Category Archives: Firefox

“Reset Firefox” is wonderful

TL;DR: Please recommend the “Reset Firefox” feature to anyone who complains about odd, persistent performance problems and/or high memory consumption.

In Ars Technica’s article about the Firefox 19 release, carbon fibre made a comment complaining about Firefox’s performance.

Firefox still doesn’t fix memory issues and smoothness, at least on my experience. It’s constant random jerks and extreme mem usage, until restarted. I use chrome but I have been wanting to switch FF for awhile, but I can’t, as long as they fix these issues, long standing issues since ver. 4.

There were four notable responses.

korg250 (my emphasis):

They are losing market share by not fixing the memory issues. Even on my 8GB SSD i5 system I have to restart it when it reaches over 1 GB because it starts to slow down A LOT. And it get over 1 GB very fast for someone who constantly open/close tabs like me (even in safe mode).

I was an avid FF user until I saw myself installing an add-on to restart FF when it reaches X MB of memory usage. Today I use Opera for most of my browsing but I some sites does not work properly with Opera and some extensions only exist on FF.

Shame.

abhi_beckert:

Do you have extensions installed? Maybe one of them is causing it.

crislevin:

every benchmark I saw, firefox uses less memory than everybody else, I really don’t get why people complain about it?

nnethercote:

You might have problems with your profile. Visit about:support, and click on the “Reset Firefox” button in the top right corner. It’ll generated a new profile that preserves much of your browsing history, though it will disable any add-ons you have. (It’ll give you details about exactly what it preserves and discards before doing so, so you can cancel it if you change your mind.) This step fixes a lot of performance problems like the ones you describe.

To summarize the responses:

  • Me too!  It sucks.
  • Are extensions to blame?  (A reasonable question, though less likely since Firefox 15 fixed most extension-related leaks, and one that can be difficult to answer conclusively.)
  • Really?
  • Is a busted profile to blame?  Try “Reset Firefox” to determine if so.

carbon fibre didn’t respond, but korg250 (the “Me too!” commenter) took up the commenting baton…

korg250 (again):

In my case it is not about memory usage, but how slow it becomes when it reaches 1 GB of usage.

I will try the about:support tip listed before.

grumpy2:

Out of curiosity, which version of Firefox are you basing this on?

Because the thing about these “I used Firefox until X got too much for me, and I switched” kind of imply something quite significant, which is “I am no longer using Firefox, and can therefore not speak for the possible improvements that have happened since I switched”.

For the last couple of versions, Firefox has shown extremely good memory usage in my experience. And yes, they were absolutely horrible at this in earlier versions, and I’ve been *that* close to switching a number of times because of it. I’ve ranted a lot about how their memory usage was just so broken I doubted they’d ever be able to fix it. But in my experience, they have.

(And yes, this is 120% subjective, and I am certainly not arguing that if your experience differs then you are wrong. But I have noticed a vast improvement in recent versions. As I recall, the first of these fixes started trickling in around the FF13 timeframe, but I could be wrong on that.)

otomo1001:

I think you’ve some other computer issues. Here is my system, 2.4gig firefox process. Still running fine and dandy no slowdown, this is 18 mind you.

http://imgur.com/gNmZK84

korg250 (again):

I am always in the latest version. Was using 18.0.2 until today. Now I am on the 19 after resetting via about:support (still watching how it goes).

Maybe my installation had something wrong and even after the updates the memory issue remained – I don’t know. But I made the “switch” over the last week, when I compared speed between FF and Opera.

korg250 (again):

The reset via about:support worked for me. My FF is running smoothly for over 24 hours. Thanks guys!

Excellent!

Many people have used Firefox for years, and so the chance of mysterious profile problems occurring are quite high.  “Reset Firefox” cleans that dirty slate.  As the support page says, it will “easily fix most problems”.  It’s a simple, one-shot process with a high effectiveness rate that can be explained in a single sentence — perfect for mentioning in an online forum.  (Indeed, I should have linked to the support page in my comment, and then I could have written less explanation.)

