Miscellaneous Ramblings

Optimized Builds Make Firefox 3.5 and 3.6a Faster and More Responsive

Charles Moore - 2009.07.16 - Tip Jar

When you live on a dialup connection to the Internet, you covet and cherish every bit of speed you can get. One of my broadband-dwelling friends says that browser speed is essentially irrelevant to him, since all modem browsers acquit themselves well in that department. I think he has a point, but on dialup it's a different story.

Of course, page-load speeds aren't the whole story. General responsiveness plays a role in making an application pleasant to use. One of the big advantages of Open Source software, like Mozilla.org's Firefox browser, it that it's open to innovation and, specific to the context of this discussion, to platform optimization.

There are a variety of platform-optimized builds of Firefox for Mac OS X, fine-tuned for different CPU architectures. Each build is compiled especially to take advantage of the specific features of a particular processor in order to wring the absolute best performance out of Firefox on your Mac.

Minefield iconYou will find G3 builds, G4 7400 builds, G4 7450 builds and Intel builds, including 3.5 and 3.6 alpha, at furbism.com. Chris Latko also has posted "Shiretoko" Intel optimized Mac builds of Firefox 3.5 final - and even a pre-alpha build of Firefox 3.6 for the very adventurous.

I used one of Chris' optimizations of a Firefox 3.5 beta for a while several months ago and found it provided a very noticeable improvement over the until then pretty sluggish official version 3.1 and 3.5 betas. Since then, Mozilla has done optimization of its own to the Firefox 3.5 final, which is satisfyingly lively, but the Shiretoko build still speeds things up a bit more. And since it's otherwise transparently identical to stock Firefox (except for the icon) and works just fine with the Firefox plugins and skins I use, why not?

Chris says he's been using WebKit, Minefield, and increasingly Opera as his main browsers for a while now. I'm a big Opera fan too, particularly the Turbo feature in Opera 10 beta, but like him I use several browsers.

As for Firefox 3.6 (Namoroka), Chris says:

"I've built a pre-Alpha 1 version of Firefox 3.6, also known as Namoroka (following the park theme). Namoroka is a national park in Madagascar - Shiretoko is a national park in northern Japan.

"As with previous Shiretoko builds I've done, I'm using the same .mozconfig file for optimization as well as fiddling with the application defaults for speed. I am no longer changing the User-Agent on these builds, as some people are reporting problems when accessing sites such as Facebook that don't recognize the UA. When are people going to stop browser sniffing?

"In this version, the 'parse HTML 5?' was off by default. I've turned this on. One other thing is that the browser's name is 'Minefield', as this is a pre-Alpha and things are supposed to blow up (so be careful).

"You can find the Namoroka build on my downloads page."

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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