How to block those annoying Google pop-ups to log in to the site with a Google account

Writing this down here, because although I have synchronization turned on in Firefox, I have a couple of new machines, and the setting isn’t syncing over:

uBlock Origin > Dashboard (it is the gear wheels icons) > My Filters > add the following:

https://accounts.google.com/gsi/*

With this in the filters list, Firefox won’t pop up that annoying login box.

I don’t know whether this enhances privacy or not.

Without the filter, the website you are visiting has some content on it which tells your browser that the browser should rat you out to Google fetch this login form from Google.

You should feel uncomfortable when that login prompt box shows up on the porn site you are visiting, by the way. Also if you are a Tea Party member or a Black Lives Matter member.

So, without the filter, your browser is definitely reaching out to a Google server and interacting with it, supplying IP address and whatever else Google asks for. Google is also then supplying this login prompt code to run in your browser.

With the filter, I don’t know.

The website page has code (which will be shipped to your browser) that your browser should request from Google this login form.

I don’t know if the filter strips out the request for the login form, or brings down the login form and immediately returns “no information for accounts.google.com is available”.

If the former, it might protect some privacy. I don’t know if uBlock Origin stops the login form from being loaded from Google. If so, probably Google didn’t get notified that you visited that website.

If the latter, then Google shipped the code to your browser. But before it could ship that code to your browser, your browser had to hand over your IP address as the destination to ship to. And as long as they are preparing the login script code to ship to you, then need a little more information…. (user agent, screen size, is JavaScript enabled, whose’s your daddy, and any other fingerprinting data they can get).

If I were DHS (who is paying Google with your tax dollars to rat you out to DHS), I’d have Google supply the login form code from a different host and domain than accounts.google.com. This filter could still remove all code that points the browser to accounts.google.com, but it is the initial download of the login page pop-up form that lets Google record that you visited website foo at a particular date and time and from where.

Firefox Sync and temporary containers fix

My synchronized Firefox items got out of sync. Here is how I fixed that.

  1. Log out of Firefox Sync on every machine that has Firefox.
  2. Backup your profile on your master machine.
  3. On every machine except the machine I want to keep as master, delete all temporary containers.
    1. This is most easily done with
      about:preferences#containers
    2. Click on the remove button for all the temporary containers that start with tmp.
  4. Go to
    about:support
    in Firefox on the master machine.

    1. Click the Open Directory button to open the profile directory folder.
  5. Click the Open Directory button to open the profile directory folder.
  6. Copy the
    containers.json
    file to an external file share of some sort. It could be a USB key, or Nextcloud, or email it to yourself and use webmail to get a copy of it.
  7. Go to
    about:support
    in Firefox on the slave machine.
    1. Click the Open Directory button to open the profile directory folder.
    2. Exit Firefox.
  8. Copy the
    containers.json
    file from the external share to the opened profile folder. Yes – replace the file.
  9. Start Firefox on the slave machine, and log in to the containers you have set which need to keep their login state.

  1. Log in to Firefox Sync on the master machine. You can do this, though it will only really help with keeping bookmarks in sync.
    1. Note that it sent me a confirmation code to my email address.
  2. Log in to Firefox Sync on all the rest of the machines.
  1. Note that if in Step 2, you have too many containers to click the remove button on: Navigate to
    about:debugging#/runtime/this-firefox
    1. Scroll down to Temporary Containers and click “Inspect” to the right of it.
    2. Click “Console”
    3. Insert into the console

const containers = await browser.contextualIdentities.query({});
await Promise.all(containers.map(container => {
if (tmp.container.isTemporary(container.cookieStoreId)) return;
const prefix = 'tmp';
if (container.name.substring(0, prefix.length) !== prefix) {return;}
return browser.contextualIdentities.remove(container.cookieStoreId);
}));
console.log("done");

Credit where credit is due: https://github.com/stoically/temporary-containers/issues/371

SO, I’m trying to use a WordPress plugin that lets one copy the code above to the clipboard. However, what then got pasted into the Firefox console was “helpfully” upgraded to UTF fancy quotes instead of the simple ASCII ‘ and ” characters. Please stop helping … or at least give me a way to override.

And of course … it does not work.

I have a set of temporary containers on my master machine, but, my other machines will not copy that list.

At least the slave instances don’t wipe out the master list.

I’ve updated this post with instructions that do copy the containers list to the slave machines. I don’t expect that Firefox Sync will be able to keep them in sync, though.

Dear Mozilla, please stop copying Google Chrome UI changes into Firefox

I don’t know why Firefox dislikes Bookmarks. Perhaps they are a pain in the ass, and the Mozilla people hope they will go away? I understand why Google would dislike them; if you use a bookmark, you are not using the Google Search Engine. Google’s primary source of revenue is advertising, ergo, search is good and bookmarks are bad. But Firefox? What excuse do you have for making your user’s lives worse?

