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Preventing activity-stream.topstories.json from getting downloaded #396

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Gitoffthelawn opened this issue Apr 1, 2018 · 65 comments

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@Gitoffthelawn
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commented Apr 1, 2018

Even with:

user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.enabled", false);
user_pref("browser.library.activity-stream.enabled", false); // (FF57+)

Firefox 60.0b8 is downloading data to create activity-stream.topstories.json within the current profile.

UPDATE: Also activity-stream.tippytop.json

How do we make it stop?

@Atavic

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commented Apr 1, 2018

The "refreshed new tab page" has a repo

mozilla/activity-stream@c260e0a
mozilla/activity-stream@0376728

Maybe blocking getpocket.com and getpocket.cdn.mozilla.net may help.

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1410075 RESOLVED WONTFIX

@grauenwolfe

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commented Apr 2, 2018

From DXR, "testing" setup: "Use an empty list of sites to avoid fetching"

// Use an empty list of sites to avoid fetching
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.default.sites", "");
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.tippyTop.service.endpoint", "");
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.topstories", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.snippets", false);
@Thorin-Oakenpants

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commented Apr 2, 2018

In 59->60 diffs, there are 4 browser.newtabpage* prefs in the user.js that are being deprecated/removed. The bugzillas are listed next to them thanks to earthlng, there are three of them. I haven't looked at this yet.

As for the activity stream page, the cog in the top right has options under it to control snippets, top stories, search element, etc. I disabled all that in my 60beta. I will check what prefs they map to in 60. And I'll check if any connection are made when disabled

@Gitoffthelawn

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commented Apr 2, 2018

@Thorin-Oakenpants You got me thinking... I never even see FF's newpage tab. So I forced FF to use it, and then clicked on the cog, and turned everything off. So far, no spurious files being added to the profile.

I had done that in the past, but FF must have turned everything back on when they came out with a new version of newtab.

@Thorin-Oakenpants

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commented Apr 2, 2018

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes ... can't open 60 right now, and I think this new UI is 61 (https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DYzdC_XW4AAMzxV.png)

See the Homepage & New Windows > dropdown - Firefox Home (default)=activity stream. They've just simplified things with AS & homepage & new windows etc, hence why the master switch of browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.enabled is gone, as it probably now maps to 0103 (set home page) or something like that. Also, never understood why they had a separate new tab and home page setting - seems like its combined now

I would expect the right setting will stop background grabbing stuff, but it wouldn't surprise me if its happening (regression or by design) and it may be we have to add the snippets, top sites, highlights prefs to the user.js

@Thorin-Oakenpants

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commented Apr 2, 2018

In FF60.08b, there is no new preferences Home tab, that must be in coming in 61. Anyway, the cog wheel items in 60 are respective prefs are

Activity Stream cog wheel: New Tab Preferences

  • Search = browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.showSearch
  • Top Sites = browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.showTopSites
  • Highlights = browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.highlights
  • Snippets = browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.snippets

Now I was in a new profile with a couple of preset changes (I keep a copy for starting new types of tests), so all these were already disabled, and my start page etc was the activity page with nothing on it. I must have had some local data already present, because as soon as I toggled Top Sites on, (edit: I also had one Highlight when that got toggled on) I instantly had tiles. This may just be the Alexa top100 or so sites pre-listed with FF, I'm not sure. I think all these prefs do is to hide the relevant sections

@Thorin-Oakenpants

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commented Apr 2, 2018

1433133 FF60

  • comment 0 has some info
  • about:home can revert to the classic version by turning off browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.aboutHome.enabled and about:newtab can revert to Tiles by turning off browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.enabled.

So they want to remove the classic about:home and I guess about:newtab as well (I'll have to set up a 61Nightly and see what that new Home options tab offers). This kinda leaves 60 in the middle of changes.

Note: both these prefs were removed (in 1433324 below), but we never had browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.aboutHome.enabled in the user.js.


