Disclaimer: I like Firefox and I like tabs.

Note: This languished in my site’s Drafts folder for a long time (2013)


Vertical Tabs

The only way I can manage my many tabs is to have them in a vertical stack on the left of my display. The tool that works the best for me is Vertical Tabs. I resize the tab stack so I only see the tab/site icon. I turn off any additional items like the close button.

Tab Management

Tab Mix Plus (TMP)

TMP provides a high degree of tab management.

Tab Memory

RAM Back

RAM Back is an ancient Firefox add-on extension. Frankly I’m not sure if it’s doing anything. Someone I know and trust advised its installation, so here we are. It doesn’t seem to cause a problem, but I’ll say it is optional.

BarTab Lite

BarTab Lite provides a mechanism for unloading a tab from memory, especially at start-up. The tab is still there an visible, but it keeps Firefox from loading the tab until you click on it. Right clicking on a tab will give you an ‘Unload Tab’ option.

Tab Session Management

Session Manager keeps track of your tabs. It goes several steps beyond what Firefox offers by default and a bit more than what TMP provides.



  • Automatically unload unvisited tabs after a specific time
  • Identify memory hogging tabs
  • Automatically unload memory hogging tabs
  • Pause and mute video on background tabs
Also on:

I’m unsure when I entered the TARDIS but at some point recently animated GIFs (and the newer SVG format and others) made a strong resurgence on-line. I’ve seen them from the Atlantic On-line, Gizmodo, and an ever growing cadre of sites.

Basically these animated files are the modern equivalent of the flip book you or more likely your parents played with as a kid.

Animated GIFs were very popular in earlier days on the Internet. These digital flip books have many advantages, not the least of which are that they are relatively small and no extra software is needed to see them.

The major drawback is that they are incredibly distracting. Some browsers will let you hit the Esc key to stop them, but that doesn’t always work. If you’re like me, you’d just assume never see them animate. You’ll still see a picture but it will only be the first image in the file.

In Firefox there’s an easy fix to turn these pictures off.

  1. Open a new tab (File – New Tab)
  2. Type “about:config” in the location bar without the quotes
  3. Type “image.animation_mode” into the search field, again without quotes
  4. Double click on the “image.animation_mode” entry.
  5. In the dialog box that appears, delete the current value and type “none” in the field, again without quotes
  6. Click OK

In the Opera browser, open the Quick Preference (File – Quick Preferences). Remove the check mark from the “Enable GIF/SVG animation” or “Enable animated images” option.

In Internet Explorer go to Tools – Internet Options. Click the Advanced tab. Scroll down to the Multimedia section and deselect “Play Animations in webpages”. Click OK, then restart IE.

Any new animated graphics files won’t play in your browser.

Unfortunately there isn’t a similar fix for Google Chrome. You’ll have to install an extension like Stop Animations or Pause! Pause! Pause! or Paused!

What do you think about animated images in web pages? Let me know about that and if this page helped you out.

I’ve had/wanted to rebuild my work laptop several times over the past few months. Sometimes I have another machine nearby to validate what I’m adding. Lately that case is the exception. To help me remember and to share with all of the ones of you, here are my must have Firefox Add-Ons/Extensions:

Several of the above are from my Widescreen Firefox post (signified by a *). The others are primarily for security & privacy (signified by a !) or convenience (signified by a ^).

Since I’m away from my main machine I might have missed an extension, but t These are the mainstays of my Firefox experience.

In the Customize Toolbar dialog I enable “Use Small Icons” and remove the search bar, the home button, and the bookmarks button.

There are more customizations, but this is enough for now. I will post additional tweaks to this later.

The other todo is coming up with a good mechanism for distributing the various add-ons’ configurations to other systems. Dropbox may be the obvious solution, but check back here for updates.

Has this been helpful to you? What are your must have extensions or tweaks to Firefox? I didn’t even get into my about:config adjustments. Those will be updated here, too.

Here’s my Stylish style for fixing the dark StatusPanel (the mouse over pop up at the bottom of the Firefox browser window).

@namespace url(http://www.mozilla.org/keymaster/gatekeeper/there.is.only.xul);

.statuspanel-label {
  background: #666666 !important;
  color: #DDDDDD !important;

Create a new style, name it what you want, and paste in the above.

