Friday, January 07, 2005
The Emergence of True Convergence, and Is Speed-Boosting Firefox Wrong?
ARTICLE DATE: 01.06.05
By Alice Hill and Bill O'Brien
Not wishing to disillusion any of those who believe pundits typically talk for their own benefit, we decided the first column of the new year deserved some forward-looking guesstimation. See that PC you're sitting in front of? Don't get too accustomed to it. You won't have it for very long.
Maybe we should begin at the beginningÂ .
For several years now, IBM and Microsoft have been hard at work in back rooms, redefining personal computing. Actually, they've been trying to erase it. Personal computing is a "masses" approach that promotes hardcore consumerism, which in turn enforces competition, discounting, and low profit margins. (Trust us, IBM isn't selling its PC business because it's making money with it.) Can we prove this? Only by inference.
IBM has been making a massive push to promote grid computing. By its nature, grid computing removes the restriction of individual system performance, relying on the aggregate resources of a grid, or network, of computers to achieve ultimate processing power. There is no larger grid than the entire population of computers.
Microsoft, slowly but surely, has been redefining Windows from an operating system for single PCs to an OS capable of embracing the Internet. You have Web views for your desktop; you can carry your desktop with you, and if it's properly configured, sit at any PC, making it look like your own. The automatic operations a PC can perform in the backgroundÂsoftware updates and e-mail transfers to mention just twoÂmake user intervention less than essential. And the Internet is just a huge grid of computers.
Convergence ad infinitum
For the idea to work, the current PC must become an essential item, in a closed loop, but also disappear as an "item." Why not imbed a "mainboard" in each house and apartment, then use something like Wi-Fi to connect televisions, e-mail and game stations, refrigerators, telephones, lighting, environmental controls, even cars.
Don't laugh. Using technology like RFID to help your car identify you will surely cut down on theft. And if reprogrammed for multiple IDs, the settings of a car's equipmentÂfrom radios to seats to mirrorsÂwill automatically adjust for each individual. Travel directions? Forget traditional GPS. Your car can download them. If you need a "computer" in the traditional sense, you just pick up a keyboard and sit down in front of any screen in your house or apartment. Naturally, the keyboard will have an imbedded trackball or mouse for navigation.
The mainboard (or mainboards, depending on how large a spread you have) handles everything, and its dual-core processors will give it immensely expanded capacity. When your domicile's asleep or running at lower-than-peak levels, its unused capability is added to the grid. (The system is a lot like the one used for distributing electricity, but not quite.) That, in fact, is one of the ways this technology makes a profit. You're charged for your usage, and you and others are charged additionally for "shared" processing. Better still, once your place is built and configured, you're not going to upgrade via mail order. You'll have a contract and a service fee, and all those other good revenue producing items.
Is Speed-Boosting Firefox Wrong?
When you live on the tech edge, especially in the online world, you take chances. Last column, for example, we discussed what happened when we accidentally violated Google's AdSense policy by asking users to click on our blog's ads. (Short answer: it made Google very, very angry and got a lot of our readers here up in arms as well.)
SoÂ what if we told you that this week we found a way to boost browser performance in Firefox (and Mozilla) to a level you literally won't believe? The update takes two minutes, requires no add-ins or purchases, and blows your hair back when you surf even the most dog-slow Web sites.
The instructions are being posted as we speak on blogs all over the Internet. I saw them on ForeverGeek.com, but the exact text is posted on blog after blog, so my apologies to the original author. Here's the bottom line. To boost Firefox, simply do the following after launching your browser.
1. Type "about:config" into the address bar (no spaces) and hit Return. Scroll down and look for the following entries:
Normally the browser will make one request at a time to a Web page. When you enable pipelining, the browser will make several at once, which really speeds up page loading.
2. Alter the entries as follows:
Set "network.http.pipelining " to "true"
Set "network.http.proxy .pipelining" to "true"
Set "network.http.pipelining .maxrequests" to some number like 30. (This tells the browser to make 30 requests at once.)
3. Lastly, right-click anywhere and select New-> Integer. Name it "nglayout.initialpaint .delay" and set its value to "0". This value is the amount of time the browser waits before acting on received information.
Okay. That's all it takes. But now let's dig into the controversy that is foaming up discussion boards across the land. The term the hard core use for opening 30 server calls at one time is not pretty, but says it all: server raping. Taking up 30 simultaneous sessions is a major don't, since most servers bomb out at around 100. If four people using this tweak hit a page at the exact same time, they would crash everything, warned many a geek.
But not so, according to the other camp, who explain that pipelining is not about opening multiple sessions but simply changing how a single session pulls down information. The irony is that most developers gave up on pipelining after broadband became more widespread, and browsers today ship with this default set to "Off" or "False" to protect servers from throwing up bugs during a rapid pipeline burst.
We have to say that we have been using our jacked-up Firefox and have not crashed sites or been denied access because our browser's action was confused for a flood attack. We did see some bad code, though in third-party ads, mostly. Not in Google adsÂand whatever you do, don't think we just told you to click on them!
So, give this a try, and report back in the discussion areas. We would love to hear from some hardcore pipeline guys and gals and figure this out once and for all. Is the hysteria just hype as we suspect, or is boosting Firefox technically bad for the Internet?