1433324 - removes the two prefs and assumes everyone wants AS

.. man, I've just about had it with all this crap, reading thru all this rubbish trying to keep up. NO means no. FFS :grumpyface: How TF am I am suppose to work out how to make sure AS never loads and no external connections are ever made. FFFFFFFFFFk

How about we just edit the user.js to say, DELETE the AS xpi, and set your home page to about:blank (unless they set about:blank to use activity stream as well)

@Thorin-Oakenpants

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commented Apr 2, 2018

deprecated/removed in 60

pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.enabled", true);

pref("browser.newtabpage.directory.source", "https://tiles.services.mozilla.com/...");

pref("browser.newtabpage.enhanced", true);
pref("browser.newtabpage.introShown", false);

All these tickets and others I dig into linked in the comments etc, reviewing them, all I see is removal of code, and I cannot work out what replaces them. Nothing I guess since they want to force AS on everyone. Other changes don't land until 61. Wot a mess.

@2glops

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commented Apr 2, 2018

Nightly 61.0a1
about:preferences#home UI shows :

Homepage and new windows : blank page, Firefox Home (default), custom URLs
New tabs : blank page, Firefox Home (default)

I set blank page for both.

Firefox Home Content : Choose what content you want on your Firefox Home screen (web search, top sites, recommended by Pocket, highlights, snippets could be un-ticked)

@Thorin-Oakenpants

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commented Apr 2, 2018

Nah, its deeper than that. Not looked at 61 like you have, but I need to deal with 60. Some of the AS page cog icon options are misleading - they only hide the section, not disable it. Also, I can't seem to trigger getting any highlights or topstories or snippets in my nilla 60 - I guess it's on a timer or triggered by x views and loads of traffic. I ain't got time for that

In FF60:

  • browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.default.sites is why I had some instant top sites = harmless
  • browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.topstories.options
    • set to blank, maybe this stops pocket (it should, the whole thing is pocket)
  • browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry.ping.endpoint -> points to "https://tiles.services.mozilla.com/v4/links/activity-stream"
    • blank it to stop ??
  • browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.topsites
    • note cog wheel option prefs is *showTopSites .. SHOW, not enable
    • set to false, maybe this stop outgoing traffic to get top sites
  • browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.telemetry + browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry
    • set to false

so IDK if this covers it

// hide activity stream sections (may help stop connections)
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.showSearch", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.highlights", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.snippets", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.showTopSites", false);
// block activity stream connections
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.topstories.options", ""); // pocket
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry.ping.endpoint", ""); // tiles
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.tippyTop.service.endpoint", ""); // favicons
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.topsites", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.telemetry", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry", false);

I'm in my main pimped FF60 and these do not exist, probably because I don't AS xpi and never used it. They not listed as new in 59->60 diffs. I think the above should kill it all, probably one or two are redundant, but f**d if I know because its a labyrinth. I feel like Andy in The Shawshank Redemption crawling thru 500 yard of sewer pipe (in reality, anyone doing that would die from the fumes).

@Thorin-Oakenpants

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commented Apr 2, 2018

Homepage and new windows : blank page, Firefox Home (default), custom URLs
New tabs : blank page, Firefox Home (default)

Wait a second... are you telling me that a new tab can't use a custom URL (you know, like a speed dial extension) .. I F hope not - surely an extension can still hook in (you know, "an Extension has set your homepage" bit).

@2glops

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commented Apr 2, 2018

are you telling me that a new tab can't use a custom URL

Yes.
At least on the UI, I don't search about:config to find an option to do that.

@Thorin-Oakenpants

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commented Apr 2, 2018

If I get time I'll grab a nightly portable and install Group Speed Dial. I'm betting extensions can still hook into new tab

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commented Apr 2, 2018

^^ when you set a custom url (in my case I pasted in the moz-extension... address, then the New Tab section changes - see pic

homepage

@Gitoffthelawn

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commented Apr 2, 2018

I'm now getting activity-stream.tippytop.json in the profile on 60.0b8. WTF.

Will try the following (NOTE: SEMICOLON MISSING IN THORIN's POST ABOVE):
// hide activity stream sections (may help stop connections)
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.showSearch", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.highlights", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.snippets", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.showTopSites", false);
// block activity stream connections
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.topstories.options", ""); // pocket <--- NOTE SEMICOLON ADDED AFTER PREF HERE
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry.ping.endpoint", ""); // tiles service
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.topsites", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.telemetry", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry", false);

@Thorin-Oakenpants

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commented Apr 2, 2018

user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.tippyTop.service.endpoint", ""); // favicons in AS
@Atavic

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commented Apr 2, 2018

@Thorin-Oakenpants asks: browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry.ping.endpoint points to "https://tiles.services.mozilla.com/v4/links/activity-stream"

blank it to stop?

