Purposeful Downgrade


It all comes down to your computer.

I’m using 4.0.1 and love it. Much faster than the previous version and runs at about half the load. Wonder why our experience is so different?
Posted by Pal2Pal

Pal2Pal -

Because your computer is newer and stronger than mine. I looked things up and found that FF4 requires a much newer system to run properly than did FF3.6 -

FF4 needs at least a Pentium 4 CPU with SSE2 (2004 or newer) and 512 MB RAM
FF3.6 will run on any Pentium 233Mhz or faster and needs only 64 MB RAM

My system is a Pentium 3 at 733Mhz with 384MB RAM. At best it has SSE1, if it has any SSE at all; I see to recall MMX being an extra cost option around the time I got this machine (1999). Without going all techno-geek, SSE2 and MMX are technologies that allow for a basic kind of parallel processing (vectored SIMD - Single Instruction, Multiple Data), which is what the Pentium chip was really designed to do. The “Pentium” name comes from it’s design, which is one CPU controlling 4 other CPUs; the whole idea was to break up a given computing task into 2 to 4 smaller parts that could run simultaneously, thereby getting lots more work done for a given CPU clock speed. Great idea, hard to implement from the code end. SSE2 added lots more chip instructions to make this kind of processing possible. Today’s chips do this kind of thing automatically, and dynamically, to the point where CPU clock speed is largely irrelevant. Today’s Quad Core™ chips are far more than just 4 latest generation Pentium CPUs mounted together (given you the parallel power of 20 80386 super high speed CPUs), but they can be made to work that way. Firefox 4 takes advantage of some of those chip instructions, which is why it runs so darn fast on more modern PCs. But on older PCs it’s going to be utter confusion, with chains of instructions queuing up to run through a single processor that doesn’t have the necessary instructions. Limited amounts of RAM make things even worse, forcing the CPU to page instructions in and out. In other words a) the code is better than my computer can handle, and b) I can see the writing on the wall and I realize that the days of this PC are numbered. I want to get another 2 years out of this one if I can, because by that point the next generation of CPUs will be on the market in large enough quantities to be affordable, and from what I have read they are going to utterly outclass even today’s best Quad Core chips.

Shopping for a new PC? Buy the biggest and fastest CPU you can afford with the largest on board cache you can find and load the system down with as much fast RAM as it will take. You can always go get another hard drive later on. You can always go get the next generation video card later on too. It is almost always less expensive to buy the RAM with the PC than from the aftermarket, but that can change, so keep your eyes open. Those last two statements applies to folks shopping for a desktop system. If you’re looking for a notebook, fill it with RAM from the factory, and the best video card. Those machines can be very difficult to take apart for doing owner upgrades.

I’m slightly annoyed at Firefox. Any program running on your PC can access information about your system. I’m not talking spy stuff, I mean the program can find out what kind of CPU you have, how much RAM, what BIOS version, etc. Just a few lines of code could determine whether the new version of FF would be a blessing or a curse. But no. I got the same “We strongly urge you to update to the latest version of Firefox for security reasons” message everyone else did. Those lines of code weren’t in the installation package either, and they should have been. “We’re sorry, your PC is not able to support this version. You need at least this for a CPU and at least that for RAM. Installation terminated.” sure would have saved me some headaches.


I just uninstalled Firefox 4.0.1 and put in the older Firefox 3.6.17. Version 4.0.1 was a total pig on my older, slower PC. Worse than being slow, every two or three minutes it would feel the need to take over my hard drive and churn away for several minutes at a time doing something; during that time I could do NOTHING at all with the PC. Even closing the damn thing took 5 minutes. Downloads were slow as heck too. And I could never get rid of the extra “Welcome to 4.0.1” tab whenever I loaded the thing. I gather this version no longer uses the prefs.js file.

Frog all that.

Buh bye little piggy, roast in hell.

But it fought me. There was no entry for Mozilla 4 in the Windows Add/Remove Software thingy in the Control Panel, only one for 3.6.4, which didn’t function. Using the Firefox Helper.exe application didn’t work - it wouldn’t even run! So I deleted the whole Mozilla directory structure, then used my tune up software to clean out the Registry entries and shortcuts. And yet somehow, the newly installed older version managed to come up the very first time with all my bookmarks, which I had exported to a .html file, but never specified to be used. So I guess other parts of the program hide in other places. I really don’t care, as long as this version doesn’t make a pig of itself.

