Browsers for old CPUs

Forum Forums General Software Browsers for old CPUs

  • This topic has 23 replies, 10 voices, and was last updated Mar 1-12:04 am by userzero.
Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 24 total)
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  • #54825
    Member
    AvatarjfUd3X5Oh4C5

    Hello,

    Since antiX Linux is targeted for low-end machines, it should provide a browser by default what works on old CPUs. Currently, all browsers crash on CPUs without SSE2. Firefox won’t crash instantly, but when you open a page, it might crash. Just try to play a YouTube video, that will crash it for sure.

    There is only one browser left which works without SSE2, and it is called GNOME Web. Its package name is epiphany-browser. It should be available from the Package Installer (“antiX app store”). Maybe it should be even the default browser.

    The Debian team compiles GNOME Web in a way that it won’t require SSE2 and it is frequently updated. Every security update arrives in very short time. The browser can display and run any modern web page or web app. It can even play embedded videos (YouTube as well of course).

    Using a browser (palemoon-sse) from 2 years ago is a security risk, and shouldn’t be in the Package Installer at all, GNOME Web should be there instead. And maybe GNOME Web should be the default installed web browser, at least in case of the 32 bit release of antiX Linux.

    Tested it on an actual Athlon XP and Intel Celeron (Coppermine).

    There is already at least 1 user who has issues because antiX Linux cannot provide by default a working web browser: https://www.antixforum.com/forums/topic/command-line-install-wont-work/#post-54504

    #54826
    Forum Admin
    anticapitalistaanticapitalista

    I’ll add it to the package installer

    Philosophers have interpreted the world in many ways; the point is to change it.

    antiX with runit - leaner and meaner.

    #54831
    Member
    andyproughandyprough

    It’s an OK browser in terms of rendering, but it seems to be a memory hog in my limited testing. On my system this morning it’s taking 1300mb of ram just to run the video on the homepage of antixlinux.com in a single tab.

    For me, links2 or elinks plus mpv and youtube-dl for videos would be a better way to go on much older machines. I’d have to wonder if most old machines of that generation would have enough memory to get much use out of Gnome web (package is actually named ‘epiphany-browser’).

    I am impressed by the built-in ad blocker – seems to work well.

    If it weren’t such a memory hog it would be good for old machines, and if it had a lot more functionality and privacy and security settings it would be good for modern machines. As it is, I think it’s just not the best browser under any circumstance. Maybe for that one old machine that has a lot of ram and where you just really feel you must watch an embedded youtube video in the browser – for a very narrow use case like that it would be OK.

    As far as the question of whether it should be the default browser on any version of antiX? I would say definitely not.

    #54832
    Moderator
    AvatarBobC

    I tested it the other day with my P II 400 and it was too slow to be useful. Palemoon was the only browser that survived the tests. I guess people that can’t afford better hardware will have to do the best they can with what they have. It might mean there are things they need to do differently, or maybe just can’t do.

    All we can do is try to help. If Gnome Web helps some, then good.

    #54838
    Member
    andyproughandyprough

    The Surf browser seems to be everything that epiphany-browser tries to be, in terms of minimal footprint but still delivering good rendering and video. I built and installed it on my modern laptop and it uses just about 200mb ram to play the video on the home page of antixlinux.com, so about 1100mb less than epiphany-browser.
    https://surf.suckless.org/

    Pretty easy to make and install, maybe it would build on a non-SSE2 system.

    Update: I did a little more reading. According to the Debian 10.1 release notes, non-SSE2 compatibility was built into webkit2gtk by September 2019. Since Surf browser uses webkit2gtk, Surf should work OK on older non-SSE2 computers. https://www.debian.org/News/2019/20190907

    #54840
    Moderator
    fatmacfatmac

    GNOME Web (called Epiphany until 2012)

    I didn’t know it had had a name change, but yes, it is a fairly light browser.

    Linux (& BSD) since 1999

    #54844
    Member
    Avatarolsztyn

    I didn’t know it had had a name change, but yes, it is a fairly light browser.

