Firefox: Clearing “Recent Locations” in Bookmarks

Another day, another Firefox tip!

I’ve been using Firefox for years, and I’ve had one minor (but annoying) problem for a long time now: when you go to save a bookmark, there’s a handy list of previously used folders. That way you can quickly choose a folder to save the bookmark, rather than click through the entire folder hierarchy.

Firefox Bookmarks
Problem is, this list stopped updating about 5 years ago.  The issue followed me through several versions of Firefox, on both desktop and laptop. I could save a hundred bookmarks in some other folder, but this list of recent folders has looked exactly as shown above since 2016 or 2017. And it was super annoying, since I mostly only use bookmarks as a session-saving type system these days. I save each Firefox window in a folder called “Sessions”… which I always had to manually click to, since the folders shown above never updated.

But yes, there is a way to fix this:

1) Open a new tab in Firefox and enter “about: config” (without quotes) into the address bar. Click “Accept the Risk and Continue” when prompted.

2) Type (or paste) “devtools.chrome.enabled” into the search box, and when it appears, double-click it to change the value from FALSE to TRUE. Close the tab when done.

3) Click the hamburger menu in the upper-right of the window and click More Tools > Browser Console. A small window with a bunch of techo-gobbledygook will open:

Browser Console

4) Type (or paste) the following at the cursor on the bottom of this window:

await PlacesUtils.metadata.set(PlacesUIUtils.LAST_USED_FOLDERS_META_KEY,[]);

5) Restart Firefox. When you try to bookmark a page, the previous locations should now be empty, and will refill over time as you save to various folders.

Firefox: Copying “Uncopyable” Text

Have you ever been to a website that won’t let you copy text? Like this page, for example? There are a few workarounds for this, especially with Firefox.

The easiest is to just click the “Reading Mode” icon in Firefox’s address bar:

This presents a simplified page with most of the ads and graphics stripped out. You can easily copy text now:

Another option uses uBlock Origin. uBlock is one of the most popular ad blocking extensions, and it’s available for Firefox, Chrome and Edge.  If you don’t use uBlock already, you probably should. In Firefox you can install it by clicking the hamburger icon in the upper right corner of a Firefox window and then “Add-ons and themes” and type “uBlock Origin” in the search bar. Make sure you install uBlock Origin and not plain old uBlock or any other variant. For other browsers, just go to its extensions site\store and install it from there.

In any case, if you click on the uBlock icon in the Firefox toolbar, you can click the “</>” icon to disable JavaScript, then click the “Reload page” icon just above it (the arrows in a circle):

Ublock Disable Javascript

Ublock Reload Page

Don’t forget to re-enable JavaScript when done! uBlock disables JavaScript on a per-domain basis, so while it shouldn’t affect other websites, it might affect some other aspect of the current site.

The inability to copy text is almost always done in JavaScript. So disabling JavaScript will almost always allow you to copy text. But digging through the settings in whichever browser you use can be a chore, and may require a restart of the browser.

There are plenty of Firefox and Chrome\Edge extensions that let you toggle JavaScript off and on, and they usually work. But it’s so rare that I come across this that I usually try Reading Mode first, and it that doesn’t work, disabling JavaScript via uBlock works about 99% of the time. If this happens to you all the time – maybe copying text from “protected” pages is what you do at work all day – then maybe one of those simple JavaScript togglers would work best for you. Most of these disable JavaScript within the browser, so don’t forget to turn it back on when done!

Firefox: Turning Off the Download Pop-Up

Firefox 97+ has introduced an annoying new “feature”: when you download a file – any file – the download progress meter pops-up when the download completes, whether you want it to or not. Perhaps the pop-up is helpful if you’re downloading a large file over a slow connection… but if you’re downloading a bunch of smaller image files it’s more annoying than helpful.

It’s pretty easy to stop the pop-up window. Note that the following procedure will ONLY disable the pop-up at completion: the other behavior of the download button on the toolbar is not affected:

– In the address bar, type about:config and press ENTER. Accept the warning message (the exact text varies by Firefox version) and click “Continue”.

– Type (or paste) browser.download.alwaysOpenPanel in the search box at the top of the window.

– The value for the entry should be set to TRUE. Double-click the text and it should change to FALSE.

I honestly don’t remember if this requires a restart of Firefox, so you’ll need to figure it out for yourself (I think it doesn’t, but could be wrong). It probably won’t hurt to restart anyway.