Ideally it would also be tried by anyone who tries switching back to Firefox from another browser.  In fact, if Firefox is started up for the first time in a while (3 months? 6 months?) it would be great if it offered to automatically do this.

MemShrink progress, week 87–88

SpiderMonkey

Till Schneidereit implemented sharing of bytecode and related script data.  This can result in significant savings, especially if you have multiple tabs open from the same site.  For example, with 10 articles open from theage.com.au I saw an 11.6 MiB saving.  This was a MemShrink:P1, and its fix completes half of the “Better Script Handling” item from the MemShrink big ticket items list.

Terrence Cole fixed a bad regression that was causing multi-GiB memory spikes when using certain regular expressions.  He landed this fix on the Nightly, Aurora and Beta channels.

I reduced the overhead of small compartments a little.  This reduced the size of an unloaded tab from 222 KiB to 192 KiB on 64-bit platforms.

Jason Orendorff removed some source notes that are no longer required now that SpiderMonkey’s decompiler has been removed.  This slightly reduces the size of the “script-data” entries in about:memory.

I modified js::Vector so that it doesn’t waste space when its elements have a size that is not a power of two.

B2G

Chris Jones fixed a bad leak in the IPC code.  This is a big deal because B2G testing has found several cases of steadily growing memory consumption that lead to the devices becoming unusable, and there’s a good chance that this leak was responsible for some of them.  More testing is needed to determine exactly how many problems this has fixed.

It’s not surprising that IPC code is causing B2G problems, because that is code that desktop Firefox uses only lightly (for out-of-process plug-ins), whereas B2G uses it very heavily.  There’s a bug open for detecting such leaks that should be fairly easy to implement, and potentially could lead to big fixes, which is currently looking for an owner.

Miscellaneous

Timothy Nikkel reduced the memory consumed by display:none elements.  This was a tricky bug that was landed and then backed out multiple times due to subtle test failures.  And while this bug has benefits of its own, it is most notable for the fact that it was blocking bug 689623, which is the key bug that will help us start to fix Firefox’s problems with image-heavy pages.  (And 689623 itself is close to landing now, with 13 r+’d patches.)

Matthew Gregan fixed a bug, present only in Firefox 17 ESR, that was causing HTML5 videos to consume multiple GiBs of memory.

Alexandre Poirot fixed another leak in the Add-on SDK.

Jonathan Kew reduced the amount of memory consumed by textruns when Facebook Messenger is enabled.

David Keeler fixed a leak relating to IndexedDatabaseManager.

Bug Counts

Here are the current bug counts.

  • P1: 17 (-7/+8)
  • P2: 128 (-10/+19)
  • P3: 117 (-2/+15)
  • Unprioritized: 2 (-22/+2)

Lots of movement there.  The -7 P1s is mostly due to a number of bugs being downgraded;  these were bugs that seems important previously but now seem less important.  (For those who are interested, the bug numbers were: 679942, 763252, 764220, 770612, 819839, 829417, 833518.)

MemShrink progress, week 85–86

Lots of news today.

Fixed Regressions

I wrote last time about a couple of bad regressions that AWSY identified.

The ongoing DOM bindings work will hopefully fully fix the second regression before the end of this development cycle (February 18).

AWSY

John Schoenick made three big improvements to AWSY.

  • It now measures every push to mozilla-inbound.  Previously it measured mozilla-central once per day.  This will make it easier and faster to identify patches responsible for regressions.
  • It’s now possible to trigger an AWSY run for any try build.  Unfortunately John hasn’t yet written instructions on how to do this;  I hope he will soon…
  • AWSY now measures Fennec as well.  Kartikaya Gupta created the benchmark that is used for this.  He also fixed a 4 MB regression that it identified.

Leaks Fixed

Benoit Jacob fixed a CC leak that he found with his refgraph tool.

Johnny Stenback fixed a leak involving SVG that he found with DMD.  This was a very slow leak that Johnny had seen repeatedly, which manifested as slowly increasing “heap-unclassified” values in about:memory over days or even weeks.  It’s a really nice case because it shows that DMD can be used on long-running sessions with minimal performance impact.

