Why are browsers so slow?

As a user of Opera browser in the good ol’ days, I share Ilya Birman’s pain

But I am not talking about rendering and scripts. I am talking about everything else. Safari may take a second or two just to open a new blank tab on a 2014 iMac. And with ten or fifteen open tabs it eventually becomes sluggish as hell. Chrome is better, but not much so.

… and this too …

What would you do today if you opened a link and saw a long article which you don’t have time to read right now, but want to read later? You would save a link and close the tab. But when your browser is fast, you just don’t tend to close tabs which you haven’t dealt with. In Opera, I would let tabs stay open for months without having any impact on my machine’s performance.

Wait, but didn’t I restart my computer or the browser sometimes? Of course I did. Unfortunately, modern browsers are so stupid that they reload all the tabs when you restart them. Which takes ages if you have a hundred of tabs. Opera was sane: it did not reload a tab unless you asked for it. It just reopened everything from cache. Which took a couple of seconds.

In fact, maybe it’s a good time to try out Opera browser again.  After all, the two primary reasons I’ve switched from it were:

  • Open Source.  This was back in a day when I was a zealot.  (Yeah, if you think I’m one now, you should have seen me in my 20’s.)  Now  I am much more calm about the licensing.
  • Rendering issues.  That was back when Opera had its own rendering engine and couldn’t quite keep up with all the changes on the Web.  Since then, Opera has dumped its Presto rendering engine in favor of Webkit (the same engine that Google Chrome, Chromium and Safari browsers are using), and then dumped Webkit in favor of Blink, which is like … erm .. new Webkit (?) or something like that.

So maybe it’s good enough in rendering department and I can have my performance and tab management back.  As Ilya mentions, no other browser came close to the tab management of Opera back in a day.  I frequently have a 30+ tabs open, and its only because that’s as much as Chrome can handle on my laptop.

Update: Tried out the latest version of Opera now for about half an hour.  I suddenly remembered another reason for why I’ve switched – fonts.  Default fonts configuration is far from optimal.  For multilingual pages (English and Russian) is more than horrific.  Oh well, I guess, I’ll have to wait some more.

How Linux got to be Linux: Test driving 1993-2003 distros

Here’s a trip down the memory lane – “How Linux got to be Linux: Test driving 1993-2003 distros“.  The article looks at some of the early Linux distributions, remember what was already in and what came later.  Complete with screenshots.

I don’t remember for sure which versions of which distributions I used in the early days, but Slackware, Suse, RedHat and Mandrake were definitely among those.  Slackware was probably my first one, when I found the floppies in the only book on Linux at my college library.  Then, somehow, I found RedHat (I think 5.1 or so) in one of the local computer shops.  Later I tried Mandrake and Suse, cause those were laying around at work.  But RedHat stuck with me ever since.  I think I’ve used pretty much every version, including the move to Fedora, CentOS, and even the Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which we had the licenses for at some of my early work places.

Fun times!

HexChat IRC Client

Well, apparently I’ve been leaving under a rock for the last few years.  When it comes down to IRC clients, I’ve been mostly using XChat.  Turns out, XChat has been abandoned for years, and it’s still around mostly because Linux distributions care so much about it that they patch it and ship it.

As with anything in the Linux world, there are plenty of alternatives.  And one of them was right under my nose all these years – HexChat:

HexChat is an IRC client based on XChat, but unlike XChat it’s completely free for both Windows and Unix-like systems. Since XChat is open source, it’s perfectly legal.

HexChat is often shipped right next to where XChat is or used to be.  For Fedora users, it’s as close as “dnf install hexchat“.

Conky – light-weight system monitor for X

Conky is a light-weight system monitor for X.  It supports all kinds of metrics – anything from CPU, memory and network, to emails, music players, and more.

It reminds me of the old days, before Gnome and KDE took over the desktop environments – I think everybody had something similar running as part of the screen background.

The installation on Fedora is trivial – conky is packaged and available with a simple “yum install conky“.  The configuration, on the other hand, is not so much.  GitHub repository provides quite a few fancy user configurations, but there was a change in configuration file format in the version 1.10, and things aren’t as smooth as I would like.

It’ll take a bit of playing around, but I’m sure I’ll eventually lose enough sleep over this to just give up and have something semi-decent on my screen.