Thanks to Roger for the 3.6.17 link.

Posted by Drew458    United States   on 05/25/2011 at 08:36 PM   
  1. I’m using 4.0.1 and love it. Much faster than the previous version and runs at about half the load. Wonder why our experience is so different?

    Posted by Pal2Pal    United States   05/25/2011  at  09:14 PM  
  2. I have not gone to Firefox 4 nor IE9.  I do NOT like the Chrome-like characteristics of it.

    Posted by John C    United States   05/26/2011  at  12:17 AM  
  3. Check Windows Task Manager.  Every time Firefox jams up, I find that svchost.exe is using up 60% to 99% of the CPU.  Ending the process clears it within a max time of 15 seconds or less.

    Posted by Dr. Jeff    United States   05/26/2011  at  12:58 AM  
  4. I had to dump it too.  Kept locking up and crashing.  Got Opera now.  I hate it when they
    “Improve” or “Upgrade”.  Those are code words for ‘the program you have been using for years that worked great is now shit.’ shit  shit  loser  shit  shit

    Posted by grayjohn    United States   05/26/2011  at  01:45 AM  
  5. Doc, svchost.exe are no more than shadow boxes; they exist to run, so that common .dll packages can have a place to live. Svchost.exes can be looked at with the Process Explorer tool, and you’ll see how each one running is associated with any number of running Windows services and applications. If you ever wrote code that used Includes, that’s similar to what the svchosts are.

    My system runs really lean - I have only 3 svchosts running. No Task Scheduler, no BITS, no Automatic Update, heck, not even Windows Time ... only the most minimal Windows services. Generally when FF4 was being a mess, it was that damn FF pluin-container.exe. So when I stripped out all the plugins, i figured it would be better. Wrong, no different. I never noticed any of the svchost executables being a piggy.

    I think FF4 really wants more memory and a faster CPU than my system can provide. I’m chugging along at only 733Mhz here, with 384MB direct RAM. This machine is almost 12.

    Posted by Drew458    United States   05/26/2011  at  03:08 AM  
  6. There’s a site, that has old versions of popular programs, including Firefox. I’ve used Chrome and liked it. I’m currently running Linux and use Firefox or Chromium, which is Chrome without the Google spyware, er, tracking bits. You can use xmarks (from ) to keep your bookmarks current between programs or computers. Xmarks also lets you create and switch between several accounts, so you can have a set of cookies and bookmarks for blogging and another when you are searching for Eye Candy subjects.

    I keep meaning to partition my drive so I can install Windows and play Fallout 1&2 again, then I hear someone mention the joys of dealing with Windows and the impulse passes.

    Posted by stormbird    United States   05/26/2011  at  11:38 AM  
  7. I heard they tried to do away with the status bar and are taking the position of “Get a plugin that does that”, but the plugin that exists doesn’t get it quite right.  Not exactly a stellar move.

    Worse yet, they’re openly considering trying to make the URL bar multi-function so it isn’t the simple URL bar we know and love today, and it’ll be hidden by default.  Seriously?  What the hell, Mozilla.

    I’ll stick with releases in the 3.6 family until further notice, latest being 3.6.17 as Drew pointed out.

    For those interested, the Download link from for the older versions in various languages is:

    Posted by Argentium G. Tiger    Canada   05/27/2011  at  02:24 AM  
  8. OK Folks! how many of you have heard that the Commie 64 is coming back! And also the VIC and Amiga lines to boot!
    As Linux boxes, no less!

    Commodore USA

    Posted by Macker    United States   05/27/2011  at  09:04 AM  
  9. I’m still running FF3.x. I read somewhere that you need to be on windows 7 to take advantage of it’s new features. Since I’m still on XP, I didn’t see the point. If you shop around, you can find good deals on behind the bleeding edge tech at good prices. I’ve seen p4 systems on craigslist for $35. I was using a 550 mHz P3 that I found on trash day - along with a Sony 20” crt. Now I’m using a 2.1gHz AthlonXP that I bought at a garage sale for 5 bucks… minus the HD. So, 60 bucks for a new HD and SATA adapter, 20 for a 512k simm, and move the other cards over from the P3 and I’m blazing… The old CRT monitors die, but I replaced them with a $8 garage sale Dell and a $0 no-name from Freecycle. wink

    Posted by JimS    United States   05/27/2011  at  12:56 PM  
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