Memory Problems in Firefox on Mac. Caching Pitfalls
My MacBook Pro has been having some problems – performance problems, crashes, failures to come back from sleep, etc. Often it showed the black screen while heating up. Some signs point to Firefox. Right now I have 3.6.13 running under Mac OS X 10.6.6. Since I like Firefox more than other browsers, I wanted to find a solution.
It looks like I have found one solution. This is a Firefox add-on – RAMBack. It adds a menu item “Clear Caches” under “Tools” and allows Firefox users to release some memory allocated by Firefox for some performance improvement purposes. In the Activity Monitor I have seen the reduction in “Real Memory” from 250M to 215M. Not much, but that is 14%.
Ironically, at some point allocating more memory to improve performance (by caching) slows down applications. This is not only a Firefox problem. This is a more general architectural problem. When designing an application, one should make sure that improving performance of one aspect does not negatively impacts other aspects on which the former depends on.
Another problem with Firefox on Mac is that it seems to be inefficient in handling many open tabs. Firefox on Windows can handle easily up to 150 tabs open. This is an unreachable limit for Firefox on Mac with comparable hardware configuration. Firefox on Mac starts choking with just 20 tabs.