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Switching 750 PC's to Firefox
The war on scumware continues

 6:11 pm on Dec 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

Well, after extensive testing on both my XP and my 98 box, I have decided to switch all my clients to Firefox.
By extensive testing I mean this:
After insuring that no scumware was on my PC, I visited every site that Spybot lists as bad in their importable hosts file list. After this, I ran several scanners and found that no malicious code had been installed on my machine.
Each January, I do an antivirus replacement/upgrade on all my clients PC's and I will be installing Firefox at that time.

Here is a question for those who might have done similiar:
Are you aware of any websites that WILL NOT WORK with Firefox, IE; Windows update?
I have been told that the Bank of America secure site will not, anyone aware of any others?

I am trying to decide how to deal with IE, remove it from clients machines, just remove shortcuts, remove it as an integrated browser and install it as a stand alone app for use in those few cases where Firefox won't work etc.

Any thoughts?



 7:55 pm on Dec 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

Get rid of it!

I suggest you install netscape as a secondary browser, as most sites are designed to work with both IE and NS. Then if Firefox doesn't want to display something properly, your clients could use NS to try and view it.

Hope this helps


 8:26 pm on Dec 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

If you have clients that use sites that fit your description (i.e. ActiveX, other win-only stuff), then only MSIE will be able to handle them.

To keep it as easy as possible, perhaps you should simply rename iexplore.exe to iexplore.ex_ (not a problem for a batch file) until you discover which sites do not work with FF/NN and which users really need to use those sites.

Say, your CFO goes to Bank of America's site once per month, and FF won't handle all of the IIS transactions properly. You then rename the executable on that client, and modify "hosts" to allow only BoA. Add to the list as new sites are discovered.

(I don't think FF uses "hosts", does it? Please correct me if I'm in error ... )

<edit>PS: We are migrating our office to FF, as well. Our major stumbling block is high-level user indignance (They say OK but keep using IE and won't let me disable it.) We successfully migrated everyone over to Thunderbird email client a couple of weeks ago, and everyone loves it ... much better/safer than Outlook!</edit>

[edited by: StupidScript at 9:10 pm (utc) on Dec. 23, 2004]


 8:35 pm on Dec 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

For myself, I've run across only Windows Update, BOA's BANKING site (their credit card site for my state works just fine with FF), and the PERS and medical-coverage provider sites for my husband's retirement program (a State of Nevada proprietary) that absolutely refuse to work with FF, requiring IE to access them.

I haven't tried accessing those sites with FF set to identify itself as IE user-agent. Wonder if that would work?


 8:35 pm on Dec 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

:) great move.

As a FF user, I often run into situations where:
a) Javascript does not work (like I can't purchase an item because shopping cart software tries to see if I checked "agree to terms and conditions" checkbox, but JS blows up)

b) <div> tags do not display properly, or are displayed in the wrong location (often overlaying other stuff)

c) this is a kicker - sometimes sites tell me that I am on an old browser, and I have to download new version of IE or Netscape to view the site :) folks, update your browser detection scripts!


 9:36 pm on Dec 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

I don't think FF uses "hosts", does it? Please correct me if I'm in error ...

My understanding of how the host file works is that it is used by the OS to check for names in preference to DNS (default order is hosts,DNS). So:

1) Firefox does use the hosts file because it uses the OS for name resolution.

2) You can't implement a "deny" policy using the hosts file as it will fail over to using DNS if a name is not found (unless you disable DNS too).

If I wanted to force FF use for all sites other than a select few, I would either:

1) Set up a proxy to restrict access to selected sites and configure IE on _all_ PCs to use the proxy.

2) Enable content advisor on IE and restrict access to selected sites.

Option 1 is probably more scalable on a big site as you can change which sites are accessible centrally.


 9:47 pm on Dec 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

moishe I'm not thinking FF is primetime ready yet. I'd give some serious looks at the known bugs before installing on 750 clients. Perhaps a test on a client subset would be possible before diving in with both feet. Just a suggestion....


 12:50 am on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

Thanks, jam13. I see, now, and much better ideas!

Jon's suggestion to test the deployment on a subset is always good, too.


 1:57 am on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

Ahh, good idea with the subset test. I have one clients office from where I often get calls like "I thought we had Excel on our computers but I don't see it"; so I have to go by and put a shortcut on their desktop so they can "see" it.
I think I'll remote log in this weekend, install FF on all their boxes and and change the big blue E on their desktops to point to FF, change it to default, hide all their shortcuts to IE and see how they manage.

If they can manage with FF, anyone can:)

Thanks for all the input up to this point, some very good ideas. As to using Netscape, is it just me or does FF just seem faster? Also, wouldn't something that displays improperly in FF do the same in Netscape?


 3:05 am on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

>>If they can manage with FF, anyone can:)

Man that's the way I'd look at it. Gauge the happenings of your 'toughest' group and plan from there.


 4:23 am on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)


My site can be browsed fine with ff but link submissions won't always work. I know how to make the work-around but haven't done so because:

It's upto ff to fix their js interpreter.


 8:29 am on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

What's the bug?


 9:29 am on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

You mentioned BOA yourself. I don't have that bank as i live in another country. Yet, my only FF problem seems to be with banks. I would like to think that they should not demand use of the most insecure browser for managing accounts, but sadly they do - that's the only thing i use IE for nowadays (and, as it's the only thing, it's pretty safe anyway).