I will flesh this out more later.

I’m a big fan of using the keyboard for tasks instead of always relying on the mouse. In Ubuntu, Firefox wasn’t honouring the use of backspace to take me back a page. I found a fix here that surprisingly still works.

In short, open a new tab and type


Search for backspace. Double click on “browser.backspace_action” and change the value to 0.

About half of my team including me received refreshed laptops a few weeks ago. We made the push for Apple MacBooks again. Like the last time we have new Lenovo ThinkPads.

The team ordered Core i7 T430s ThinkPads while one team member, Jim, ordered the Core i7 W530. In retrospect I should have gone with the X230, but I’m stuck with what I got. I pulled the factory hard drive for a super fast SSD prior to powering up for the first time. I also maxed out the RAM with 16GB. My initial Windows 7 install was lackluster. Jim went straight to Ubuntu 12.04. He struggled with it a bit. Oddly it was roughly as much as I was struggling with Windows 7.

I decided to follow him down the Ubuntu 12.04 64-bit path. Here I’ll try to document what we’re doing on these two platforms. If this is useful to you and/or you have changes to submit, please comment here.

First off, a lot of things worked out of the box: wired network, wireless network, camera, sound, microphone, bluetooth, keyboard backlight, keyboard light, sleep, power management, screen brightness, driving two displays, touchpad, usb3.

UPDATED: Hibernation works. Hybrid sleep, too!

Things known not to work yet: fingerprint reader, Ricoh MMC/SD reader, 3G/4G activation (doesn’t work on Windows, either)

Not yet tested: smartcard reader, thunderbolt, 3G/4G, hibernation (I read it’s broken)

Jim and I have the advantage of our old laptops. They still work so we can experiment a bit without it impacting our ability to work.


We did a few BIOS changes.

Under Config, Network make sure that Wake on LAN is disabled.

Under Config, Display make sure the Graphics Device is “Integrated Graphics” unless you plan on a three headed display.

Under Config, Power enable “Power On with AC Attach”

Under Security, Virtualization make sure both options are enabled.

Ubuntu Install

The installer errored when I asked it to encrypt my home folder during install.

If you have an Internet connection go ahead and have it install updates during install. You’ll still want to check for updates after you reboot to complete the install.

Work Apps: Juniper NSM

We use Network Security-Manager and NetScreen Security Manager (NSM) to manage Juniper devices. They require the ia32-libs metapackage to run. Well, they don’t need all of them but I’m not identifying each and every library manually.

After installing ia32-libs, do the following:

sudo ln -s /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc-2.15.so /lib/libc.so.6
sudo ln -s /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libXp.so.6.2.0 /usr/lib/libXp.so.6

Work Apps: IBM Lotus Notes

While installing Notes in Ubuntu is an option, I decided to install it in a Windows VM guest. You’ll need the ia32-libs if you chose to run Notes in Ubuntu.

Work Apps: Juniper SA & Network Connect

We also use the Juniper SA for remote access, so we need Network Connect. I followed the instructions here to get Juniper SA Network Connect working. I used the OpenJDK 7 JRE and icedtea 7 plugin for the browser.

UPDATE: I also installed …

sudo apt-get install zlib1g:1386

Work Apps: VMWare Workstation

We’re both evaluating VMWare Workstation for the few apps we need a real Windows instance for. Version 9 installed perfectly. Windows 7 and 8 both install just fine. Unity, the VMWare mechanism for making a guest app look like a host app, works well.

However, in Windows 8 the Windows/super key is indispensable. Ubuntu Unity wants to pop-up and overlay with keyboard shortcuts, obscuring the stuff behind it. If you have the CompizConfig Settings Manager (CCSM, not recommended by Ubuntu), select Ubuntu Unity Plugin, go to the “Experimental” tab and disable “Enable Shortcut Hints Overlay”.

UPDATE: I had to add myself to the floppy group to get at my CDROM drive. For some reason Ubuntu mounts it as /media/floppy0.


I travel for work. If I carry this unfortunately heavier-than-my-last laptop I want to maximize the battery life when detached. I want strong performance when I’m powered.

