Firefox Sync or Swim

I am once again riding the pendulum back towards Mozilla’s Firefox.  There’s an awful lot to like about Google Chrome but a couple of things make it less optimal for me:

  • the Web development we do tends to rely on Microsoft Internet Explorer + Mozilla Firefox friendly tools.  Chrome is always an afterthought, regardless of testing
  • I’m not comfortable with all of the chrome.exe and other processes that seem to be running all the time, even when the browser isn’t open.  That may just be my install but it’s disconcerting

Firefox is on version 27 and I’ve just installed it.  Here are a couple of hiccups I worked around.

Install Not Allowed

I downloaded the latest stub installation file which then would normally download the whole kit and caboodle of Firefox and install it.  Not this time.  In what seems to be a common error across the Internet, the installer through an error that

7-Zip is blocked by group policy

This would normally mean that the application 7-Zip – a compression utility for opening and closing .zip files – is blocked by Windows Group security Policies.  But that’s not really what’s happening here.  First, you may not even have 7-Zip installed.  But the Firefox files are compressed executables, so they have 7-Zip built-in to the installation file.  It’s when it tries to open itself that this error appears.

I happen to have 7-Zip installed.  It’s a free compression utility and does more than the default Windows zip/compressed file tool.  That’s what threw me at first, because 7-Zip isn’t my default decompression utility.  Still, I right-clicked on the Firefox installation file and selected Extract All and the installation file decompressed.  No errors.  The folder it created had a Setup.exe file in it, which I ran, and Firefox was installed.

When I was digging around, it looks like a lot of people think this is malware.  Other answers suggest the installation file is corrupted.  I think both are (generally) wrong.  One answer I did like was that people who are blocking ransomware may have locked out the ability for 7-Zip to create a temporary folder.  That rings true to me and fits my circumstances.  It’s clearly nothing to do with the actual file contents.

Sync and Passwords

This was a really irritating lesson to learn.  I do not save my passwords in my Web browser, Google Chrome or not.  This is a trust issue after reading about Chrome’s lax security posture towards passwords.  But I sync everything else because I work on two Windows systems and on one of those, I reboot into Ubuntu.  All three are synchronized and they sync with my tablet as well.

Setting up Firefox’s sync is dead easy:  username, password, agree to some terms and you’re done.  Pairing it is also easy:  open up Firefox on the second device and choose the Pair a device option and you’ll see a 12 character code.  Type that in your first device, after clicking Pair a device there as well, and you’re done.

Unless you have, as part of setting up Firefox, turned off the Save all passwords feature and deleted the two very odd passwords already saved.  Weird that, since I hadn’t visited anywhere and they were for a site called Weave ….  I know now that Weave is the synchronization site for Firefox and those were the passwords that enabled the sync.  I realized this when I tried to synchronize a second device and the first device no longer had the management properties.

I had to:

  • Return to and delete my just-created account.  I actually did this three times before working it out so if you only do this once, you’re ahead!
  • Turn save all passwords back on again
  • Set up the first computer’s sync again
  • Turn off save all passwords but leave the two Weave passwords in place
  • Pair up the extra devices

One thing you will lose access to if you delete those passwords is your ability to create a recovery key or access the current one.  I exported my recovery key to an HTML file once I’d recreated the account.  Then, when I rebooted into Ubuntu, even though I couldn’t access the Windows account simultaneously, I was able to use my username + password + recovery key and make the sync happen.  The recovery key HTML file was on a Windows partition so I just opened it up in Firefox on Ubuntu before starting the pairing process.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.