Wednesday, 27 October 2010

What's the matter with Firefox these days?

Not long ago I was still defending Firefox as a good browser that never, or only very rarely like every few months, crashed on me. That may in retrospect have had something to do with hosts file and all sorts of nasties blockers, because once I disabled these for a while for a little test it suddenly kept crashing, like in abnormally exiting, at least once a day.

Even worse, since running both Windows 7 and Kubuntu in dual boot it's become absolutely awful. And that although here as well I have a hosts file and ad-block installed, in addition to flashblocker and what not. So the experience should be a clean filtered one.

A recent post on the Distrowatch comments section claimed Firefox is faster on Windows than Linux. I have no idea if it loads a page 1/10 of a second faster but it sure takes absolutely ages to start up in the first place, definitely slower than on any Linux distribution. To make it worse, after the recent automatic update to 3.6.11 it seems to be completely buggered and won't even connect anymore - the cannot load page error. I've checked the proxy settings but they are all fine. To make it even worse, I have not used Windows in such a long time that I'm not used to all that obstruction coming with it, and have no idea where it keeps the profile so I could delete it and start afresh.
In Kubuntu a similar story. It first seemed alright, but after around two weeks of use and the first update trying to save any picture from the web will result in... nothing. No download menu or notification, nothing saved, even 'Save Link As' will not have any effect. Secondly, suddenly trying to open more than one flash movie in different Firefox tabs at the same time will inevitably crash the browser in a second. And just as I am writing this Firefox is suddenly back to its old Gtk interface, sticking out like a sore thumb in KDE. Changing the widget setting back to QtCurve under GTK+ Appearance solved the issue, but why did it happen in the first place? All this is after, remember, two weeks on a fresh install. I finally know what people have been talking about when they describe Firefox in unflattering terms. These scenarios had so far escaped me on Slackware. That leaves the possibility that it is the distributions fault, and clean Slack somehow handles Flash more gracefully. Still, after the aforementioned experiments it doesn't seem likely that none of this is Firefox's fault and just random luck or bad implementation. It inspires people to create beautiful icons though.

It will be a pain to change, particularly because of the handy bookmarks synchronizer Xmarks, but I guess the time has finally come to standardize on something new. Rekonq is nice but too much tied to KDE. That leaves Arora, which is incredibly fast, impressed with good rendering and already has ad-block built in, but it also depends on QT4. Or IceCat, which is supposedly a free Firefox clone stripped of some proprietary bits. Maybe that will make it more stable somehow. Or Seamonkey for the full suite, although related it at least seems more stable too. Time for more testing. There's of course still the possibility to look at the web text only style with Lynx/Links or use Dillo2, but they don't support things like editing this post in Blogger. Which browser would you recommend?


  1. Try Opera. The 10.xx series is very fast and stable on Linux (I use Mandriva and Ubuntu primarily). The only complaint I have is occasional badly formatted pages in printing, and I do miss a couple of Firefox extensions, but overall I find it a pretty great piece of work.

  2. Thanks Eddie, it's been a long time coming but I finally made the switch. Opera it is once again, and I think this time it will last longer, with 11.x it now has the right feel for me to be my main browser.


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