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Firefox 98 (Android)

I have been slowly adding stuff to my Mi 10T phone. I still take my Samsung S9 out and about with me, with the Mi10T mostly being used to make videos and watch Netflix.

I have Firefox 60-something on my S9. I copied the apk over to the Xiaomi and installed it, but it was made of fail. It just sat there refusing to fetch anything. I don't know if it's some weird incompatibility with Xiaomi or if it's yet another thing Google has broken in more recent versions of Android. Suffice to say, I'd need a newer version of Firefox because I cannot for the life of my stand the god-awful mess that Chrome makes of tabs, not to mention a serious distrust of Chrome to be at all useful with regards privacy.

 

I downloaded and installed Firefox 98.3.0 (the current at time of writing), and was pleased to see that they have done away with that Pocket nonsense and even offer to stuck the URL and buttons at the top where they below, or the new trendy position at the bottom for attention deficit post-millenials who seem to want to use one single thumb for their entire UI experience.

Firefox home screen
Firefox home screen.

Some good things about Firefox now is that it seems that the pinned sites are set up in the order that they are pinned rather than the previous "random" style. It also has two sets of eight icons to store more sites, and will populate the rest (if you only have a few pinned) with the sites you visit most frequently.
The home page also has space for recent bookmarks, and recently visited pages. This is all good and useful.

Sadly it is let down by one major annoyance. Choosing a site will open it in a new tab. So let's say after being on a site you tap on the URL bar. The content will be temporarily replaced with the homepage to allow you to choose bookmarks and such, and upon choosing one, it will be opened in a new tab and the site you have finished with...will still be there.
What the hell, Firefox?

The newer browser engine (Fennec?) has done away with the previous browser add-ons engine. You know, the billions of tweaks and hacks that could be applied to make Firefox do what you wanted it to do - the main advantage that Firefox had over the likes of Chrome.

If you head over to https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/android/search, gasp in surprise and shock when you see that it says "17 results found".
Yup, Firefox for Android has a total of seventeen available extensions.

Thankfully there's uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger to try to tidy up the crap that passes for Web 2.0 (or 3.0 if you include all that NFT nonsense), but we are obliged to kiss goodbye to Cookie Manager, Cookie AutoDelete, Don't Track Me Google, and things like Display #Anchors and Download Links.

It is unbelievable how lame Firefox's add-on list is. While it's lucky that the two I mentioned are available, I feel that in terms of privacy and security, we're running backwards. This wouldn't have anything to do with the amount of funding Mozilla gets from Google, would it, hmm?

Kudos, at least, to fixing the broken text input boxes where long-tapping somewhere in order to paste would select the nearest bit of text. A minor annoyance, but one I've put up with for about six years. ;)

 

UBlock Origin has also disabled the logger as standard. I find this useful for looking to see exactly what was fetched. Useful to pick up images if the site's scripting tries to disable tapping on the image, or finding stream links when the stream player is embedded with no direct link given. It's also useful to try to work out why a specific site isn't working.
You'll need to go to the uBlock dashboard (with the big blue power symbol at the top). Tap to Open the dashboard. Down the bottom, tap on I am an advanced user and then on the little cogs icon beside that.
In the list of stuff that appears, go down to uiPopupConfig near the bottom. It'll say unset. Change this to say +logger and then apply the changes.
Open the Android task manager and quit Firefox (swipe it away). Then reload it.
From now on, the uBlock dashboard will have an Open the logger button.

 

Other stuff Google has broken

Translate

One of the most useful features of Google Translate was to have a transient floating icon. That is to say, when something was copied to the clipboard, the translate button would pop up for a few seconds in case you wanted to translate it. As a person living in France, yeah, I often did. Easier to get a translation than to do it in my head.

But Google have decided that this sort of behaviour is not good. You can have the button always visible on the screen (and a notification that Translate is running), or not. Those are the only options now.
Perhaps as a nod to how annoying this change is to people who have to deal with multiple languages, there's a "Translate" option in the menu that appears when selecting text. This might only be with GBoard, but it's something at least.

