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Make sense of your Firefox/Swiftfox plugins (Linux version)

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If you like me jump often from one installation to the other, or use more than one computer on a regular basis you'll soon find yourself looking for ways to setup the things we use most in the shortest amount of time. One of those things is certainly the web browser, Mozilla Firefox in my case.

One of the most powerful yet in my opinion not adequately marketed by Mozilla is the possibilities of setting up multiple profiles, which can be easily stored, backed up and transferred to a different computer, even a different operating system.

I will not talk about profiles here, instead will focus on perhaps the most troublesome aspects of web browsers, that is plugins. These plugins are mostly platform dependent, and it has to be that way since they deal with things such as delivering audio from web pages, online radios and audio streams as well as video from popular websites such as YouTube. While Firefox will store information on which addon you have added to your profile (addons include language packs, bookmarking tools, etc) it cannot do so with plugins, that is those "addons" that need to deal with your computer hardware.

Every operating system needs to provide Firefox with its own plugins, which can be added in different ways. It is usually a direct download for Windows (for example from Adobe website for Flash player) while more than one option is usually available in GNU/Linux distributions. In most case you'll be able to install your plugins directly from the package manager (apt-get or synaptic in Ubuntu for example) and this will take care of properly linking those plugins to your default Firefox installation. But what if you installed a different version of Firefox yourself? In this case the plugins might not be found automatically and you need to tell Firefox where to look for plugins.

In my case I have installed Swiftfox an optimized version of Firefox (which I believe share the same plugin structure with Firefox) in /opt/swiftfox/ thus plugins are expected to appear in /opt/swiftfox/plugins but that was not the case even after installing everything through OpenSUSE package manager. Default Firefox (the one that comes with your Linux distribution) will be installed in most cases under /usr so I looked into that for clues on where the plugins might be. On OpenSUSE 11.0 this was easy, /usr/browser-plugins with Firefox installed in /usr/lib/firefox. In this case all I needed to do was creating symlinks in /opt/swiftfox/plugins pointing to /usr/lib/browser-plugins (you do so by using command line sudo ln -s /usr/lib/browser-plugins/plugin-library-name.so while in /opt/swiftfox/plugins directory or opening a nautilus session as root and just drag and drop those files with middle button pressed).

After that Firefox/Swiftox could find all the plugins I had previously installed, furthermore they can be enabled and/or disabled from within Firefox/Swiftfox (Tools>Add-ons menu) and/or by deleting the corresponding symlink to the library.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 March 2010 10:55  

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