Hotmail doesn't work with Firefox 2.0: Microsoft answers to GNU/Linux users "Switch to Outlook Express"

Hotmail doesn't work with Firefox 2.0: Microsoft answers to GNU/Linux users "Switch to Outlook Express"


I'm the increasingly discontent owner of an Hotmail account (don't laugh, I subscribed back when Hotmail wasn't owned by Microsoft). Recently, in order to compete with Google on the Web, Hotmail's interface was overhauled: it now has a "classic" interface, which works reasonably well but is still rather limited, and a supposedly "Full" interface that should make it the equal of sites like Google Apps and Yahoo Mail/Calendar/etc.

The background

Required system

This is what Hotmail requires for the Full interface to start:

Hotmail heading

This version works better with your browser. The full version of Windows Live Hotmail runs on Internet Explorer 6.0 and higher (make sure you check the system requirements before you install it). The full version also works on Firefox 1.5.

Note that Firefox 1.5 is supported; Firefox 2.0 is too, since "Firefox 1.5 or better is supported". What is not specified though, is that you need a screen resolution of 1024x768 for the Full interface to run too. OK, no biggie.

Back up a little: Firefox is supported. By nature, the source code used for ALL versions of Firefox is common to ALL platforms--a few shims to circumvent specific OS failings scattered here and there, but Firefox is basically cross platform. A website running on Firefox for Windows will look exactly the same under Firefox for AIX, provided it uses fonts with similar metric (and Arial is nothing more than a slightly modified Helvetica font, so variations are not all that great, even less now that Red Hat released their Liberation fonts).

However, try loading Hotmail under Firefox 2.0 under GNU/Linux: no cigar, the Full version is not available.

Ask support

I contacted the Hotmail support staff (and for the first time since 1997, I actually got an answer) about the matter.

Me:

Why, exactly, is "Full" disabled if one masks "Win" as the OS in the User Agent string, considering that Firefox doesn't use any Windows subsystem other than the TCP/IP stack and GDI? On Windows XP, hiding the fact that I'm using Windows in the UA string disables "Full", while masquerading as Firefox for Windows under Linux X86-64 (and a 64-bit build of Firefox) "Full" works very well.

This is their short answer:

Hotmail Staff :

Mitch, after reviewing the information you provided, I determined that Microsoft Product Support Services Team could best address your issue. They are tasked to provide all the information you need to be able to configure correctly your Windows Live Hotmail through Outlook Express.

Yes, you've read that correctly: since Hotmail Full won't work under Firefox for Linux, configure Outlook Express to access your account.

I thought I was not being clear enough, so I replied:

Me:

Excuse me? I don't want to use Opendoor Virus Extreme - sorry, Outlook Express, I want to use Windows Live Hotmail, Full version, under Mozilla Firefox 2, on any machine and/or OS I have installed! I thought I was being clear, I'm using a BROWSER to access a WEBMAIL INTERFACE that seems to be ARTIFICIALLY LIMITED IN FUNCTIONALITY due to BASIC USER AGENT SNIFFING.

And here, the answer:

Hotmail staff :

Please make sure that your screen resolution is set to 1024 x 768 or higher to be able to view the full version of Windows Live Hotmail. To do this, please follow these steps: [steps for Windows XP/Vista]

I guess you're saying the same thing I did when I read that.

...

Yes, speechless.

I'm sending them a new mail now, saying specifically:

Me:

Short answer: Hotmail blocks non-Windows users from their full Hotmail accounts.

I'll keep you posted on the answer, but my guess is they'll keep dancing around the issue. Still, lucky you, I have a simple workaround.

Browser Spoofing

As we've seen, Hotmail doesn't rely upon proprietary Microsoft Web extensions (Firefox is one of the less forgiving browsers out there about proprietary extensions, supporting less Microsoftisms than KHTML/Webkit or Opera); but then, how do we fool Hotmail into serving us its Full version? Well, it's far easier than you might think.

Opera

Opera cumulates both the W3C and the IE event models and several extended features of both models can be used with it. You can try masquerading as either Internet Explorer or as Mozilla Firefox--It may just work. However, Opera isn't free, so of course it's not the recommended option.

However, if you already use Opera, just know this: Hotmail doesn't seem to get fooled by a simple masquerading--and you get a lot of Javascript errors.

Konqueror

Konqueror can masquerade as Firefox (but with slightly lower CSS capabilities) or as Internet Explorer (but it doesn't support its event model). With it, you can start Full Hotmail - but you'll get many bugs or even an unworkable interface.

Both Opera and Konqueror make it easy to pass off as another browser.

Firefox

Firefox is a bit more difficult to use here: you either need to modify strings in about:config, or to load the much more practical User Agent Switcher extension by Chris Pederick. Once done, configure it: in Tools > User Agent Switcher, go into Options > options..., and add a new identifier:

  • Field 1 : Firefox for Windows
  • Field 2 : Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en; rv:1.8.1.11) Gecko/20071127 Firefox/2.0.0.11

Or, you can paste the following into an XML file and import it through the same menu:

<useragentswitcher>
  <useragent description="Firefox for Win32" 
  useragent="Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en; rv:1.8.1.11) Gecko/20071127 Firefox/2.0.0.11" 
  appname="Netscape" 
  appversion="5.0 (Windows; en-US)" 
  platform="Windows" vendor="Mozilla" vendorsub=""/>
</useragentswitcher>

And then, you'll be able to access the full capabilities (hem, hem) of Hotmail outside of Windows.

Conclusion

All things said, I prefer Gmail.

