Firefox as Default Browser

For the remainder of the school year Firefox 3.6 will remain as the default and recommended browser at PALCS. Back in August 2011 I announced there were plans to move to Internet Explorer 8 as the default browser on PALCS computers. This change was debated throughout the year and it was decided that in the best interest of our school, we will keep Firefox as the default browser for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school year.
Many of you may recall that Mozilla’s change to a “RapidRelease” schedule of Firefox version prompted PALCS to strongly consider changing default and recommened browsers. Members of IT and Academics decided that keeping Firefox 3.6 as the default would minimize disruption for families and staff. Additionally we believe keeping Firefox as the primary browser for next school year would ensure that staff and students are working with the best browser for our environment.
Below are bullets providing more details:
  • Firefox 3.6.28 is the supported, default, and primary at PALCS for the remainder of the school year
  • It is planned to upgrade to Firefox 10 ESR after the last day of school.
  • In late April Firefox 3.6 reached end of life, meaning there are not further updates, fixes, or patches for that browser series. Regardless of this, PALCS is finishing this year out with Firefox 3.6
  • Internet Explorer is still a supported browser platform for the students and the only browser to be used with PLATO.
  • Firefox has been aggressively prompting users to update to their latest version since the rapid-release schedule began. The Mozilla update server is currently blocked for student computers and staff at Enterprise or our Ideas Center (AIC). However there currently is no filter solution at Pittsburgh, Performing Arts, any of the wireless, or at teachers homes, which results in no control of the update warnings for these computers.

Below are some bullets with guidance on what you should do for the remainder of the school year:

  • Ensure that you are running Firefox 3.6.28. Check this from Firefox Menu Bar: Help>About Firefox. The Firefox version will be listed (screenshot). If you are running a version higher that 3.6 (Firefox 12 is the latest), please re-install 3.6. Note: You can also have multiple versions of Firefox installed (my blog post from January illustrates this).
  • Manually turn off Firefox updates. Do this from the Firefox Menu Bar: Tools>Options>Advanced>Update Tab: Be sure the check box for Firefox is unchecked.  If you do not do this step, you may be automatically upgraded to Firefox 12. Using Firefox 12 in Moodle can be problematic, specifically when attaching Standards, Anchors and Keystones to Moodle Activities.  Click on closeup of Update Tab image at right to view the location of the Options box and Update Tab.
  • Firefox 3.8.28 Installers are available here: windows  |  mac
IT Internal Support and myself are here to assist.

Having Multiple Versions of Firefox Installed

This school year we have found the impact of browser changes can have on our workflow. The current “PALCS-supported” version of Firefox is 3.6.25. Some teachers have updated to higher version numbers and then discover on Monday morning that that high number was uninstalled and replaced with the supported version, 3.6.25
For those that enjoy running the latest Firefox version but still want to keep the PALCS-supported version to do critical Moodle and mSIS operations (such as adding SAKs to lessons), there is something you can do to combat the Sunday Firefox roll-back. By utilizing Firefox’s custom install feature, you can have multiple versions of Firefox installed on the same computer. You just can run them at the same time.
Watch a short video showing you how to install and what it looks like to open multiple versions.

Firefox ESR

On January 10, Mozilla confirmed that they will be releasing an Extended Support Release to appease professionals who were having difficulties with Mozilla’s current release cycle of every 6 weeks.  Firefox ESR will maintain builds of desktop Firefox for a period of 54 weeks, covering nine releases.
Firefox 10 ESR will be released in conjunction with Firefox 10 on January 31.  Read more...
What does this mean for PALCS?
I am told we will adopt Firefox ESR but it is not determined if we will adopt it for this school year since the final release of Firefox 10 ESR is months away.
What should you do?  Keep running Firefox 3.6.25, the version currently released on managed workstations and supported by PALCS.

What about IE8?

There is a plan to make Internet Explorer 8 the default and primary browser on PALCS workstations.  There is a tentative date set for late January 2012.  I first announced this back in August 2011 at the request of our IT department.  I will do my best to share any updates to this as they become available.

Firefox 9 is out, what now?

Firefox 9 was released late this afternoon. Does that mean you should update your work computer to that version? I’m a “Firefox-die-hard” and find that question difficult to answer. So putting my Firefox allegiance and love aside (yes I’ve got some love for a web browser), my answer is No.

Until we get the green-light from PALCS IT, Firefox 3.6.24 remains the version of Firefox that is supported. Using Firefox versions above 3.6.x results in issues related to lesson creation and adding/editing Standards, Anchors, and Keystones.

So ignore those pop-ups from Firefox urging you to upgrade to Firefox 9.0.

So what is going to happen with Firefox and PALCS? For one we are going to move to making Internet Explorer 8 the default browser at PALCS. Every computer has a default browser. Right now PALCS computers have Firefox set as the default. Sometime in late January this will change. This is not a huge change but students and staff may find certain links open up in Internet Explorer when they are used to Firefox opening up.

There is talk that PALCS will support a version of Firefox that has a higher number than 3. On the table at Mozilla is a proposal for an Extended Support Release. It is proposed that Firefox 10 will be that version. This Extended Support Release version will be supported by Mozilla for 54 weeks giving organizations sufficient time for testing and certification. The current release schedule being followed by Mozilla, has a new version of Firefox coming out every 6-weeks. Many corporations, including ours, have complained that this does not allow sufficient time for the organizations and their vendors to certify new releases of the products.

My advice:
1.  Keep running 3.6.24 (you may see PALCS IT bump us up to 3.6.25 soon…)
2.  Start integrating Internet Explorer into your workflow a bit more.
3.  If you have come to enjoy Firefox over the years, feel free to test Firefox 9 out.  If you do a custom installation you can have both Firefox 3.6.x and Firefox 9 installed on a the same computer (you just can’t have both running at the same time).

Firefox Versions, Extensions, etc.

Browsers are a big deal for everyone at PALCS.
With the slight adjustment to the default/recommended browser and Firefox’s “rapid-release schedule” I wanted to share some useful tips with regards to Firefox versions and add-ons.

Firefox 4 is Out – Why aren’t we upgrading?

FF4 LogoAs many are aware, Firefox 4 was officially released by the Mozilla Corporation on March 22.  It has been decided that students and staff computers will not be upgraded to Firefox 4 until Summer 2011.  The version change from 3.6.x to 4.x is significant and PALCS IT wishes to thoroughly test Firefox before pushing out a large version upgrade.  Testing will determine compatibility issues that may exist with our systems.

PALCS students and staff currently have 3.6.16 installed on their machines.  An update from version 3.6.15 was pushed out on Sunday March 27.

If teachers wish to manually upgrade to Firefox 4, they must be aware that it is unknown how this version of Firefox will interact with our systems, in particular Moodle and Community.

Version changes of Internet Explorer is also part of this discussion.  Students and staff currently have Internet Explorer 7 on their computers.  PALCS IT is going to wait until the summer to release Internet Explorer 8 in order to test its compatibility with our systems.

Playing With Fire

Cache Status: Monitor and manage cache from status bar
Password Exporter: Tool for exporting and importing saved passwords
ColorfulTabs: Colors every tab in a different color
Flash and Video Download Extension: Download flash content
that other Firefox download extension cannot.