Justin Lebar fixed a B2G leak relating to forms.js.

Randall Jesup fixed a leak relating to WebRTC.

Andrew McCreight fixed a leak relating to HTMLButtonElement.

Erik Vold fixed a leak in the Restartless Restart add-on.

Miscellaneous

Brian Hackett optimized the representation of JS objects that feature both array (indexed) elements and named properties.  Previously, if an object had both elements and named properties, it would use a sparse representation that was very memory-inefficient if many array elements were present.  This performance fault had been known for a long time, and it caused bad memory blow-ups every once in a while, so it’s great to have it fixed.

As a follow-up, Brian also made it possible for objects that use the sparse representation to change back to the dense array representation if enough array elements are subsequently added.  This should also avoid some occasional blow-ups that occur when arrays get filled in in complex ways.

Gregory Szorc reduced the memory consumption of the new Firefox Health Report feature, from ~3 MB to ~1–1.5 MB: here and here and here and here. On a related note, Bill McCloskey is making good progress with reducing compartment overhead, which should be a sizeable win once it lands.

Gregory also reduced the memory consumption of Firefox Sync:  https: here and here.

Jonathan Kew reduced the amount of memory used by textruns when Facebook Messenger is enabled.

The Add-on SDK is now present in mozilla-central, which is a big step towards getting all add-ons that use it to always use the latest version.  This is nice because it will mean that when memory leaks in the SDK are fixed (and there have been many) all add-ons that use it will automatically get the benefit, without having to be repacked.

Generational GC

Generational garbage collection is an ongoing JS engine project that should reap big wins once it’s completed.  I don’t normally write about things that haven’t been finished, but this is a big project and I’ve had various people asking about it recently, so here’s an update.

Generational GC is one the JS teams two major goals for the near-term.  (The other is benchmark and/or game performance, I can’t remember which.)  You can see from the plan that there are eight people working on it (though not all of them are working on it all the time).

Brian Hackett implemented a static analysis that can determine which functions in the JS engine can trigger garbage collection.  On top of that, he then implemented a static analysis that can identify rooting hazards and unnecessary roots.  This may sound esoteric, but it has massively reduced the amount of work required to complete exact rooting, which is the key prerequisite for generational GC.  To give you an idea:  Terrence Cole estimated that it reduced the number of distinct code locations that need to be looked at and possibly modified from ~10,000 to ~200!  Great stuff.

Another good step was taken when I removed support for E4X from the JS engine.  E4X is an old JavaScript language extension that never gained wide support and was only implemented in Firefox.  The code implementing it was complicated, and an ongoing source of many bugs and security flaws.  The removal cut almost 13,000 lines of code and over 16,000 lines of tests.  It’s been destined for the chopping block for a long time, and its presence has been blocking generational GC, so all the JS team members are glad to see it go.

Bug Counts

Here are the current bug counts.

  • P1: 16 (-5/+0)
  • P2: 119 (-6/+0)
  • P3: 104 (-0/+0)
  • Unprioritized: 22 (-0/+18)

Three of the P1 “fixes” weren’t actual fixes, but cases where a bug was WONTFIXed, or downgraded.  The unprioritized number is high because we skipped this week’s MemShrink meeting due to the DOM work week in London, which occupied three of our regular contributors.

MemShrink progress, week 83–84

Fixed

Justin Lebar made it so that memory reports could be collected on production B2G phones (i.e. not just developer phones with root access).  This was a MemShrink:P1, because getting these reports is crucial.

Gregor Wagner tuned the GC heuristics used by workers.  This is important for B2G, which uses workers extensively.

Andrew McCreight fixed a leak involving audio contexts.

I added a memory reporter for event targets, which includes XHRs.  This can measure multiple MiB of memory when running Gmail.

I added a memory reporter for data held by the JS engine’s regexp JIT compiler.  It usually measures insignificant amounts.

I fixed an inaccuracy in the “resident” memory report tree, which is visible in about:memory when running on Linux, which was caused by a change in recent kernels.

