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Monday, 16 January 2017


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Mike, I think a few years ago you switched to the ESR branch of Firefox, and when you installed the newest version, I think you had to create a backup of your "Firefox profile" or at least the new version was supposed to automatically create a backup. The "profile" is like a user account, and partially consists of a hidden directory with your saved passwords, bookmarks, extensions, etc in it. Your old profile may yet exist, given some digging. I just want to offer a bit of hope.

Congratulations on undertaking two books. I can see you care deeply about the subjects, and therefore I predict you will be successful. Good for you, I'm cheering you on!

Mike, would Time Machine be your savior in this instance? If you could take your machine back to a time before the crash you might be able to resurrect your settings. I've never had to use it,so I may not know what I'm talking about here, but if the information has been stored on your machine shouldn't it be there in an earlier state for you to retrieve?

I'd love to hear if it works. You don't necessarily need to post this to comments.

All the best to you!

I'd buy them both. I'll be interested to see how you deal with "mom." That could be quite the interesting work.

As for the photo book, I think you're going in the right direction there. Digital is now mature enough that I think it can be accurately valued vis-a-vis film, which might not have been true a few years ago.

Good writing!

Chrome stores all of your bookmarks and settings in Google's cloud. It can always recover them. When you get a new computer, Chrome will make itself just as you left it on your old computer as soon as you login. Very good browser too.

I had to change to Google Chrome late last year, like you I had experienced Firefox getting slow and buggy and pages/tabs would hang and bring the whole browser down.
I don't like Chrome as much, but it has been working more reliably.
And yes, it's a real pain when all your cached logins and bookmarks are not there. Make it a habit to export your bookmarks to a html or similar file periodically, then you can import to a different browser or to a fresh install.

Firefox stores a profile from which you might be able to restore your old bookmarks. Have you tried that yet? https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/back-and-restore-information-firefox-profiles and https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/recovering-important-data-from-an-old-profile

Bummer about the bookmarks - I've heard periodic purging is good for the soul but I've been packing and filing ten years worth of bookmarks and losing them would be tough. I guess there's no chance of restoring your computer to a point prior to the crash?

This year I had to replace my computer with all the associated panic - bookmarks included. That's a big deal for me since I'm not as comfortable with computers as I'd like to be.

Turns out I can export them (and their structure) to a file - who knew? Actually my kids did and I have to thank them for that. All I had to do was import the file and you'd never know anything had changed.

So my plan now is to keep the export file updated and stored someplace safe - at least that's the plan.

Hi Mike
Sorry to hear about the Firefox crash. These things really do throw a spanner into the works.
Maybe your user profile and bookmarks are still lurking somewhere on your computer. In any case, as preventive measure for the future, it's quite easy to backup your bookmarks: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/export-firefox-bookmarks-to-backup-or-transfer.
Exciting news on the books and glad to hear that you are making progress! The photography book sounds like exactly what I'm interested in, and with you as author I will not hesitate to grab a copy once it's published.

All the best, both with bookmarks and books!

May I humbly suggest Chrome. You can import bookmarks to it and as such have a backup of sorts when his happens again. I also learnt the hard way with Firefox doing the same thing to me.

1Password for storing and generating passwords and much else. Too late now but you can export bookmarks from time to time if they are important to you. Perhaps they are recoverable from Time Machine?

Why don't you just take one of your recent backups of your computer and extract the Firefox profile to get everything back?

Mike, I expect you'll have heard by now, but you can save bookmarks. :)

In Firefox, Click on 'bookmarks' (menu list at top left), then in the drop-down menu click 'show all bookmarks'. The new screen's top left menu list now includes 'import and backup'. Hey presto.

Your post reminds me to do this fairly regularly. Ah, so much computer housekeeping. Enjoy the writing.

p.s it took me ages to find out you can save e-mails too, using an add-on called 'importexport tools'.

It's quite possible Firefox created a new profile for you because there was a problem with the old one. It's very likely that the data in the old profile is still on your computer. If it is, you'll be able to copy the data to the new profile, and you may even be able to restore the old profile. See:

Recovering a missing profile

Profiles - Where Firefox stores your bookmarks, passwords and other user data

Recovering important data from an old profile

If all else fails, you can always turn to the Mozilla help forum.

I doubt your data is gone, it's just a question of finding it and restoring it. Either way, though, you have my condolences. I know what a PITA this is.

Nice to have some news of what's happening in the background. I look forward!

