BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2005

  

 

BOOT CAMP 358 (02/01/05)

Browser Tuning Tips

 

Your web browser is the gateway to the Internet and most of use Microsoft Internet Explorer or my personal favourite, Mozilla Firefox. All things considered IE does a fair job, and Mozilla is simply outstanding but there are ways of making them work even faster and more efficiently. We’ll begin with a few safe and simple IE6 tweaks for Windows XP users.

 

Here’s one to make Internet Explorer open almost instantaneously by stopping it from displaying your home page, which adds several seconds to the loading time. Don’t worry, nothing will change and it is still there, if you want to go to your home page after IE has opened just click the Home Page icon on the toolbar. Start by right-clicking the Internet Explorer icon on your desktop or the Start menu -- the one you use to launch it -- then select Properties. In the Target box, after: "C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\IEXPLORE.EXE" add a space then ‘-nohome’ (without the quotes), click OK and try it out.

 

Every time you visit a web site Windows XP stores Domain Name System (DNS) data about the site in a ‘cache’ memory. This can quickly become cluttered, especially if you’ve been unable to connect to websites during the previous session. By manually ‘flushing’ the cache subsequent web page searches should be a lot faster and the way to do that it is to open a ‘command prompt’ window by typing ‘cmd’ (without the quotes) in Run on the Start menu. At the flashing prompt type ‘ipconfig /flushdns’ (again without the quotes and note the space between ipconfig and /flushdns). Press Enter and you will get a ‘successfully flushed…’ confirmation message. Close the Windows and you should notice an improvement in the speed at which pages appear. (See also Tip of the Week).

 

This last IE tweak will let you go directly to a Google search from the IE address bar, simply by typing ‘g’, followed by your search word(s). The first step is to download a small free utility called Tweak UI for XP from the Microsoft website at:

www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/

downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx (you’ll find it under Download on the right side of the page).  This is well worth having in any case as it has lots of other handy tools for changing the way XP looks and behaves.

 

Install and run Tweak UI and when it opens double-click Internet Explorer and select Search. Click the Create button, under Prefix type ‘g’ (without the quotes) then in the URL box enter: www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%s&num=50. This line contains the commands ‘hl’ for language, ‘q’ for query and ‘num’ for the number of search results displayed so you like you can increase the last number to 75 or 100. Click OK to close Tweak UI then open IE and try a search by typing g then a space then your keywords in the Address box.

 

Now it’s the turn of Mozilla Firefox and this first tip is a variant on the one used to make IE open faster but this time still displaying the home page. The procedure is basically the same but with a different command is added to the Target box, to force Windows XP to pre-load or ‘fetch’ program data when Windows boots up. The existing command line in the Firefox icon’s Properties box should look like this:

"C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe",

simply add a space then type in:‘/Prefetch:1’ (without the quotes), and click OK.

 

Unlike IE it is possible to delve deeply into Firefox’s configuration settings for some quite dramatic improvements but please note the ones listed are for broadband users, if you have a dial-up connection I would leave them alone. But first, for those of you that haven’t yet tried Firefox I urge you to give it a whirl. It’s free, fast and a lot more user friendly than IE. It’s safer too with none of the security loopholes that plague Internet Explorer, you can even use it at the same time as IE, it doesn’t interfere with it in any way so you’ve absolutely nothing to loose. (For more information see Boot Camp 341). The Firefox download can be found at: www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/

 

Firefox is ‘Open Source’ software, which essentially means users are encouraged to help with its development. Most of the improvements centre on the hidden configuration menu that is accessed by typing ‘about:config’ (without quotes) into the address box and this will display a long list of settings. There are dozens of web sites detailing changes but for a first-timer I recommend the following short list of modifications, which have proved to be very effective, without affecting stability:

 

network.http.max-connections: 48
network.http.max-connections-per-server: 24
network.http.max-persistent-connections-per-proxy: 12
network.http.max-persistent-connections-per-server: 6
network.http.pipelining: true
network.http.pipelining.maxrequests: 8
network.http.proxy.pipelining: true

 

Right click on each entry in turn, select Modify from the drop-down menu and enter the new value, as shown above. The entry will be displayed in bold type showing that it has been altered. If for any reason you want to change it back to the default right-click the entry and select Reset. When you have finished close Mozilla to store the changes.

 

If you would like to know more about Firefox’s inner workings then have a look at the following web site which detail even more radical changes:

 

http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?t=53650

www.tweakfactor.com/articles/tweaks/firefoxtweak/4.html

 

For a good assortment of more general Firefox tips and tricks go to:

 

www.mozilla.org/support/firefox/tips

and

http://users.tns.net/~skingery/firefox/Home_Page.html

 

Next time – Windows XP Remote Assistance

 

JARGON FILTER

 

CACHE

Part of a computer's memory set aside for storing frequently-used data, speeding up file access or the transfer of information

 

DNS

Domain Name System -- used by the Internet to translate web site addresses into numeric Internet Protocol (IP) codes

OPEN SOURCE

Software with minimal licensing and broad, often free distribution, which users are encouraged to help develop

 

 

TIP OF THE WEEK

Some of the browser speed-up tips and tweaks outlined this week may only yield relatively small improvements in the order of a few milliseconds, which can be difficult to assess given the many other factors that determine the speed of data flowing around the Internet. Nevertheless it is possible to measure the speed at which web pages load, so you can make accurate comparisons, before and after you’ve made changes using the web ‘stopwatch facility at: www.numion.com/Stopwatch/index.html. Just type in the address of a website, preferably one with lots of images or graphics, make a note of the time it takes to load, change a setting then try again an see if it makes a difference.

 

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