back to article Foxstuck: Firefox browser bug boots legions of users offline

In a hard-to-beat demo of the perils of software telemetry, Mozilla accidentally kicked legions of users offline last week by an update to its telemetry servers that triggered an existing bug in Firefox. Internally, Mozilla is calling the bug "foxstuck". Firefox periodically reports back some fairly innocuous info, including …

  1. badflorist

    I guess the excuse of using telemetry data to prevent bugs is now a bug in itself.

    Everyone knows that Google's funded legal example of not being a monoply Firefox isn't doing great... except Firefox.

    Goozilla.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Firefox has it's advantages over Waterfox when using older Core2Duo processors.

      Just to save people some time. Worth stating that the latest Waterfox won't run on any processor that doesn't support processors without SSE 4.2 extensions. So, latest WF no longer supports processors like Penryn Core2Duo. Firefox does though. Needs a minimum of a Nehalem-based processor (1st gen 1 i5, i7 processor). The is a Waterfox 'classic' that does support older processors but has security vulnerabilities.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Firefox has it's advantages over Waterfox when using older Core2Duo processors.

        > the latest Waterfox won't run on any processor that

        What in the Sam Hill does a web browser need to care about the processor it's running upon?

        Is that another case of "because we can, and new and shiny trumps everything anyways"?

        *facepalm*

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Firefox has it's advantages over Waterfox when using older Core2Duo processors.

          Code optimisation and code bloat.

        2. dajames Silver badge

          Re: Firefox has it's advantages over Waterfox when using older Core2Duo processors.

          What in the Sam Hill does a web browser need to care about the processor it's running upon?

          Methinks that this problem is probably the result of choosing a compiler option that causes the compiler to emit code that assumes the SSE4.2 instructions are available. If so, the problem will be present only in the binaries compiled with that option, and may not be present in a different download/distro, and can be avoided by compiling the source yourself for the processor you actually have.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge

            Re: Firefox has it's advantages over Waterfox when using older Core2Duo processors.

            > result of choosing a compiler option

            My point, there is no valid technical reason, just the standard plain incompetence and general carelessness...

            1. ThatOne Silver badge
              Devil

              Re: Firefox has it's advantages over Waterfox when using older Core2Duo processors.

              Funny to see the local cowboys lash out...

        3. Claudio4

          Re: Firefox has it's advantages over Waterfox when using older Core2Duo processors.

          It's not that the browser cares, it's just that it has been compiled for CPUs with SSE support (SSE is an extension of x86 for vectorial operations) to increase performance.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: Firefox has it's advantages over Waterfox when using older Core2Duo processors.

            > to increase performance

            In the "we want to be able to run any shit code" perspective I guess?...

            Because the old browser optimization is more than enough to render complex web pages, and even occasionally stream a high-res movie.

            What it more often then not struggles to do though, is cope with badly written advertisement code...

  2. jake Silver badge

    "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

    So were Firefox users ... if they had the telemetry turned off.

    about:preferences#privacy

    1. badflorist

      Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

      Sure... that's very well known :-/. At least it's still an option.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

      Or had the URLs changed to "https://localhost" in about:config, just to be sure

    3. HildyJ Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

      I'm on Firefox for hours each day and I noticed nothing.

      A more user friendly way to shut off telemetry is Settings - Privacy and Security - Firefox Data Collection and Use.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

        But this still leaves all of the about:config toolkit.telemetry settings enabled.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

          ... not to mention all of the other *.telemetry.* settings.

          Just search for the word 'telemetry' in the about:config toolbar.

      2. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

        Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

        My system basically runs 24/7 with Firefox open with about 30-40 tabs at any one time.

        Didn't notice anything either. Weird.

    4. iron Silver badge

      Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

      Yup, no problems here because turning off telemetry is the first thing I do post install.

      I also check it is off periodically, not that I've ever seen Firefox turn it back on.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

        Absolutely, same here.

        However, and I've commented as much before, the problem with this is that it skews the telemetry results.

        1) All the knowledgeable and privacy-conscious users disable telemetry

        2) All the users who are too naive or oblivious don't.

        3) Mozilla examine the telemetry data - "huh, 99% of our users spend their whole time on Pinterest and Facebook, we must integrate Firefox better with those sites. Also, no users ever use the advanced features like integrated FTP support or the Configuration menu - let's remove the former and hide the latter behind a hamburger menu so the users don't get confused. Excellent! We're serving our users!"

        4) Profit More annoyed techie users, further declines in product usability, etc etc.

