Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Issues with the spare computer
I don't quite remember if I mentioned it, but my step mother recently wanted me to set her up with a spare computer for the dining room. It seems in this day and age when we as humans have come to rely on technology and computers so much an additional computer is required in a home (right now there are 4 here at my father's). The spare computer is fairly old, clocking in at 700MHz and 256MB ram. For this reason, I decided the best route to take would be to install an Arch + Openbox system rather than a full featured DE.

Everything seemed to run OK., aside from flash chunking like mad when watching movies on sites like youtube. The other thing that didn't seem to work would be the DVD drive, which only seemed to be picked up as a CDRW. Not too sure what the cause of that is just yet. Edit: Problem is non-existent. DVDs pickup now. I'm fairly sure it was a problem with the DVD I was trying before.

Anywho, the computer seemed to run just dandy for a day or two. Soon, though, it began to lock up when viewing youtube videos every once in a while. I was a tad lost, and my step mother wasn't too happy, to say the least. I didn't blame her; if I were watching a video and suddenly my entire computer would lock up, I would not be a happy camper.

I ssh'd into the computer and monitored the ram usage while she surfed the net. I noticed that even with Firefox3b5, the ram footprint while surfing her normal workload of websites would eat up around 20-40% of the ram. Note that this is not a big surprise, as my stepmother had open three instances of Firefox each with multiple tabs. This wasn't necessarily the problem.

I kept the ssh session open and noticed Firefox was slowly eating up more and more ram. A quick Google search told me that even with firefox3, there are still unresolved memory leaks that may NEVER be resolved. It all began to make sense. My step mother confirmed that she was in fact leaving her browsers open overnight and then coming back to them the next day, only to find that when she tried to do anything that'd hog up the memory, her computer would lock up. I simply told her that the best course of action would be to close out of her browsers when she was done, or to simply logout of the system and just log back in in the morning.

I'm curious, though... how is Firefox so well loved even with (a) memory leak(s)? It seems that Mozilla is on the warpath as far as memory usage goes, but one must still wonder how they got so high on the pedestal in the first place.

As a side, the website I listed earlier, Jesse Ruderman's blog, seems to focus on the development of Firefox quite closely.

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2 Comments:
OpenID K.Mandla said...
Funny, I've asked myself the same question many times before: How can Firefox be so popular when it's such a slug?

I think most people just have heavier computers than the one you describe (or most of mine), so they don't notice it's bulk.

You're probably aware of alternatives, but Kazehakase also uses the Gecko engine and can handle Flash videos. I've never had memory problems or lockups with it. Just an idea. ...

Blogger Semidigerati said...
@k.mandla

Ah, that's a good idea. I wasn't aware that it didn't have the memory leakage problem. The only thing holding me back is that Kazehakase isn't quite as intuitive as Firefox for casual users such as my Stepmother. I'll have to give the program a few dry runs on my machine to anticipate any technical questions that may come up.

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