AWSY

The recent results on AWSY have been ugly.  There were two bad regressions in December, as the following graph makes clear.

areweslimyet.com, december 2012

John Schoenick did some work to improve AWSY to make regression hunting easier, and as a result we finally know which changes caused these regressions.

  • A refactoring of images code caused the bigger regression, on December 18.  Seth Fowler is looking into this.
  • Two changes relating to the new DOM bindings caused the smaller regression on December 11/12.  This is largely because many more JS getter/setter functions are present.  It’s not clear yet how to win back this memory, though it should be possible to turn these changes off in the short-term.

These regressions have made it to the Aurora branch, which means there is some urgency now to either fix them or back out/disable them soon.  We don’t want them to reach Beta.

Bug Counts

Here are the current bug counts.

  • P1: 21 (-1/+7)
  • P2: 125 (-2/+11)
  • P3: 104 (-1/+3)
  • Unprioritized: 4 (-17/+3)

The changes are larger than usual because we had a big log of untriaged bugs to go through, due to the six week break since the last MemShrink meeting.

MemShrink progress, week 79–82

I skipped the last MemShrink report due to Christmas, so we have four weeks’ worth of bug fixes today.

LEAKS

Joe Walker fixed a bad leak found by Jesse Ruderman:  if you closed a browser window with the developer toolbar open it would leak “everything”.  This was a MemShrink P1 bug.

Anton Kovalyov fixed a leak involving scratchpad.  This bug was also found by Jesse Ruderman.

Randell Jesup fixed some WebRTC leaks.

John Schoenick fixed a leak involving plugins.

Josh Aas fixed a leak in some networking code.

DMD

I wrote a more detailed blog post about DMD.  Here is the take-away message.

about:memory is MemShrink’s not-so-secret weapon when it comes to understanding Firefox’s memory consumption… and DMD is how we make about:memory better.

Lots of under-the-hood improvements have been made to DMD since I wrote that.  Users on Mac, Linux and B2G who aren’t afraid of doing their own builds should try it out.  Also, Ehsan Akhgari got it to build on Windows, though it’s not yet clear how well it works on that platform.  If anyone wants to try it out, please let me know how it goes.

Memory Reporters

Ben Turner made the workers memory reporter be able to handle workers that use ctypes.  This was important, especially on B2G, because each process can have one or two or more such workers — this is for Firefox chrome stuff, not web content — and we weren’t measuring them at all, and they can take multiple MiB each.

I fixed the orphan DOM node memory reporter.  The introduction of WebIDL had changed the layout of some paired JS/DOM objects, and such objects weren’t being reported.  (DMD discovered the unreported memory, and Boris Zbarsky helped me interpret what it meant.)  I see this accounting for multiple MiB of orphan nodes when using Gmail.

I added a memory reporter for the event listenener manager’s hash table.  It starts off small, but I’ve seen it go as high as 1.5 MiB after lots of browsing.  (DMD helped me identify this too.)

Kartikaya Gupta added a memory reporter for graphics textures on Android.

I added a memory reporter for any ctypes data that is hanging off JS objects.  I added it because one DMD profile on B2G showed non-trivial amounts of ctypes data, but that seems to have been a fluke and it rarely shows much memory now.  Oh well.

Miscellaneous

Andrew McCreight improved CC shutdown logging, which will make it easier to identify shutdown leaks.

Rail Aliiev and Kartikaya Gupta enabled a new NDK for Fennec builds on releng machines.  This might result in smaller binary sizes, which saves memory.

Bug Counts

Here are the current bug counts.

  • P1: 15 (-2/+0)
  • P2: 116 (-10/+0)
  • P3: 102 (-4/+0)
  • Unprioritized: 18 (-0/+18)

The number of unprioritized bugs is high because we didn’t have a MemShrink meeting this week.  This was because Justin Lebar and Kyle Huey are in Berlin for the B2G work week.  We’ll have our next meeting two weeks from today.