Get Firefox MP3 Save Prompts Back

I love Firefox, I really do. But every so often the browser’s built-in media player will turn itself on, and any video or mp3 I click on will open a new tab with the file being played by the browser’s player instead of loading the download prompt, which is what I want.

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to fix:

– In the address bar, type about:config and press ENTER. Accept the warning message (the exact text varies by Firefox version) and click “Continue”.

– Type (or paste) media.play-stand-alone in the search box at the top of the window.

– The value for the entry will almost certainly be set to TRUE. Double-click the text and it should change to FALSE.

This change should take effect immediately, without having to restart Firefox, although it certainly won’t hurt to restart anyway.

ISSUE: Firefox and Microsoft Subdomains

UPDATE: According to Bleeping Computer, this should be fixed in Firefox 95.0.1, which should be available now.

So… I’m one of the last 25 people still using Firefox. And over the past couple of days, I haven’t been able to access my Microsoft Rewards dashboard. Any attempt to access rewards.microsoft.com gets me this error:

MS Rewards Error Page

For the search engines and people on mobiles:

Secure Connection Failed

An error occurred during a connection to account.microsoft.com. The OCSP response does not include a status for the certificate being verified.

Error code: MOZILLA_PKIX_ERROR_OCSP_RESPONSE_FOR_CERT_MISSING

  • The page you are trying to view cannot be shown because the authenticity of the received data could not be verified.
  • Please contact the website owners to inform them of this problem.

Learn more…

I did some googling of “OCSP Firefox” and found some bug reports from 2015. They didn’t seem to help much. I tried all the usual stuff, but that didn’t help. On a hunch, I opened Firefox’s hidden settings, changed a setting and.. HOORAH! It worked again!

I normally would have left it at that, except I was reading Google News on my phone a few minutes ago and saw this post by Vishal Gupta at AskVG. He was having the exact same issue with docs.microsoft.com and other Microsoft subdomains. Like me, Vishal tried all the usual fixes: dumping the cache, loading the page in “Troubleshoot Mode”, etc. It worked fine in Chromium Edge, just not Firefox.

Vishal and I had the same idea. He also went to Firefox’s deep settings and  turned off two options. I’m sure he knows far more than I do about it, so I’d hope you’d trust his work over mine. But I only set this setting to false:

security.ssl.enable_ocsp_stapling

And that fixed the issue for me. At least until Microsoft fixes the issue with their cert, or Firefox fixes the bug that’s triggering the warning.

If you’re having this issue, please go to Vishal’s page and read his thorough instructions (if you know what “about:config” does in Firefox, you’re halfway there already).

Why the Weird Dates on Windows Drivers?

A Redditor recently asked why Windows Update was trying to install Intel drivers from 1968 on his PC:

Intel Driver Date

There’s actually a good reason for this, and it’s the same reason every Microsoft driver in Device Manager is dated June 21, 2006 – even for devices that were invented long after 2006.

Microsoft’s legendary Raymond Chen explains:

When the system looks for a driver to use for a particular piece of hardware, it ranks them according to various criteria. If a driver provides a perfect match to the hardware ID, then it becomes a top candidate. And if more than one driver provides a perfect match, then the one with the most recent timestamp is chosen. If there is still a tie, then the one with the highest file version number is chosen.

Suppose that the timestamp on the driver matched the build release date. And suppose you had a custom driver provided by the manufacturer. When you installed a new build, the driver provided by Windows will have a newer timestamp than the one provided by the manufacturer. Result: When you install a new build, all your manufacturer-provided drivers get replaced by the Windows drivers. Oops.

Intentionally backdating the drivers avoids this problem. It means that if you have a custom manufacturer-provided driver, it will retain priority over the Windows-provided driver. On the other hand, if your existing driver was the Windows-provided driver from an earlier build, then the third-level selection rule will choose the one with the higher version number, which is the one from the more recent build.

So basically, Windows Update downloads the driver, sees if you have a better one installed, and, if so, either discards the driver or keeps it in its driver library just in case. If not, it installs the driver and waits for a reboot.

But why those specific dates?

In Microsoft’s case, June 21, 2006 is the day Windows Vista was released. This is relevant because Microsoft made major changes to how Windows drivers work in Vista and also (if I’m remembering correctly) required digital signing of drivers, for at least x64 Vista.

