I wrote about how Firefox can be really slow on the Eee-PC a few months ago, and offered a simple tweak that helped me back then. Since upgrading to Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) however, that configuration setting didn’t help nearly as well as it did before. Apparently, there were a few more things slowing the browser down. So here’s a couple more things to try.
Don’t display Flash movies by default.
I’ve been using the Flashblock Firefox extension for a while now, and it helps. Flash is very slow on Linux, and with a processor like Intel’s Atom it makes no sense wasting processing power on ads and YouTube movies you weren’t going to watch anyway.
This extension allows you to enable movies from certain domains (such as your own sites, Google Analytics and other trusted sites), and enable other ones with a single click. Installing it is easy, and operating it is even simpler. Another thing to check is whether you’re running Flash 10. It’s a lot faster than 9 was.
Don’t use the second SSD drive for internet cache
My Eee-PC 901 has two SSD drives. The first is pretty fast, but the second, larger one is slow as hell. I have my home folder on the second drive because that gives me a lot more space. But since Firefox writes its cache into the home folder, this can cause really irritating freezes during page loading. Here are a few settings that seem to fix this.
- Open a new tab and type about:config into the address bar.
- Right-click anywhere in the lower part of the screen and choose new->integer.
- Name the new setting ‘toolkit.storage.synchronous’
- In the second popup, set the value to 0 (zero). This tells the browser not to wait while writing files.
- Create a new string called ‘browser.cache.disk.parent_directory’
- Set its value to ‘/dev/shm/firefox-yourusername’. This tells the browser to use a RAM disk instead of the SSD.
I’m pretty sure the first setting (toolkit.storage.synchronous) improves things under any operating system, if the cache folder is on a slow drive. The second is probably specific to Linux (if not Ubuntu). Diverting the cache to RAM also means the cached files won’t be saved when you shut the computer down (which means they’ll have to be downloaded again if you visit the same page), but that seems like a small price to pay.
More speed tweaks
There’s a great post with more about:config setting that may help over at Startupmeme. I personally haven’t seen great improvements, but they might help just a little.