    Out of pure curiosity I installed Epiphany-browser on my test antiX 19.2 instances:
    – 64 bit Epiphany on antiX Live 64bit running on Thinkpad T410 4GB memory (64bit machine)
    – 32 bit Epiphany on antiX Live 32 bit running on Thinkpad T60 1.5GB memory (32bit machine)
    Initial rudimentary benchmark results on memory footprint running Epiphany vs. Palemoon shows about the same memory footprint for both browsers with one tab open pointing to graphically busy https://www.bing.com.
    This is not a scientific benchmark, of course, but in my rudimentary testing I could not distinguish memory footprint difference.
    Just curious if this is reasonable or I should experience much higher memory use in case of Epiphany browser, considering it comes from much later and more bloated Gnome programming…

    #54850
    Member
    Avatarolsztyn

    There is only one browser left which works without SSE2, and it is called GNOME Web. Its package name is epiphany-browser. It should be available from the Package Installer (“antiX app store”). Maybe it should be even the default browser.

    This browser is new to my testing so I should be on the cautious side and not to jump to conclusion… However, just based on my testing it appears an excellent one as default to minimize memory footprint while satisfying basic requirements from a modern browser. It might end up as my default as well…

    #54866
    Member
    AvatarjfUd3X5Oh4C5

    Gnome Web is not taking up 1300 MB of RAM when opening antixlinux.com and playing the embedded youtube video. It takes only 187 MB for me. While surf takes 97 MB. The difference is 90 MB, not 1100 MB.

    Gnome Web can play back youtube videos on youtube.com while consuming only 262 MB. When antiX Linux boots up, it consumes 133 MB, so in total this means 395 MB of used RAM.

    I’ve done my testings at 144p. Because even in case of this small resolution, there were frame drops. Audio was perfect though.

    Andyprough, you should run your tests again, something was went wrong very likely.

    I have a 633MHz Celeron with only 384 MB RAM, and Gnome Web could load simple news sites in a few minutes. The bottleneck was the CPU, not the RAM. Definitely unusable, but with Links2 it was unusable as well, because despite that the same page loaded in “only” 20 seconds, scrolling and navigating on the page was terrible and unusable. On that machine, by just moving the mouse pointer very quickly, the CPU usage goes up to 100%, I don’t even have to open a web browser or anything.

    Of course, I also wouldn’t recommend playing back videos from inside a browser with such an old CPU. Even if it’s an Athlon XP 3200+. Just download the video with youtube-dl and play it back with a video player. With this trick, even 720p videos can be played back. I’m having these video playback tests just to test the browser with some edge cases, and youtube is JavaScript heavy even without starting the video playback.

    Surf consumes 90 MB less, but it is so bare-bones that it is barely usable, especially if the user is not a power-user. On the other side, Gnome Web is very user-friendly, it has an embedded adblocker and some essential settings, what a user could expect from a browser. It is not for power-users of course. Still, it is very rare, that 90 MB will make any difference, but who knows, the more options the better. You can install surf by simply doing sudo apt install surf. Maybe it should be available in antiX’s Package Installer as well, why not. It relies on the same javascriptcoregtk package what Gnome Web relies on, and that dependency doesn’t need SSE2.

    Gnome Web can be a general purpose web browser. It is up-to-date, can render anything, everything works, has an adblocker.

    You mentioned privacy. In that case you would run Tor Browser in TAiLS or in Whonix inside a virtual machine. You won’t do this on any 32 bit CPUs anyways.

    Surf’s only advantage that it consumes about 90 MB less, because it doesn’t have a GUI and it is therefore hard to use. In some cases that 90 MB can be a difference though, so this should be also an option in antiX.

    Links2 can be only an option if the website doesn’t require JavaScript. Enough said. You can’t even log into ProtonMail, or browse ~90% of the websites.

    We also have Dillo. But why on Earth I would use it, I don’t know, but it is there 😀

    And there is lynx and w3m, the latter can even show pictures, but Links2 in graphical mode can do that too. Lynx is for text-mode only scenarios.

    And there is Firefox, which will crash in some cases. Actually, not really useful anymore if your CPU doesn’t have SSE2.

    There is an obsolete version of Palemoon which doesn’t require SSE2, more than 2 years old, full of vulnerabilities. I wouldn’t even consider this as a serious option. Of course, a 20 years old software will run on your 20 years old hardware. But here we are aiming for running an up-to-date software on your 20 years old hardware.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by jfUd3X5Oh4C5.
    #54869
    Member
    andyproughandyprough

    Gnome Web is not taking up 1300 MB of RAM when opening antixlinux.com and playing the embedded youtube video. It takes only 187 MB for me. While surf takes 97 MB. The difference is 90 MB, not 1100 MB.