Not enough, according to: https://github.com/mozilla/onyx/blob/master/onyx/default_settings.py#L18

Look, there are 4 CDN links -> https://tiles.cdn.mozilla.net/

activity-stream is full-off telemetry:

// These fields are sent from the client
"client_id": "374dc4d8-0cb2-4ac5-a3cf-c5a9bc3c602e",
"session_id": "{12dasd-213asda-213dkakj}",
"profile_creation_date": 14786,

// These fields are generated on the server
"ip": "10.192.171.13",
"receive_at": 1457396660000

Source: https://github.com/mozilla/activity-stream/blob/b69291f6f37d1625134247c537d8796aae2c0695/docs/v2-system-addon/data_dictionary.md

The server is onyx

@grauenwolfe

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commented Apr 3, 2018

@Gitoffthelawn You may know this already and sorry if you mentioned this and I missed it but you can just delete the activity-stream system extension from your application folder. I do this after every update or fresh install along with the other system extnesions. My about:support shows nothing under Firefox Features.

@Gitoffthelawn

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commented Apr 3, 2018

@grauenwolfe No harm in mentioning it! :)

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commented Apr 3, 2018

I'm using this issue as a ticket to revamp item 5014. I'm not sure if I want to include let alone maintain all those prefs, and I certainly can't be bothered with checking that telemetry in AS respects FF's send data preference. Not can I be certain that "pings" respect telemetry because see pingsender.exe which doesn't. And I can't be certain that stuff isn't sent if we block pref urls, because stuff may be hardcoded (I'm done wasting my time in this maze).

It will probably end up like follow on search 5013 - instructions to set Homepage/newwindows and newtab to about:blank or use an extension, and delete the xpi.

Edit: I dunno where earthlng is, I think all u gals scared him away

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commented Apr 12, 2018

@earthlng So what's the verdict? Add all these prefs in (maybe dig into the code a little to check what isn't strictly needed) or just tell people to delete the xpi and change their homepage etc?

Because the xpi is always added when the app updates, users could inadvertently run FF with this present (I'm not even sure if anything happens (data collection) when AS isn't used to load newtab or homepage). So I'm leaning towards adding all the prefs, but would need some help deciphering which ones are necessary.

@earthlng

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commented Apr 13, 2018

just tell people to delete the xpi and change their homepage etc

👍

The telemetry uses ping-centre and should be covered by 0506 and 0333.

If you wanna add the prefs I'd just disable everything:

user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.disableSnippets", true);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.aboutpreferences", false); // FF61+
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.favicon", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.messagecenterfeed", false); // FF61+
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.migration", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.newtabinit", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.places", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.prefs", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.highlights", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.topstories", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.section.topstories.options", "");
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.sections", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.snippets", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.systemtick", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.telemetry", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.theme", false); // FF61+
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.feeds.topsites", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.messageCenterExperimentEnabled", false); // FF61+
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.migrationExpired", true);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.prerender", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.section.highlights.includePocket", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.showSearch", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.showSponsored", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.showTopSites", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry.ping.endpoint", "");
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.telemetry.ut.events", false);
user_pref("browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.tippyTop.service.endpoint", "");
@Thorin-Oakenpants

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commented Apr 13, 2018

Sheeshus H Christ .. that's a lot of prefs. OK, I think we'll stick with the KISS principle 💋

@Gitoffthelawn

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commented Apr 13, 2018

Which is what in this case? Deleting the XPI is nice and clean, except for the fact that it gets reinstalled at (almost) every release (which is weekly is you are on beta and daily if you are on nightly).

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commented Apr 13, 2018

KISS = least lines possible, plus it removes the overhead of dealing with all the gazillion changes they keep making. Sucks to be on nightly then - but I can add a line about browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.*

Thorin-Oakenpants added a commit that referenced this issue Apr 13, 2018
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commented Apr 13, 2018

^^ comments on my patch? I feel that for me, I'll be fine .. but others may not be, because local data is still compiled (not 100% sure on that) if the xpi is present

@overdodactyl

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commented Apr 13, 2018

How hard would it be to get essentially a "blank" add-on submitted to AMO with the same ID as activity stream?

