Over the last few months, I have complained a whole lot about Firefox and GNOME. It turns out, this was due to a problem with my device and not with the browser. More specifically, I accidentally found out my laptop had been running with its CPU locked at 800 Mhz for what I believe was close to 13 months!
What a waste for such a good laptop by Dell.
Let’s walk through this story.
Switching to Vivaldi
I left Firefox because I decided that my personal productivity was important to me, and spending 10-15 seconds waiting for each page to load was not done. With Vivaldi or Brave — both based on Chromium and therefore using Google’s Blink engine — the web was ~2.5x faster for me.
There was no going back.
Switching to Cinnamon
Doug Belshaw recently moved to Cinnamon on his Pop!_OS install. I figured if he likes a no-nonsense computing experience and is willing to switch, I could do. So, I quickly went ahead and installed Cinnamon in confidence.
Becoming familiar with a different DE
I recommend GNOME to a lot of people - because it just works! The workflow can take a bit of getting used to, but there’s nothing wrong with it at all. It’s just… different.
This kind of different struck me on Cinnamon.
I realized it did not offer a night light feature out of the box, and so I went looking for Redshift — a tool I used to use on Xubuntu 16.04.
Then I realized it did not offer any easy way to switch between power profiles — Balanced, High Performance, Battery Saver — and so I went looking for an applet and installed it. It is here that I found out my CPU was locked at 800 Mhz. No power profile would change this, nor any kind of workload - casual or demanding.
Searching the web
Naturally, I went looking on the web, and found a reddit post from three years ago. Fingers crossed it wasn’t stale advice. Although the original post recommended replugging the battery by opening the laptop, someone in the comments mentioned you could drain the battery to the same effect.
I spent a day draining the battery - Pop!_OS shut me down at 3%. I logged into Windows which ran a long time even though the battery had hit 0%. When it finally did shut down, I gave it some 5 minutes, powered it on just to make sure it’s fully drained, and then plugged it back in.
A whole new computer
When I logged into Pop!_OS, this time with GNOME, I quickly installed a CPU frequency indicator from the GNOME extensions store. Thanks to being such a mainstream desktop-environment, there were several options to pick from and one of them worked. I could now see that the CPU frequency even while idling was hovering around ~1 Ghz. Success!
I opened Firefox and the lag was gone! Opening Calendar, Contacts or Mail on GNOME is now instantaneous.
It truly feels like I have a whole new computer again. I love it!
Supporting a healthy web
Since having a fully functional processor again and moving back to Firefox, I have not even attempted to use Vivaldi, even to check its speed now. I really don’t care — Firefox is good enough, I am sure the speed difference is minimal with all the work Mozilla has put in recently, and we need to support it for a healthy web. I would claim we have a moral obligation to do so.
That starts by showing up on analytics as a Firefox user and having it make sense for companies to make a business decision and support Gecko for their websites and web-apps — just like they do Blink or WebKit without thinking all-that-much about it.
Get the browser that protects what’s important. No shady privacy policies or back doors for advertisers. Just a lightning fast browser that doesn’t sell you out.