Jun 06, 2013

Firefox - breaking free of webdevs' tyranny

Wanted to share three kinda-big-deal fixes I've added to my firefox:

  • Patch to remove sticky-on-top focus-grabbing "Do you want to activate plugins on this page?" popup.
  • Patch to prevent plugins (e.g. Abode Flash) from ever grabbing firefox hotkeys like "Ctrl + w" (close tab) or F5, forcing to do click outside e.g. YouTube video window to get back to ff.
  • Easy "toggle js" fix for JavaScript on pages grabbing controls like keyboard and mouse (e.g. overriding F5 to retweet instead of reload page, preventing copy-paste if forms and on pages, etc).

Lately, firefox seem to give more-and-more control into the hands of web developers, who seem to be hell-bent on abusing that to make browsing UX a living hell.

FF bug-reports about Flash grabbing all the focus date back to 2001 and are unresolved still.

Sites override Up/Down, Space, PgUp/PgDown, F5, Ctrl+T/W I've no idea why - guess some JS developers just don't use keyboard at all, which is somewhat understandable, combined with the spread of tablet-devices these days.

Overriding clicks in forms to prevent pasting email/password seem to be completely ignoring valid (or so I think) use-case of using some storage app for these.

And native "click-to-play" switch seem to be hilariously unusable in FF, giving cheerful "Hey, there's flash here! Let me pester you with this on every page load!" popups.

All are known, neither one seem to be going away anytime soon, so onwards to the fixes.

Removing "Do you want to activate plugins" thing seem to be straightforward js one-liner patch, as it's implemented in "browser/base/content/browser-plugins.js" - whole fix is adding this._notificationDisplayedOnce = true; to break the check there.
"notificationDisplayedOnce" thing is used to not popup that thing on the same page within the same browing session afaict.
With this patch applied (more up-to-date github link: no_plugins_popup.patch) it will never pester user again, ever \o/
Patch for plugin focus is clever - all one has to do is to switch focus to browser window (from embedded flash widget) before keypress gets processed and ff will handle it correctly.
Hackish plugin + ad-hoc perl script solution (to avoid patching/rebuilding ff) can be found here.
My hat goes to Alexander Rødseth however, who hacked the patch attached to ff-bug-78414 - this one is a real problem-solver, though a bit (not terribly - just context lines got shuffled around since) out-of-date.
More up-to-date (for current 21-ish stable ff from hg) fix is here: ff_loose_plugin_keygrab.patch (more future-proof github link).
JS-click/key-jacking issue seem to require some JS event firewalling, and sometimes (e.g. JS games or some weird-design sites) can be useful.
So my solution was simply to bind JS-toggle key, which allows not only to disable all that crap, but also speed some "load-shit-as-you-go" or JS-BTC-mining (or so it feels) sites rapidly.
I have KeyConfig extension, which allows to bind random JS to a key, so:
var prefs = Components.classes['@mozilla.org/preferences-service;1']
  state = prefs.getBoolPref('javascript.enabled');
prefs.setBoolPref('javascript.enabled', !state);

That's the whole thing, bound to something like Ctrl+\ (the one above Enter here), makes a nice "Turbo and Get Off My JS" key. Fairly sure there are addons that allow to toggle prefs ("javascript.enabled" above) via keys without needing any code, but I have this one.

Damn glad there are open-source (and uglifyjs-like) browsers like that, hope proprietary google-ware won't take over the world in the nearest future.

Mentioned patches are available in (and integrated with-) the firefox-nightly exheres in my repo, forked off awesome sardemff7-pending firefox-scm.exheres-0 / mozilla-app.exlib work.