As for Intel, July 18, 1968 was the date Intel was founded.

Hope that helps!

 

A Salute to Netgear’s FS105

A shout-out to Netgear for the FS105. Those little switches were BULLETPROOF. It was a beautifully functional steel chassis that people could (and did) walk on. You could drop them on concrete floors, or forget they were there and yank a network cable and slam them into a wall. I had one client where I found a still-working FS105 under a pile of fabric that, as far as anyone knew, hadn’t been touched in years. They just wouldn’t die. They were just built… ya know? At one job we sent almost 650 of those things to clients, and I think we got 1 back DOA.

There’s no telling how many hundreds of thousands of these are stuck behind bookcases and filing cabinets in offices worldwide, still silently doing their jobs 15-20 years later. Hell, I noticed that my county’s voting setup still uses FS105s. And why wouldn’t they? If there was ever a device that’ll genuinely last forever, the FS105 beats even some of those late 1990s HP laser printers, or some of those old HP JetDirect boxes.

They’re the Voyager space probes of small office networking.

Netgear FS105

I still proudly use their successors – a 5-port (GS305) and an 8-port (GS308) gigabit switch – on my home network today.

Windows 10’s “New” Clipboard

Did you know that Windows 10 has a multi-clip clipboard built in?

Most people know you can press CTRL+C to copy text and CTRL+V to paste that text. But in most versions of Windows 10 you can press WINDOWS+V to get a list of all the stuff you’ve copied in a session (the time between reboots or shutdowns):

Windows 10 Paste

This is super-handy when you need to copy multiple bits of text. For instance, imagine needing to copy an address from a web page, but need to copy it individual blocks: name, street address, city, zip. Instead of flipping back and forth between the webpage and whatever you’re pasting into, you can copy them all then use WIN+V to paste the right text in the right place. That’s neat!

To use this, you must be on Windows 10’s October 2018 Update (1809) or higher. Go to Settings > System > Clipboard and enable the “Clipboard History” option. If you like, you can also enable the “sync across devices” option for having a unified clipboard between your desktop and laptop computers, or click the “Clear clipboard data” to flush the cache completely (you can click the three dots on any individual entry to delete just that one, if you prefer):

Windows 10 Paste 2
Click to Enlarge

 

Windows 10: Show Seconds on the Taskbar Clock

By default, Windows 10 only displays the hour and minute in the taskbar clock. This is good enough for most people most of the time… but if you’re doing something time-sensitive – like trying to buy concert tickets or rare records on Virtual Record Store Day – you might need to know the time down to the EXACT SECOND.

For years I’ve used an app called TimeSync to synchronize my various computers. Some computers just don’t keep time that well, and other times you might want to sync the computer more often than Windows’ once a week default. Because TimeSync shows seconds – and because I already had it downloaded on my computer – I just used that:

TimeSync

But did you know that you can configure Windows 10 to display seconds in the taskbar clock?Taskbar clock

Just open REGEDIT.EXE and go to:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced

Right-click on the “Advanced” key in the left pane and select New > DWORD (32-bit) Value. Name the key ShowSecondsInSystemClock and press ENTER. Lastly, double-click the entry you just created and give it the value of 1. You’ll need to reboot or sign out and in for the change to go into effect.

You can undo this in the future by deleting the ShowSecondsInSystemClock key, or you can set its value to 0.

A BandsInTown Hack

BandsInTown is a service that tracks bands on tour. You download the app for iOS or Android, sign up, then enter a list of bands you want to track (or give the site permission to scan your Spotify or Apple Music\iTunes libraries). That’s it! You’ll get notifications (and emails, if you choose) any time a band you like is playing a venue near you!

There’s one problem with the service, though, and that’s that you can only choose one “home city”.  The concert scene in Charlotte has come a long way in the past 20 years, but if your music tastes could be described as “cutting edge” or “up and coming”, you may find yourself driving to Atlanta or Chapel Hill more often than you’d care to admit. So you can switch your BandsInTown home city to Atlanta… but then you miss out on local shows.  What to do if you’re in a situation like this?

While BandsInTown only allows you to have one home city, the app will allow you to expand your search radius to 150 miles. So in my case, I chose Greenville, SC as my home city and expanded the search radius to the max 150 miles. This way it covers Charlotte, Atlanta, Athens and Asheville:

Bands in Town

Bands in Town
(click to enlarge)

Hope this helps!