Greg Gannicott’s Blog


The Great ini File in the Sky

Posted in Technology by Greg Gannicott on January 27, 2009
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’ve recently switched browsers from Opera to Firefox.

The main reason I did this was so I could use Ubiquity, a Firefox addon. I knew that in the short term I’d be giving up some features I’m fond of in Opera, but hoped I’d be able to have them in Firefox after installing some Add-ons (the one thing Firefox does really well that Opera doesn’t).

I essentially use three computers throughout the day:

  • The main PC at home.
  • The laptop at home.
  • My PC in work.

The joy with Opera was whenever I started out with a fresh install, or a different PC I could simply log into Opera Link, and it would update my bookmarks, speed dial settings, search history, search options and side-panel options from ‘the cloud‘ (ie. from some settings saved on the Internet). Within seconds I’d effectively have the same setup on the new PC as I would at home and in work. This not only saves a great deal of time, but also gives you confidence when using the app that everything you want is there to be used.

There is still more Opera could sync to make my life easier, but as the app has almost all the features I wanted out of the box, its not such a big deal.

Firefox on the other hand is a different story. So far I’ve managed to install an add-on (Foxmarks) that gives me some limited synchronisation (Bookmarks and passwords), and in fairness to it, that add-on works better than Opera’s own Bookmarks sync. However, due to the number of different add-ons I’m installing to recreate my Opera experience, I could do with some decent sync more than ever!

My ideal Firefox setup would work as follows. Users would be able to sign up to a service with a name such as ‘My Firefox’. This account will hold all sorts of information that the Firefox application can access when provided with your username and password.

It would contain a list of all the add-on’s you have installed on Firefox. When you’ve installed an add-on on one machine (work’s PC), the next time you use Firefox on another (home PC) it will ask if you would like to install that add-on on that PC. If you perform a fresh install of Firefox, it would prompt you to install all the add-ons you have installed on the other PC (if you wish).

The second part of the plan would be for the creators of Firefox (Mozilla) to offer some space in ‘the cloud’ for add-on developers to store configuration details in a central location – essentially a .ini file centrally hosted. So every time you update a setting for an add-on (perhaps you change the way new tabs are opened in Tab Mix Plus), the setting is saved to the cloud and will then be used on your other installation(s) of Firefox.

For me this would have the following benefits:

  • It would save me a great deal of time installing and configuring add-ons on 3 PCs every time find a new one.
  • Starting a fresh-install would become almost a pleasure, not a chore.
  • As mentioned earlier, it would give me confidence in using the application. Don’t underestimate that in terms of the pleasure you get from using an application (or rather the frustrations you avoid).

This is just one example of how storing settings remotely can help. It could also be used for other applications. I’m very specific about how I like UltraEdit to work, so I’m often manually changing settings on 2 separate PCs. That could be improved.

Why stop with apps though? Why not give Windows similar functionality. Imagine performing a fresh install of Windows, clicking Sync and and after some processing you have your Windows setup just how you like it. As Linux (eg. Ubuntu) comes only with free software, it could go further and install the apps you have installed on a different build, all based on the configuration details held in the cloud.

Of course, there will be situations where just because you like it to work such-and-such way at home, doesn’t mean you want it to be the same in work. With that in mind there would have to be some granular control.

This syncing with the cloud is already happening (as mentioned earlier, with Opera). I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

For completeness sake, I should mention that I believe Mozilla have started working on something along these lines with its Weave project.

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2 Responses to 'The Great ini File in the Sky'

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  1. Russ Taylor said,

    I love Firefox, and never really clicked with Opera or Chrome. All you need/want is a delicious account and it’ll solve all your bookmarking problems worldwide on any pc 🙂

    Also mozbackup does a reasonable job of exporting any/all your firefox/thunderbird settings ready to go into another machine 🙂

  2. Greg said,

    Russ,

    I love Delicious, but it doesn’t completely cut it for me. Its fantastic for ‘I might need that some day’ type bookmarks, but there are certain bookmarks I use day in, day out that I want on my toolbar. I appreciate you can install a Firefox extension that shows your most frequently used Delicious links, but I like control over those. I want them in the same place without fail. Picky, I know.

    Opera, and with an extension Firefox handles this nicely.

    As I said in the blog post though, I want it to go further than Bookmarks (which Opera does). I want everything about the browser to work the same regardless of the PC I’m on, and I don’t want to have to organise it with exports etc. I should just be able to knock in my username/password when I first install the app, and away it goes.

    Its personal preference of course, but that’s mine.

    On a side note, I’d be interested to see your Delicious links (along with anything else such as Google Reader shared items, Twitter account etc.)

    My Delicious account is: http://www.delicious.com/greggannicott
    Twitter is: http://www.twitter.com/greggannicott
    Google Reader: http://www.google.com/reader/shared/00755400697798500270
    FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/greggannicott


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