Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

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Hugh Garse
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Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Hugh Garse »

I am a long time Windows user and only started playing with Linux Mint 17.3 a couple of weeks ago, so still very green when it comes to navigating my way around Linux.

With all the changes happening with Firefox with respects to addon architecture and Modzilla's move towards WebExtensions in Firefox 48, is there a way to install, or revert, to an older version of Firefox?

I am currently using the latest Mint repository version, v46, and used the command sudo apt-mark hold firefox to stop its package being upgraded further by the Update Manager.

How much are the Mint repository versions customized from the Linux versions available on the Firefox website? What about differences between the Debian and Ubuntu versions? I understand there will be dependency differences, but will these render Firefox buggy or inoperable or potentially trash my Mint install?

Within /var/cache/apt/archives/ I found a couple of firefox deb files

firefox_46.0+linuxmint+rosa_amd.deb
firefox-locale-en_46.0+linuxmint+rosa_amd.deb

Any way of accessing similar package files for say Firefox 44?
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xenopeek
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by xenopeek »

Using an outdated version of software, with known security issues that are fixed in newer versions, is not a good idea. Especially not for the most vulnerable piece of software on your computer—the one connecting to the Internet... If you don't like where Firefox is heading because you're using some unmaintained and long ago abandoned extension (and thus nobody has adapted it in past year to work with the new addon architecture), that you can't do without and for which there are no alternatives, then you should probably start looking for another web browser to use. Or accept that the developer of the extension abandoned it long ago, nobody else is interested in maintaining it, so you'll just have to do without that on Firefox.

For a while longer you can use Firefox ESR which is based on Firefox 38 or 45. See the cycle here: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/o ... tions/faq/. Note that there are good reasons not to want to use Firefox ESR: http://www.chriscoulson.me.uk/blog/?p=111. As such, on Linux Mint 17.3 Firefox ESR is not available other than by manually downloading and installing it (each time a new version is released) from the Mozilla website: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/o ... tions/all/. If you want to go that route, backup your Firefox bookmarks and such first and uninstall Firefox before you attempt to install Firefox ESR.
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Cosmo.
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Cosmo. »

Regarding Firefox ESR: I strongly disagree.

Firefox ESR has been introduced at the beginning of 2012 with FF 10. The article by Chris Coulson is from February 2012, which means, what he writes is purely his idea about it without any experience about that - this experience could obviously not exist at that time.

His first "argument" is obviously none: It is a political decision by Ubuntu against ESR. Such a political decision exist also on different places, e.g. the move from cdrecord to cdrkit as burning engine, a decision which has lead to more and more problems, because cdrkit has not been maintained after that.

What Coulson writes about "less security" is simply and definitely wrong. At the time of his writing he could not have any experience about that, so he simply wrote about his wrong understanding. 4 years ESR experience shows, that the reality is different from Coulson's wrong understanding.

Interestingly Debian and Mozilla have just now rejoined in regard of Firefox: Iceweasel will be Firefox again in the future, but the Debian builds will be based on the ESR version. Does anybody believe, that Debian would leave willingly security holes? Nonsense.

Coulson: ESR enhances the risk of introducing bugs: At the time of writing there was no proof about this possible, except the proof of his wrong understanding (or his political motivation). In the 4 years it has been shown, that the contrary is right, simply because many bugs had been introduced wiith the release version of FF, which did not apply for the ESR version. Simply taking a look at the number of point-releases (which are with some seldom exceptions (38.0.5) bug-fix-releases) makes this clear; looking into the releases announcements makes it even clearer.

Coulson: ESR becomes slower over time: Untrue. ESR did never get slower in all those 4 years. As ESR 38 will reach at the beginning of June the end of live I am at the moment investigating in the differences to the next ESR version 45. I have both running here. If Coulson would be right, FF ESR 45 must be quicker than ESR 38. Fact is, that this is not the case and Coulson disproved again.