In FF, some sites might display a little different, but mostly that's because i don't see their advertisements, or their Flash animations, or Java applets. That's not a problem, though (i've turned all this off deliberately).


 11:14 am on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've been using FF as my main browser for months now (since Firebird 0.7 or something), and I only have to reach for IE maybe once a week.

The things that I find still break in FF are sites that use:

1) ActiveX
2) Incompatible (bad?) JS
3) Browser detection

There's not much you can do about the first two (except use IE), but I think there is a plugin that lets you easily change your browser string to fix number 3.

I'm actually starting to find now that I just leave sites that don't work in FF. I only resort to IE if the site provides information/services that I can't get anywhere else. Hopefully incompatible sites will become gradually harder to find as webmasters fix their code to avoid losing a growing percentage of users.


 11:54 am on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

Regarding the "subset" of users to switch first:

People are amazingly resistant to change. Even a simple change like switching to new browser.

I've heard it suggested that you switch a subset of your savviest users first -- the ones who love trying new software, the ones who can't pass by an install disk without popping it into their computer. You know the ones I mean.

Switch them first, and get them on your side. Get them loving Firefox. They'll evangelize it to the point where the rest of the users will be begging you to install FF on their machines too. So that instead of an uphill battle with your users, you have much smoother sailing.

An added benefit is that your "evangelism" group will be able to help with troubleshooting support when people have questions or problems with FF.


 1:38 pm on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

A word of caution.

No one ever got fired for sticking with the big players, but if you institute a change (no matter how sensible it seems at the time), if things go wrong it's your head rolling on the floor.


 1:57 pm on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

Are you aware of any websites that WILL NOT WORK with Firefox, IE; Windows update?

I know two other banks sites not woring in IE, also, found grapihical issues that have a functionality issue in quite a few more BUT...

What we have done is installed Firefox as the default browser and removed all links to I.E. with the excpetion of right clicking a page open in Firefox to say "open this page in I.E." This forces people to start their web surfing in IE but gives them a let out if they can't use a trusted site. They also can't click on a link accidentally opening it in IE.

Lastly, my techie had to do something to make all the FF system open excel intranet documents properly in Excel and not in FF browser.



 2:09 pm on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

An example of a recent phone call from one of my clients who owns a construction company with 12 PC's in the office; paraphrased for TOS reasons

"may of the employees are complaining that they are getting so many pop up ads that they can't use the internet"
<my thought: tell them to stop gambling, shopping and viewing p-rn at work>
my actual response:
"their computers are infected with spyware, again. we have previously put measures in place to avoid this but obviously stronger methods are needed"
his response:
"I don't care, do what ever you have to to keep this crap off our computers"

BTW, these boxes had all been cleaned, Spybot and Spywareblaster installed, hosts files imported etc, prior to this time. The way I see it, if I don't do something to stop my clients PC's from getting this scumware crap - THAT will cause me to lose my accounts.


 2:12 pm on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

Lastly, my techie had to do something to make all the FF system open excel intranet documents properly in Excel and not in FF browser

Thanks receptional, I will look into that.


 2:18 pm on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

I confess - we are doing this on 20 or so machines, not 750... but suits us.


 10:44 pm on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

I believe you'll still need Explorer to download any Windows updates.


 10:46 pm on Dec 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

I need to do some testing, I am wondering if you need IE for updates if you have "auto updates" turned on..?


 11:38 pm on Dec 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

I also had a problem with loging into our bank with FF but someone in the HTML/browser form posted a link to a patch that would basicly trick the problem sites into thinking I was using IE 6. it worked great and I have had no problems scince that with logging into our bank with FF. Maybe someone here has that url link. I forgot to bookmark it but it did work

[edited by: Kysmiley at 11:44 pm (utc) on Dec. 25, 2004]


 11:43 pm on Dec 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

The User Agent switcher extension is a bad idea in the long run. To the bank, it just looks like another IE6 hit. Therefore, no incentive to actually fix their site.


 3:09 am on Dec 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

This is an interesting thread. The topic started with the concept of changing browsers for combating spam and spyware.

I would be curious to know from members that have successfully dealt with this issue in sizable networks with computer operators/employees from all levels of spam competency when surfing; what they have found to be the most important to least important measures. I am challenging the browser component of the equation being high on the list.


 4:21 am on Dec 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

I am challenging the browser component of the equation being high on the list.

I agree completely.

The component that is highest on the list is employees using their work PC's to surf the web.

My hope is that by switching my clients to FF, they will not become reinfested with scumware after each cleanup. I find that employers (my clients) are beginning to get tired of paying to have their employees PC's cleaned of this crap. Oddly enough, most employers don't want to hear that their employees are doing something wrong. They would rather come to the conclusion that that their IT consultant is incompetent....


 6:31 am on Dec 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

Are you aware of any websites that WILL NOT WORK with Firefox, IE; Windows update?

Most banks have morons working as webmasters. By the mindset, those people are like CEOs of law firms.

So in 90% of cases where a bank's site does not seem to work with FF, just install a user agent switcher and set it to mask itself as IE or Netscape. That will solve most "problems."

You can also change the UA by creating a file called user.js and specifying the string you want in there as one of the prefs.

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