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Firefox 4 Beta 4 includes Direct2D

Firefox 4 Beta 4 includes Direct2D

The latest Firefox beta includes support for Direct2D acceleration on Windows platforms.

As well as support for Google's WebM video codec, the latest beta of Firefox introduces Direct2D acceleration on Windows platforms.

Released today, Firefox 4 Beta 4 is the first beta release to include the code for 2D graphics acceleration on Windows - something Microsoft has already promised will be an integral part of Internet Explorer 9.

According to Mozilla's platorm wiki, although the code to enable 2D acceleration - which takes the effort of rendering graphics objects away from the CPU, promising better all-round performance in graphics- or JavaScript-heavy sites - is part of the latest beta release, it is disabled by default as the team didn't feel confident enough to "turn it on for all users."

Thankfully, enabling the acceleration is pretty straightforward for the more advanced users willing to give the bleeding edge a try: "To turn on Direct2D: Go in to about:config and set mozilla.widget.render-mode to 6, and gfx.font_rendering.directwrite.enabled to true."

Once that's done, just restart Firefox and go to about:support, and if Direct2D is enabled you should see a message right at the bottom of the page.

As expected of a beta, there are issues that the team at Mozilla want to keep an eye on - in particular, the effect enabling acceleration has on overall memory usage and its interactions with plugins like Adobe's Flash, which in version 10.1 includes its own hardware acceleration support.

Will you be downloading the latest beta to try out the new GPU-accelerated browsing, or are you going to sit this one out and let others discover any bugs that might be hiding? Should Mozilla be concentrating on shedding some bloat from Firefox rather than adding new features like this? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

27 Comments

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tad2008 23rd August 2010, 10:33 Quote
Quote: "Thankfully, enabling the acceleration is pretty straightforward for the more advanced users willing to give the bleeding edge a try: "To turn on Direct2D: Go in to about:config and set mozilla.widget.render-mode to 6, and gfx.font_rendering.directwrite.enabled to true."

That is hardly straightforward, it might not be difficult, but try explaining that to an older generation compared to going to something like Tools - Options - Tick box for 2D acceleration.

TBH, it's about time Mozilla and others made these advanced features more readily available for the more common things that day to day users might benefit from.
proxess 23rd August 2010, 10:38 Quote
But then again why would the "older generation" be using beta software? It's obvious that these options will be in the "appearance" preferences in the menu, probably, in future, stable releases.
mclean007 23rd August 2010, 10:39 Quote
@tad2008 - that's a bit unfair - it's a beta feature that by the developers' own admission isn't yet ready for a full rollout. Most day to day users don't need to be messing about with features that aren't fully developed yet - they're better off with a more stable, if fractionally slower, browsing experience.

I'd expect that in the final release of Firefox 4 this will be enabled by default, and nobody will ever really need to turn it off.
rickysio 23rd August 2010, 11:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by tad2008
Quote: "Thankfully, enabling the acceleration is pretty straightforward for the more advanced users willing to give the bleeding edge a try: "To turn on Direct2D: Go in to about:config and set mozilla.widget.render-mode to 6, and gfx.font_rendering.directwrite.enabled to true."

That is hardly straightforward, it might not be difficult, but try explaining that to an older generation compared to going to something like Tools - Options - Tick box for 2D acceleration.

TBH, it's about time Mozilla and others made these advanced features more readily available for the more common things that day to day users might benefit from.

TBH, you absolutely do not get this at all. You need to actually download the Minefield nightlies in order to even get this option, which are very unlikely for the older generation to EVEN know about it, much less download and install.


Fail.
Gareth Halfacree 23rd August 2010, 11:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by tad2008
That is hardly straightforward, it might not be difficult, but try explaining that to an older generation compared to going to something like Tools - Options - Tick box for 2D acceleration.
Which is exactly what the option *will* be on final release. Remember, this is a *beta* - i.e. an unfinished product for testing purposes.

Plus, if you read the sentence again, I said it was "pretty straightforward for the more advanced users." Somehow, I doubt that members of your apparently senile "older generation" read bit-tech and install betas.