In the foreground, though, I'd like to mention one thing, namely that your website is alone among all the websites I visit in having become extremely slow and reluctant to scroll down. I've never had that problem on any other website with Firefox, so I'm wondering if my problem might have something to do with your problems. It has speeded up today, perhaps as a result of your disaster.

Of course this might be entirely my problem and not yours at all, but the fact that it is a bit easier to scroll today seems suggestive.

Do you have a backup?

I'd buy that book Mike. The one on seeing that is. Maybe even the other one too!

Consider using pinboard.in and 1Password for your bookmark and password needs. Both are excellent.


Does this help at all Mike?


Apparently Firefox should backup your bookmarks automatically... There's a possibility that it's created a new profile as well and you may have to switch back to your old profile to get them back!

If you've "lost" all your passwords you can find them again by doing the following ..but first, take a deep breath or - in the UK - sit down with a nice cup of tea, then:

On your Mac go to Applications, then choose 'Utilities' (..I'll write that as Applications > Utilities..) then scroll down through your Utilities to Keychain Access. Double click on that to start it.

It'll then show you a huge mess of things. In the left-hand column, in the upper part of the column, under 'Keychains', choose login, and in the lower part of that left-hand column, under 'Category', choose the item Passwords.

That will show you all the different things which you log into. Double-click on any one of them, which will give you another little window specific to the item which you've chosen, and at the lower-left of that window there's a little box to tick (or check) alongside 'Show password'.

When you tick ('check') that box, another window will pop up, and that's asking for your normal System Password for your Mac ..you know; the one you use when installing new programs. It may also ask for your User Name ..which is your usual User name on your Mac.

When you've supplied what it's asking for, the little area beside 'Show password' will then show you the password for that service - e.g; your login password for using 'ftp' for uploading data to your website, or whatever it was that you chose to to discover.

There's a whole load of info about using Keychain Access here on this Apple info page: https://support.apple.com/kb/PH20093.

Your Mac generally stores all your passwords - to everything! - on its 'Keychain'. So they should all be recoverable using the Keychain Access program.

Others will know - or you'll find it by Googling - how to recover all your Firefox tabs, bookmarks, etc: probably by choosing 'History' on the top-line menu, and then 'Show All History'. But I can't say for sure, as I generally use Safari instead.

Yours, David.

(P.S: You could, of course, try restoring Firefox from your most recent backup.)

Sounds like two interesting books.

I totally agree that it makes sense to write a photography book that will be useful ten (or a hundred) years from now.

I see that a lot of people struggle with getting their heads around the relation between aperture, shutter speed and ISO. As well as using focal lengths and aperture to get the desired results. Will you touch those subjects at all? Or will recommend other sources for that type of information?

When I started working at my current employer a few years ago, all the kids made me change over to Chrome. Since then, nothing has happened. No balking, no nothing. Perfect, or as perfect as a system can be...

Not to chide you but you really were given fair warning by the application. If you care for a bit of advice buy a copy of 1Password. Backs up you passwords, access on all your devices. you don't have anything buried in browsers which are notoriously flakey.

I use Evernote for note-taking and saving things of interest for future use in stories. The organization system (notebooks and tags) is very easy to use and the search system makes it very easy to find something I filed years ago but need now. Browser plug-ins make it easy to save web pages.

One Evernote feature that I haven't found elsewhere is OCR of all images. I can take a photo of a document with the Evernote phone app (or a screengrab of a web page) and automagically the text of that photo/document is searchable.

The company has had some financial struggles recently but I am comforted by the fact that I can export everything to another system (i.e., Microsoft OneNote) should the company ever perish.

Highly recommended.

P.S. - RE: laziness. Remember, "you are who you pretend to be."* You're doing a good job of pretending to be a prolific blogger and self-employed entrepreneur.

* The Internet attributes this to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. but I can't quite recall another source that may predate him.

Sometimes people run into issues because those around them don't realise their friend doesn't know about Gizmo X. Gizmo X is so widespread and has been around for so long that everyone assumes everyone else knows about and uses it, and so nobody discusses it.

That's what you've run into, Mike.

A Firefox crash too late, but here's what all your friends around the world thought you knew about and used:

- Firefox Sync

- Xmarks

Either of them should get the job done for you.

But before you keep going, have you looked inside the Firefox (maybe Mozilla) directory in your computer to see if there is a bookmarks file? It should be a .json. I remember years ago, prior to the appearance of the aforementioned syncing addons, that Firefox played a similar trick on me, but the old bookmarks file still existed; it was just that, for whatever reason, the new Firefox installation wasn't reading it. I opened it, copied the contents, then pasted them into the new bookmarks file that had been created and which Firefox was reading. Voila! Problem solved.