Available locations, starting from the highest priority include:

    1. temporary install (about:debugging)
    2. normal user install into profile (about:addons or AMO/TestPilot/etc.)
    3. system add-on updates
    4. built-in system add-ons

This makes it possible for a developer or user to override a system add-on by installing an add-on with the same ID from AMO or TestPilot or as a temporary add-on.

https://firefox-source-docs.mozilla.org/toolkit/mozapps/extensions/addon-manager/SystemAddons.html

Was just trying to think of a way to override the .xpi file on a per-profile basis and not have to worry about the file being re-installed upon updates.

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commented Apr 13, 2018

with the same ID

I would have assumed it would be impossible (in stable, signed extensions) because surely whatever is used as the ID is unique? Over my head. Not an extension dev. Otherwise, surely we would have seen malicious extensions using this by now - or did I misunderstand something?

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commented Apr 13, 2018

I would have assumed the same (I'm also not very familiar with webextension development), but the documentation seems to imply it's possible, specifically:

This makes it possible for a ... user to override a system add-on by installing an add-on with the same ID from AMO

Maybe @earthlng would have a little more insight here?

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commented Apr 16, 2018

@claustromaniac I just wanted to be able to know a way to determine whether or not FF is running with admin privs. Your tip regarding task manager will likely do the trick. Thanks. 👍

BTW, the column is entitled UAC Virtualization in Win7.

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commented Apr 16, 2018

BTW, the column is entitled UAC Virtualization in Win7.

True. Sorry about that.

You know, I'm a bit curious about what you said before that the script does more than just delete those xpi files. Is it related or more personal-preference stuff? If there are other good reasons for using this sort of launcher script, maybe others can benefit from something like it too.

BTW, I was now thinking that, for people that want to remove those files on a per-profile basis, like @overdodactyl, a script like this could simply rename/move the files instead of deleting them. I know it's far from ideal but it might be worth it in the long run. I know it wouldn't take too long to write a script like that.

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commented Apr 16, 2018

for people that want to remove those files on a per-profile basis, like @overdodactyl, a script like this could simply rename/move the files instead of deleting them

Definitely a possibility! Unfortunately that wouldn't allow you to run both profiles simultaneously, but for many use cases it would good way to go :)

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commented Apr 16, 2018

Couldn't you remove the system addons from the features folder and install them as normal addons in 1 profile?

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commented Apr 16, 2018

I just gave that a try and interestingly get the error, "This addon could not be installed because it has not been verified"

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commented Apr 16, 2018

Lol, mozilla and their double-standards ;)

maybe it works if you just put it in your profile's extensions folder instead of trying to install it from file (?)

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commented Apr 16, 2018

It is kind of ironic their own extension isn't signed haha.

No luck there either unfortunately...no error message but it just doesn't go into effect.

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commented Apr 16, 2018

^^ just tried that in my nightly and apparently activity-stream is not only unsigned but also a "legacy extension" - LO-fucking-L, mozilla and their fucking double-standards!

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commented Apr 16, 2018

but it has to work somehow - how else would updates to system addons be able to work? maybe it needs to go into a special profile subfolder? has anyone ever received an update for one of the system addons and would know where these files are placed?

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commented Apr 16, 2018

one workaround is to set extensions.legacy.enabled to true and xpinstall.signatures.required to false but that's only allowed in ESR and Nightly.

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commented Apr 16, 2018

Ya I wish you were allowed to change that setting in stable as well.

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commented Apr 16, 2018

Looking at the system addons, I'm curious how many of those are truly necessary:

  • aushelper@mozilla.org.xpi
  • firefox@getpocket.com.xpi
  • followonsearch@mozilla.com.xpi
  • formautofill@mozilla.org.xpi
  • onboarding@mozilla.org.xpi
  • screenshots@mozilla.org.xpi
  • shield-recipe-client@mozilla.org.xpi
  • webcompat@mozilla.org.xpi
  • activity-stream@mozilla.org.xpi
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commented Apr 16, 2018

I'm not seeing any references to activity-stream within a specific profile

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commented Apr 16, 2018

I guess yet another workaround would be to simply use a different install of FF - one were the xpi file is deleted, one where it's not.