Just sayin'.
phuzz 23rd August 2010, 11:17 Quote
Not bothering with the FF beta until my addons are all updated to work with it :p
a6361563 23rd August 2010, 11:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by phuzz
Not bothering with the FF beta until my addons are all updated to work with it :p

Almost every add-on is working fine with the Beta. Just install "Add-on Compatibility Reporter" add-on.
TWeaK 23rd August 2010, 11:51 Quote
I've never really liked Firefox tbh, always been afraid it will eat my babies.

Let me know when Chrome or Opera adds this feature.
Saivert 23rd August 2010, 14:44 Quote
Firefox 4 beta 4 is not released yet. bit-tech needs to stop snooping on the Mozilla FTP server. just because something is put up there does not mean it is officially released.

this is as said a minefield nightly and I've been testing Direct2D enabled Firefox for quite some time now.
Direct2D "code" is already in Beta 3
erratum1 23rd August 2010, 15:16 Quote
I'll wait for the official release, I just need stuff to work i'll leave beta testing to others.
Kenny79 23rd August 2010, 15:18 Quote
Never could figure out why Firefox was so popular, I tried it a few times but couldn’t grow to like it, then Chrome came out and I’ve never looked back its just fast and easy. Different strokes for different folks I guess.
sear 23rd August 2010, 15:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saivert
Firefox 4 beta 4 is not released yet. bit-tech needs to stop snooping on the Mozilla FTP server. just because something is put up there does not mean it is officially released.

this is as said a minefield nightly and I've been testing Direct2D enabled Firefox for quite some time now.
Direct2D "code" is already in Beta 3
Actually, as far as I remember Direct2D was already in as far back as when it was called 3.7. Way to make a story out of non-news, guys!
TSR2 23rd August 2010, 17:49 Quote
Also it probably won't be popular with the mainstream (unless Mozilla somehow changes it between now and release) as it also requires Vista/7, WDDM drivers and its not recommended to use Intel graphics chips, which will be what many people have. Can't say I've really noticed any difference in memory, its still using nearly 400MB (albeit with several tabs open)
Sexton 23rd August 2010, 18:56 Quote
Where can I download beta 4? Have looked everywhere, but most recent I can find is version 3.
Vigilante 23rd August 2010, 20:01 Quote
I dunno what's going on here, but this method of enabling D2D has been part of the minefield builds for nearly two months - ever since it was renamed from 3.6pre (though code-wise more advanced than 3.6), to 4.0.

This feature is enabled by default in the firefox 4 prebeta 5 builds (available here, so beta 5 should have this enabled by default too. Be patient if you don't like fiddling around with about:config.
pbryanw 23rd August 2010, 20:18 Quote
@Sexton - It's not been officially released yet. The release schedule says sometime later today but, who knows, it may be delayed longer?:
https://wiki.mozilla.org/Releases/Firefox_4.0b4
Sexton 23rd August 2010, 20:30 Quote
Ah OK, thanks :)
Evenge 23rd August 2010, 20:31 Quote
Well I use Minefield as my default browser, and I like it. But some times it is bit annoying that beta dev team enable some features which clearly aren't working.

I'm not sure is the problem with Direct2D Firefox beta based error, or aren't web pages just simply coded whit D2D in mind, since at least youtube has some issues playing vids properly when D2D is enabled (might have something to do with Flash...)
leexgx 23rd August 2010, 22:41 Quote
firefox and Chrome seem to be bit heavy on ram use, i must have about 60-70 tabs open in opera and its using like 1gb of ram (i got more tabs open then norm as ram use is norm 400-600MB with 40tabs) 4 tabs are open in chrome right now and they are using 300-400 each Flash seems have have an negative impact on firefox and chrome seems to have an mem leak thats not been fixed yet
rickysio 24th August 2010, 15:07 Quote
I'm already on 4.0b5pre. 4.0b4pre should have already been out before yesterday or so.
SinnerG 24th August 2010, 22:51 Quote
I'm trying out 4b4 now. Had 4b3 installed this past week after going through a big hunt for a replacement browser for FF3. I eventually came back to FF and there are things that FF4 fixes up nicely.

Anyway, so I have D2D enabled. I tried the H/W font rendering as well, but turned that off rapidly. It's rubbish, all blurry.