Puzzling! Seems like something was "interfering" with Firefox. If you were on a PC, I could suggest where to look for all your information, and then change Firefox configuration to use that folder, but I'm a Mac ignoramus. Do you know any local Mac gurus?

Mike, Regarding Firefox, I believe that all of the settings (including bookmarks and saved passwords) are stored on your hard drive. Don't panic! See https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/profiles-where-firefox-stores-user-data

Last year I tried to move over to Firefox, about a week after setting it all up, It crashed. Micro Soft Explorer is not much better, at least I can back up my book marks with it.

I keep a small black book with all of my passwords as there are times when my old brain crashes as well.

As for computers and digital photography, I am slowly starting to loose interest in it all. The biggest set back was the Adobe thing when they sold me PS6 and then dumped me with no backup or help and put it all on the Cloud (what ever that is) We are living in fast and greedy times.

Oops, let me stop right there and go for a 30 or so mile bike ride..... Still like reading this site. Keep up the good work and a Happy New Year to you.

If you do not have a Password Manager or Automated Backup then you know what your priorities to-day might be.

1. I recommend LastPass as a tool to manage your passwords across all your devices. Start off with your top 10 critical accounts (which will take maybe 30-90 mins) and expand the others as necessary. LastPass will work on all your Apple Devices (plus Windows plus Browser).

2. I get an email every morning which confirms my automated backup has been completed. Always a good start to the day.

Mike what a bummer. I don't trust technology. I am no Luddite though. The vast majority of my working career was in the semiconductor industry (computer chips). But I learned technology is far from perfect and when it gets close to perfect some update or "improvement" comes along and screws everything up.
I write down all my passwords in notebooks and keep a spreadsheet with encrypted information (but very simple for me to figure out) of where they are located within the notebooks. I try hard not to have my passwords saved anywhere on the computer or internet.
Best of luck trying to get it all back. I would not be surprised if some TOP reader is a Firefox maven and knows how to recover them. I have a sneaky suspicion that Firefox has a record of them somewhere.

The photography book is all about seeing, self-direction, aesthetic tastes and and working methods, though...not gear and not technique.

Sounds fantastic! I’m looking forward to reading it!


Mike, Firefox automatically backs up bookmarks and keeps the last 15 copies. Have these vanished, too?


If you did regular backups to Time Machine, you should be able to recover the bookmarks. And BTW, what is wrong with Safari?

I don't know what your browser problem was, but your old information may still be on your computer. Look for:
Should be something like eovirhed.default
The new one will be small and have a current date. If the old one is still there, it will have a different name and older date. The trick is to change the name of the old one to that of the new one (save the new one!). That works sometimes.

Try saving passwords in a Rolodex -- just another layer of security and outside of the computer.

Looking forward to both!


If you use Time Machine to back up your Mac, it is straightforward to recover your bookmarks.

I never had Firefox 'throw up on my shoes' in this fashion. I haveno idea what happened. But the damage is reversible.

Mike, I just remembered. I've experienced this once before.

Firefox may have created a new profile (identity) , and simply left the old profile alone.

Try going to Start/Run and entering

"C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -profilemanager

into the text box.

If you have more than one profile, Firefox will let you choose the profile under which you want Firefox to run. Try both. One of them might be your old profile, with bookmarks and all the rest intact.

Are You sure you cannot recover what you need from Time Machine?
Time Machine backs up the apps as well as app 'settings'
Apple provices Keychain for storing such things as passwords and provides for making 'Secure Notes' of any other stuff you want to save.

It doesn't strike me a right that something a simple as bookmarks wouldn't be recoverable if you do regular backups.

All of that Firefox "context" (bookmarks, saved passwords) was stored in the directory "/Users/you/Library/Application Support/Firefox/". (Where you is your Mac username. It was in a directory under Profiles there. You should be able to restore it from your Time Machine backups. You would then need to change what profile you're using in Firefox.

Just do that to export the bookmarks and print out the passwords, then trash all the profiles and make a clean start with Firefox.

Assuming you make back-ups, look for this folder:
Macintosh HD//Users//MikeJ//Library//Application Support//Firefox//Profiles

Here are all your bookmarks &cetera stored.

Keep Calm & Carry On!

Hope you hit on a cost effective shipping method for non USA members Mike,as I'm sure I won't be the only one who will want to get copies of both books, ebook would also do I suppose.

