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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Wed, 23 Mar 2011

How to get a newer version of Iceweasel (aka Firefox) on your Debian box

I’m no Backports guru, though I’d like to become one. And squeeze-backports is still in its early stages and doesn’t yet have a newer version of Iceweasel, the renamed version of the Firefox web browser that ships with Debian.

So how do you get Iceweasel/Firefox 3.6 or even 4.0 on your Debian Squeeze, Lenny, Wheezy/Testing or Sid/Unstable box?

The Debian Mozilla team maintains a page at http://mozilla.debian.net/ with easy-to-use drop-down menus that tell you exactly how to modify /etc/apt/sources.list (or create a new file that you could call mozilla.list to hold the new repository information in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/, which is what I’ve been doing for additional repositories to keep everything separated) and how to add the archive key to your apt keyring as well as install your newer Iceweasel browser.

The fact that you can continue to run Squeeze, or even Lenny, and have your stable base along with the latest Mozilla-created web browser is something I’m very, very interested in doing.

This page (and the service behind it) from the Debian Mozilla Team is yet another one of those community-driven things that makes Debian so great.

P2O2 Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 23:59:43

64 or 32 bit version?


steven Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 00:43:31

I assume they have both. From the way I understand it, you don’t set your architecture in /etc/apt/sources.list. That is set elsewhere in the system, and whichever architecture you are using, that is where apt pulls the package.

Here is a sample line in sources.list:

deb http://mozilla.debian.net/ squeeze-backports iceweasel-3.6

It doesn’t refer at all to architecture, which I assume is set elsewhere in your configuration when you install the system. I’m running 64-bit, so I will get 64-bit packages.

They do, in fact, have both builds. Here are the i386 packages: http://mozilla.debian.net/dists/squeeze-backports/iceweasel-4.0/binary-i386/

and here are the amd64 packages:


Curt Howland Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 14:17:51

Yes, architecture is set when the system is installed. It’s not something you want to go looking for, considering that ANY change will cause things to utterly break.

The sources.list file is editable, which makes it vulnerable, and I’m glad that it’s consistent across all architectures and we Debian users can pass repositories to each other without hesitation.

Marcus Friedman Friday, March 25, 2011 - 01:20:17

Hi Steven, this is probably the best tip that I’ve found amongst your posts. Thank you for sharing it, and keep up the good work.

Best regards,


corenominal Friday, March 25, 2011 - 18:27:59

I have taken to using the Firefox binaries distributed from the Mozilla site. I just extract them in my home directory and then run the executable. It feels kind of wrong to do this under Debian, but it works. :/

steven Friday, March 25, 2011 - 19:11:26

There’s nothing wrong with going upstream and using their source or binaries if everything works.

This is especially true, I think, if you’re doing this for a select few apps you use a lot and not for every damn thing.

This is yet another way to make Debian Stable more relevant - and more of what I want in a distribution, that being a stable, non-regressing base that can support the occasional newer application.

I can sure use a new Firefox (even though I personally won’t be moving to FF 4 until well after the smoke clears), and maybe a new LibreOffice (although on my main laptop I’ve been sticking with the OO that ships with Squeeze).

Another application that I will consider going upstream for is gThumb, which is one of my “core” apps. Gthumb has been under fairly heavy development, which is especially notable when you consider it’s neither F-Spot nor Shotwell …

On the other hand, much of this depends on hardware. If you hardware is “good” with a give distribution release, why continue to upgrade and risk breakage and regression?

I’m in the middle because while Debian Squeeze is great on this laptop, the 2.6.37 kernel is a better fit for the hardware than the 2.6.32 kernel that ships with the release. Luckily it’s easy to get a newer kernel from Liquorix.net or kernel.org, and soon enough from squeeze-backports.

Still, I see no compelling reason to upgrade my entire distribution every six months just to get newer versions of a few applications.

The translation of this is: I think the Ubuntu LTS would benefit from a backports repository like that of Debian. I know there are PPAs, and while I haven’t used many of them (I only have one Ubuntu install left, and that’s about to go Debian), I’m not comfortable with PPAs from a security and quality standpoint. I think an official Ubuntu Backports repository would add considerable value to the LTS.

corenominal Friday, March 25, 2011 - 19:44:22

Agreed, I see no reason to update my entire system every 6 months either. Debian Stable is a fantastic system and I do not mind going upstream for the occasional piece of software, as long as my base system stays solid.

P.S. I am loving your Debian blog, nice work! :)