Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

November 15, 2022

Extracting Firefox Sites visited for archiving

Filed under: Computer Software,Linux/Unix Related,Tech Related — Suramya @ 3:01 AM

I have been using Firefox since it first version (0.1) launched back in 2003. At that time it was called Phoenix but had to change its name due to a trademark claim from Phoenix Technologies to Firebird which was then renamed to Firefox. Over the years I have upgraded in place so I had assumed that all my Browser History etc was still safely stored in the browser. A little while ago I realized that this wasn’t the case as there is a history page limit defined under the about:config. The property is called

places.history.expiration.transient_current_max_pages: 137249

and on my system it is configured for 137249 entries. This was a disappointment as I wanted to save an archive of the sites I have visited over the years so I started looking at how to export the history from Firefox from the command line so that I can save it in another location as part of my regular backup. I knew that the history is stored in a SQLite database so I looked at the contents of the DB using a SQLite viewer. The DB was simple enough to understand but I didn’t want to recreate the wheel so I searched on Google to see if anyone else has already written the queries to extract the data and found this Reddit post that gave the command to extract the data into a file.

I tried the command out and it worked perfectly with just one small hitch. The command would not run unless I shutdown Firefox as the DB file was locked by FF. This was a big issue as it meant that I would have to close the browser every time the backup ran which is not feasible as the backup process needs to be as transparent and seamless as possible.

Another search for the solution pointed me to this site that explained how to connect to a locked DB in Read Only mode. Which was exactly what I needed, so I took the code from there and merged it with the previous version and came up with the following command:

sqlite3 'file:places.sqlite?immutable=1' "SELECT strftime('%d.%m.%Y %H:%M:%S', visit_date/1000000, 'unixepoch', 'localtime'),
                                                   url FROM moz_places, moz_historyvisits WHERE = moz_historyvisits.place_id ORDER BY visit_date;" > dump.out 

this command gives us an output that looks like:

28.12.2020 12:30:52|
28.12.2020 12:30:52|
14.11.2022 04:37:17|,cr&fg=1

Once the file is created, I back it up with my other files as part of the nightly backup process on my system. In the next phase I am thinking about dumping this data into a PostgreSQL DB so that I can put a UI in front of it that will allow me to browse/search through the file. But for now this is sufficient as the data is being backed up.

I was able to get my browsing history going back to 2012 by restoring the oldest Firefox backup that I have on the system and then extracting the data from it. I still have some DVD’s with even older backups so when I get some time I will restore and extract the data from there as well.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

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