Beta Watch: Shiretoko Firefox 3.5 Intel-Optimized Browser

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Last week I posted a Beta Watch mini-review of Firefox 3.5 Beta 4, Mozilla’s sixth development milestone and fourth beta release of what will become Firefox 3.5.

Unfortunately I found that, like earlier beta releases of FireFox 3.1/3.5, beta 4 was a perplexingly sluggish performer on my setup, which is a 2.0 GHz unibody MacBook running OS 10.5.6 Leopard on a slow rural dial-up connection. Indeed, I found it slower than some of the earlier builds had been on my previous production machine, a 1.33 GHz G4 PowerBook. Go figure.

Several folks commented, including Chris Latko, developer of the “Shiretoko” Mac Intel optimized variant of the Firefox beta. He suggested that I grab a download of his browser and give it a try.

Sounded intriguing, and I did just that. My expectations were not terribly high, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the Firerox 3.5 beta come to life thanks to Chris’s optimization tweaks, whatever they are. The difference between his Shiretoko version and the standard Firefox 3.5 beta is quite tangible, at least on my rig.

Chris says he’s been using WebKit, Minefield, and increasingly Opera as his main browsers for a while now. I’m an Opera fan, too, but like him I use several browsers. He notes on his web site that he’d been hankering after an Intel-optimized build of Firefox 3.5, hadn’t found one, and decided to make one himself. I’m glad he did.

Shiretoko (named after the Shiretoko National Park in northern Japan) transparently picked up where Firefox left off, even opening my saved browser session, and it runs the few Firefox add-on plugins I use as well. Aside from running faster and its distinctive application icon, it could just as well be Firefox 3.5b.

Anyway, it works for me, and puts Firefox back in the game on my rig. Thanks for the suggestion, and for this service to the Mac community, Chris.

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