DMD

I recently landed a new version of DMD on mozilla-central.  DMD is a tool helps us understand and thus reduce Firefox’s memory consumption.  But in order to understand DMD, you first have to understand about:memory.

about:memory

The MemShrink project started about 18 months ago, and it has been very successful in reducing Firefox’s memory consumption.  about:memory is MemShrink’s not-so-secret weapon when it comes to understanding Firefox’s memory consumption.

about:memory screenshot

about:memory has some wonderful characteristics:  it provides literally thousands of measurements;  it’s available in ordinary release builds;  and it’s trivial to run (just type “about:memory” in the address bar).  This means that non-expert users can easily provide developers with detailed measurements if they are having problems.

However, about:memory has two shortcomings.  First, it simply visualizes the data provided by the memory reporter infrastructure.  The coverage provided by this infrastructure is good, but there are still some gaps.  These gaps manifest primarily in the “heap-unclassified” number in about:memory, which represents all the heap allocations that the memory reporters didn’t cover.  Unfortunately, about:memory can provide zero insight into what is within “heap-unclassified”.

Second, it’s hard to verify.  There’s no obvious way to tell if the numbers it gives are accurate (with a few exceptions;  e.g. negative numbers are obviously wrong).  We have established good practices for writing memory reporters (measure sizes, don’t compute then;  traverse data structures rather than maintaining size counters) that prevent most errors, but it’s still quite easy to accidentally count a block of memory twice.

This is where DMD comes in.  It helps with both the heap-unclassified and double-counting problems.

DMD version 1

I wrote the first version of DMD over a year ago.  “DMD” is short for “dark matter detector”, because “heap-unclassified” memory is sometimes jokingly called “dark matter”.

DMD works by intercepting all calls to malloc/free/etc.  This lets DMD track extra information about every heap block, such as where it was allocated.  Furthermore, DMD has hooks into the memory reporters (via functions created with the NS_MEMORY_REPORTER_MALLOC_SIZEOF_FUN macro, for those who are interested) so it knows when any heap block is measured by a memory reporter.

With that in place, DMD knows how many times each heap block has been reported.  So, after running the memory reporters, we can up each block into one of the following three groups.

  • Blocks that haven’t been reported indicate gaps in existing memory reporters.  They contribute to “heap-unclassified”.
  • Blocks that have been reported once are good.
  • Blocks that have been reported twice or more indicate defects in existing memory reporters.  They cause some measurements in about:memory to be too high, and “heap-unclassified” to be too low.

DMD presents its results in a sorted fashion that lists the unreported and twice-reported cases that are more important first.

This first version of DMD was implemented as a Valgrind tool, and what’s more, it required a special, patched build of Valgrind to run.  This meant it was difficult to set up, ran very slowly, and could only be used on Linux and Mac.  Despite these shortcomings, it has proved itself extremely useful, helping us get “heap-unclassified” down greatly (on my Linux desktop machine it’s typically between 8 and 12%) and identifying several cases of double-counting.

DMD Version 2

Some time after I wrote the first version of DMD, I realized that all it needed to work was the ability to intercept malloc/free/etc. and to obtain stack traces.  Valgrind was overkill for these purposes — it’s capable of supporting much more invasive tools — and, furthermore, there were existing tools (e.g. trace-malloc) in the Mozilla codebase that did exactly these things.  In other words, it would be possible to build a new version of DMD that integrated directly into the browser.

Work on this new version stalled for a while, because the old one was working well enough.  But then B2G’s Operation Slim Fast started, and it quickly became obvious that “heap-unclassified” on B2G was typically much higher than it was on desktop.  This is primarily because B2G has lots of small processes, and so various unmeasured things that weren’t a big deal on desktop became much more significant on B2G.  And DMD version 1 doesn’t work on B2G devices.

So that provided the impetus to complete the new version.  Mike Hommey finished his new replace-malloc infrastructure recently, which helped greatly, and the new version of DMD landed on mozilla-central last week.  The old version will soon be retired.

DMD now works on Linux, Android, Mac, B2G, and is just shy of working on Windows (where Ehsan Akhgari has been making gradual progress).  It’s also much faster, partly because it avoids the overhead of Valgrind, and partly because it now uses sampling.  The sampling causes blocks smaller than a certain size (4 KiB by default, though you can change that) to be sampled, while blocks larger than that are measured accurately;  this sacrifices a moderate amount of accuracy for a large amount of speed.

