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14 July 2009, 11:59

Slow Firefox 3.5 start up time

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Firefox's files screenshot
Zoom On start up, Firefox 3.5 reads the Internet Explorer temporary files
In recent days, an increasing number of users have been complaining that Firefox 3.5 needs a long time to start, while others don't have a problem. It now appears that the cause has been found and the developers are working on a solution.

On some systems, it takes thirty seconds or more to display the Firefox window. Frans Bouma examined the system and found that, at start up, Firefox initialises the random number generators of the Network Security Services. It does this by reading files from some "random" sources. On Windows, this includes the Internet Explorer cache and the Windows folder for temporary files. As both can often contain a large number of files, this process can actually take a long time.

The H Security believes that this explains the slow behaviour, but only on Windows systems. On Linux and Mac OS X, the NSS library uses, as expected, the pseudo-file /dev/urandom. Johnathan Nightingale of Mozilla confirmed the problem and that diagnosis, to heise Security, The H's German associate. He added that they already "have a fix in hand that we are testing". The problem is that, although Mozilla uses the win32 CryptoAPI, on some Windows system this isn't available so, as Nightingale says "we've wanted other sources of randomness". Nightingale promises a more "nuanced approach on Windows now, that will use CryptoAPI alone when it's appropriate to do so" and only reading the various directories on platforms where it isn't available. He also said that Mozilla are "looking into ways to detect these problems earlier in the development cycle".


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