Browser Wars: Episode 1
To be able to work in my personal computer, the Acer Aspire 3050 that I mentioned in my latest post about my wireless card, sometimes is really impossible. The lack of RAM memory, added with Windows 7’s likeness to freeze whenever it feels like it, makes my work an ordeal, but it is more noticeable when browsing the Web.
And this is the reason why some of my most common search terms are related to which browser is faster for my Windows configuration. In my case the results are always contradicting themselves. That old tale about Mozilla Firefox being faster, or Google Chrome being most efficient are pure lies that they’re trying to sell us. I’ve had almost all browsers in my PC and I’ll only say this: I’ve got my choice. But before I go into detail about my choice, I’ll talk a bit about each browser. In this post I’ll talk about Mozilla Firefox. However, before I go on, allow me to tell you a bit about the actual specifications of my laptop. This PC hasn’t been customized too much, I changed the stock Sempron processor with a Turion 64 X2 TL-50 (slower in the MHz department, but it is better for some tasks as it is dual-core). I only have 1 GB of RAM installed (of which 128 MB are shared with the ATi Radeon Express 1100 chipset). The hard drive is 80 GB of capacity with sufficient free space available (albeit fragmented). That combo of low RAM with fragmentation is the 1st part in my ordeal. But still, some programs shouldn’t be big resource hogs!
Without further ado, I shall start my browser shooting range with…!
The browser of the new generation. Coming closely to the old browser totem, Internet Explorer (which in its time killed the old-old browser totem, Netscape Navigator/Communicator). A large part of the world uses it, but honestly… Is it the best choice?
First of all, a rant that I’ve been saving myself for a long time: Firefox has sold itself to the version consumerism, a war of the versions I might say. Firefox versions 0.x and 1.x lasted for 5 years. Versions 2 lasted a hair short of two years. Versions 3 (the most widely known) lasted for 3 whole years. Then, the madness started: Version 4.0 (which only had an update: 4.0.1) lasted only 3 months, and as the geniuses behind the Gecko rendering engine had the brilliant idea of skipping 3 versions (to try to capitalize on the soundly HTML 5 term), Firefox 5 gets out. However, the madness is far from ending. The announcement for the version 6 is on due (it’s still in development, but they’re already thinking of a release). We all know that this version madness was started by Google Chrome, but I thought Mozilla was a trusty corporation and it wasn’t going to play that consumerism game. Rant out, now lets talk about the app, as an app.
About the performance, what can I say? It’s horrible. From Firefox 3.5 I’ve had the same rant: Firefox blows, blows, blows up, like a balloon. Even starting the browser without tabs, Firefox starts eating away your memory. After a hour, several Youtube videos and image boards later, Firefox might use up to 350 MB or more. And I haven’t even mentioned when I try to watch live streams. One hour later (or sooner), Firefox dies. Yeah, Flash kills Firefox. But even if you try to manually kill that famous “plugin-container”, or I install that FlashBlock extension, Firefox doesn’t stops there, and eats, eats, eats memory away.
There are several tricks around to how to improve RAM usage for Firefox. None worked. That little trick on minimizing the window and configuring keys on the “about:config” doesn’t works. Au contraire, when you minimize the window, Firefox forces the system to send it to the swap area, an area in the hard drive used as memory for tasks that aren’t actually in use. Well, guess what? It doesn’t works, because that swapping between hard drive and memory makes my PC freeze for 5, 10, 15 minutes.
Another proposed solution was to uninstall all the extensions. In my case, it is a valid suggestion, but a BAD suggestion. First, if it wasn’t for FlashBlock, all pages would try to show Flash objects, which would make Firefox use up more RAM. Second, if it wasn’t for AdBlock+, all pages would try to show thousands and thousands of advertisements, which would make Firefox use up more RAM. Those two extensions I can get behind, and I’ll give them my seal of approval and quality.
And when Firefox eats away all RAM, with 6, 8 or 10 tabs, the only solution is to close it and open it again. With the more-tolerable previous versions I could have 15 or 20 open tabs from the first run, and albeit Firefox took a lot of time to open, at least it didn’t froze in place, or froze my computer to a halt. Now, I configured Firefox to open up without tabs, but fast as snapping your fingers, it becomes awfully slow.
Web isn’t for slow computers, apparently. That’s the vision that those last versions of Firefox are selling to me. I don’t like this vision of the Web. What good is that Firefox is compatible with most HTML 5 and CSS 3 is I can’t even use the browser.
In one word I would summarize Firefox as a “disaster”. I’ll have it installed for testing Web pages, but other than that, “I got over you, Firefox”.
In our next edition: Google Chrome!