Up-to-date Firefox on Debian Live

The computers where I install Debian Live are used to access a relatively limited set of websites. The default browser on the builds is Iceweasel, Debian’s rebranding of Firefox which came to be circa 2004-2006 due to esoteric legal reasons. The version number is 38, which is an ESR: a long-term support version scheduled by Mozilla to receive security updates for a extended period of time.

Now the problem: one of the websites we use recently started complaining that our browser was too old. Well, it actually is old. Firefox/Iceweasel 38 was first released in May 2015, and a new ESR cycle (version 45) has started since then. Websites maintainers tend to recognise this, and this website appears to require the latest ESR. Everything appears to work correctly, but it does show a warning and I am concerned it could actually start breaking at any moment.

So what’s a Debian Live admin to do? I found that Debian do publish up-to-date browser packages (or as up-to-date as the latest ESR anyway) in their repositories. However, it’s not in the obvious, default repositories but in the ones for security updates, which need to be added to my sources.list. These are normally active by default in new installs of Debian, but for some reason they are not on Debian Live builds.

But also to my surprise, while looking for a solution I found that the whole Iceweasel/Firefox drama has finally come to an end. Things have changed over the years, and finally Mozilla has changed its licensing policies, getting Debian to finally agree to bundle Firefox, actually branded as Firefox, in its distribution. These new packages are already available, also on the repositories for security updates.

This means that I can have Firefox instead of Iceweasel, and it can be version 45, which fits my requirements.

To have my Debian Live ISOs bundle this updated Firefox, I have to add the source line at a file in config/archives/. This is a valid example:

1# config/archives/security.list.chroot
2deb jessie/updates main

If you were including Iceweasel in your builds, that should get you version 45. Now, if you want Firefox you can reference it (as firefox-esr) instead in your package lists. For instance:

1# config/package-lists/firefox.list.chroot

The rest is just running a build and installing the result in your computers.