I use ESR since it exist, this means since more than 4 years. It has proven here to be stable, giving much less problems (if at all) than that, what gets reported here and on other places. I definitely can recommend ESR with all my experiences and this is in contrast to Coulson not a political, but practical recommendation.

At this time a move to ESR has a special advantage. As I already wrote, ESR is going from 38 to 45, that means, that the nearly complete support time for ESR 45 can be used. Nearly all things, which Mozilla changed in Firefox because of partly strange decisions can be undone by the most popular extension Custom Theme Restorer.

Moving to ESR is not complicated. I have provided a step by step tutorial about this, including a description, how to keep FF ESR up to date. This gives by the way another advantage: The updates are in this case incremental, so that there is no need for downloading the complete package with every update, but only a fraction (mostly less than 10 % on size); people with a rather small banded connection will like this and it demonstrates, where this approach is far quicker!
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xenopeek
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by xenopeek »

You will known better than me Cosmo. I looked around for a Firefox ESR PPA and came to https://launchpad.net/~team-esr/+archiv ... irefox-esr which has no packages but links to the quoted page with information. I didn't look at the date or know what Firefox ESR remedied of the problems mentioned since.
xenopeek wrote:Note that there are good reasons not to want to use Firefox ESR: http://www.chriscoulson.me.uk/blog/?p=111.
And yes, you can get Firefox ESR 38.x on LMDE 2 by installing iceweasel. So that's a vote of confidence for Firefox ESR. Though I stand by the argument that if OP can't do without the extensions abandoned by their developer and not maintained by anybody else, it's probably time to start looking at other web browsers as using Firefox ESR is only delaying the inevitable and not reviving the dead.
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Cosmo.
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Cosmo. »

Addition - triggered by a thread I just read in the German section of the forum: Whereas Mr. Coulson wrote this more than questionable arguments for the Firefox release version, he has until today not yet updated Thunderbird to the current version. The last TB version in the repositories is from April 4 (taken the time of the Mozilla release), TB 45 is out since April 12 (and 45.1 since 2 days). Such delays stand in contradiction to what he writes.

xenopeek, you are right, that ESR is not a solution for the eternity, as the live time is only about 9 months (could be a little bit longer in the future). But chances are, that in the time, until a ESR-user has to update to the next major ESR-version somebody has provided a solution for an extension, which has been given up by its original author. At least regarding the extensions, which I use, there were in all those 4 years either some delayed updates to make them compatible, or somebody created a fork of the extension or a new extension has been released, which replaced the one previously used. That means, that I did never came into the situation, where I only had to think to revert to an old - security-weak - version of FF.

One thing I forgot to mention: Using the Mozilla builds of FF and TB did never bring my in any situation, that they where not compatible with Mint. And as the Mozilla updates arrive earlier than the repo builds (the above TB case is only one - but extreme - example), FF and TB are repeatedly (that means every 6 weeks for some days) for me more safe.
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Hugh Garse »

xenopeek wrote:Using an outdated version of software, with known security issues that are fixed in newer versions, is not a good idea.
As a general rule I completely agree.
xenopeek wrote:Especially not for the most vulnerable piece of software on your computer—the one connecting to the Internet...
Again, in generic terms we agree. If a major security flaw was discovered in an old browser version I was using I would most likely upgrade.
xenopeek wrote:If you don't like where Firefox is heading because you're using some unmaintained and long ago abandoned extension (and thus nobody has adapted it in past year to work with the new addon architecture), that you can't do without and for which there are no alternatives, then you should probably start looking for another web browser to use. Or accept that the developer of the extension abandoned it long ago, nobody else is interested in maintaining it, so you'll just have to do without that on Firefox.
This response is a tad condescending and factually incorrect. This has nothing to do with "abandoned extensions", nor lazy developers not interested in maintaining or porting their addons. The addons I use are open source and actively maintained. This is about fundamental changes to the Firefox platform and removal of access to Firefox internals required for many addons to still work.

