64-bit Browsers – A Need For Speed


Disillusionment – 64-Bit Operating Systems

windows_32 bit vs 64 bit

I was one of the first to jump onto the 64-bit bandwagon. I got myself a 64-bit motherboard, a 64-bit processor and a 64-bit operating system. I was on a roll. I was also giddy with the anticipation of installing all that 64-bit software that would actually use the 16 gigabytes of RAM I was about to install.

What I didn’t realize is that the rest of the world was still using 32-bit computers, therefore, software developers were not under any pressure to publish 64-bit software. This made 64-bit software hard to find. What a bummer.

That was a while back. Now, to the present…

64-bit software is now becoming more common. In fact, most major pieces of software come in both 32-bit and 64-bit “flavors”. There is one area that is still lagging, though. Browsers.

Internet Explorer comes in both flavors. I think Google’s Chrome does, too. Mozilla, the publisher of Firefox, was working on a 64-bit version but I’ve heard they quit development in that direction. I’ve also heard they have resumed work on a Firefox 64-bit browser.  It’s anybody’s guess at this point.

I use Firefox as my main browser. For that reason and obviously, with far too much time on my hands, I decided to try out a few 64-bit Firefox alternatives. The reason I stick with Firefox is the add-ons, or extensions, if you will. I’ve gotten so used to them that it’s nearly impossible for me to use another browser.


Color me spoiled…

Firefox 64-bit Alternatives

There are several 64-bit alternatives floating around out there on the Internet. Here are the ones I tried this weekend:

  • Cyberfox
  • Waterfox
  • Palemoon

My Milk-Toast Tests (as opposed to Acid Tests)

To be clear, my “tests” are purely subjective. There were no benchmarks performed so there are no numbers or fancy graphs to show you. No side-by-side comparisons. No nothing. Only my personal sense, my gut feeling of how it went at the time.

I used each one for a day and surfed the Internet as is normal for me. After using all three, here’s what I came up with…

PaleMoon

palemoon-imagePaleMoon used to be a great choice. The 32-bit version may still be, but the 64-bit version is so out-dated that I’m wondering if the author has gotten bored. In any case, I uninstalled that one after a single day.


Besides, I didn’t “feel” any improvement and there was always that nagging sense that since it wasn’t an up-to-date version, there might be some security risks in play.

Also, in order to migrate all your FireFox bookmarks and add-ons into PaleMoon, another small utility must be downloaded to accomplish that.

I scratched this one.

CyberFox

cyberfox-imageI can’t say much about CyberFox. The claims are that it is a light-weight version of Firefox and that’s what makes it so much faster. Well, I don’t see it.

Yes, it did load a lot faster, but after that, it didn’t seem to live up to its speed-demon reputation.

As with PaleMoon, there is also the additional task of downloading a profile migration tool if you want all your current FireFox bookmarks and add-ons. That is, if you don’t want to start from scratch.

So much for that one, too.

WaterFox

waterfox-imageNow, this is what I’m talkin’ about.

I immediately noticed a big bump in page load speeds. Very fast indeed. I think WaterFox is a keeper.

There are some important caveats to consider if you decide to uninstall WaterFox.

WaterFox, by design, uses your FireFox profiles. This should be pretty obvious since you didn’t have to install any add-ons, or update all your bookmarks. This is a double-edged sword.

It’s not only convenient but is also a treacherous situation if you decide to uninstall WaterFox.

If you uninstall WaterFox, and miss the tiny check box that says something about “deleting the data files”, so too will your Firefox profiles  be deleted!

A nightmare for those of us that have many hundreds of bookmarks and happen to love all our add-ons. Sure, you can re-install the add-ons, but the bookmarks? Forget it. You’d better have them backed up.

Update: For the purposes of this article I uninstalled WaterFox so I could show you the nasty little check box. It never presented itself and my FireFox installation remains intact. Perhaps they’ve fixed this terrible issue since I last tried it?

Now, I Have a Question For You

Here’s the  scenario:

In my 32-bit Firefox settings, I have the disk cache  disabled

I have the memory cache set to 32,768 KB (32 meg)

In 64-bit Waterfox, I have the memory cache set to 65,536 KB (64 meg). However…

When I check the WaterFox Memory Cache, it looks like this:

cache-statistics-image

Why would the Maximum storage size still be 32MB? Why would there be a 32MB cap?

Incidentally, there is 16GB of RAM installed in this machine, so that’s not an issue.

I hope one of you kind readers can enlighten me. It’s an itch I can’t scratch. Thanks in advance…

Conclusions

I think I’ll be sticking with WaterFox for the time being. It’s definitely faster based on the strict standards imposed by the Milk-Toast Tests, and that’s good enough for me.

Some may claim that it’s merely a placebo effect– that I want it to be faster and it therefore seems faster. Well, to those nay-Sayers out there, if the placebo works, use it.

An Aside

This is a secret so don’t tell Jim. Shhhh…

I’m hoping this will be either the last post of 2014, or the first post in 2015. Just for grins and giggles.

If it is the former, then, “Happy New Year!”

If it is the latter, then, “Belated Happy New Year!”

If it is neither, then I still wish you the greatest year ever in 2015,  🙂

Richard

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About the Author

Richard Pedersen

Richard received his first computer, a C-64, in 1982 as a gift and began dabbling in BASIC. He was hooked! His love for computing has led him from the old “XT” boxes to the more modern fare and from clunky 10MB hard drives to smooth and fast modern day SSD drives. He has run BBS services, Fido mail, and even operated his own computer repair business.

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