        NB: See also Windows 10.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

        not that I've ever seen Firefox turn it back on

        I would have said that too, but Firefox was updated recently when I updated OpenSuse (Tumbleweed). Upon reboot, it opened a fresh window - pink, for heaven's sake and offering 'vibrant new themes' - and said window had my add-ons (Noscript etc) disabled, telemetry turned on full blast, all the search engines I delete back in the list, and Google reinstated as search engine of choice.

        However, closing that window revealed my 'old' window underneath, all tabs, extensions and settings intact. Rather odd, that.

        M.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

          That would have been an OpenSuse issue, not a Firefox issue.

          Part of the reason I like Slackware so much is because it does as little as possible to code as released by the upstream developers, and absolutely none (that I've ever noticed) to the individual's personal settings.

          1. Fred Daggy Bronze badge

            Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

            Nope. Was also in Windows, 96.0. Deployed with an MSI file downloaded from the firefox web site.

            Not at all limited to SUSE, or linux. Most definitely firefox.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

          Came here to say the same for Linux Mint 20.3. Telemetry was turned back on for Linux Mint 20.3, when I upgraded on it's release last week, (not earlier beta), as I check these things often.

          Pretty sure an upgrade from Linux Mint 20.2 to Linux Mint 20.3 did the same, turned telemetry back ON in Firefox. Worth checking after upgrading to 20.3 if you do an in-place upgrade.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

            Can confirm that upgrading from 20.2 to 20.3 did turn all the telemetry back on. Thanks for the tipoff. Not impressed with Firefox for pulling this stunt.

      3. TRT Silver badge

        Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

        "Telly meet tree" as an actor in one episode of UFO (Close Up) pronounced it.

        1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

          Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

          > "Telly meet tree" as an actor in one episode of UFO (Close Up) pronounced it.

          Did someone say Del Amitri?

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

            Ah! Maybe THAT was what the launch technician was announcing - the musical accompaniment to the blast off. TV coverage of space launches is very important you know. Just ask Jeff.

          2. David 132 Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

            Upvote for linking to one of my favourite songs. Though the Youtube error “the uploader has not made this video available in your country” made me laugh, considering there’s a dozen other copies of the same song on there that I can access, plus I’ve had it in my MP3 collection since about 1993…

            “The Martians could land in the car-park and no-one would care…”

    5. ShadowSystems

      Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

      I was untouched by this issue as well, but then I'm using Windows 3.11 For Workgroups, DOS 6.0, and Netscape Navigator.

      *Cough*

      I should staple a giant blinking sarcasm tag to my arse so nobody can mistake my posts for anything but the ramblings of an insane person. =-)p

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

        It's rude to rub our faces in it like that, especially those of us lashed to Windows 10/11.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

          especially those of us lashed to Windows 10/11.

          So you can't respond to the siren voices of non-Windows environments?

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

            I see a lot of fragmentation and too much choice in those non-Windows environments illustrated in the link. Wouldn't it be better to have just one siren voice?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

              "Wouldn't it be better to have just one siren voice?"

              Yeah, but OS/2 is stupid expensive these days.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

                "OS/2 is stupid expensive these days."

                Nope. You can get a shiny new OS/2 license for $129/seat.

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ArcaOS

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Zolko Silver badge

        Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

        but then I'm using Windows 3.11 For Workgroups, DOS 6.0, and Netscape Navigator

        Huh, bleading-edge, I'm using NCSA Mosaic on HPUX with the CDE desktop.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

          A graphical browser? What a waste of resources.

          Just a couple days ago I was running Lynx on my own much-hacked version of the Bourne shell on a VAX hosting 4.2BSD on all of 4 megs of RAM. Still works just as well as it did about three decades ago :-)

    6. NATTtrash

      Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

      What about LibreWolf?

      Isn't that like WaterFox, but without the ad company (System1) behind it?

      Or any other of the FireFox forks for that matter. Why the advertisement extreme focus on WaterFox here?

      1. Saint

        Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

        Nice one, thanks for this !

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

        Waterfox is useful because it has a version based on pre-Quantum Gecko where you can use classic plugins. If you're using an alternative Firefox browser based on the present-day version, wouldn't it be easier just to use Firefox... what does an alternative Firefox browser really do apart from introduce a delay before receiving security updates?

        1. Cederic Silver badge

          Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

          "privacy, security and user freedom", to cite the LibreWolf website.

          I might give it a go, Pale Moon's increasingly struggling to render modern sites.

