Mobile memory hogs

At last, the Minimo guys fixed their bug with the Axim x50v and so version 0.016 now loads correctly on my PDA. I did a few tests with it, and apparently Minimo requires 14 MBs of RAM to do anything useful on the web. More complex sites, like CNN.com require about 18+ MBs of available RAM to render. And if you use more than one tabs, you will need at least 24 MBs of RAM to operate correctly.

Now, the x50v and most PDAs come with 64MBs of RAM, but on Win2003SE system software (like the .NET framework, or drivers) must be installed on the RAM. This means that a well-equipped PDA (software-wise), has about 25 MBs of RAM free after a clean boot. WinMobile5 does not use the RAM to store system software anymore, but it uses large portions of it for caching. Depending on how clueful the OEM was (usually they are not) and especially if the device is also a phone, you are ending up with LESS free RAM than you would be with a Win2003SE PDA. My Qtek 9100 WM5 phone for example only has 24 MBs of free RAM after a clean boot.

This means that Minimo will barely work on today’s most powerful PDAs. Now, think that non-Windows smartphones (e.g. Symbian S60 and UIQ) are using many times less powerful hardware: usually at 220 Mhz with 32 or 16 MBs of RAM altogether. Same goes for Palm devices which while they have lots of RAM-storage, they don’t have more than 16 MBs of “dynamic RAM” allocated. This means that Minimo simply can not run on these devices. At least, not until about 2010 or so.

The reason I write all this is because it’s really pissing me off when I write somewhere about a mobile browser and what not, and then you have a Linux wheenie spring out like little fart proclaiming “…but, don’t forget Minimo!!”. Sure, how can we forget Minimo? It’s unforgettable. Our device felt like it had anal sex with a 15cm stick when trying to fit it all in its RAM.

Minimo

Now, to be fair, Opera and the new S60 Safari/KHTML browser require quite some memory too: about 5 MBs to load to RAM initially, and about 9 MBs each to render a complex site like CNN. If this doesn’t sound like too much to you, remember that companies like Teleca and Openwave have browsers that are loading in 400 KBs of RAM and render CNN in 4 MBs resulting in cheaper devices (less CPU and memory required).

No, Minimo is not bloated per se. It’s just that it was never architected for mobile devices. It was designed for desktops with lots of RAM. Trying to make a big browser like Mozilla fit on a mobile device’s constraints requires lots of re-architecture, which is not what the Minimo guys are interested in because it’s a lot of work, and because it requires huge rewrites in some places. When they do that, they would be probably losing compatibility with the main Firefox source tree too, making their work even more difficult. So, instead of re-architecting, they are waiting by fixing only a few things. They are waiting a time when devices will come by default with 128 MBs of RAM. In about 4-5 years that is.

Regardless, memory is not the only problem of Minimo. Speed is too. I have one of the fastest PDAs ever, a 624 Mhz monster, and even that can’t make Minimo to feel responsive (takes seconds for redraws of simple menus). Which is pretty weird, as my 333 Mhz PII-mobile 7-year laptop runs Firefox way faster than Minimo generally runs on my fast PDA (although I am familiar with ARM not being as fast as x86 at the same Mhz, and PDAs not using fast RAM and enough cache).

Post a comment »

This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on June 15th, 2006 at 7:07 AM PST:

Yup, poor Doug does most of the work indeed. But in my opinion, he wastes his time with Minimo.


Ludovic Hirlimann wrote on June 15th, 2006 at 10:14 AM PST:

I agree . Minimo is a collection of hacks to make gecko fit into PDAs. But you need to remember that minimo is the work of a very small team (Dougt is not alone but close to).


memson wrote on June 15th, 2006 at 11:55 AM PST:

One comment: Dell Axim x51. The x51 is a brilliant PDA – use one for development at work (develop PDA mobile data collection and comms software.) Uses Windows Mobile 5.0.


KCorax wrote on June 16th, 2006 at 2:44 AM PST:

>But in my opinion, he wastes his time with Minimo.

Given that sometime mozilla might decide to produce a real mobile browser, it makes sense to allocate resources and acquire know-how. Development for mobiles is tough but at some point this market is poised to become too significant to ignore for all web content companies.