Try it

about:memory is wonderful, and DMD is how we make about:memory better.  There are now detailed instructions on how to build DMD, run it, and interpret its output.  It’s quite easy now, requiring only minor changes to the usual build and run steps, and several people have already done it successfully.  Please try it out, and help us further improve about:memory.

MemShrink progress, week 77–78

DMD

The big news this week is the landing of the native version of DMD.  The old version of DMD is a Valgrind-based tool that has been instrumental in reducing the size of about:memory’s “heap-unclassified”.  (For example, with trunk builds on my Linux desktop machine it’s now frequently less than 10%.)

However, the old version of DMD wasn’t easy to run.  For example, it required patching Valgrind’s source code and re-building it, among other things.  As a result, only a handful of people ever ran it.  Furthermore, because it’s a Valgrind tool it is very slow and will never run on Windows.

In contrast, the new version is much easier to use.  It just requires a slight configuration change at build time and a slight change in how the browser is invoked.

It’s also much faster, especially if you use the sampling mode which trades a small amount of precision for a great deal of speed.  Crucially, this means it is usable on B2G.  Also, it should be possible for people to use it for long-running sessions, which can be helpful for identifying slow leaks.

And while the new version doesn’t currently run on Windows, it should be fairly straightforward to get it working.  If anyone is interested in helping with this, please contact me, or take a look at the open bug.

I will write a more detailed post about the new version some time in the next few days, once I have updated the documentation and finalized a few more tweaks that should improve usability.  In the meantime, Justin Lebar is already using it in earnest to better understand B2G’s memory consumpion (e.g. see here, here, here, here, here, here, here).

Thanks to Mike Hommey for his excellent replace-malloc infrastructure, on which the new version is built, and to Justin for lots of help, especially with Android and B2G details.

B2G

The option that allows B2G to merge system compartments, previously implemented and landed by Kyle Huey, was enabled by default.  This is a big deal, because it’s the single biggest memory consumption improvement B2G has seen and is likely to see before version 1 is released.

Gabriel Svelto reduced the number of unused dirty pages kept around by jemalloc on B2G.  This can save ~4 MiB of memory across all processes, at a potential cost of making some allocations a little slower.  On a device as memory-constrained as the B2G phones, this is a good trade-off.

Social API

Felipe Gomes reduced the memory consumption of the social API when multiple browser windows are open.  This change has been backported to the beta channel, so it will be present in Firefox 18, in time for the bigger publicity push for this feature.  (For those of you that don’t like Facebook, please note that if you don’t enable the social API it will not affect Firefox’s performance in any way.)

Miscellaneous

I added a MEMORY_VSIZE telemetry reporters, which measures virtual memory consumption.  This might help us understand how many Windows users would benefit from 64-bit builds.

Bug counts

Here are the current bug counts.

  • P1: 17 (-3/+3)
  • P2: 126 (-2/+14)
  • P3: 106 (-4/+7)
  • Unprioritized: 0 (-2/+0)

MemShrink progress, week 75–76

B2G continues to be a major focus of work relating to memory consumption.  Even the non-B2G-specific improvements made this fortnight were mostly identified and made to help B2G.

B2G-specific

Gabriele Svelto caused dirty freed pages held onto by jemalloc to be purged when a B2G process experiences memory pressure, such as when it goes into the background.  This typically reduces a process’ size by about 2 MiB, so it’s a big deal.  This was a MemShrink P1 bug.

Benoit Jacob prevented the creation of redundant OpenGL contexts on B2G.  This saves 750 KiB in the main B2G process, and 750 KiB in every child that uses WebGL.  Benoit was able to do this based on data from a B2G-specific heap profiler written by Justin Lebar.

I made a large IPC message buffer shrink once all messages from it have been processed.  This saves either 120 KiB or 248 KiB per child process.

James Lal greatly reduced memory consumption of the ical parser during sync.  This change also made it much faster.