I keep all my passwords printed out and put in a binder labeled "Secret Passwords"

No really, I do.

All browsers suck, but Chrome seems to suck a little bit less than the others. Also, I disabled Adobe Flash a year or so ago and it helps stabilize the browser. If a site uses it, mostly I just don't see whatever it is they want to run in Flash, but it I really want to see it I go to the Microsoft browser, where I haven't disabled Flash. Good idea to export your bookmarks every once in a while.

it's too late now, but a bootable clone made using Carbon Copy Cloner (for example) could have saved you. I re-make one every so often, depending on activity, as well as using Time Machine. (I haven't checked, but Time Machine may also be able retrieve your browser. Other commenters will no doubt let you know.)

I was hoping you book activity was still in progress – I'm looking forward to the results. Your recent post 'Looking Glass' and comments (a great post by the way!), had all sorts of fascinating ramifications that could be explored in much greater depth, and perhaps you will be investigating?


Sorry to hear about the Firefox snafu...may I suggest enabling or using a bookmark manager that leverages the cloud? Here is a link to a site that breaks down the options better then I can...www.makeuseof.com/tag/4-great-ways-sync-bookmarks-favorites-computers-phones/

I personally use chrome and it's ability to sync to the cloud for bookmarks. I do not like to use the browsers built-in ability to auto fill passwords. Instead, I have chosen a third-party add-on. I use LastPass which I believe to be secure and very configurable. One of my favorite features is 2-factor authentication. It has saved my bacon numerous times. As always, thanks for the great content.


Assuming you're using Time Machine to run regular backups on your Mac, use it to restore the ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox folder from a backup made before the crash (where '~' is your home folder; note that your Library folder is hidden by default). That will restore your Firefox profile and should put everything back the way you had it. Here's a good article on using Time Machine to restore files and folders:


If you're not using Time Machine (or some other backup solution), well, then, you're S.O.L. as they say.

Good one. As they say, art doesn't come easy. Whatever inspires absorption in subject, pictorial elements - and self - is right to the point.

Have you tried?

Switch to Chrome browser Mike. With Chrome all those settings, bookmarks, etc. are stored in Google's cloud and it Chrome gets corrupted, you just uninstall and reinstall. The new install will pick up your settings when you log in.

This happened to my wife and I....and it turned out our computer had been hacked and compromised. After a professional clean, everything works fine now.

So, maybe you should check.....

Your bookmarks and other personal things are stored outside of the Firefox application, and so should still be there on your drive. However, they may have been corrupted somehow. You need to use an external drive, and run Time Machine to do backups, so you can restore your files or entire drive when something like this happens.

For saving material for future posts or book writing I strongly suggest that you use something like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote. Although I personally prefer Evernote for ease of use both are PC/Mac agnostic and both have unique features. I've started poking around with MS OneNote to see what it's like and I can see where it might be provide better granularity if you save a lot of material. Anyway, it's food for thought.

I finally switched to Chrome after Firefox stopped remembering passwords on some sites. Took a little finagling but it works pretty well and imported the bookmarks easily. The only trick was setting up my tool bar the same, but now I'm pretty comfortable in Google land.

Good to hear the books are coming along. Speaking of books, I was inspired by your earlier post to order Scheldahl's collection of essays, Let's See: Writings on Art from The New Yorker. I like it.

I'm too lazy or don't want to use Chrome so I stay with Firefox, probably since the old Netscape days. I've been having issues with Firefox also. Pages slow to load and then crashing entirely or having to Force Quit.

I suggest you look into two Firefox add-ons - LastPass and Xmarks. The first keeps your passwords and the second keeps your bookmarks and macros. This allows me to set up a browser on any computer with Firefox with my own personal setup in less than a minute. Only two passwords to remember. I believe there are other add-ons that will acieve the same result.

Highly recommended is an encrypted password app to keep your passwords separate from your browser. There are several good ones. I've been using 1Password, for example. Very easy to set up and use.

Firefox has become my least used browser in the last few years. I use Chrome, since all bookmarks, history are synced across computers. Two computers, iPad, phones...

I also use 1Password for my password management, that way I can use any of these browsers and/or platforms, and still be able to login.

I use Roboform for passwords, bookmarks and more. The nice thing is, it lives on my phone, my Macs and my PC. I simply cannot live without it, and it is affordable. I think I have been a customer for 7+ years.