 

Music player

Google heavily pushed OEMs to do away with the standard music player and to use Play Music instead. Some, like Samsung, offered a fixed up version of the music app as an optional download because, well, it did a simple job well and Play Music was too infected by a desire to do stuff online, none of which should be necessary in order to listen to your own MP3s.
Of course, Google being Google, they've since slaughtered Play Music like it was a diseased vampire. It's now YouTube Music (well, "YT Music"), and it's a subscription service that is quite expensive (€14.99/month family, or €9.99/month individual; slightly less than Deezer, about the same as Spotify and Amazon Music Unlimited). For some reason, the music streaming services are pricier than the likes of Netflix, I don't get that...
Anyway, I digress. Android's generic music app is a historical relic in the tactless push for streaming subscriptions.

 

Email

The standard email client was kind of basic, but it worked.
Now it has been done away with as we're supposed to use GMail.
I despise GMail.
So I have installed K9 Mail, and will need to set up my various email accounts and remember what the passwords were and... for the Yahoo! ones, generate app-specific passwords (a bit of theatre they put in the way because they want you to use their app, not a generic email client).

 

Chrome

I do not want to talk about those bloody "Tab groups". Well, I do, but I shouldn't because it would read like a paragraph full of phrases that you'd need Roger's Profanisaurus to decode.
Suffice to say, I'm really not a fan of a browser that offers a way to open a link in a new tab in some current group, rather than just a new tab. If this is supposed to make it simpler to navigate tabs.....it really doesn't.

Plus, of course, Chrome's infamous penchant for mucking around with text sizes that cannot be disabled.

 

Google Photos

A simple list of drag sliders to tweak things like brightness, contrast, lights and darks... has been replaced by a sideways scrolling list where you have to tap on what you want to adjust and then adjust it.
And a good few of the options are marked as unavailable unless you sign your soul away a Google One membership (€1.99/month for 100GB).
I wish there was an option to remove all of the paid extras if one isn't interested. But, you know, the way of the word is SaaS - of Software as a Service. In other words, cough up your monthly protection money to do all the cool stuff.

 

Call recording

The Chinese build of MIUI has call recording built in. The European version, apparently, does not. I can't say for certain as I haven't put my SIM into this phone yet.

The app I use (Blackbox) is no longer available on Play Store. Probably yet another example of an app that is bought from the original dev and either turned into adware or malware. It seems to happen quite a lot, as developers increasingly write apps to push adverts, rather than apps with some adverts included.
Anyway, this app no longer works on Android 10. I have found (but not tested) an alternative that needs to be set up as an accessibility aid in order for it to work. I hope it actually records the call audio rather than trying to do something with the microphone.

Call recording in important to me. Maybe it's my personality. Maybe it's my not being French. But I have already had people say things, deny it, and then trot out the "he's English, he misunderstood" excuse.
I get that privacy is important and that it would be good to prevent apps from randomly monitoring calls, however in the case that a user actually wants to have calls recorded automatically, it should be possible.
And, no, I don't give a flying flamingo about the legality of it. If you're happy to bullshit me, I'm happy to record you doing so. Plus, these days, most people that I call are already recording me and take plenty of time pointing this out.

Special shout out goes to the HMRC help line who stated "We're here to help you and all of our collegues are trained to support you. We are committed to treating you with courtesy and respect and ask that you do the same. We are a diverse team and abuse of any kind will not be tolerated.". That's a pretty weird thing to say. Granted, the announcement and the person I spoke to had an obviously Scottish accent, but... so? I don't care what your accent is or how you identify so long as you have a coherent answer to my question.

 

I think we're up to Android 12 now, aren't we? My Mi10T has Android 10 inside. So... a whole two more iterations to break even more stuff!

 

 

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David Pilling, 4th April 2022, 00:35
"buttons at the top where they below"
J.G.Harston, 4th April 2022, 18:53
I'm getting really annoyed with Firefox. It's up to version 98 on this PC, but every now and then it just.... stops. No error, no report, it just stops responding and then vanishes. Annoying too often, while I'm typing something. 
Rob, 5th April 2022, 09:53
I use Opera as my browser. It may or may not be what you want, but at least it's an alternative to consider. 
 
I used to use the pop-up-on-copy translate thing a lot too. Losing that has made the translate app almost useless to me. I thought it was just me accidentally changing something, and spent ages trying to find the setting to charge back..  
 
From what I understand about call recording, Google changed something a few years ago that (deliberately) stopped almost all call recorders working. I had recently paid for one, which was doubly annoying..

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Last read at 06:31 on 2022/10/05.

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