Mozilla is completely removing Addons in favour of WebExtensions, and thus completely changing their platform's extensibility architecture and programming model. There will be many addons that cannot be ported to WebExtensions, particularly those that rely on access to require("chrome") to alter content dynamically. Developers of such addons want to continue their provision, and many are trying to develop workaround solutions before WebExtensions rollout (FF48 I think), but there is currently a lot of confusion and angst within the Firefox addon development community.

Most users don't want this change, due to the large number of addons it will break, but Mozilla seem hellbent down this ridiculous path of "Chrome-ifying" Firefox as quickly as possible and breaking the flexibility that made Firefox great.

What I want is to be able to run an older version of Firefox for a period of time, 9-12 months for arguments sake, and see what happens in the meantime. Maybe workarounds will be nutted out and developed, maybe Mozilla will tweak the architecture to be slightly less restrictive, maybe the functionality I would like will no longer be possible, who knows. A year after FF48 is released I can then make an informed decision about how I want to proceed, how I want to browse the internet, and finally what I want to use.

Until that time I would like the flexibility to be able to either install an older version of Firefox, or stick to the current version by stop the current version from automatically updating, either via the Update Manager UI or via sudo apt-get update in Terminal.

Thanks Cosmo for the info on Firefox ESR and the tutorial link for how to install and maintain it. Maybe Firefox 45 ESR is the answer for me in the short-medium term until the Firefox developer base get their heads around the WebExtensions model and a possible way forward.

Couple of questions. Can Firefox and Firefox ESR be run side by side on the same Mint system?

Maybe a silly newbie question, but does apt-mark hold firefox apply to dependent packages too? Will a situation arise where apt-get update will not update the Firefox package itself but a dependent package will update, thus potentially rendering Firefox buggy or inoperable?
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xenopeek
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by xenopeek »

Hugh Garse wrote:This is about fundamental changes to the Firefox platform and removal of access to Firefox internals required for many addons to still work.
Sure, if that was what you meant. All the extensions I use work on Firefox Aurora (this is Firefox next-next release; currently 48.0) just fine. Then again I'm not a "modder" and use the default look; only move some icons around. Can you name some extensions of yours that won't be available on Firefox Aurora because of WebExtensions limiting them?
Hugh Garse wrote:Maybe a silly newbie question, but does apt-mark hold firefox apply to dependent packages too? Will a situation arise where apt-get update will not update the Firefox package itself but a dependent package will update, thus potentially rendering Firefox buggy or inoperable?
It's better to apt-mark hold all installed Firefox packages. That avoids any issues. But again, I wouldn't recommend sticking with an unsupported Firefox version—use Firefox ESR instead if you want to stay on an older version.
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Cosmo.
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Cosmo. »

Hugh Garse wrote:Can Firefox and Firefox ESR be run side by side on the same Mint system?
Technically yes - if you make sure, that both use a different Firefox-profile. Otherwise you can nearly be sure, that the profile will break sooner or later.

But why do you want this at all? For using a deprecated release version? I go here fully with xenopeek: A bad idea, not worth getting supported.
Or do you simply want to see, how things go with the current FF release? I recommend to install VirtualBox, install Mint inside and leave there the FF version from the repository. You could copy your FF-profile from the host to the guest to find out, how those extensions behave there.

I also second the question of xenopeek, which extensions are in your special interest.
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Flemur »

You can get any(?) FF version here:
https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/firefox/releases/

They're ".tar.bz2" files, usually around 40+Meg.
The archives contain FF installation ready to run after extracting, no need to compile.
However, it's not the same as a .deb file; you'll need to either:
- extract over the installed FF location, or
- make links and menu items pointing to the extracted files.
Please edit your original post title to include [SOLVED] if/when it is solved!
Your data and OS are backed up....right?
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Schultz
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Schultz »

You might want to look into Pale Moon. It is a fork of Firefox (a true fork, not a clone like the others). It is not implementing all the madness (web extensions, etc.) that Firefox is. Also, it uses the Goanna engine, a fork of Gecko. However, not all add-ons are compatible with it (see second link below).

http://www.palemoon.org/
https://addons.palemoon.org/resources/incompatible/
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Moem
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Moem »

Schultz wrote:You might want to look into Pale Moon.
Thank you! I was starting to wonder if anyone was going to suggest it or whether I'd have to be the one to do it, again. :wink:
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Hugh Garse
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Hugh Garse »

Cheers for all the replies and info.

