Using Weave

Retro On Retro

Just recently a colleague had their drive die on them; these things happen, and it wasn’t much of a hassle to reimage a new drive. She’d even backed up her bookmarks, but in this modern age it turns out that’s not good enough. There’s a lot more to the modern browser experience than that; a hoard of passwords you probably don’t remember for sites you occasionally visit, searchable browser history going back months. Your personal Browser State, that Firefox’s clever caching and their extraordinarily useful new toolbar at the top there have made more and more valuable. Your web-browsing experience (right now, believe me) being actively mediated by a handful of ambient-information butlers that you barely notice until they’re gone, not quietly doing their thing in the background on your behalf. Losing all that, or trying to duplicate that experience on another machine, can be a huge pain in whatever orifice you’d pick last. She’s still missing that, and it pains me to watch that happen.

It doesn’t have to be like that, though. Have you heard of Weave? I don’t think a lot of people have, but it’s really slick: it will bundle up your browser state in a neat little package and back it all up to a server at Mozilla (though you can set up your own if you like) and when your machine goes sideways or if you just start using a different one and want your past back, there it is.

It’s all nice and cross-platform too; browser state is about half of my working environment now, so getting my new Mini set up just so was pretty much painless. You need a current-ish version of Firefox to make it work, but you should have that anyway. Take the time to set it up, it’s absolutely worth it.


  1. Posted October 5, 2009 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard of it, but I have that bitter experience aversion to things whose version numbers start with “0.” — is this actually solid enough to use?

  2. mhoye
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    I’ve only had reason to use it twice now, but both times it’s Just Worked. I had to restart my browser after a complete state reload on this mini, but that was about it.

  3. Mike Bruce
    Posted October 5, 2009 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    I saw it when I was looking through Mozilla Labs, but I haven’t tried it yet. Mostly I was just kind of surprised that Mozilla Labs existed and I hadn’t heard of it.

    Have you seen Bespin? That thing is crazy. Not that useful, but totally crazy.

  4. Posted October 6, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I’ve had it bork up a couple of times, and there are a couple of stories out there about it blanking out your current browser instead of backing it up.

    Use it, absolutely, but also make your own manual backup first before trusting it.

  5. kev
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Realizing I’m not a typical user, I’ve found weave’s current iteration to be very solid all the same. I’ve recovered from a corrupted profile pretty painlessly, and use it to keep three computers in sync.

    There’s the odd duplication in the toolbar bookmarks, but the password and session history backups are total wins on the roll for save front.

    Just realize you need to be able to remember your passphrase ;)

  6. Posted October 6, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    …. but backing up firefox is *so easy*.

    There’s two folders you need. With those two folders, you can move the firefox profile from machine to machine to machine and it *never knows the difference*.

  7. Posted October 6, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Also: Exact same thing applies to Thunderbird, too. Two folders, or three if you’ve moved your mailstore, and bang, it works on the new machine (or from the backup) EXACTLY the way it did on the old machine. Crosses OSen, too, without even a hint of a whimper, although I’ve moved Linux->Windows and XP-> Vista and vice versa, never Real Computer -> Tinker Toy.

  8. mhoye
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Having it happen automagically is valuable, particularly for people who don’t feel like fishing around in the filesystem.

  9. Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    It’s not so much the migration as the syncing that’s interesting to me. I move randomly between a laptop and desktop, depending on what I’m doing, and it’d be nice if they stayed synced up together.

  10. Posted October 7, 2009 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Also and completely at random, I just realized what that picture is (I’d thought it was some stock photo of a loom), and I love it.

  11. mhoye
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    Stock photo? You wound me.

    That is actually what part of our server room looks like.

  12. j2
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    What, did I click on shaver or kev’s website?

    (I use 1password on OSX, worth it just for form-filling and then rss the crap out of anything else worth reading. My bookmarks consist of 2 search keywords and apparently I hit splat-D-enter instead of Splat-F-enter once.)

    What do people use bookmarks for?