Team LiB
Previous Section Next Section

Hack 12. Raise Security to Protect Dummies

Set up Firefox for nontechnical people.

First of all, the Firefox product is designed with nontechnical people in mind. Most of its fancy features are hidden behind unusual key presses or buried in menus. From the beginning, it's pretty safe and secure. For the dazed and disoriented, though, safety doesn't just mean safe from web villains and privacy attacks; it also means being safe from confusion. Struggling users can easily harm themselves accidentally when confused, so that's something to avoid. Here are some of the configuration changes that you can apply to make life safer for struggling users:

  • Turn on automated patch updating.

  • Turn off password and form auto-complete features.

  • Leave on standard caching options, so that pages are always fresh.

  • Change the default download directory to the desktop if the operating system is Linux.

  • Download language packs and plug-ins when you install, and turn off subsequent plug-in detection.

  • Configure the Popup Manager to accept pop-ups from web sites the user trusts, such as banks and finance companies, and then turn off the pop-up blocker alert bar so that it never appears.

To turn on automated patch updates, see [Hack #13] . Auto-complete features can be turned off in the Options panel. To change the default download directory on Linux, change the directory preference from something like this:         /* was /home/nrm */

to this:    /* to /home/nrm/Desktop */

which is the location of the desktop under GNOME 2.x.

If your mother is Italian or Chinese, you might need support for non-English web sites. To prepare any required language packs and plug-ins, the hard way to proceed is to rebundle Firefox with the needed packs included in the install bundle. That's not recommended unless you plan on doing hundreds of installs. It's massive extra preparation for a marginally faster install result.

The easy way is to prepare a set of bookmarks using your own installation of Firefox (or any browser). Surf to a sample web page written in each required language and bookmark it. Do the same thing with demo pages for each required plug-in. Once the bookmark set is collected, export the bookmarks or locate the file that holds them.

Usually, the bookmarks file looks like an HTML file. For Mozilla-based products, it's in the user profile area. Take that file with you to the computer on which you're installing Firefox. Install Firefox normally, and then choose BookmarksBookmarks Manager. In the new window that appears, choose FileImportFrom File, and then import your special bookmarks. Now they're part of the bookmark set in Firefox. Surf to each bookmarked page, and you'll be offered the extra files you need as each page appears, or else the yellow information bar will invite you to download missing pieces. Once you've accepted them all (this could be a slow process on a dial-up connection), your install is complete. Afterward, decommission the plug-in manager with these preferences:

application.use_ns_plugin_finder   /* false = default */
plugins.scan.4xPluginFolder        /* Set to false. Default = true */
plugins.scan.plid.all              /* Set to false. Default = true */

The first preference says, "Don't use an old, backward-compatible plug-in system from the days of Netscape Communicator 4.x." It would be a rare occasion when you would ever want to do that. The second preference says, "Don't check old installations of Netscape Communicator for plug-ins." Normally, Firefox will do that, just in case some old plug-ins are hanging around. The last preference says, "Don't consult the Windows registry for suitable plug-ins."

You can avoid a slow install process if you just note the language packs and plug-ins that are present in the user profile area in your own Firefox install. You can hand-copy them across to the new computer if you want. Just restart Firefox to see the plug-ins recognized.

Firefox knows about four common plug-ins: Adobe Acrobat Reader, Sun's Java Runtime Environment (JRE), Apple QuickTime, and Windows Media Player. You can't stop Firefox from being aware of these things, but by setting the following preferences, you can tell it that your current plug-in versions are so recent that it should never try to upgrade them:

plugin.scan.SunJRE                  /* Set to 99.0 */
plugin.scan.Acrobat                 /* Set to 99.0 */
plugin.scan.Quicktime               /* Set to 99.0 */
plugin.scan.WindowsMediaPlayer      /* Set to 99.0 */

The value for these preferences is a version string. If necessary, it can be stated in four partse.g.,, which is a specific build of Version 2.1. None of the well-known plug-ins are ever likely to reach Version 99, so 99 is a safe value to use. Each value in the set of four numbers can go up to 255.

    Team LiB
    Previous Section Next Section