    Gnome Web can play back youtube videos on youtube.com while consuming only 262 MB. When antiX Linux boots up, it consumes 133 MB, so in total this means 395 MB of used RAM.

    I’ve done my testings at 144p. Because even in case of this small resolution, there were frame drops. Audio was perfect though.

    Andyprough, you should run your tests again, something was went wrong very likely.

    I’ll take your word for it. I was running it on an 11 year old laptop with x64, and those were literally the numbers I got. I did not have a 32-bit system to try. I’ll take your word for it, you have the correct equipment to test it with. If it works with low resources as you say it does, then it probably would be a good graphical option for non-SSE2.

    Surf consumes 90 MB less, but it is so bare-bones that it is barely usable, especially if the user is not a power-user.

    It took me a couple of minutes of reading the man page to figure out the keyboard shortcuts for Surf. Certainly no more difficult than figuring out how to run links2 or elinks. I still think Surf would be the better option, as even 90mb of ram can make a significant difference for an old system. By the way, I did not see any ads while using Surf. I haven’t delved deeper yet to determine if the version of Surf I installed has the adblock lists built in, but it acted like it did.

    Update – the lack of ads must have been because of the websites I visited yesterday. This morning I do get ads with Surf, so I don’t think the adblock list is built in. I’ll try adding the adblock list and see if it works well and if it reduces or increases the resource usage.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by andyprough.
    #54871
    Moderator
    AvatarModdIt

    Slightly OT: In controll center Network tab you have a button to download selected lists and setup ad blocking in /etc/hosts.

    On really old machines running a raspi with PI Hole as an ad blocker may greatly improve “browsing experience” on low powered
    machines..

    #54906
    Member
    Avatarolsztyn

    Since antiX Linux is targeted for low-end machines, it should provide a browser by default what works on old CPUs. Currently, all browsers crash on CPUs without SSE2.

    Sorry for digging into this topic further, just a few questions for my understanding:
    – As I understand Epiphany changed engine to Webkit not so long time ago. Is the support of CPUs without SSE2 still in force or outdated?
    – From my testing Epiphany appears way more efficient on memory, faster and much lighter than Firefox, while providing at least as nice page rendering and usability. It even has ‘Install Site as Web Application’ function… So my question is: What would be example cases where it would make any functional difference vs. Firefox, except themes, etc…
    Thanks and Regards…

    #54907
    Member
    andyproughandyprough

    As I understand Epiphany changed engine to Webkit not so long time ago. Is the support of CPUs without SSE2 still in force or outdated?

    Debian packagers built non-SSE2 compatibility into webkit2gtk in September, 2019: https://www.debian.org/News/2019/20190907

    So any browser that uses Debian’s webkit2gtk as its base should work on non-SSE2 machines. As far as I can tell, this includes epiphany-browser, the older version of midori that is in the Debian Buster repo, and Surf browser. midori recently changed to become an electron based browser (https://astian.org/en/midori-browser/), so I think that when Debian 11 is released midori will not be available for non-SSE2.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 1 day ago by andyprough.
    #54916
    Member
    Avatarolsztyn

    Thanks andyprough…
    Greatly appreciated info. I was not clear on this.

    #55010
    Member
    AvatarjfUd3X5Oh4C5

    If you (olsztyn) want even more details, there is some:
    https://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386/release-notes/ch-information.en.html#webkit2gtk-on-non-sse2
    https://www.mail-archive.com/debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org/msg1685497.html
    https://www.mail-archive.com/debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org/msg1685776.html
    https://www.mail-archive.com/debian-bugs-dist@lists.debian.org/msg1685560.html

    Interesting part:

    – WebKitGTK has several mechanisms to run JavaScript code, in brief: a
    C-based interpreter (CLoop), an assembler-based interpreter and a
    JIT compiler.

    – CLoop is the slowest but it is portable and runs in all platforms.
    It’s the one selected at build time when the CPU is unsupported or
    unknown.

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