Firefox 4 beta 9 gives short shrift to Linux users

Because of buggy drivers, hardware acceleration is disabled in the Linux version of Mozilla's latest browser release.

Considerable fanfare greeted Friday's release of the ninth--and apparently final--beta version of Firefox 4, which boosted the popular Web browser with hundreds of bug fixes and a raft of powerful new features.

Along with faster speeds, hardware acceleration has been one of the most widely anticipated of those new features, and it did indeed appear as expected--for Windows and Mac users. Those using the open source Linux operating system, however, weren't so lucky.

"We tried enabling OpenGL on Linux, and discovered that most Linux drivers are so disastrously buggy (think 'crash the X server at the drop of a hat, and paint incorrectly the rest of the time' buggy) that we had to disable it for now," wrote Mozilla developer Boris Zbarsky Friday in a comment on the Mozilla Hacks developer blog. "Heck, we're even disabling WebGL for most Linux drivers, last I checked."

No Compositing Acceleration

It turns out OpenGL hardware acceleration has been implemented on Linux, but only Nvidia's proprietary driver has been white-listed so far; others have been too plagued by bugs and other issues, according to OSnews.

"If your drivers are decent (some of the closed-source ones can be, Nouveau can be sometimes), you do get something akin to Direct2D on Linux through XRender," Zbarsky explained. "So while you don't get compositing acceleration, you do get faster canvas drawing and the like.

"drawImage, for example, can be much faster on Linux than on Mac," he added. "But only if you manage to find a driver and X version that happens to not suck."

That, however, can be a challenge.

'We Could Really Use Some Help'

Plans do call for WebGL to be enabled for Nvidia's proprietary driver, but for now, GL-accelerated rendering on Linux has been deprioritized because of "how much work it would be to get it to work in general," Zbarsky wrote.

Looking ahead, Zbarsky asked for help in improving Firefox's hardware acceleration on Linux.

"We do plan to put more work into the Linux end of this, look for workarounds for the various bugs, etc.," he noted. "But we could really use some help from Xorg and distros and the like here."

The latest Firefox beta can be downloaded for free from Mozilla's Website. The final version is due by the end of February.

A Way to Test It

In the meantime, Linux users interested in experimenting with the browser's hardware acceleration can re-enable OpenGL by setting "layers.acceleration.force-enabled" to "true" and "layers.acceleration.disabled" to "false" in their preferences, Zbarsky added. "You can use about:support to see whether you're getting GL-accelerated rendering after that."

For now, however, although Firefox 4 is certainly an exciting release, it's a little less exciting for Linux users.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags unixopen sourceLinuxbrowser bugsapplicationsbrowserssoftwarenon-Windowsoperating systemsmozillaFirefox

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?