December 15, 2009

Using Ubuntuzilla For a Shiny New Firefox (Also For SeaMonkey and Thunderbird!)

One of the most frequently asked questions on Linux forums is how to install the latest stable version of Mozilla's product offerings. People new to Linux and those coming over from Windows are especially confused at why they can not use the "Check For Updates" feature on the Help Menu in Mozilla's various products.
Without entertaining a long discussion of the pro's and con's of this, suffice to say it is for security and stability reasons. I, however, happen to be one of those people who want to use the latest "stable" versions of my favorite Mozilla products. In my case, Firefox, which remains my browser of choice in the battle of Linux web supremacy.

As of today, the default Firefox in Linux Mint KDE is 3.0.X. This can be upgraded via KPackgeKit or Aptitude to 3.5.5. However, the current version of Firefox "Official" is 3.5.6. You could wait until it hits the repositories - It should eventually. Or you can use a wonderful tool to stay up to speed and current on your Firefox, Thunderbird, or SeaMonkey installations. The tool we will use to do this is a wonderful python script called Ubuntuzilla.
Here are the highlights regarding UZ:

  • Automatically detects and downloads the newest Firefox, Thunderbird, SeaMonkey release from the Mozilla servers
  • Allows you to make a choice of language for Firefox or Thunderbird
  • Verifies the GPG signature (assures package integrity against malicious tampering or corrupt download) for Firefox or Thunderbird
  • Verifies the MD5 sum for SeaMonkey
  • Makes a date-stamped back-up of your Firefox, Thunderbird, SeaMonkey profile data
  • Automatically integrates Firefox plugins that you have installed from the Ubuntu repositories
  • Installs the new Firefox in /opt/firefox, Thunderbird in /opt/thunderbird, SeaMonkey in /opt/seamonkey
  • Creates a SeaMonkey menu item in Applications -> Internet menu
  • Checks all steps for successful execution
  • Has a 'remove' action to remove the official Mozilla build and restore system to pre-installation state.
  • Installs an update checker job that periodically performs automatic checks for new versions of Firefox, Thunderbird, or SeaMonkey.
  • Automatically checks for the latest Ubuntuzilla release and updates itself, to keep up with possible changes in the Mozilla website and release servers.
  • Comes conveniently packaged in a .deb for easy installation
  • Includes a very helpful man page, for those who don't like to read websites.
Pretty impressive list of features. I honestly can not think of anything I wish it had that it presently does not, except for maybe just auto-installing the new version for me. However, this would likely not be possible due to the fact that in order to install updates via the "Check for updates" menu item, you need run Firefox temporarily in root mode. The command used for Linux Mint KDE and Kubuntu is:
kdesudo firefox &
Note: When you update your Mozilla product via Ubuntuzilla, you will run the program in root mode via the command above. This is perfectly OK to do temporarily in order to get the update / upgrade. Root mode enables the "Check for updates" menu item to become active. When the update is complete, you will be prompted to restart the application in order for the changes to take effect. Please note that when you restart your Mozilla app you will still be in root mode. This is not a good thing, so please close the app and restart it as you normally would (i.e. from the Kickoff Menu). You will now be back in the normal mode, and can safely resume your normal activity with your newly installed Mozilla product.

Installation is straightforward. Once you have the installation complete, you can immediately update your Mozilla product to the latest and greatest Official release. Ubuntuzilla also, as mentioned above, installs an update notifier that will inform you of a new release. An illustration can be seen here:

Everything else listed on the Ubuntuzilla site is pretty self-explanatory and straightforward. Ubuntuzilla is a great resource. Though I understand why it may not be wise to always use the bleeding edge as far as software releases go, I make an exception for browsers. It's probably in reality not an exception though, as i do not consider new official releases as bleeding edge as they are no longer alpha or beta status. Usually they introduce new features and many bug fixes. Since most of us spend a significant portion of our time on the web it may make sense to you, like it does to me, to keep your browsing and email clients up to date.

Get Ubuntuzilla

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