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commented Apr 16, 2018

^^ that wouldn't work for people who update from within the app. And even if an install like that was around, its more work than it is to just delete the xpi files manually

The solution appears to be, in order to be 100% proof, to add all the prefs to the user.js, all 28 of them, which is just fucking re-DICK-ulous

Edit: I don't blame or begrudge Mozilla pushing the default AS, and ramping it up for Pocket etc, it's probably not a bad default home page for most people, but removing the master switch sucks donkeys balls (bit more to it since they streamlining the options for newtab-window and home, so they need to make sure AS works if nothing is set).

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commented Apr 16, 2018

https://firefox-source-docs.mozilla.org/toolkit/mozapps/extensions/addon-manager/SystemAddons.html

System add-on updates
These are installed into the users profile under the features directory.

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commented Apr 16, 2018

And even if an install like that was around, its more work than it is to just delete the xpi files manually

True, but I was trying to address the issue of wanting to be able to access activity stream in one profile, while simultaneously having it removed from another without user.js.

I agree though, the best solution unfortunately seems to be to add those prefs.

These are installed into the users profile under the features directory.

The system addons (for me at least) are located in the features directory of my Firefox app (/Applications/Firefox.app/Contents/Resources/browser/features), but the features directory of an individual profile is empty

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commented Apr 16, 2018

Portable FF they are under

  • portable ff dir\App\Firefox\browser\features
  • portable ff dir\App\Firefox64\browser\features

When I update, I do so with a new PAF (updating from the app interface usually fails due to the system addon xpi's missing), And after each install I remove the system xpi's before firing FF up again.

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commented Apr 16, 2018

This local data collection - I wonder if AS runs in PB mode - if it does and collects things like most visited sites, that could be problematic. Wonder if @fmarier knows

edit: if top sites is solely based on history, and history is cleared on close, then I can see this is already not an issue .. just thinking out loud. I usually type before I think .. should have thought it thru

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commented Apr 16, 2018

ok I figured it out, the trick is to customize the pref extensions.systemAddonSet and the xpi needs to go in profile/features/{UUID}/ where UUID is a valid, well, UUID :)

for example this works:

set extensions.systemAddonSet to {"schema":1,"directory":"{9c223810-fd9c-4c4d-809b-838623587fe7}","addons":{"activity-stream@mozilla.org":{"version":"2018.04.13.1371-d6edded2"}}}

To get the version of your activity stream xpi place it in your extensions folder and check about:support.
If necessary update the version in the extensions.systemAddonSet pref. Then move the xpi to profile/features/{9c223810-fd9c-4c4d-809b-838623587fe7}/

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commented Apr 16, 2018

Thanks @earthlng!! That seemed to do the trick :)

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commented Apr 16, 2018

@Atavic - no, telemetry for Firefox users (nightly) web traffic of HTTP vs HTTPS - https://telemetry.mozilla.org/

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commented Apr 20, 2018

So where are we with this?

Current

/* 0514: disable Activity Stream (FF54+)
 * Activity Stream replaces "New Tab" with one based on metadata and browsing behavior,
 * and includes telemetry as well as web content such as snippets and "spotlight"
 * [1] link etc

I created a patch (branch only, now deleted) with changes a week ago and no one said anything - its linked right there from 7 days ago

/* 0514: disable Activity Stream (FF54+)
 * Activity Stream is the default homepage/newtab, based on metadata and browsing behavior,
 * and includes telemetry and web content such as snippets, top stories (pocket), top sites, etc.
 *  - ONE: make sure to set your "home" and "newtab" to about:blank (or use an extension to control them)
 *  - TWO: DELETE the XPI file in your System Add-ons directory (note this get reinstalled on app updates)
 * And/or you can try to control the ever-growing, ever-changing "browser.newtabpage.activity-stream.*" prefs
 * [1] link etc

Or we could change the info bit to something like I have above AND add all 28 AS prefs, inactive maybe?. The only reason I would do this is because not all users will remember to remove the xpi each update

Where's the feedback on this, guys, gals?

Vote?
🎉 just the simple short one (i.e delete the xpi)
👍 the long one with 28 extra prefs

@earthlng

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commented Apr 21, 2018

I created a patch (branch only, now deleted) with changes a week ago

I didn't realize it was in a different branch, I thought you already committed it to the master.

As long as AS remains a system addon, the short one without the new prefs is fine IMO.

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