The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

That's not what I wanted, Firefox

That was odd.

I'm working remotely, using a Linux desktop system, and I'm trying to log into the trouble ticket system at The Office. It's a web-based trouble ticket system, so I'm using Firefox as my browser of choice. Now, because I haven't logged into the trouble ticket system from where I'm currently am, it's not bookmarked or in my browser history.

“No problem,” I say to myself. “I'm using X Windows, and since my workstation at The Office also uses X Windows, I can run Firefox on my workstation and have it displayed on the computer I'm currently using.” I mean, that's the whole purpose of X—you can run applications on one computer and have its windows displayed elsewhere. This is so fundamental to X that its been a feature since the late 80s (pcAnywhere is a Johnny-come-lately to remote GUI software).

So I log into my workstation and run Firefox. Yes, there is a lag before the window pops up, but I'm expecting that—I am running a graphical program across the Internet. But the window … it looks … wrong. I mean, it is Firefox, but the window isn't big, and the bookmarks aren't the ones I expect.

In fact, it looks much like the bookmarks on the copy of Firefox I'm running locally. And in fact, the browser history doesn't show the trouble ticket system.

In fact, the Firefox on my workstation at The Office apparently sent a command message to the Firefox on the computer in front of me to open up a new window.

Which, while pretty cool in a “network optimization” way, is not what I was expecting. To get around this mess, I had to shut down the local Firefox before firing up Firefox at The Office.

I know of no other X program that exhibits this behavior. xeyes? It'll run remote and locally. xterm? It'll run remote and locally. Gimp? It'll run remote and locally. Firefox? It apparently goes out of its way to run in only one location—must be a vestige function left over when it was the commercial product Netscape.

There is a way around it though:

It seems the switch you are looking for is -no-remote. And yes, it does not appear with you run firefox -h, because firefox -h gives you the sitches supported by the program firefox.

What's this -no-remote then, you say? Well that switch is implemented by the wrapper script. Pish tosh, a wrapper script is some silly linux distribution script, you would think. But look at the license and the copyright and you'll find this is part of the standard firefox distribution. The method for getting the wrapper script appears to be to open it in vi. At least, that's the method I used. My firefox manpage does mention it too, but that's hardly an excuse.

spc hates software: Okay Firefox, that's … interesting. Now cut it out!

Oddly enough, the man page I have on my workstation at The Office fails to mention -no-remote, and the man page on the computer I'm using fails to mention -no-remote—they do, however, mention -remote, but that appears to be redundant, since that appears to be the default action anyway.

Sigh.

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