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Archive for the 'Inelegant Design' Category

Firefox Tuning

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

My work computer only has 512 megs of memory, so Firefox’s memory usage has been a bit of a problem for me here. I found some tuning information today that I’m hoping will help.

What I’ve done (in about:config):

  • Set browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewer to 0 (on my system it was max_total_viewers instead, I set both to 0). This seems to tell Firefox not to keep a bunch of back/forward pages cached for each tab.
  • Set browser.cache.memory.capacity to 4096. This sets the amount of RAM Firefox can use for cache. By default, it’s allocated dynamically, but I think that led to the memory usage growing over time.

At home, I’ve also done some performance tuning involving pipelining. This entry on the element14 blog talks about bout the max_total_viewer and pipelining tweaks. It also claims that the Firefox memory leak bug is a myth and that the max_total_viewer setting stops it. I haven’t taken enough time to examine the effects of these changes, but I doubt that. I definitely think there are memory leaks in Firefox.

I also found an incredibly detailed thread about tweaking Firefox. Some of the information there may be outdated, but it’s the most in depth discussion of the topic I’ve seen.

Finally, extensions are often the source of a lot of memory leaks in Firefox. Here’s a list of extensions that are known to be problematic.


Friday, November 17th, 2006

It’s time for a good, pointless, stupid rant. This is not unlike, but not the same, as the “Disposable?” rant on Squublog or this awesome rant on usability on this furialog I found yesterday.
It’s been uber dry in our apartment lately. Every morning, we wake up with scratchy throats, crusty eyes, dry skin, and lips so chapped they’re about to peel off our faces. So, last night, Sarah and I went and bought a humidifier at Target. As with most things we buy, we didn’t get the cheapest one, and we didn’t get the most expensive one (though this was more on the expensive end by Target’s standards at $50). The main attractions of this unit were:

  • It’s for large rooms. We wanted it for the bedroom, but we intend to leave the door open, and hopefully it can cover the whole upstairs.
  • Digital humidistat built in. You can set it to a certain humidity and it’ll maintain that level.
  • “Ultra-quiet operation”
  • 3 fan speed settings

All of that stuff looked great, so we bought it. The thing definitely works, but there are some really stupid problems with it:

  • To set the relative humidity you desire, you push these up/down arrow buttons, which increment/decrement the percent humidity. It sounds great, except that it goes in 5% increments. This is completely stupid, as the range they suggest using is 40-50%. This means that the numeric humidity setting really amounts to just three settings, as if it had a low/medium/high setting for relative humidity. According to the Wikipedia “Humidifier” entry, you shouldn’t set it above 55%, and the humidity in our room without the humidifier was at 39%, so that range seems about right.
  • Even worse, when the humidity reaches the level you set (actually, once it passes the level you set, but I’m just splitting hairs), the display starts fluctuating between, say, 45% and 46%. I understand that there’s no decimal point, but I’m not really sure that rapidly switching back and forth between two numbers is terribly helpful. Not only that, when this happens, the fan starts turning itself on and off repeatedly. After a while, it’ll stop, but before long, it’ll start turning itself on and off again. That’s pretty damn annoying.

Now, I may have dropped out of engineering school, but I can think of simple solutions to both of these problems. The first one is so boneheaded it’s astounding — I can’t think of any reason they wouldn’t just program it to increment/decrement the number by 1 instead of 5. It’s that simple. For the second problem, you could implement a delay so that the fan won’t turn itself on or off more than once every couple of minutes or so.

So, I need to figure out if there’s a way I can keep the damn humidifier from turning on and off all the time. If not, I’ll return it. I might just return it anyway on principle, but I feel like I’m going to have this kind of problem with any humidifier.

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