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June 30, 2008

First Impressions of FireFox 3 on Linux

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I've been using the latest version of FireFox 2 (version since it hit the Ubuntu repos. On June 27, I decided to upgrade to 3.0 final. I didn't want to, really, until certain addons (not to mention my absolute favorite FF2 theme) had been upgraded with 3.0 compatibility. But FF2 was being so slow with the "memory leaks" that it's become known for lately, I figured I owed it to myself to try it.

First, the deal breakers for me. Obviously, the Vista Black theme by Internauta2000 on DeviantArt. I've loved this theme since I first discovered it, and haven't been satisfied with any other theme I've tried. My most used extension recently, Tab Groups, does one thing and does it well. It simply adds a second row of tabs that group main tabs together. Unfortunately, it does not support FF3 yet. And I can't wait until it does.

When I upgraded to FF3, I made sure to have my system monitor (KSysGuard) open to monitor memory usage. Typically, after a period of sustained usage, FF2 would reach roughly 450MB of memory on linux; on Windows, I've seen it eating up to 800MB. Just a few hours after running around with FF3, though, I noticed it was creeping into the 400MB range. Needless to say, I was starting to be disappointed. Right now, though, and without a restart, I'm seeing only 152MB usage. And the overall experience is much smoother. With FF2, especially during a large memory footprint, it would constantly lock up. When it wasn't locked up, it would hesitantly load and scroll pages. No longer. FF3 loads pages perceivably faster, and there are no glitches in scrolling.

But there's still the matter of those deal breakers. Until Tab Groups gets an update, I've started using FaviconizeTab, which reduces tabs from icon-and-text to icon-only, on a tab-by-tab basis. Mainly just a way to keep all my tabs (which often reach double digits) visible on the tab bar. For my theme, I've converted (oh, so temporarily, mind you ;) ) to the AquaTint Black Gloss theme. It doesn't hold a candle to Vista Black, but it's close enough for now.

Overall, though, the upgrade to FF3 is one that everyone should make. If you have a favorite extension that isn't yet compatible, find an equivalent or an alternative. Or, in the case of FireBug, find the latest development version. If you have a favorite theme that isn't compatible yet, contact the author and ask if they have an update planned (and be sure to say please and thank you ;) ). Most importantly, just do it. You won't regret it.

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