I am a heavy web user. Everything from webmail to banking, if I can do it on-line I will.
So when I’m away from home (which is common) I like to have connectivity. With WiFi access and mobile broadband what to connect to is straightforward. As I like to travel light, I prefer to use a netbook and as they are typically lower specification, you quickly become aware of software bloat.
For years I have used Firefox. I like its extensibility, security and reliability. Sadly on smaller platforms, its starting to appear in need of a regular appearance at the gym. Routinely sitting between 500 and 600 Mb with one or two tabs, the paging is noticable on a 512Mb Acer Aspire One (AOA 110-Ab) running Arch Linux. This combined with the slower write access to an SSD makes for an irritating stuttering affect.
There are other issues to. Since version two of Firefox went, sqlite databases are the order of the day. Some of these grow to quite surprising sizes in a short space of time, noticeably urlclassifier3.sqlite (currently ~34Mb). Disabling this protection seems a step backwards so I went as far as using tmpfs mounted profiles using rsync on a cron job to back it up to a tarball.
None of this really helped and the crux of the matter is still memory footprint. So, on my mobile platform at least, Firefox must be replaced with a smaller alternative.
It must have a small footprint, fast page rendering and support Adobe Flash. Niceties would be GTK (as I’m on Gnome) and a full screen mode.
After much trial and error with everything from Epiphany to Opera, I decided to use Webkit. With footprint in mind it came down to two contenders – Midori and Arora. Midori is impressive but not mature enough so I chose Arora, version 0.8.0. Having just checked the Jaunty repository, it appears Ubuntu users have a much older release – 0.5.0.
Arora seems to render pages much quicker and it certainly loads quicker. There is a sizable decrease in memory footprint – averaging at around 150 Mb. I’ve browsed for a few hours with several tabs open and not seen it go over 200Mb.
Although QT based, it fits in well with the Caramello theme. On the downside, its full screen mode is poor in comparison to Firefox, leaving the bookmarks bar in site taking up screen real estate – always a consideration on a small screen.
It’s a great shame that the version in our repositories is so old. Since I started writing the system documentation for Ubuntu Netbook Remix I have moved to using an image in VirtualBox as I prefer a more tailored system provided by Arch. Arora fits in well with this approach and is certainly lightweight enough to allow me to run a couple of applications on startup – Dropbox client, Skype client and Gwibber. This gives accessibilty with fast booting and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I also hope we can package a more recent version, especially for use with UNR.
Update: as Leonel pointed out, Arora 0.8 is available in Jaunty Backports.