Saturday, July 03, 2010

Firefox 4.0b2 – “Official” x64 Bit Edition Available

…for the brave and daring only!  These are not necessarily “stable” things by any means.  You’ve been warned.

OK…first things first…x64 bit versions of Firefox have been kicking around in the wings for many, many years.  However none of them have been “mainstream” or really official builds.  Just quiet labors of love.

I’ve been running the latest stable builds of Firefox 3.6.6/7 now with no issues on my x64 Windows 7 system.  And though I’ve had a long history here at this blog of playing with the Minefield/beta versions, I’ve really been relying on the stability and compatibility with add-ons that the stable builds provide.

That said, I still keep some portable versions of the Minefield/Nightlies around just for piddling.

I was recently reading this post, A Look At Firefox 3.7a6pre (Minefield) over at The Firefox Extension Guru’s Blog and was impressed enough by the well-organized list of items detailed by the Guru in 3.7 that I decided to go ahead and update my playbox builds.

So I hopped over to Mozilla Developer Preview, Portable Edition 3.7 Alpha 5 and Alpha 6 Pre Released (Firefox Preview) at PortableApps.com and downloaded the nightly build of Minefield 3.7 Alpha 6 Pre.

What these do is pretty clever, they extract the portable structure and helper files, then access/download the actual Firefox package directly from Mozilla and extract it into the correct folder.

However, for some reason, that second part kept failing and it couldn’t download the actual build.

No biggie.  I’ve been rolling my own portable builds of Firefox for a long time; grand stream dreams: Build your Own: Firefox 3 (alpha/beta) Portable.

So I hopped over to the Index of /pub/mozilla.org/firefox/nightly/latest-trunk and prepared to find the firefox-4.0b2pre.en-US.win32.zip file to download and unpack, then manually seed the %\FirefoxPortable\App\Firefox folder with the contents of the extracted “Firefox” folder from the zip file.

Only…what’s that lurking at the bottom of the list?  Oh my!

firefox-4.0b2pre.en-US.win64-x86_64.zip

So, I downloaded this one instead of the x32 version, unpacked it, and seeded the portable Firefox structure with this instead.

When launched I was greeted with the familiar Firefox 4.0 “pre” interface.  But what lay underneath?

A quick check with Process Explorer showed the story; 64-bit execution, baby.

image

Some observations;

  • no matter how many tabs are open, they are still hosted in a single process, unlike Chromium and IE8.  Opera and Safari also still seem to be using a single process to host multiple tabs/pages.
  • Memory usage seems fairly low…although I wasn’t using it with any additional extensions.
  • It seemed stable…but sometimes it temporarily “stalled” when dragging it around the desktop.
  • Just because it is x64 doesn’t necessarily mean it is any “faster” than the x32 bit versions.
  • No x64 bit Flash player…yet.
  • I’m not aware of many x64-bit add-ons.  Not sure how x32 bit add-ons will impact x64 bit Firefox.
  • Depending on your system, you may need to also install the Visual Studio Runtimes for x64 which you can grab here.  ( I did not as my system was already prepped with them from some previous application download/configuration.)

All that said…it is very cool to see this “official” x64 bit version of Firefox kicking around and I will be playing with this one as much as I do the Google Chromium Nightlies (which I like very much despite the lack of a bookmark sidebar…).

Even More

Rolling your own portable x64 Firefox version

This has been covered before, but just in case you don’t want to skip around, here is how you can build your own “portable” version of a x64 Firefox nightly build for your Windows system.  I really prefer using these versions so I can run them along-side my current “stable” build with no ill effects or getting the add-ons all mucked up together.

  1. Download the PortableApp Minefield launcher package Minefield, Portable Edition 3.7 Alpha 6 Pre Nightly which includes the launcher and portable Firefox structure files.
  2. Run the executable, and select a location to “extract” the files to a "FirefoxPortableNightly" folder location.  I used my system Desktop, but you pick wherever you wish.
  3. You will likely get a “The installer was  unable to download Current Minefield Trunk Build…” error dialog box.  That’s great.  (Really!).  Tell the error box “OK” and keep going.  All we needed was the launcher and portable folder structure extracted for us. And that should have been accomplished before the error.
  4. Download the latest nightly (Minefield) trunk release.  Look at the bottom of the  list for the latest firefox-4.0(something).en-US.win64-x86_64.zip file version!  (Note the (something) name will change as new builds come out.)
  5. Extract this file somewhere on your system.
  6. Go to that extracted folder location and inside find the “Firefox” folder/contents.
  7. Copy that "firefox" folder and contents.
  8. Now browse to the the  \FirefoxPortableNightly\App\ subfolder created in step #2 above.
  9. Paste the folder you copied in step #7 over the “Firefox” folder found in step #8.  It is OK to overwrite/replace anything it might find in the process.
  10. Run the FirefoxPortable.exe file in the FirefoxPortableNightly folder and away you go!

As previously noted, you might also find you need to install the Visual Studio Runtimes for x64 which you can grab here.

Easy!

Bonus Tip: Running Multiple Versions of (portable) Firefox concurrently

One of the drawbacks to PortableApps Firefox is that it balks at running concurrent versions of Firefox.  So typically you can’t do a side-to side run of x32 bit and x64 bit Firefox.

However, if you create and add a custom “FirefoxPortable.ini” file to the same location as your “FirefoxPortable” executable launcher, you can do so.

  1. Browse into your \FirefoxPortableNightly\Other\Source folder and find the “FirefoxPortable.ini” file.
  2. Copy it.
  3. Paste it into the \FirefoxPortableNightly folder.
  4. Open it in Notepad or other other favorite text-file editor.
  5. Find the line with “AllowMultipleInstances=false” and change the “false” to “true”.
  6. Save the file.

Do this for each/all of the PortableFirefox versions you wish to run at the same time.

Now when you launch your x32 and x64 versions of PortableFirefox, you can run them concurrently.

image

For more tips with this file, and illustrations, see the great guide: Customize Your Own Portable Firefox Six Pack – over at Lifehacker.

Happy x64 Firefox surfing!

--Claus V.

1 comment:

ffextensionguru said...

In regards to multiple processes, only plugins run as their own process and it is just one process for the all the plugins. That stared with 3.6.4/3.6.6 releases last week. Not sure if 3.7a6/4.0b builds are doing that as well. I have never tried 64-bit, of course come to think of it I think I am only running the 32-bit version of Winders Vista even though I do have a 64-bit machine.