Picking Up After the Pig - thursday 2005-05-26 2013 last modified 2005-05-26 2057
Categories: Nerdy
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I've been reading about Mac users of Piggy Bank running into problems (vanity reading, I suppose). The foremost solution is to let it run after you've first installed it. Don't stop it, it's working (install MenuMeters or open up Activity Monitor if you need a visual confirmation of Firefox CPU activity). If you do stop it, sorry - you're a little screwed, Firefox is probably acting like it's permanently crippled now.

You'll need to start an entirely new profile. There are some steps you can take to mitigate the pain by copying over the uncorrupted bits from your old profile, but, as far as I can tell, you will end up having to reinstall your themes and extensions. As a silver lining to what must seem a very gray cloud, this does provide you the opportunity to do upgrades.

Starting a New Profile

Complainants focusing on reinstalling Firefox when this happens should start here first. If you're not aware of its guts (and why should you be?), Firefox relies heavily on user specific configuration profiles to actually run your browsing sessions. Each user can have different profiles according to what they want available when they browse. If your profile is somehow corrupted, that will cause problems that look like they're Firefox acting up. Check against a blank profile before you assume the actual application is hosed.

Read the Firefox profile documentation and follow along. Ruefully wish along with me that you'd done a profile backup before this Piggy Bank thing came along, then come back here. Make sure you've noted which directory contains your present profile (somewhere in ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/). To start a new profile, run /Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/MacOS/firefox -profilemanager, assuming you've installed Firefox in your Applications folder. You should be shown a window giving the you the option to 'Create Profile...' amongst others. Don't delete any profiles. Maybe rename the old one to something else so you remember not to touch it again. I'm not one for voodoo style computing, but I think it may be necessary to keep your old profile around for the new one to work (grep'ing files in the working profile for me reveals paths to the old profile).

Once you've created a new profile, try starting Firefox normally. It should look like a vanilla browser, modulo whatever cutomizations you selected during your initial installation.

Copying Profiles

At this point, I wade into territory where I feel I should give you a big caveat: I barely know what I'm doing playing around in the Mozilla profile directory. Wiser minds are welcome to amend or attack my instructions. I take no responsibility for anything that may get further screwed by following my directions.

I don't feel quite as bad since the advice I'm giving you is to modify that brand new profile to match your old one. If it fails, you can wipe out and try again in a more incremental fashion, if you still feel like banging your head on that wall.

In we go.

First, quit Firefox, now that you know it still runs.

I use the command line for the rest of this, but I suppose you could use Finder drag'n drop for it as well. Having earlier mentally marked which directory belongs to your old, busted profile, find your new profile directory in ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/. Almost everything in there is worth copying over from the old profile directory over the fresh, mostly blank files in the old profile directory. Here's what I took and what I think it got me:

  • bookmarks.bak, bookmarks.html - all of my bookmarks back in place (bookmarklets, really; I don't use bookmarks often)
  • cookies.txt - all of my cookies, since I make heavy use of allowing and denying them
  • prefs.js - all of my application and extension preferences
  • history.dat - recent browsing history
  • downloads.rdf - recent downloads
  • hostperm.1 - anything with host based permissions (cookies, popups, etc.)
  • key3.db, certs8.db, secmod.db - I'm convinced these are about my certificates, and also may or may not connect to my old profile, depending on how many goats I sacrificed to Molech in the morning
  • formhistory.dat - I don't actually save any of my form information, but maybe you do
  • components.ini, compreg.dat, localstore.rdf, mimeTypes.rdf - I'm pretty sure this has to do with your plugins and extensions and themes, which I'll address in a moment; you may not need all of it. I get lots of seemingly harmless JavaScript console errors right now, I suspect because of this step and copying over my old extensions. If you don't mind just finding all of your extensions once more, then leave this step behind, and don't listen to my later instructions about copying over extensions; you're done after copying the rest of these files.
  • search.rdf - customized searching, rarely changed unless you touched it
  • xpti.dat - I don't know, but I copied it over; it may be useless

For the lazy: cd into your old profile, then run: cp bookmarks.bak bookmarks.html cookies.txt prefs.js history.dat downloads.rdf hostperm.1 key3.db certs8.db secmod.db formhistory.dat components.ini compreg.dat localstore.rdf mimeTypes.rdf search.rdf xpti.dat ../[new profile directory]

I've never changed themes, so I can't speak for how to carry them over. Now, the extensions directory. You can copy all of that over except {e29a3ba7-2b91-4bf1-8c04-b9738c77aa3d} - that's Piggy Bank, and you want to leave it out of your plans for now. Take all the funny hash directories, the extension-named directories, installed-extensions.txt, and Extensions.rdf, and leave the rest out.

Start Firefox again. You're back - except that none of your extensions are acting like they're installed. Now you can take the time to check each one for updates - if there is an update, it will install over, and you're set. If not, here's where you suck it up and just reinstall the ones you want. I did it one at a time since I had a bad experience once trying to do all of them at the same time.

Done? Back up your profile. Now you're ready for Piggy Bank. Jump back up to the top and re-read that part I wrote about waiting...


From a reader: Y...

From a reader: You can also uncripple your Firefox by restarting Firefox in safe mode and removing the Piggy Bank extension.

Ryan Lee on September 08, 2005 03:50 PM

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