In the Power settings under “On Battery Power” I suspend when inactive for 10 minutes, power off when power is critically low, and suspend when the lid is closed. When plugged in, I don’t suspend when inactive and do nothing when the lid is closed.

I install powertop, thinkfan, thinkpad-acpi-dkms, and ethtool. Note that powertop gives you the best information when you’re on battery.

From the Ubuntu Wiki:

Enable ALPM:

echo SATA_ALPM_ENABLE=true | sudo tee -a /etc/pm/config.d/sata_alpm

I installed thinkfan for improved cooling with some help from here:

echo options thinkpad_acpi fan_control=1 | sudo tee -a /etc/modprobe.d/thinkfan.conf

UPDATE: I’m now using thinkpad-acpi-dkms as thinkfan doesn’t seem to work any more. More information here.

I disabled Wake-on-LAN on my ethernet interfaces: go here and scroll down to “For Ubuntu 12.04 (and up) users …” and step 5.

UPDATE: The post is a little confusing and non-linear, so do the following:

sudo cp /usr/lib/pm-utils/power.d/disable_wol /etc/pm/power.d
vi /etc/pm/power.d/disable_wol

… and change line 14 to look like …

enable) ethtool -s "${d##*/}" wol d>/dev/null 2>&1;;

I remounted my root partition to turn off atime tracking:

sudo vi /etc/fstab

and add ‘noatime’ to make your root entry look like …

UUID=4ba02cd9-d3c4-4dd1-9a30-6535fcba5290 /               ext4    noatime,errors=remount-ro 0       1


Jim’s W530

Jim dove into driving two external displays and the built-in display with an extended desktop. He did a number of steps on his W530 from here.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-x-swat/x-updates
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-current
sudo gedit /etc/default/grub

… and on the line with “quiet splash” add “nox2apic” after “quiet”. Then do a …

sudo update-grub

… and then reboot.

UPDATE: Enter the BIOS. Enable “Discrete Graphics” or “NVidia Optimus”. Jim has to log in twice to his desktop, which is odd.

Paul’s T430s

I am trying to get the T430s to drive the displays without making the GRUB changes. I know from the Windows 7 experience on this laptop that you have to use DisplayPort for both of the external displays to drive all three. When I did this with my initial install, I could run three displays. However, the would all blank out then restore every 30 seconds or so.

Digging around a bit I found an article that discussed the Intel 4000 graphics chipset. The recommendation is to upgrade the kernel to the version in 12.10. I decided to go straight to 12.10. Unfortunately my work on getting some of my security tools installed made the upgrade not work as it should have. I decided to reinstall fresh and immediately upgrade to 12.10.

I noticed an immediate improvement after rebooting. The login screens for the two displays I had connected – an external and the built-in display – ran the correct (or close to) resolution for both. I made the usual post-install display adjustments to turn off mirroring and drive the external display at it’s native resolution.

Bolstered by the good look I decided to plug my second external display into the other DisplayPort. The mouse remained on the first two displays but they were blank otherwise. I switched to a terminal (Ctrl-Alt-F1) to do a ‘sudo unity –reset’ which unfortunately did nothing. The option is depreciated. However, the terminal did display on all three monitors. I rebooted, and all three displays showed the login screen. I logged in, and all three had the desktop in mirror mode.

I turned off “Mirror Displays” and they all show. When I tweak the external displays’ resolution I find I can’t quite drive them at their recommended resolution – 1680×1050 for one and 1920×1080 for the other. Even redoing the displays at a lower resolution while maintaining the aspect ratio didn’t help. I replaced the larger display with one that matches the other one.

After more experimentation I found that one of the DisplayPort to DVI cables is bad. I’ll have to test this out in the office on Monday.

UPDATE 25 Oct 12: I followed Jim’s steps above on 12.04 and it worked! For a while it worked, that is, and without the change to grub. I undocked the laptop and re-docked but the displays wouldn’t restore properly. Then they would black out. No amount of rebooting or powering off would bring it back.

UPDATE 31 OCT 12: I made changes to grub detailed here. These changes stabilized things.



I’m an Emacs fan, especially of version 24. Follow the instructions here. Unfortunately Emacs 24 isn’t available by default.


