A really simple trick to speed up WWW browsing

by | July 14th, 2009

Linux

I notice that my system has /dev/shm mounted as tmpfs. Turns out you can write up to 4G (maybe more) of files to it like it were any other partition, and it’s basically a ramdisk that can also be partially written to swap. It doesn’t use 4G of RAM, it grows dynamically as you add stuff to it.

For grins, I did the following:

1) in firefox, enter about:config in the address bar
2) Find: browser.cache.disk.parent_directory
3) If it exists, change it to /dev/shm, if not right click and add string browser.cache.disk.parent_directory, value /dev/shm
4) close your browser and restart it

I noticed right away browsing was way faster. I’m getting < 1 second loads of various sites. Your mileage may vary!

I verified the cache is indeed being managed in /dev/shm as well:

$ du -sh /dev/shm/Cache/
1.6M /dev/shm/Cache/

The downside?

You lose your cache when you reboot or shutdown then restart.

What’s nice about /dev/shm is you don’t have to muck with your startup/boot scripts to add a ramdisk, it’s already there.

I also did a meaningless benchmark. I copied a 350M file from hard drive to /dev/shm. First time it took 8 seconds, the second time (and 3rd thru nth) it took .5 seconds.  The 8 seconds was how long it took to read the 350M file into Linux’ filesystem cache; the 2nd time it copied from RAM to RAM.

Windows

The Windows XP solution, and it’s really fast too!

http://www.romexsoftware.com/download/

Download the free ramdisk software from the above link and install it.

Run the program and set up a ramdisk. I set up R: and used the default 64M (or 69M, whatever).

Use the same instructions as in post #1, but use R:\ as the value for browser.cache.disk.parent_directory.

Remarks

I didn’t do any particular before/after benchmarks, but the speed improvement is quite noticeable.  Hitting http://apple.com takes about 3 seconds (Linux) after clearing my cache.  The 2nd thru nth time takes 1 second or less.  Hitting apple.com (Windows) takes about 2.5 seconds with a cleared cache, .9 seconds otherwise.

The difference in speed between Windows and Linux is dependent on the browser add-ons I have installed (Linux is generally faster than Windows).