Since on windows mobile and symbian there will always be default browsers, minimo can’t possibly take over the market even if it was a huge gain (as with ie/ff on desktop). Without a good share of linux in phones minimo can’t become a self sustainable project and therefore the mozilla management do well to keep in in deep freeze.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on June 16th, 2006 at 5:16 AM PST:

Opera has already the Linux phone market. Trolltech (which supplies 95% of the Linux phones/PDAs with Qt Embedded — not necessesarily via QTopia), has an exclusive contract with Opera. In the beginning they also used Netfront, but since last year, they cut out Netfront and now it’s Opera all the way. So, between the low-ish memory consumption Opera and the even lower Netfront, and the Nokia S60 browser that potentially might get ported to the 770, I don’t see Minimo get ANY place in the Linux mobile market.

The only machines that can use Minimo are PDAs that have being flashed by their few geek users, like some iPaqs and some Zauruses (using Familliar Linux and OpenZaurus respectively, and only when these PDAs are newer models with lots of RAM). These geek owners make up about 0.5% of the Linux mobile market, which overall is about 0,00001% of the overall mobile market.

In other words, yes, the Minimo guys are wasting their time. There is no market for them. And even in 4-5 years, I still doubt it.


Ludovic Hirlimann wrote on June 16th, 2006 at 8:04 AM PST:

>But in my opinion, he wastes his time with Minimo.

Its the people paying is work who are wasting money (that’s Nokia, FT R&D). Some of is work is good for desktop users. When the projetc started they worked a lot on memory consumption and made good cuts some of them where visible in pre Ff 1.0.


KCorax wrote on June 16th, 2006 at 10:35 AM PST:

> And even in 4-5 years, I still doubt it.

I feel it could be 6 months if the foundation had put any real force behind it. I refuse to believe *they* simply fail to deliver, when they have such wonderful other products.

I strongly believe that this project is intentionally kept in the incubator (as implied by the version number) for the reasons I described + others.

None said it’s not crappy.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on June 16th, 2006 at 10:47 AM PST:

Personally, I don’t believe that Minimo can be as good in memory/cpu usage as Opera/S60/Netfront already are. It will require such huge rewrites, that not only makes it a bad financial idea, but it won’t even be “mozilla” anymore. It would be something else. In essense, it would be a new browser. And I don’t think that the Mozilla Foundation cares for a brand new browser. I think that you don’t realize how big Mozilla is for today’s (and most of tomorrow’s) mobile devices. It’s not “fixable” IMHO.


KCorax wrote on June 16th, 2006 at 11:05 AM PST:

Even if it’s not possible to port the xul runtime in it’s entirety it’s worth researching the possibility. Even if everything below the system architecture (ie implementation) has to be written from scratch it is common in software to do that.

I think the right way to attack the project is:
“They should not have publicized the application but rather keep it in secret, tout it as the next best thing to opera and leak screenshots with extreme features that might take 5 minutes to render when used on an actual device. And above all make sure that the community remains as psyched up kinda like the apple people are”


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on June 16th, 2006 at 12:28 PM PST:

The x50v is exactly the same hardware-wise as the x51v (except the 256 MBs of flash, it uses 128 MBs). The x50v is also upgradeable to WinMob 5.0, but I don’t want to upgrade that specific PDA to 5.0 because I have lots of Bluetooth devices that have drivers written for Broadcomm’s bluetooth stack and not for Microsoft’s. Most of the pre-WM5 BT devices that required drivers don’t work on the new WM5 BT stack anymore. So, I avoid upgrading. I have another PDA that runs WM5 anyway, so I don’t need all to run the same OS.


memson wrote on June 18th, 2006 at 3:03 AM PST:

> The x50v is exactly the same hardware-wise as the x51v

Except I have 50MB of free RAM with no applications loaded because the OS does not use half the RAM as storage.


Comments are closed as this blog post is now archived.

Lines, paragraphs break automatically. HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

The URI to TrackBack this blog entry is this. And here is the RSS 2.0 for comments on this post.