For the moment I will migrate to FF45 ESR as this will be supported for approximately the next 9-12 months.

In order to test all the other possible browsers, both alternate and future FF versions, I will setup a Virtualbox Mint 17.3 VM that I can experiment on and potentially trash & restore without any permanent damage. Somethings I will test as potentially viable alternatives, others to simply to see what happens (ie running FF ESR and F Respository versions side by side.).

If I find anything interesting I'll update this thread.
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Moem »

netgooroo wrote:I myself don't like pale moon.. in order to save any of the settings that you edit, they want you to "register" on there server.
No they don't. I've done no such thing and I've never been asked.
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Habitual »

Flemur wrote:You can get any(?) FF version here:
https://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/firefox/releases/

They're ".tar.bz2" files, usually around 40+Meg.
The archives contain FF installation ready to run after extracting, no need to compile.
However, it's not the same as a .deb file; you'll need to either:
- extract over the installed FF location, or
- make links and menu items pointing to the extracted files.
Or... just get debs? Versions 3.x.x to 46.x.x
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Cosmo. »

Put a big poster at the top, at best together with a poison icon: Documented and for attackers best known security leaks ar open as a big barn door. Expect all possible attacks in a short time!

I don't understand, how such links can be a helpful advice. :x
Especially, as a browser is by its defined usage one of the very most vulnerable parts in any system.
And even more, as the OP has already found the working - and secure - solution.
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Moem »

netgooroo wrote: I'm afraid your wrong.. I downloaded the most recent version 26.2.2 via the main web site https://www.palemoon.org/ and when I wanted to change the settings, I could change them but, in order to save them, they wanted me to register.. true story. :D
No, I'm not wrong. It sounds like we have different experiences. That can happen.

I'd be interested in a screenshot. I've just updated to 26.2.2 and then changed settings. They were saved when I closed the preferences window and I was not asked to register.
How did you save your settings? I don't have a save button on the preferences window. Do you?
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by Schultz »

netgooroo wrote:
I myself don't like pale moon.. in order to save any of the settings that you edit, they want you to "register" on there server. Not cool.
What settings are you talking about? I change settings in Preferences and in about:config. I never had to register.
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by karlchen »

Hello, netgooroo.
netgooroo wrote:I myself don't like pale moon.. in order to save any of the settings that you edit, they want you to "register" on there server.
Moem wrote:No they don't. I've done no such thing and I've never been asked.
netgooroo wrote:I'm afraid your wrong.. I downloaded the most recent version 26.2.2 via the main web site https://www.palemoon.org/ and when I wanted to change the settings, I could change them but, in order to save them, they wanted me to register.. true story. :D
The phrase "register on their server" suggests to me that you are mixing up "saving your settings", which happens without having to click any [Save] button, and "syncing your settings".
Like Mozilla Firefox, PaleMoon offers the functionality of synchronising your settings across different PaleMoon installations. This "sync" functionality requires registering an account on the PaleMoon sync server, just like the Firefox "sync" functionality requires registering a Mozilla account on the Mozilla sync server.
Saving your settings locally is one thing and does not require any registration. Synchronizing your settings across different devices if the other thing; synchronization uses a sync server and requires an account on the sync server.

Regards,
Karl
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Re: Installing or Reverting to an Older Firefox Version?

Post by karlchen »

<moderator on>
betatest3's plea for sticking with obsolete software versions has been split off this thread and turned into a separate thread here:
A plea for sticking with obsolete software versions
</moderator off>
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