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Browsers on Linux

2001-03-05 15:03:25+00 by ebradway 14 comments

For quite some time, I've stuck with tried-and-true Netscape 4.74 on Linux. I re-gened my Penguin Computing dual-head workstation over the weekend and decided to upgrade some while I was at it. Details in the comments...

[ related topics: Free Software ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:14+00 by: ebradway

The Penguin system uses a custom compiled 2.2.16 kernel. I upgraded to KDE 2.1 and installed Netscape 6.01. Netscape was glacial but what do I expect from such a low-end box - only two 600Mhz CPUs and 128MB of RAM. For some reason, one Netscape window spawns six 'netscape' processes, each using about 20MB of RAM and about twelve JavaVM processes, each using about 12MB of RAM.

I tried Konqueror - the KDE 'built-in' browser (ala IE) but it doesn't give me any warnings about security - even when I hit my webmail site using a SwissSign certificate - and the SwissSign root CA cert is not installed.

So I installed Opera and am already tempted to pay the $39 to remove the ads. I thought it was using WINE but it's based entirely on QT. It's fast and doesn't bog down the rest of the system. I always liked Opera on Windows and much prefer the new advertising supported model over the old nagware.

I'll keep everyone posted as I play with digital certificates and Opera...

#Comment made: 2001-03-05 16:21:39+00 by: John Anderson [edit history]

suggestion: ditch Netscape 6, and grab Mozilla 0.8, or, even better, start tracking the nightly builds at mozilla.org. Netscape 6 == Mozilla 0.6, and the improvement since then shows. I use Mozilla day-to-day on a 400 MHz Celery (w/128 MB RAM), and it's perfectly acceptable, speed and memory usage-wise.

comment: Netscape 6/Mozilla is a threaded app; because of the way threads are implemented under Linux, each thread shows up as a seperate process. So you don't really have six processes, you have six threads.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:14+00 by: Dan Lyke

In random order:

Don't register Opera just yet, it seems like the slowdown in B6 is related to a registered/non-registered status.

While I haven't noticed that it's appreciably slower, I haven't used Netscape 6 long enough to get a real feel for it 'cause so much of the rest of it sucks objects of galactic scale through orifices measured in microns. And always in subtle ways, not really enough to say "this is a bug", more "this is a place where someone didn't care enough to get it exactly right".

Threads aren't necessarily any faster than processes, at Pixar a few coworkers ran tests on various platforms and decided that processes and pipes were generally an easier to program and, on most platforms (ie: commercial Unices), faster solution. And even if there are multiple processes that doesn't mean that they're taking the total of the memory they report, copy-on-write memory is cool but misleading.

I'm fairly happy with Opera (except for that slowdown bug that seems to be related to registration) I'd be very happy with Opera if they got a reasonable scheme using X color selection so that my black on white showed scroll bars and similar controls, and freakin' overjoyed if they did away with that silly MDI interface, but other than that it's definitely worth the $40 that you'd otherwise have to spend on RAM.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:14+00 by: Mars Saxman

For some reason, the idea of paying for a web browser strikes me as morally suspect.

I'm using Mozilla 0.8. It sucks. It's awful. I hate it. And it's so much better than Netscape 4.7 that I'll never go back.


#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:14+00 by: ebradway

Durn it! Flutterby lost the rest of the comment - either that or one of the browsers burped...

Anyhow, I started with my stock Penguin with two 600Mhz PIIIs and 128MB RAM on a 2.2.16 kernel and the XiG MultiHead X Server. I upgraded to KDE 2.1 (actually had to remove KDE 1.1 and then install 2.1) and installed Netscape 6.01. Netscape was glacially slow. for some reason it thinks it needs six 'netscape' processes each using about 30MB of memory and a dozen JavaVM processes each using another 13MB of RAM. I guess my machine just isn't beefy enough to run their browser!

I tried Konqueror, the KDE built-in browser, ala IE, and was surprised at the lack of security control. It didn't even blink when I pointed it at my webmail server at work which uses a SwissSign server certificate. Any browser should give a warning when you hit a site that uses a certificate that it can't fully resolve the certification chain. In this case, the SwissSign root CA certificate is not installed. This is like generating a certificate out of OpenSSL and not getting any warnings about it. For at least Konqueror users, if you can spoof the amazon.com DNS and generate your own server cert out of OpenSSL, it'll look just like regular Amazon.

I ended up installing Opera - which I always liked on Windows. It's been running great and reacts to security issues exactly as I expect. I like the new ad-based shareware model they are using as opposed to the old nagware model. I'm actually quite tempted to pay the $39 to buy the full version.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:14+00 by: ebradway

OK. It's Opera's caching. Grrr...

#Comment made: 2001-03-05 19:46:10+00 by: ebradway [edit history]

I just added the SwissSign root CA to Opera - quite pailessly. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be an easy way to view the certification chain for a site. I know this is not a high demand feature in a web browser but I like to be able to pull up a window that shows the certification chain for the SSL connection back to the root CA. IE does a very good job of this and even Netscape handles it well. Of course installing the certs in IE and Netscape is much harder than Opera - it was just a couple clicks.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:14+00 by: Dan Lyke

Argness. I need to take the time to finish up the new code. Also, you can tweak Opera to be aggressive in its cache flushing, which I highly recommend if you've got a high speed connection.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:15+00 by: ebradway

Gee, does three OC-3s count as a high-speed connection? Nowadays with everyone on ADSL and cable modem, it just doesn't seem that fast anymore...

Actually, I used to have ALL caching disabled in Netscape - but that's because I do web development.

Are there header tags you can send Opera, like you have to with IE, to disable caching? I've also come across tags you can send IE to disable password caching for a page. USAA uses it on their login page - and if you ever want to see an EXTREMELY useful site done with almost no graphics and absolutely no flash - check out the USAA site. I haven't tried it in Lynx yet but I'd bet it works.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:15+00 by: baylink

Grabbed Moz0.8 on suggestion, loaded it on my RedHat 6.2 P166 Compaq laptop with 64MB of ram.

It was *substantially* slower than 4.76. Rendered pages more crisply, yes, but took much longer to get *anywhere*. Even the UI is slow (checkboxes being delayed and the like...)

Not Yet.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:15+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, one of the reasons I like Netscape 4.76 over many of the alternatives is that even on my Windows P333, except for the gawdawful tables on Scripting News it's crisper than IE5.5. Scrolling happens faster and more smoothly.

<gratuitousdesignerbaiting>Besides, if you turn off that JavaScript crap it disables CSS and so all those annoying pages start to look readable... </gratuitousdesignerbaiting>

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:15+00 by: scm

"Grabbed Moz0.8 on suggestion, loaded it on my RedHat 6.2 P166 Compaq laptop with 64MB of ram."

You need a bigger computer to run Mozilla/Netscape 6. It's a decent browser if you have the hardware...

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:15+00 by: ebradway

It was slow on my dual PIII-600 with 128MB of RAM whereas Opera works wonderfully on the same machine.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:17+00 by: baylink

You need a bigger computer to run Mozilla/Netscape 6. It's a decent browser if you have the hardware...

Um, "oops". Sorry, wrong answer, Netscape, but thanks for playing.