Of course I followed my own advice and set up my Widescreen Firefox. One note is that under Ubuntu with the default Ubuntu add-ons installed you do not need the “Hide Forward/Back Buttons When not Needed“ Stylish script.

I keep looking for a way to make the Alt Text in Firefox, where you mouse over a link in a web page and the full URL is displayed above the status bar at the bottom of the Firefox window, much lighter than it is by default. Out of the box it is black text on a dark gray background. If anyone has a solution, please share.


I’m a big EverNote user. They do not have a Linux client yet, so I wanted to use NixNote. However, it required 32-bit Java. I’m trying EverPad instead.

To keep Ubuntu from popping up a window to upgrade,

gconftool-2 --set --type bool /apps/update-notifier/auto_launch false

I also use aptitude, synergy, and a bunch of other tools. I write about them from time to time.

One of the reasons I still use Firefox as my primary browser is because of the reconfigurability of it. Intrigued by articles about Firefox on widescreen displays I read years ago, one from lifehacker.com and another here I implemented their recommendations. Today you’ll find some of their tips out of date but the concept remains sound. Here’s what I’ve done since then.

Wide screen usage with Firefox is superb. With it I can reduce the horizontal and vertical space taken up by tabs and menu bars. Thus I maximize the space for what I want – the content. I also make extensive use of keyboard shortcuts, so extra menus and bars aren’t needed. I also don’t want extra windows popping up or blank pages when downloading attachments.

Here’s the recipe so you can make use of it this way, too. Many of these tips work on Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX. Windows has the full widescreen experience. I’ve used variations on this for the last two or three years. I’m running Firefox 15 at the time of writing.

Widescreen Firefox Recipe

First, install the latest Firefox. I make it my primary browser everywhere except on my work laptop where “the job” requires IE.

Next, install the following add-ons:

Download Statusbar

Turn on “Mini Mode” to replace the Downloads pop-up window. I move the icon into Nav Bar toolbar at the top of the Firefox window.

Nav Bar on Titlebar

This Windows-only add-on (at the time of writing) moves the main Nav Bar to the window’s title bar. There are a few settings one can configure but I keep it to the default.


Stylish allows for script installs, scripts that alter web pages’ appearance as well as configuration elements to change the overall appearance of the Firefox interface. The one I use for maximizing Firefox is “Hide Forward/Back Buttons When not Needed“.

One other one I like is “Google Reader Readable” as I’m a heavy Reader user. It’s not required.

Head to UserStyles.org to see a huge collection of scripts you may find useful.

Tab Mix Plus

This extension possesses configuration options about tabs, sessions, and a multitude of tweaks. Spelling them out or even attaching screen shots of every possible tab would push this post even longer than it already is.

Instead, my config is here: TMPpref. You can import it into your TMP. Adjust for your own tastes.

Tiny Menu

UPDATE: Windows has the orange Firefox button. Ubuntu Unity embeds the menu in the top menu bar. Mac OS X does something similar. In all other cases or if you disable those you want Tiny Menu. With it and some toolbar customization you can minimize the vertical space you’d otherwise waste, putting the navigation and tool bars onto one while keeping the horizontal usage in check.

Vertical Tabs

This moves the tab bar from along the top horizontally to along the side vertically. You can drag the tab bar to the left which is where I prefer it. You can also resize the width, which I do. I make it wide enough to see the tab icon.

Final config

Move icons around so the few add-ons you need and some informational icons are on the one title/nav bar. Some might be on the status bar at screen bottom.

Close the status bar when you’re done.


Here’s the final look. Note I have other add-ons installed.

If you’re able to make use of this and it works for you, please leave a comment below. I’d also love to hear about other tips and tricks to maximize browser space.

Over the last several weeks my Firefox 4 kept asking me to upgrade to 5 Beta. You have two options available to you, upgrade and ask later. None of the additional information actually exists. It’s annoying, especially when you’re using your browser for a demonstration in front of an audience.

Here’s how to turn it off.

Type ‘about:config’ (without the quotes) in your location bar. Search for ‘beta’. There may be several items that come up. You want ‘app.update.channel’. Double click that and change ‘beta’ to ‘release’.

That’s it. Enjoy!