Firefox Profile Sharing with Dropbox

Not too long ago, I wrote about keeping Firefox sync’d across multiple machines using Dropbox. Now that I’ve used that system for going on two weeks, I feel like I can report that there’s nothing to report. By and large, things are running quite smoothly (since turning off Dropbox notifications). This morning, though, I did come across a gotcha that was a direct result of this profile sync’ing, so I thought I’d mention it and share the solution. Or at least a solution. There may be others.

This morning I tried to download something and couldn’t. I could click on it, I could even see the .part file appear in my downloads directory (~/Downloads for me), but that was it. Firefox seemed to create the partial download file and then stop. There was no error, no indication of anything afoul, just an aborted – and orphaned – download. My preferences all looked okay, so I rolled up my sleeves and ventured into about:config.

In about:config, I didn’t know what I was looking for so I did the obvious and typed “download” into the filter textbox. The only thing that looked odd in any way was that I had a preference named browser.download.lastDir (this may not be exactly right, after fixing the problem and before returning to write about it, the setting has disappeared) and the path it contained was a Windows path – the path to the downloads path I have set on the Windows box that shares this profile. I reset that value and tried my download again. This time it worked exactly as expected.

My guess is that the presence of backslashes in Windows paths throws the Unix-based Mac a curve ball it doesn’t know how to handle. Perhaps it’s treating the backslash (\) as an escape character in this context, but I don’t know that. I’m going to try turning off the download history retention on all of my machines to determine whether that makes any difference moving forward. I suspect it might. To do that, just open up Firefox’s Preferences, select the Privacy tab and uncheck Remember what I’ve downloaded.

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