What I'd like to know, however, is what benefits we should be seeing with D2D enabled. I mean, FF runs as fast as it did without it. One would think they'd use it to stop FF max'ing out one of the cores on my AMD 955BE every time scroll a page. :-D
Salty Wagyu 25th August 2010, 01:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SinnerG
One would think they'd use it to stop FF max'ing out one of the cores on my AMD 955BE every time scroll a page. :-D

Hmm does that still happen with D2D enabled? I'd have hoped it wouldn't as I also get the problem with one of my cores getting maxed out too when scrolling a content heavy page, such as those using jpegs for background images (www.shopto.net is an ok example to test this). It's very choppy as well when scrolling.


Kinda sucks really why this happens on a high-end system for something as simple as displaying a web site.
Pieface 25th August 2010, 01:23 Quote
Firefox 4 worked for a short while, and then it just stopped. The window wouldn't open even after resetting.
fluxtatic 25th August 2010, 05:33 Quote
All the above comments about FF's RAM usage are exactly why I don't use it. Now, I'm hardly bleeding edge, having just upgraded from an Athlon Thunderbird w/768M to an Athlon 64 w/2G in January of this year (before that I was rocking a P-B 150MHz Pentium w/128M and the drop-in 1M VRAM upgrade into '07 - took me the longest time to figure out why sites with video always crashed the system, lulz).

All that said, it's always been ridiculous to me that FF eats up as much RAM as it does. I've been on Opera full time since they dropped the top banner that 'kept it free'. We're getting on FF4, and still they can't or won't do anything about the memory usage issues? No thanks, I'll take the hit on my geek cred and still have a computer I can multi-task on, with the browser open. There are a few add-ons I miss at work, but given the piece of crap Dell I have there, and that I typically have Opera (9-10 tabs), IE (1-2 tabs), Outlook, 3-5 instances of Excel, Crimson Editor, Irfanview, and the company's business suite open at once, I can't spare the RAM for Hungry Hungry Firefox.
TSR2 26th August 2010, 11:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by aarste
Hmm does that still happen with D2D enabled? I'd have hoped it wouldn't as I also get the problem with one of my cores getting maxed out too when scrolling a content heavy page, such as those using jpegs for background images (www.shopto.net is an ok example to test this). It's very choppy as well when scrolling.


Kinda sucks really why this happens on a high-end system for something as simple as displaying a web site.

I have D2D enabled and it doesn't, seem there is a spike in CPU load (increases by about 25% on 2 cores) and the multiplier steps up, but it doesn't max out anything. Of course, this is a totally unrealistic test, I have Cool'n'quiet enabled and a load of background stuff open.
Gambler FEX online 26th August 2010, 22:09 Quote
Firefox 4 beta is much more jerky in Direct2D mode than Firefox 3.7a1pre when I scale and rotate images in this link:
http://people.mozilla.com/~vladimir/demos/photos.svg

I hope it gets better in the future.

I really look forward to Direct2D on Windows, then Microsoft will finally have cought up with MacOSX

- If you look at the three Quartz implementation diagrams in sequence, you can see how the video card portion of the diagram has slowly expanded over the course of four years to encompass more and more of the display layer. The reason is clear when you look at the bandwidth numbers: 30GB/s between the GPU and VRAM, and that number is climbing rapidly—much more rapidly than the bandwidth between the CPU and RAM.
http://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2005/04/macosx-10-4.ars/14

I hope Windows 8 is entirlely in Direct2D and can render at 120fps on these new 120hz monitors :)

http://jooh.no/web/60hz_vs_120hz_smooth_mouse_cursor.jpg
http://jooh.no/web/120Hz_LCD_vs_CRT_comparison.jpg

- The ASUS VG236H was my first exposure to 120Hz refresh displays that aren’t CRTs, and the difference is about as subtle as a dump truck driving through your living room. I spent the first half hour seriously just dragging windows back and forth across the desktop - from a 120Hz display to a 60Hz, stunned at how smooth and different 120Hz was. Yeah, it’s that different.
http://www.anandtech.com/show/3842/asus-vg236h-review-our-first-look-at-120hz

but you probably have already heard me goskel elsewhere by now hehe
Gambler FEX online 26th August 2010, 22:10 Quote
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