Wonderful news about the writing. :)

It will be no consolation, but freakin' Microsoft Edge does the same. Has a brain fart, and loses your carefully curated library of links.

I have been sticking to Chrome again ever since. All backed up, so whatever happens, it just pops up like new every time.

I even get the same links on my Android phone.

Worth a try on your Mac?

I love the sound of the photography book. The older I get as a person and more experienced I become as a photographer, the more things seem to boil to down to just that......taste. True for photography as well as most things. Almost anyone can master the technical challenges if they put in the time and effort. But if you have "bad taste" all the technical expertise in the world doesn't really help. Then there is the great, subjective, never-ending and always moving, debate of what qualifies as good and bad taste!

If a hacker gets hold of your browser passwords (encrypted or otherwise), your entire identity is in peril. It is entirely possible that a hacker could access your computer, especially now that you have publicly admitted that your passwords are all stored in a keychain/browser file - this means that a hacker could personally target you, rather than "cruise the 'net" looking for weak links.

I never allow any device to store any passwords for me, and I use a system of password creation that allows me to vary them across points of entry, but makes them easy to remember. Also, there is much safer option of keeping your passwords written down in a notebook. This isn't something that you'd keep with you, but keep hidden in your home. The chances of a hacker breaking in to your house to access your Google Plus and Facebook accounts are pretty slim - as long as you have no electronic version of the notebook, such as a photograph. If you lose the notebook, well, there is always the good old "forgot password" function. Just don't keep the "forgot password" emails in your mail folders, which are also hackable.

Also, never tell anyone anything about your computer setup.

The possibilities of you becoming a target are fairly slim. However, you are a public figure, so those chances are much higher for you than for me. Sorry to be the party pooper.

Firefox allows you to save bookmarks, passwords etc on Firefox servers. I am not in front of a Mac right now but google "bookmarks synching firefox mac" and you should find instructions.

You're backing up your Mac with Time Machine? Then you can recover individual files or folders in their previous state.


So you can recover the Firefox profile (from the backup just before your crash) with Time Machine and replace the broken one with the older copy.

The profile folder will be in

~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles

something like default.csu or for older profiles a random set of letters and numbers.

i.e. the Profiles folder in Firefox folder in Application Support folder in Library in your home folder.

Use shift/cmd/G to paste in that path in Finder then go into Time Machine and recover a copy of the folder from before the crash.

All your browser setup (and passwords) will be back to as before the crash.

I use Chrome on Mac. If you have a Google "profile", it will back up what you wish to the cloud. Bookmarks, passwords, you choose. As backup, and for use in Chrome on your phone, etc. Again, you control what it does.

Just for one example -- I use it to store travel ideas for a given city. When I arrive in that city with my phone -- tada!

It's also a good browser!

Allowing some program to store your passwords is the only practical way to go (other than not using the web, or just keeping your computer powered off and locked in a vault). But make sure they're well encrypted. I let Firefox Sync have mine, but under a master password. This can be broken by a nasty enough attack, but on the other hand using simple enough passwords that I can keep them in my head is also a risk. (And the master copy of them all goes yet elsewhere.)

What is the least-bad tradeoff depends on who you think the opposition is, among other things. Are you worried about random script-kiddies, or state-level actors? Or what distribution on the line between? Because they have rather different capabilities. Making me type passwords on the keyboard opens them to being intercepted by a microphone in my space. Making me call them up on the screen and retype by hand (by blocking pasting into a password field) opens them to a camera in the room, or outside the room depending on window positions.

The real answer is that nothing is ever actually safe. That was true before, and that's true now.

I'm a long time Mac/Safari user, and I recently switched to Opera.
It keeps your bookmarks backed up automatically and across all your devices (Mac/PC, Android/WinPhone/iOs).
I can also highlight sentences within a bookmark, a huge time saver.

Mike, I know you're a nice guy, but You are the CEO.
It's time to round up the whole IT department and give them a stern talking to.
Slackers !

[Three guys named Mike Johnston. They all seem to spend inordinate amounts of time on it, but somehow manage to get almost nothing done. They're the best we can afford, but you're right, they aren't very good. --Mike]

Book sounds awesome. I've been searching for something to take me beyond Hattersley's "Discovering Yourself Through Photography" and Dick Zakia's "Perception and Imaging."
Keep typing!

Great news about the books! They are certain to be included in my ever-shortening reading list (I think using computers and electronic gadgets is making my concentration ability worse all the time).

Glad to hear you're still working on the books, even if they are causing you trouble. WHEN they are published, I'll be first in line.

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