Firefox: Continuous scrolling and continuous freezing

This morning I logged into Twitter, opened my HTML5 list, and started scrolling down the page to see what new outrage/toy/publication/conference was generating excitement today. Of course, I use “page” loosely, since Twitter uses the “continuous scrolling” technique to retrieve and display older tweets. You never actually get to the end of the page, you just keep getting more tweets.

I dislike the “continuous scrolling” technique with a passion that I usually reserve for governors who harass teenagers who tweet. Many times I have scrolled to an interesting looking tweet, which is suddenly moved out of view because of an awkwardly done “page” update that pushes the previously scrolled tweets out of view. The same happens, though not as abruptly, with Facebook and Google+—a less than clever use of technology to replace what the developers seem to think is beyond their users: to click the damn “More” link.

Worse than losing that tweet that piques my interest, though, is that lately when I’m using Firefox to scroll down the page of updates, the browser freezes up. At times, it can seem to unfreeze itself if I just patiently wait for it to deal with whatever internal upset it’s currently dealing with. Other times, I’ve had to kill the browser.

In the past few weeks, though, I’ve had Firefox freeze up to the point where I couldn’t use my Windows 7 system. I can’t bring up the task manager to kill Firefox. I don’t get any response from any key combination. The only recourse I’ve had in these circumstances is to hard boot my system.

Hard booting a system is not a good idea, and it’s one I shouldn’t have to be taking. However, when your system is frozen and your laptop fan is whirring like mad, you take desperate measures. Desperate measures that came close to losing my system today.

I hard booted up my less than one year old Toshiba laptop after a Firefox/Twitter freeze this morning, except that rather than the Windows prompt asking me if I wanted to start Windows in Safe Mode, I got the ominous message that the system could not find my hard drive. I tried again in a couple of minutes, but received the same message. Waiting a short time later, I was able to get to the Windows restore/repair dialog, and tried an automatic repair. This seemingly failed, and I was faced with having to restore my system using the Toshiba recovery program, which basically overwrites your disc with a brand new installation of Windows.

Before taking such a drastic step, I tried to restart my system one more time, and this time, success!

Right now, I’m backing up all of my writing research folders to my internet site, and various other files to external USB drives. I’m also using Google Chrome to write this, because, frankly, I’m wary of using Firefox for anything at this point.

It is not the browser company’s fault that web sites use JavaScript to create some chi-chi clever effect that taxes the browser’s resources, and that most of us don’t really need, and didn’t really ask for. However, it is the browser company’s fault when it can’t deal with whatever good or bad JavaScript it encounters. No browser should allow any JavaScript to freeze the application up so badly that it has to be forcibly closed. And no browser should ever be so badly coded that it can literally crash the OS.

The only extensions I use with Firefox are Firebug, AdBlocks, and Web Developer Toolkit. I suppose one of these three could be to blame for the freezing problem, but it’s the responsibility of the browser company to ensure that its extension environment is solid so that an extension can’t cause these kinds of serious problems.

Whatever happened to my favorite Firefox of bygone years? Whatever happened to the rock solid but still innovative browser I once depended on? In its desperation to beat out Chrome and it’s aggressively pushed schedule to release new browser versions seemingly every few weeks, Firefox has become increasingly erratic and unstable. I could live with the mouse cursor landing in the web page just below a form field when tabbing (and having to click on the field to realign), but I can’t live with the freezing and crashing.

After all these years, I’m going to have to switch to another browser. Right now, I’m typing this post using Chrome, but I’m not overfond of Chrome. It’s not a bad browser, but the same issue with Firefox also applies to Chrome: aggressive release schedules and seeming indifference to stability. (“Stability? We don’t need no stinken stability!”) Apple’s support for Safari on Windows seems tepid, at best, which leaves Microsoft IE and Opera. The newer versions of IE are actually fine products, and Opera seems to have found the right point between implementing the latest gewgaw and delivering a stable product—but dammit, I’m used to Firefox.

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