Justin Lebar and I added a memory reporter for Freetype, which uses about 2 MiB of memory in the main B2G process.  (This reporter also works on Fennec.)

Andrea Marchesini added a memory reporter for B2G’s gralloc memory.

Miscellaneous

Bill McCloskey made the JavaScript engine clean up more data on memory pressure events.

I increased the size of the chunks used by XPT info’s arena allocator, which saves about 80 KiB per process on 32-bit, and a bit more on 64-bit.

Randell Jesup fixed a PeerConnection leak in WebRTC code.

I added more detail to the JavaScript type inference memory reporters.

Bug counts

Here are the current bug counts.

  • P1: 17 (-4/+1)
  • P2: 114 (-5/+9)
  • P3: 103 (-4/+5)
  • Unprioritized: 2 (-3/+1)

MemShrink progress, week 73–74

B2G!  Fennec!  Social API!  They’re all happening, and memory consumption is a big deal for all of them.  Time for a MemShrink report.

B2G

Lots of B2G work is happening, unsurprisingly.  All of these changes have been backported to the Aurora channel.

Kyle Huey landed an important patch that merges system compartments together.  This avoids wasted space caused by having 100s of small compartments.  As Chris Jones said: “It’s a completely different phone with these patches.”  Unfortunately, the preference controlling this behaviour is currently turned off on B2G, because it’s causing some Marionette test failures.  Hopefully they’ll be dealt with soon.  Note that this preference won’t be turned on in desktop builds, and there’s a medium-term plan to avoid this wasted space in a less hacky fashion.

Marco Bonardo disabled Places in B2G, saving about 300 KiB in the main process.

Justin Lebar added code to trigger memory pressure events when lowmemkiller notifications occur.

Justin also tweaked things so that the garbage collector is more likely to run when screenshots are taken.

Jeff Muizelaar fixed a graphics bug that I don’t understand but apparently avoids allocating lots of memory on the B2G unlock screen.

Chris Jones ensured that remote content drop their buffers when they’re hidden.

I tweaked the size of the arena chunks used by XPT, which saved about 120 KiB per process on 64-bit builds, and a bit less on 32-bit builds.

I also shrunk the initial size of the SPS hash table, which saves 48 KiB per process on 64-bit builds and 24 KiB on 32-bit builds.

Memory Reporting

Lots of work happened on the memory reporting front.  This was inspired by  “heap-unclassified” typically being much higher on B2G than on desktop.  Desktop Firefox uses a single process and its memory consumption is usually measured in the 100s of MiBs or more.  In contrast, B2G uses one “main” process and then one process per running app, and the smaller ones are typically around 10 MiB.  As a result, the sundry small per-process things that don’t matter much for desktop loom larger on B2G.  (For the same reason, changes that reduce per-process memory by smallish amounts have outsize value on B2G.)  Most of the following changes have also been backported to the Aurora channel.

Nick Hurley added a “explicit/network/disk-cache” memory reporter.  It typically measures 100s of KiBs in desktop Firefox.  (It doesn’t get used on B2G.)

I added memory reporters “explicit/xpcom/component-manager” and “explicit/xpcom/category-manager”.  Together they measure about 280 KiB per process on 64-bit builds, and a bit less on 32-bit builds.

I added a memory reporter “explicit/script-namespace-manager”.  It measures just over 150 KiB per process on 64-bit builds, and a bit less on 32-bit builds.

I added a memory reporter “explicit/xpcom/effective-TLD-service”.  It measures about 128 KiB per process on 64-bit builds, and a bit less on 32-bit builds.

I added some detail to the JS object memory reporters.  This gives slightly more insight into where this memory is going, but the extra memory measured as a result is usually pretty small.

I fixed the “explicit/atom-tables” memory reporter, which was erroneously always reporting 0 bytes.  It now measures anywhere from a few 100 KiBs to several MiBs of memory.  This was a frustrating bug to find.  DMD exists to check that memory reporters are measuring memory properly, and the reporter was doing its measurements just fine.  But DMD cannot check that the measured amounts are added correctly, and that’s what was going wrong here — a line that should have been this:

return n;

instead was this:

return 0;

In other words, the code I had written was doing the difficult part correctly, but botched the trivial part.  How annoying.

