visited.
  • Download History – The list of files you downloaded to your computer.
  • Saved Form and Search History – Every time you fill in a form your browser will store some info so that it’s easier to fill in next time (that’s why it can suggest your address when you signup for something). This data in addition to your history of searches.
  • Cache – Temporary files from the web pages you visited stored on your computer. Examples include images in the pages as well as the pages themselves.
  • Cookies – Data used by websites to store info, such as login information or preferences.
  • Saved Passwords – You’ll definitely want to delete these. 😉 Remember you can also disable the password manager.
  • Authenticated Sessions – Certain sites you are currently logged into that use a technique called HTTP Authentication. If in doubt, clear this.

Want to do this every time you close out of your browser? Go to “Tools” and select “Options”. Then click on the “Privacy” icon on the top. Check the “Always clear my private data when I close Firefox” checkbox.

Another option is to use Portable Firefox. This special download is designed to be installed and run from a USB drive. It saves all preferences/settings to your drive, so you take your data with you. This will only work in places where you are allowed to use a USB drive, and can open applications off of one (not every public computer may do so).

Firefox Tips Mozilla

Firefox Tip: Where is…?

I know many average users don’t know this, but there is a search feature built into every page on the web. Just hit command “F”, or go to the Edit menu and select “Find”. Enter your term in the bar that appears on the bottom of the screen and press enter. If you select the “Highlight all” option it will even highlight the matching terms for you. Press enter repeatedly to see all the matches on the page. This technique can save you a lot of time by preventing you from needing to scan an entire page for a term. Searching can save you a lot of time by letting you jump to what you want to reach.

You can try it on this page by searching for “testing search”. As you type it in, notice how the browser searches while you enter it. You don’t even need type in the entire word or phrase most of the time.

Find As You Type

Around The Web Mozilla Web Development

Got API?

That title is shameful, but this site isn’t. gotAPI has a search page with suggestion functionality, and the ability to search multiple sources at one. It’s awesome. I’m still waiting for them to create an OpenSearch plugin. Seems like a perfect candidate. If you haven’t checked out the site, and code a fair amount (especially if it’s web development) go check it out.


We need it. Nuff said really.

I’ve said before that Thunderbird is living in the shadow of Firefox more than it should. It’s a solid app, built by great developers. It recently got a bug day. But it’s getting little promotion. Considering how Spam and Trojans are so prevalent. Perhaps it’s the ideal way to promote the Mozilla brand? Lets look at this a second:

What do people hate the most right now? Spam, Viruses? Trojans? Well Thunderbird does a good job with 2 of the 3. A great spam filter, and not nearly as insecure as Outlook. Most people have a virus scan. There a few free ones as well. Perhaps this would be a good game plan:

  • Look at integrating an open-source virus scan software to scan incoming email. Perhaps ClamAV. If you have a virus scanner, such as Norton, it’s disabled (automatically). But if your definitions are outdated, or it isn’t on, this one kicks in. This provides solid scanning protection. This also makes it redundant. Even if an exploit is found, by turning on, it can block any virus taking advantage of the exploit. This fixes the third major annoyance. We now cover Spam, Viruses and Trojans.
  • is needed. We need a way to let bloggers (free advertising) promote this beast of a product. Because they are early adopters, and people trust them. THIS is the way to take back your email.
  • On first launch, if Firefox is not installed, it should let you know that Firefox is available as a free download, and provides features X,Y,Z, it’s faster, more secure, and just plain spiffy. It also integrates (via things like the mail notification icon for Firefox).

Firefox should be using Thunderbird to promote itself, and they should be building off of the success of each other.

Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post had this to say in this week’s “Personal Tech” Newsletter:

On a happier note, last week brought the arrival of two (moderately) long-awaited updates to a popular Web browser and e-mail client, Mozilla Firefox 1.0PR and Mozilla Thunderbird 0.8. Both are available for Win 98 or newer, Mac OS X and Linux.

The Firefox update is the bigger deal, so I’ll talk about that this week and save Thunderbird for next week’s newsletter….

[Source: Washington Post – Personal Tech: Apple’s iMac G5 9/20/2004 ]

After this I found this quote interesting:

The search form at the top right of Firefox’s window now offers quick access not just to Google but to searches at the Yahoo,, and eBay sites….
[Source: Washington Post – Personal Tech: Apple’s iMac G5 9/20/2004 ]

Note the ones highlighted, and the order: Google, Yahoo,, Amazon, eBay.

Note the order on the mycroft website for the top 10:

  1. google
  3. yahoo
  4. ebay
  5. wikipedia
  6. imdb

[Source: Mycroft Project 9/20/2004]

Lets think about this. What do end-users want? I’m guessing they use the internet for research (remember the education market is very important for Mozilla). Why the heck isn’t wikipedia already included? It’s almost silly at this point. One of the biggest reasons for getting the internet in many homes is so that ‘the kids can research for homework’. Now what can Mozilla bring to the table? Well we can link you right into the safe wikipedia environment. Why search the nasty net, which is essentially pot-luck. You can search a free open-source encyclopedia of information frequently updated, and easy to understand.

If there is any relevance to the end user for having the creative commons search in place. There’s unquestionably reason to have wikipedia in place. Just by definition.

On a side note, speaking of security. I’m still looking for people to help out with securita with the goal of bringing content-filtering to Mozilla.