    7. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: "Waterfox users were totally unaffected. ®"

      Telemetry is one of the first things that I disable on every new software install -- when possible, at least.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For my part, I blank out every configuration setting that has a URL in it (usually they lead to Mozilla, Google or AWS) in user.js.

    Been doing this for years with no loss of functionality for my purposes. Do be aware that this means no "safe browsing" checks, no in-chrome plugin checks (you have to install / upgrade manually), and a bunch of other stuff so not recommending this for everyone. Sadly, data (as opposed to information) fetishism leads to this kind of ugly hacks to keep things predictable.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No loss of functionality.. for your purposes...

      Did that include viewing actual web pages? Like on the interweb? :)

      While I appreciate the can-do spirit, this is the sort of solution that makes people roll their eyes when a bug report comes in. Which is to say, having gone down that rabbit hole myself in the past, once you've jerry rigged that much of the about:config you guarantee that even you can't be sure what the impact has been or which change broke it. Then any update is can break both your config and the browser. Debugging the impact of extensions is hard enough.

      That said, it isn't like Mozilla didn't force your hand. They keep stripping stuff out of the base browser config, and when people ran to re-implement the missing functionality in extensions, they nerfed those to in yet another attempt to become a Chrome clone like everyone else.

      That said I think we need people supporting a clean incarnation of the browser, not suffering daily with hacked together trash(myself included). Projects like Waterfox and Tor are fighting to keep that possible, but they are rolling rocks uphill if the main dev team at Mozilla insists on swimming upstream.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No loss of functionality.. for your purposes...

        Yeah I fully agree, it's far from ideal but what else could we do? :(

  4. SuperGeek

    Foxgate? Firewall?

  5. Zorg

    I killed all reporting to Mozilla ages ago, as I do to everyone, by default.

    Here is the about:telemetry response.

    This page shows the information about performance...

    Telemetry is collecting release data and upload is disabled.

    No reporting, no problem... so far anyway.

    1. Forget It

      Yes, another own goal.

      Firefox redirected the less-savvy users towards other browsers/

      Head should roll, but won't.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Somehow I read that as you kill everyone by default. Seems a little harsh :-)

      1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

        SOP

        Shoot the messenger.. before he leaves home

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Telemetry is collecting release data and upload is disabled.

      I've also got a script which periodically deletes the collected telemetry data, just in case upload is ever accidentally (or perhaps "accidentally") enabled.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All this telemetry and Firefox hasn't improved in any meaningful way.

  7. Fonant
    Happy

    Vivaldi

    As title, FTW.

  8. VoiceOfTruth

    >> Firefox periodically reports back some fairly innocuous info, including how long your session lasted, how many tabs and windows you had open, what extensions you have and so on

    It is not innocuous. It's nothing to do with Microsoft. PLEASE get out of this mindset that data is not important. If it was not important Microsoft would not be collecting it.

  9. Kev99 Silver badge

    I know how to keep these buggers from acting up. Disallow ALL telemetry. Simple.

  10. John_3_16
    Go

    My backup & 2nd option is Ungoogled-chromium...

    My FF was not affected as I have the voluntary BS turned off as well.

    Ungoogled-chromium (64bit) is my backup browser & IE11 for M$ downloads fully updated as possible.

    I don't know the rules for links but I will try here. It is possible to download & run an update program. And you have the ability to access the Google app store without logging in & download apps you trust. Kind of what FF should do. As time goes on I think FF will stray further & further away from the users wishes. Hard to find a computer today that is not filled with commercial & government spyware.

    Download page for (Ungoogled Chromium)

    MarmadukeDownloadLatestStableUngoogledChromium binaries (64-bit and 32-bit)

    https://chromium.woolyss.com/#updaters https://chromium.woolyss.com/

    Installation Guide for (Ungoogled Chromium)

    https://avoidthehack.com/how-to-install-configure-ungoogled-chromium

    (Ungoogled Chromium) extensions (Once installed just pick/install extensions normally)

    https://avoidthehack.com/manually-install-extensions-ungoogled-chromium

    Chromium Web Store for using Google Extension store/downloads wihout logging in. Just go there & install from within Ungoogled Chrome browser normally...

    https://github.com/NeverDecaf/chromium-web-store/releases/tag/v1.1.1 LATEST .crx file

    auto updates from browser as well as all other extensions...

    Profiles Instructions

    https://www.winhelponline.com/blog/transfer-chrome-profile-another-computer/

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