Fedora 25

I’ve just upgraded my laptop to Fedora 25.  The upgrade process was a breeze (as per instructions from this article):

sudo su -
dnf upgrade --refresh
dnf install dnf-plugin-system-upgrade
dnf system-upgrade download --releasever=25
dnf system-upgrade reboot

About 2,500 packages (1 GB and some) were downloaded in about 40 minutes (yeah, our Internet connection could use a boost). Then rebooted and the upgraded kicked in. It took about another 40 minutes to run the process (I should get myself an SSD-based laptop next time).

The only thing I had to fix after the upgrade was the kmod-wl package, which provides the drivers for my wireless interface. Another reboot later all was good.

There were no major visual changes (I’m using MATE Desktop), but something felt a bit different.  After focusing on the differences for a few minutes, I think it’s the fonts.  Something is better, sharper, more polished.

Other than that, all is pretty much the same.  I’ll need to use it for a while to see if I can spot any changes.  Hopefully, at least a flickering issue that I got after some upgrade during the Fedora 24 life span is fixed now.  It was weird.  A particular application window would start to flick and refresh until clicked again.  Never figured out what it was. :)

Lumina Desktop 1.0.0 released

Linux Weekly News shares the announcement from the Lumina Desktop project about the release of the version 1.0.0.

sample-planet-menu

And while I’m still pretty happy with my MATE desktop, it’s nice to see people taking an effort into making things better.  Two particular features caught my eye in the release announcement:

Multiple-monitor support! Each monitor is treated as an independent entity – making it great for presentation systems which use a temporary monitor or for workstations which utilize an array of monitors for various tasks.

This is super cool!  Current iterations of Gnome and KDE do support multi-monitor setups, but they treat all monitors as a single work space.  Using multiple virtual work spaces is supported, but one can’t switch a work space on a particular monitor without switching the corresponding work space on all other monitors.  I haven’t tried Lumina Desktop myself yet, but from the announcement it looks like they support exactly that – switching monitor work spaces individually and not all together.

Personalize the initial settings for users with a single configuration file!

This is how things used to be in the old days (back when I was using AfterStep and the like).  A single configuration file is super convenient when you want to move your setup from machine to machine.  Both Gnome and KDE these days utilize numerous configuration files and GUI tools to manage them, which makes automating these setups with tools like Ansible very impractical.

I’m way too busy with work stuff these days to try a different desktop environment, but I will keep an eye on the Lumina Desktop Environment for now.  Maybe one slow Friday I’ll give it a spin.

Why I left my new MacBook for a $250 Chromebook

Why I left my new MacBook for a $250 Chromebook” is a nice write up of a new Chromebook user.  Even though I don’t own a MacBook (or any Mac products for that matter), I have been considering a Chromebook for a while now too.

My biggest concern is obviously programming and system administration tools – editors, terminals, remote access, etc.  But it’s getting there.

Apart from the experiences and wishlists, I found these two links useful:

Screenshots from developers : 2002 vs. 2015

Here is a nice collection of screenshots (with some comments) from some really hardcore developers – people who are behind things like operating systems and programming languages, not the latest hipster startup that nobody will remember n three years.  Better even, the screenshots were taken in 2002 and now, 13 years later, reiterated.

desktop_bwk_2015 Two things I found interesting here:

  1. Pretty much everyone calls their setup “boring”, yet it’s obviously slow functional that very little changes over time.
  2. Some of these screenshots feature setups so basic, that for those people who are not too familiar with the applications used, it would be difficult to choose which screenshot is from 2002 and which one is from 2015.

And while I’m nowhere near that level of developer, I still have to say that my desktop hasn’t changed much in the last 13 years either.  I am spending my days in the MATE Desktop Environment, which is a fork of Gnome to maintain the awesome Gnome 2 interface and not all that craziness of Gnome 3.  And like many other people featured here, I mostly use the browser and a gadzillion of terminal windows for my work.  I also have Vim keybindings burnt into my fingers, and I can’t imagine switching to something else ever.  Here’s how it looks today.

desktop

I’m sure there must be a screenshot of my desktop from back in the days somewhere on this blog, but I don’t think I’ll find it.

Microsoft Desktop Backgrounds

After the upgrade to Fedora 22 last night, I was looking for a new desktop background image, to change the mood.  Surprisingly, one of the top search results pointed me to the Microsoft website, which has a selection of some really good background images.   Backyard bonfire works well for me.

Backyard bonfire
Backyard bonfire

 

nightrain – PHP packager for native applications on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS

PHP Nightrain is a packager written in Python for the PHP Programming Language. Using this tool you can convert your PHP/HTML/CSS/Javascript application to a Native Desktop Application. Currently, PHP Nightrain supports the Windows, Mac (OS X) and the Linux operating systems.  This is basically PhoneGap for desktop.