UPDATE: there is a fix; add in about:config an item “browser.toolbars.bookmarks.2h2020” set as boolean False.

The beef I have at the moment is that I wrote a script to take screenshots. It’s the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

But the bookmarks toolbar is noise/clutter in this situation. So the simple solution is a keystroke that toggles the bookmarks toolbar on and off. Trivially easy to do, and doesn’t distract the tech support person I’m going to sending the screenshots to. Doesn’t leak information to their tech support about which web sites I log in to often.

This keystroke to toggle the Bookmarks Toolbar used to work. Now, the keystroke is still mapped, but not to the toggle function.

Firefox has now copied Google Chrome to turn the bookmarks toolbar off with that keystroke, and you have to use the freaking right-click mouse menu to turn it back on. Or there is a three menu deep regular mouse click path to get there.

What was wrong with having a toggle?

Mozilla Firefox Team: you did not make my life better by copying Google Chrome; you made it worse. I’m using Firefox because I think it is better than Chrome. Please stop downgrading it into being a clone of Chrome.

I can’t imaging anyone in the Firefox world thinking to themselves You know what I need? I need the Toggle Bookmark function to stop working, because being able to get to my bookmarks toolbar should become a pain in the ass.

The Bookmarks Toolbar was always about ease of use. It doesn’t get easier than having a button on the top of the page to click on, to instantly transfer to that site. But apparently ease of use is bad now?

Sigh.

Firefox / Mozilla – on Windows – decided I did not need a Bookmarks button. WTH?

Two environments: work and home. Two platforms: Linux and Windows. Symptom is only on Windows, but spanned both work and home.

I do use the Firefox Sync feature, but of course two different email accounts for work versus home. I realize I am kind of stretching things; but, I use the Firefox sync thing across both Windows and Linux for both work and home.

Once I finally figured out how to get the Bookmarks button back, I tried to synchronize now to get the good/repaired installation of Firefox on Windows to propagate over to the broken versions. That did not work.

So: Firefox on Linux (both work and home) did not lose the Bookmarks button. Firefox on Windows (all machines) lost the bookmarks button. If it were a Firefox Sync thing, I would have thought that the repaired Windows installation would have propagated over to the other Windows machines.

Also, if it were a Firefox Sync thing, I don’t think it would have happened at the same time on two different accounts (work and home). Sure, I could have hit a bad keystroke and removed this button I wanted in one browser, and then Sync propagated the bad config. But that it happened at both work and home at the same time makes me think that it was a new build of Firefox that just clobbered the thing.

I am disappointed that 1) Mozilla didn’t have quality checks in place to catch this first, and 2) that Firefox Sync does not propagate the repair to the synchronized machines.

So, on every Windows machine, I now need to do:

(hamburger menu) –> More Tools –> Customize Toolbar

Then on the new screen, find the Bookmarks Menu button, and drag it to the toolbar. Repeat for all the Windows machines you have.

Web browsers and automation, oh my!

At work, one of my job tasks is e-discovery, which means logging in to an email archive web application, doing searches, and tagging the items that meet the search criteria. The web application was originally written by one guy (I think) and although the back-end stuff is amazing, the actual web pages I interact with are twitchy. There are more than 110 million emails in this archive; and the search and indexing features are great. But the results pages? Sometimes I have to deal with a lot of them, and the smart way to go is automation.

(As I write this, the one automation script is working it’s way through 88 pages of results, and the script tells me it will likely be done in about 15 minutes)

When I say the results pages are twitchy, what I mean is that the buttons on the page move, after they have been clicked. Usually, but not always – and that is dependent on the web browser.

I’m using WinBatch to automate driving the web page. Specifically, there is a start cycle process, where I go through the motions of which buttons to press; but, I don’t press them, WinBatch does. To signal WinBatch that the mouse co-ordinates are correct, I tap the Shift key. There is a super tight loop in the WinBatch script which is recording where the mouse pointer is (it’s a 1000 * 1000 virtual x-y coordinate system). It reads the x-y coordinates, checks to see if the Shift key has been depressed, and if so, it records the coordinates for that button, and then moves through to the location of the next button that needs to be defined.

This works fine if the buttons do not move. But under some browsers, clicking a button moves elements on the web page. I’m sure this is a CSS / Javascript thing that happens because the initial development was all about how to wrangle millions of emails, and not about web page design.

So, under Google Chrome, the web page is the least twitchy. But Google with their Chrome browser are a bunch of rat-bastard bullies, so I can’t really use it. We have an internal (private) domain name, which means our SSL certificates are self-signed. Yeah, Google Chrome hates on that. Most recently, the problem is that the server is old. We ran into a problem trying to upgrade, so we didn’t. But that means the SSL on the web page is TLS 1.2 – to which Google helpfully tells me to go kick rocks.

