Another castle   Leave a comment

Wait, I misread that didn’t I?

On Saturday I switched from Firefox to Opera, for a number of reasons.

Recently (well, since about 4.0) Firefox has been having some odd graphical glitches. They could well have been caused by Vista or crappy old Intel 965 Chipset graphics drivers, but Firefox has been the only program noticably suffering.

Firefox’s memory usage. It could quite frequently be in the range of half a gigabyte after it had been open for a while. Okay, web browsers are probably a bit more complicated than “downloading text files and drawing the content in a pretty way” nowadays (although I’m not sure that’s such a good thing), but using a quarter of my RAM really isn’t acceptable. Even after cutting out some un-necessary plugins and extensions (you might have thought that Java could disable – maybe even uninstall – its own old versions when you update, but no. If it avoided any way of being unrelentingly awful it just wouldn’t be Java I suppose) and restarting it it’d munch about 250 megs. Still, when nothing else is running this doesn’t matter – but AI war eats a gig, so when Firefox was being particularly fat it killed any hope of browsing whilst the game was paused; it was actually paging stuff out to disk. I’ve not seen that happen for years.

But the real killer came on Saturday, when everything ground to a halt. It didn’t help that some plugin (probably Flash, competing with Java for awfulness) decided to eat an entire CPU core for no apparent reason, but even after that had been sorted it wasn’t working properly. When trying to switch tabs there would be a second’s delay before anything happened. When typing in text it’d often appear one character at a time, slowly, as if it were emulating some green-screen mainframe in a movie from the ’70s or ’80s. Everything was just painful. It was almost as bad as IE.

There were a few reasons I’d stuck with FireFox – mostly NoScript and AdBlock. JavaScript isn’t so much a scripting language as a sanctioned security vulnerability with feature-creep, so keeping that off as much as possible is a priority. Especially after it invited a rather awkward-to-remove virus in a few years ago. Unfortunately, it’s also necessary for a lot of probably-trustworthy websites to function in any way, so just turning it off in the browser isn’t really practical. Hence NoScript.
Also, I cannot abide Flash adverts. I don’t much like Flash at the best of times, but I can’t stand things that animate (I often even have gif animations turned off), let alone make noise, so AdBlock is really necessary to kill them off whenever Java’s enabled (as well as almost-as-annoying things like IntelliTxt or other ads that pop up on mouse-over).

I really couldn’t cope with a browser without those features. Happily, I discovered a plugin called NotScripts that emulates NoScript for either Chrome or Opera, so my chaining to incendiary vulpes could come to an end. I decided to go with Opera mostly because it’s not made by Google. I use more than enough of their stuff already, and don’t think they need even more of a monopoly over the internet. It’s also a bit of nostalgia, as I used Opera at university.

And it’s pretty good (they can put that on the box, if they want) – almost nothing missing or annoying that I’ve not been able to figure out, and it feels nice and nippy. It even has a built-in option to only let extensions (eg. Flash) run on demand, so I need never see an unwanted Flash (pleonasm) animation again!

The only problems I’ve not been able to sort are that the memory usage is just as bad as Firefox at program start, although it doesn’t seem to bloat as much over the course of a day. It’s currently at 320 megs with 12 tabs open, but has been running for hours*. Amusingly, when I first ran Opera alongside Firefox the latter seemed to notice the competition and started cutting its own use, down below 200 megs; as if it were breathing in to try and look slim compared to the new competition.
More annoyingly, the font sizes are odd compared to Firefox; some are comically huge, others squintingly tiny. The tiny ones are probably my fault; before-hand, the large ones were ludicrously huge. But most are exactly as you’d expect, so I don’t know what’s up there.
OK, and I have just discovered control-dragging text doesn’t duplicate it. Hmph. That is an odd one.


Anyway, in other actual-diary-type news, I spent much of the afternoon, evening, and following morning wallpapering. It’s perhaps just as well I ran out of paste just after 5AM, because who knows when I would have got to bed otherwise. But everything other than a few small fiddly-bits around the window was done (and done reasonably OK). Afterwards I had breakfast, which is possibly the earliest breakfast I’ve ever had on a Sunday morning, although it probably doesn’t really count if you have it before you go to bed. Not having eaten since nine or ten o’clock, though, I wouldn’t have slept well otherwise.

* Editing this the day after, just before posting, we’re at 445MB and 13 tabs. So Opera is not the low-memory-usage browser of choice then. Maybe I’ll try Chrome after all, if I’m bored. And it can block Flash.


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