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2/28/2008
10:51 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Firefox, Or Pigfoot?

One index of success for an open source project is how many other projects are derived from it -- or how many people have created alternate builds of the same project.  Firefox's success has spawned a whole slew of community-compiled editions of the program, and this week I've been living with one of them, code-named "Pigfoot."

One index of success for an open source project is how many other projects are derived from it -- or how many people have created alternate builds of the same project.  Firefox's success has spawned a whole slew of community-compiled editions of the program, and this week I've been living with one of them, code-named "Pigfoot."

The Pigfoot builds are created by Taiwanese programmer Chih-Chia Chen (who goes by the name "Pigfoot" online), and he's most recently released a custom build of Firefox 2.0.0.12.  Like many community-built editions of Firefox, he has several versions that are optimized for specific processor profiles, plus a few optimizations provided by himself and third parties.  Most of us will want to use the English/US P3-optimized build, compiled to take advantage of the AMD Athlon and Pentium D / Pentium 4 instruction sets.

One of the beauties of replacing an existing stock build of Firefox with a custom build is that you can do this without installing anything.  All I had to do was close all my existing Firefox windows, unpack the Pigfoot build to a directory somewhere, and launch it.  It used my existing profile information to pick up right where my last Firefox session had left off, and didn't exhibit any bizarre behavior.

The much-vaunted speed improvements you get from running a processor-optimized build of Firefox are minimal, but incrementally noticeable.  Pages rendered noticeably faster, even on my already-fast Intel Core 2 Quad.  The single biggest place I noticed the speed-ups, oddly enough, was in the way the program's menus and bookmark flyouts were rendered.  I'm curious to see how well a Pigfoot build of Firefox 3, with its much-vaunted JavaScript performance improvements, will play out.

If you've got a favorite community build of Firefox, post about it here and tell us why you like it.

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