Distant Constructs

Tips for Browsers

Tips for Browsers

The two main browsers I use are Mozilla Firefox and lynx.


Firefox is the first browser I used after browsing with Internet Explorer. At the time, it had features that set it worlds apart from IE, including tabbed browsing and add-on support. While the competition may have largely caught up, Firefox is still my browser of choice. I normally have private browsing permanently enabled in order to reduce exposure to some methods of tracking.


The feature of Firefox that differentiates it from other browsers is its full featured support for addons and the active addon development community. Some addons that I find essential for security are:

  • ublock origin - removes ads which improves the usability of the web greatly. It also helps save bandwidth, removes a medium for tracking and malware. It is generally recommended to enable on websites that are funded by ads that you would like to support. I previously used Adblock Plus for this.
  • Request Policy - whitelist for third party requests. A more involved (and actively supported) alternative is uMatrix
  • NoScript - whitelist for Javascript and other scriptable elements
  • CookieMonster - whitelist for cookies
  • HTTPS Everywhere - enable HTTPS by default on many common sites
  • RefControl - enables modification of referrers which helps prevent some forms of tracking
  • Clean Links - remove unecessary redirects and tracking information embedded in urls
  • BetterPrivacy - provides options for managing Flash cookies such as deleting them on exit.
  • Ghostery - block tracking cookies and components
  • Disconnect - block common tracking components

The following list contains addons that I find useful to have:

  • Blank Your Monitor + Easy Reading - I use this mainly to override the default colors to a light color on a black background, which I find much easier to read on a computer screen than black on white.
  • Vimperator - enables you to navigate web pages using only the keyboard and with vim-like keybindings. Like vim, it also offers a moderate difficulty curve. The main feature that I like to use with this is the ability to select links from the keyboard using numbered links
  • HackTheWeb - a utility for cleaning up web pages. Useful for preparing pages for printing or for cleaning up annoyances while reading articles on the web. This is a successor to an older extension called Aardvark.


Recently, it seems that much of Firefox development has oriented around improving the "User Experience" through cosmetic changes. However, I found that much of the UI redesign (referring mainly to Firefox 29), with its rounded corners and replacing the status bar with trays hidden under cryptic icons, reduced out-of-the-box customizability and made the browser harder to use. Since Firefox 29 release, I have migrated to using Pale Moon on Windows computers.


lynx is a text-based web browser that is usable from the command line. I have found lynx to be extremely useful in blocking out noise on the web and enabling a more consistent browsing experience. Flash and Javascript are not only disabled by default, they are not even available! Although many script-dependent sites may break while using lynx, I find that most of the websites that I browse on a daily basis are readily usable through the browser.

Addititonally, some features for which I use add-ons in Firefox such as a light font on a dark background and keyboard navigation with numbered links, come by default in lynx.

The default configuration for lynx add a pause to messages that appear in the status line. While this may be helpful for troubleshooting, it slows down browsing significantly. To get the full speed benefit of browsing with a non-graphical browser, use the -nopause option, or modify the appropriate section in lynx.cfg

Viewing Media with lynx

I have set up my lynx.cfg file to handle viewing media. When the X11 environment is available (which enables graphics), I use gpicview and vlc to handle images and audio/video, respectively. Since vlc has support for viewing YouTube urls, I can browse and view videos from site fairly easily. I also have a small Perl script which cleans up the embedded YouTube links so that they are viewable through vlc.

When X is not available, I use cacaview to handle images. To handle video, I use vlc with caca enabled using the following line in lynx.cfg:

VIEWER:video/*:cvlc --quiet --vout caca %s

first published: 2015-03-01 2156 EST
last updated: 2017-09-29 0204 EDT