Category: 

Comments

Condex's picture
Submitted by Condex on

mmmm... I don't use that web interface, and when using it, I prefer the classic version... runs faster on my Gentoo box 8o)

Another option is to use freepops program and get those mails in your local e-mail program, as I do(Thunderbird in this case) 8o)

Cheers!

Mauro Bieg's picture
Submitted by Mauro Bieg on

lol. too funny.

those microsoft replies seem to me like they were generated by some stupid AI, like the nerve-racking paper clip in word (NO! I dont wanna write a letter!!!)

anyway, I'd just give up using hotmail... ;-)

Mitch Meyran's picture

If I had bet a cookie for every stupidity contained in the e-mail they answered me with, I'd be much fatter now.

The answer in short: reset your browser settings, profile and cache contents

I answered for the third dtime, that spoofing the user agent string allowed me to use it, meaning that Microsoft filtered Linux users from accessing full Hotmail. I'd like to get an account from MacOS X users, for a laugh.

The last email I got from them was that they were glad I could fix my problem (not saying anything about Linux being locked out), and they AGAIN tried to make me configure Outlook/Outlook Express to access Hotmail.

The 'satisfaction inquiry' I got from them was well filled by yours truly, with my appreciation of their service. I don't need to say that most questions got a 'not satisfactory at all' appreciation from me.

Anyway, since the 'Full' version renders worse than the 'Classic' version (with misaligned blocks all over the place, and very slowly), I'll stick to Classic.

It's not as if I use it much, outside of trapping spam and some other accounts I forgot to migrate...

---
A computer is like air conditioning: it becomes useless when you open windows.

Freeborn's picture
Submitted by Freeborn on

I run Iceweasel 2.0 on Debian "Etch." Just for fun, I went and opened a hotmail account. With the default user agent string, everything worked okay except for the "full" version was blocked. I then changed the user agent to Firefox 2.0 on Mac OS X and logged back in. Voila, I was able to use full without a problem. I think they just have a problem with Linux. They choose not to understand that Linux exists and is becoming a fairly strong force worldwide--kinda like how the U.S.-based media treats Ron Paul.

slush1000's picture
Submitted by slush1000 on

I did a test with user agent spoofing to [FF 1.5 WinXP] to get access to the "full version" after logging in and turning on the preview pane, which is only available under the full version, I then switched the user agent back to Default (FF 2.x Kubuntu). Everything continued to work perfectly as long as you are not on the "Today" page with the incompatibility warning. Even more proof that Microsoft is pulling its usual dirty tricks.

nostabo's picture
Submitted by nostabo on

However, Opera isn’t free, so of course it’s not the recommended option.

Opera has been free for a few years now. It isn't open source or GNU, but it is free to use.

be951's picture
Submitted by be951 on

I keep hearing that Opera is not free... Is there a different Opera browser than the one found here (www.opera.com)? I've been using it for free for more than a year. In fact, it looks like (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opera_browser) it has been no-cost and ad-free since 2005 (apart from the custom Nintendo versions). Maybe I'm missing something?

Mitch Meyran's picture

Free software isn't freeware: in Free Software Magazine, 'Free' is understood as in Free of 'freedom', no free == gratis.
- Opera isn't free, as in you can't take the code and run away with it
- Opera isn't free, as redistributing it is subject to Opera Software's agreement
- Opera is merely gratis.
So no, Opera ain't free.
---
A computer is like air conditioning: it becomes useless when you open windows.

ihatepasswords's picture

This is why I prefer Yahoo Mail (the classic UI). This is also why Yahoo should not sell out to Microsoft.

I use Opera by the way. I simply prefer it to other alternative browsers. Open source software does not necessarily mean better software.

ihatepasswords's picture

This is why I prefer Yahoo Mail (the classic UI). This is also why Yahoo should not sell out to Microsoft.

I use Opera by the way. I simply prefer it to other alternative browsers. Open source software does not necessarily mean better software.

mindOVERmatter's picture

History repeats itself. During the browser wars, when Netscape was the enemy, MS allowed only Internet Explorer based user agents to access microsoft.com. Their claim was that Netscape did not display their site correctly. Spoofing the user agent proved that to be nothing short of a lie, and a rather transparent attempt to dominate a market by whatever means were available. Anybody using Microsoft "products", and knows better, is an enabler that encourages this kind of behavior. Just say no.

david_'s picture
Submitted by david_ on

I have no issues running the full version of Hotmail in Gentoo on my laptop. FF is 2.0.0.11 x86_64 version compiled from source. My user agent string is:

Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-US; rv:1.8.1.11) Gecko/20071230 Firefox/2.0.0.11

Mitch Meyran's picture

I don't know if it came from a wave of complains to Microsoft (this blog post was read an awful lot of times) or as a point to solve on the website's most recent overhaul, but this problem was _solved_ one week after Firefox 3.0 final came out: Hotmail doesn't sniff Linux out anymore and all functionalities are enabled.

It also is faster now, slightly cleaner and less cluttered than before - not as much of a pain to use as it used to be, at least.
---
A computer is like air conditioning: it becomes useless when you open windows.

theguru's picture
Submitted by theguru on

erm, it's still not working with Linux and Firefox 2.x
I'm running Kubuntu 7.10 with Firefox 2.0.0.16
I got sick of not being able to use it and had to reply to one email so I did a search and found your tip :-)
Hotmail works but when clicking 'reply' there's no cursor and you can't type anything! Sons of bitches! Of course your user agent spoofing tip using that add-on works great. Thanks!

Author information

Mitch Meyran's picture

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Have you ever fixed a computer with a hammer, glue and a soldering iron? Why not? It's fun!