Speeding up Firefox 3 on the Eee

I’m running ubuntu-eee on my new Asus Eee 901.  And Firefox 3.0 was horrible on it.  You’d load a page, and scrolling up and down would pause frequently with a jittery, jerky motion.  It was so annoying that I experimented with Opera and Epiphany as replacements.  Both fine browsers, but I hated being without add-ins like Adblock Plus and Foxmarks.  Read on to find out how to fix it…

So how to fix it?

The Eee comes with two SSD drives – the 4GB system drive and the other SSD (in my case I ordered the 16GB one).  The secondary SSD is much slower than the system SSD.

Typically (as in my case) when installing Linux, you’d mount root (/) on the 4GB system SSD, and /home on the bigger (but slower) SSD.

Firefox’s settings directory is stored under ~/.mozilla.  It writes a lot of stuff there – caches, phishing checks, offline storage etc.  And apparently Firefox 3 does a lot more of this than before.  So the obvious solution, given this information, is to move your ~/.mozilla directory onto the faster system SSD.  Here’s how I did it:

sudo mkdir /usr/share/my_stuff

sudo chmod 777 /usr/share/my_stuff

cd /usr/share/my_stuff

mv ~/.mozilla .

cd ~

ln -s /usr/share/my_stuff/.mozilla .

My .mozilla directory is now on the faster SSD and the Firefox jitter has disappeared.

18 Replies to “Speeding up Firefox 3 on the Eee”

  1. Why is the larger SSD slower in your opinion?do you have a link to some site providing info on that? I installed everything on the 16GB SSD and have no performance issues at all.

  2. Hey Hugo, from what I’ve read the write speed to the primary SSD (the 4GB one) is twice as fast as to the secondary (see this thread for example: http://forum.eeeuser.com/viewtopic.php?id=34502). For most stuff both are OK, but I noticed such an improvement to Firefox when its settings directory was on the primary SSD that I had to post about it!

    It is worth mentioning that my primary SSD is formatted with ext2 and my secondary is ext3 which also will make a difference.

  3. Hmm, surely the hard drive speed would be negligable for Firefox – anything visual would be pulled out of RAM and hard disk would only affect things like HDD caching (not a factor in an open tab), load times, etc. Also, even “slower” solid state drives are still very very fast.

    Sceptical, very sceptical.

  4. James, if Firefox is doing a big *write* to disk (which it does do when storing information it thinks you might want to have cached), then this does momentarily hang the application. SSDs are slower on write than read.

    You can be sceptical, but how else would you explain the fact that moving the .mozilla directory to the primary SSD has alleviated the issue?

  5. Man, don’t tell people to do a chmod 777. That’s a real newbie move. Maybe you don’t have anyone else on your computer but other people might. Chmod 777 lets them see your pr0n! Use –

    sudo chown /usr/share/my_stuff
    sudo chmod 750 /usr/share/my_stuff

  6. Thanks JohnK. You are right, of course… as it was simply for the FF directory I was trying to keep it simple, but I guess if you’ve got… ahem… sensitive stuff in your cache / history then best to lock it down a little as you suggest :-)

  7. Thanks a lot for this tip.
    My Firefox experience, while still not as fast as I’d like, has greatly reduced stalling when opening sites.

  8. I put my mozilla Browser.cache.disk.parent directory to RAM disk. NICE!

  9. I’ve typed in exactly as above to terminal – firefox now does not load. How do I reverse that process please, so I can use my Eee for browsing again?

  10. To reverse it, we have to find out what went wrong. Did you see any error messages on any of the steps?

    What’s the output of the command

    ls -ld ~/.mozilla

    and also

    ls -l /usr/share/my_stuff

    and finally, if you run firefox from the command prompt by simply typing firefox, what error messages (if any) get displayed before it fails to run.

  11. Try coupling this with the X optimisation mentioned here http://thatsbibulous.blogspot.com/2008/10/slow-scrolling-in-firefox-3-ubuntu.html for even better ff3 performance.

  12. Interesting, Tom, thanks for the tip. I’ll have to give it a try!

  13. What if you have multiple users? When you do this fix, will Firefox become faster for all of them? I ask this because I don’t quite understand what this ~/.mozilla contains.

  14. No, ~/.mozilla contains all your personal settings and data. This isn’t shared, each user has their own. So each user would need to have their ~/.mozilla moved to faster storage.

  15. Thanks Martyn :) This is good to know since I share my PCs with other family members.

  16. Awesome! I’m using eeebuntu on an EEE 1000 and it totally fixed my only problem with my EEE. Thanks again!

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