Okay, what about my favorite browser, Firefox? It is the most friendly when it comes time to just get things done; but, it is the most twitchy. Sometimes the email archive server gets in a state where the web page dialog boxes pop up off screen; this only happens with Firefox. I had actually opened up a technical support ticket with the email archive vendor for this, and they told me to stop Tomcat, Apache, MySQL, empty a cache directory, and start everything back up. That worked, so the vendor never actually tried to figure out what was going wrong. Recently, I’m having to share the server with people doing email exports, so I can’t just willy-nilly bounce the services. If the services have been bounced recently, Firefox works fine. But if it’s been a few days, then I can’t. I don’t want to re-write a portion of my WinBatch script to try to find the top of the web page, then the bottom of the web page, just to support this twitchy behavior by Firefox.

Okay, what about Microsoft’s Edge browser? It’s based on Google Chrome, so it might have better HMTL element layout like Chrome has. Alas, during the loop to track where the mouse pointer is, Edge just really doesn’t like refreshing the screen / sharing anything with any other program (WinBatch). So I could not actually get the location of the buttons on the web pages to play the mouse clicks back later.

Finally, I have tried the Brave web browser. I’m not terribly fond of it. It looks to me rather like a front by Google to try to get people who are suspicious of Google’s privacy violating lifeblood to use the Chrome browser anyway. But, it has the advantage of being based on the Chromium engine (which creates the least amount of twitch).

Nicely enough, it isn’t trying to be the bully that gives me the finger for trying to access a self-signed cert web site over TLS 1.2. I can actually get work done now.

Weirdly, it’s the only browser that causes the “Next” button (to advance to the next page of search results) to twitch horizontally. I need to position the mouse pointer over the “t” in Next, let go of the mouse, and tap the Shift key to set the position. Sometimes the Next button shifts to the right, and sometimes it does not. But if it does, then when the mouse pointer gets played back to the same position, is still over the “N” in Next, and the button press does work.

Firefox Multi-Account Containers suck – but they could have been great

All I want is for Firefox Multi-Account Containers is to work as I think a normal person would expect them to. And they don’t.

  1. Pick a web site out of my LastPass vault
  2. Launch the web site, and Firefox Multi-Account Containers should create the new tab based on the domain of the launched URL.

Doesn’t work. The new tab is not in the right container. It is in yet another new empty container. This makes the secure site I’m trying to log in to think I’m at a public kiosk.

  1. Use Firefox Multi-Account Containers to open the container for that web site. I get a new tab with an empty URL and page.
  2. Paste the correct URL into this new tab.
  3. Firefox Multi-Account Containers now moves me into a yet another new empty container.

If I delete the old saved container, I can create a new one from the current container. But it won’t last. Next week (or some random restart of Firefox later) it will be broken again.

Gripe Number 2

I have a forum I’d like to keep up with. It’s login is on one domain. Let’s say www.example.com (and I should point out that if I try to go to just example.com, it redirects me to the login page at www.example.com

Once I get logged in, it transfers me discourse.example.com

Guess what doesn’t work with Firefox Multi-Account Containers?

The repository for Firefox Multi-Account Containers has sub-domain support as a requested feature (and has for a couple years now), but the developer thinks that this is out of scope. The developer says the two are (supposed to be) two different servers, therefore the containers should keep them isolated.

I just want this stuff to work. Sucks to be me, trying out these ideas that seem like a good idea but then don’t work.

The idea behind Firefox Multi-Account Containers is great. Truly great: start any random new tab as if it were opened in a brand new browser with zero cookies, zero history, zero data for tracking you. It’s a little version of Private Browsing but in just this one tab. Close the tab, and all the tracking gunk vanishes.

What if you don’t want the cookies and history and such to go away? You assign the tab to have a name and permanence. Next time you visit the web site, Firefox asks “Always open in the named container?” Yes, please.

Because it is a separate tab, it doesn’t have the Facebook cookie in it, or the Google cookie, or the Gravatar cookie in it. It’s just it’s own little self contained browser, in a named tab. It’s a great idea. The Reddit stuff stays in the Reddit container, the Ars Technica stuff stays in the Ars Technica container; ditto Phoronix, Techdirt, qwantz.com, Facebook, Newsweek, – you get the idea. If I have multiple Reddit tabs open, they all share the same container space. But the Ars Technica tab doesn’t get to look to see if there is something juicy in the Reddit container. Ars Technica gets to look in it’s own container only.

However, implementation is narrowly tied to host.domain.tld and cannot grasp that everything under domain.tld should be in the same container.

That’s a working-as-badly-designed choice. But I’m not about to learn the C programming language and start fixing someone else’s code.

And of course, there’s the fact that it keeps breaking. That is sub-optimal, too.