Dear Firefox, you just nuked my entire 5 years of Zotero archives!

2014 October 21
by Daniel Lakeland

Luckily I keep good backups. But recently I started Firefox and it said something like "you haven't used firefox in a while, would you like to start over with a new profile to take advantage of our new features?" So since I mostly use Chromium, I said, "yes". Days later I tried to start Zotero and it had no data directory (because by default it uses the one in .firefox/<profile directory>/zotero.

Thanks to rdiff-backup I was able to recover my zotero directory and put it in .zotero/zotero, but this would have been a BIG deal, and Firefox should have done something like move the old directory to a backup location, not nuke it entirely.

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Aurimas permalink
    October 21, 2014

    Generally Firefox doesn't delete your old profile, but moves it to the Desktop. (see the note at the bottom of this section )

    There's a general consensus though that. by default, Zotero should probably store the library in a better location, like user's Documents folder. Among other things, this would prevent Firefox profile resets from giving users heart attacks.

  2. adam.smith permalink
    October 21, 2014

    and Firefox should have done something like move the old directory to a backup location

    that is, in fact, the default behavior for Firefox resets as described here:
    Are you positive there is no folder "Old Firefox Data" on your Desktop? If so, that'd be a bug, I assume.

    • Daniel Lakeland
      October 21, 2014

      Desktop? what's that? 😉
      Did I mention Debian Linux and Gnome?
      There is in fact a "Old Iceweasel Data" directory in ~/Desktop/ but as far as I'm concerned the idea that it should copy the data there is a bug.

      • adam.smith permalink
        October 21, 2014

        on most systems, the desktop is the most visible place for a user, so that'd seem like the perfect place to put a back-up a user may not be aware of. Maybe there's a Debian set up I'm not familiar with, but on my gnome machines ~/Desktop was just like any other desktop, so that would have worked there, too.

        Where should Iceweasel have placed the backed up data in your opinion?

        • Daniel Lakeland
          October 22, 2014

          right next to the old profile directory would have been the logical choice.
          ~/.mozilla/firefox/Old PROFILE YYYYMMDD/ would make sense. Of course this assumes people know where the profiles are stored. On Linux systems that is probably a better assumption than the Desktop, whereas on Windows the Desktop makes some sense. (though most people I know have a desktop so cluttered that they couldn't find anything that popped up on it without looking conscientiously.)

          Gnome 3 has no desktop (sure it has the directory, but there's nothing displayed "on the desktop" unless you go into the tweak tools. Since I find the desktop to be a useless metaphor (if I wanted a cluttered desk, I wouldn't need a computer ;-)) I haven't turned on the desktop icons. That's the default in Gnome 3 so it should be considered by the Firefox developers.

          Zotero should put its data somewhere else though. It makes no sense to have it inside the firefox profile where firefox rightfully feels like it should be able to do what it wants with the data.

          • Aurimas permalink
            October 24, 2014

            Zotero data directory will likely move to user documents in a future release (possibly with 5.0)

        • Daniel Lakeland
          October 22, 2014

          Also, when I clicked yes, it should have prominently told me: "If you need your old data it is in a back-up located ..." Perhaps it did, but I don't remember that.

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