Social API

Felipe Gomes fixed a document leak that occurred when the social sidebar was hidden, and disappeared only when it was unhidden.

Felipe also added code to clear the previous profile when Social is toggled off, which prevents a leak.

The social API still has some significant unresolved memory consumption issues, which are a concern.

Fennec

Kartikaya Gupta (a.k.a. Kats) turned on tab expiration for Fennec.  What this means is that Fennec will now unload the contents of background tabs in certain circumstances — when memory is low, and in some cases when a tab hasn’t been viewed for over an hour — and then reload them when they are brought back into the foreground.  Read Kats’ blog post for more details.

(This change was prompted by Project 256meg, which aims to make Fennec usable on phones with only 256 MiB of RAM.  (Fennec currently requires 512 MiB, according to the official specs.)  Kats has just got to the point where Fennec can actually start on 256 MiB devices.  Although Fennec only uses a single process, there is obviously significant overlap between this goal and B2G’s memory reduction goals.)

An obvious follow-up idea is to add tab expiration to desktop Firefox.  But the bug tracking that idea has seen more heated discussion.  The reason is that tab expiration might cause data loss in some cases.  This is less of a problem on Fennec because (as far as I can tell) there is less of an expectation that in-flight data will be saved on mobile devices.  For example, having processes killed due to memory constraints on mobile is much more common than on desktop.  Still, I expect plenty more arguing before this issue is resolved one way or the other.  One option is to allow it on desktop but have it disabled by default.

Add-ons

Michel Gutierrez fixed a zombie compartment in Video DownloadHelper, which is the 2nd most popular add-on at AMO.   Version 4.9.11 has the fix.

We hit a notable milestone on the add-on front this fortnight:  on November 1st hit bug for tracking known leaks in add-ons — filed 16 months ago — had zero blockers.  In other words, we reached the point where no add-ons were known to leak!  Unfortunately this didn’t last long, and at the time of writing the tracking bug has three blocking bugs.  Still, it’s confirmation that what used to be our biggest memory consumption problem is well under control.

Bug Counts

Here are the current bug counts.

  • P1: 20 (-3/+5)
  • P2: 110 (-10/+7)
  • P3: 102 (-3/+8)
  • Unprioritized: 4 (-2/+4)

As always, the current bug lists can be found by following the links on the MemShrink wiki page.

MemShrink progress, week 71–72

B2G

Justin Lebar led the B2G charge this fortnight, doing the following.

Thinker Li identified that we were using overly large (128 KiB) arena chunks for type inference data in the JS engine.  Reducing them to 32 KiB saved over 3 MiB of memory on B2G.

Fabrice Desré disabled the add-on manager services, saving about 1 MiB.

These changes have all been backported to Aurora, because that’s the current home of the code that will be used for the V1 release of B2G.

Social API

Jared Wein modified the social sidebar so that it unloads itself 10 seconds after it’s been hidden.  This is good because lots of people thought that closing the sidebar was equivalent to disabling the social functionality, and with this change it now effectively is.

Felipe Gomes fixed a major problem which caused the social API to create and leak many unnecessary ports.

Gecko & SpiderMonkey

Benoit Jacob fixed a leak relating to WebGL and cycle collection.  This fixed 10 seconds pauses that occurred after running the RO.ME demo, and also fixed leaks seen in the WebGL version of Nokia Maps.

Kyle Huey fixed a bug that was causing storage code to leak one thread per connection.  This doesn’t affect most Firefox users much, because most connections live for the full lifetime of the process.  However, it could affect some add-ons, and it helped avoid some frequent OOM oranges in some of our tests.

Benjamin Peterson reduced the amount of memory used to compress JavaScript source code.

Add-ons

Zig fixed a zombie compartment in the Visited add-on.

Bug Counts

Here are the current bug counts.

  • P1: 18 (-4/+3)
  • P2: 113 (-2/+14)
  • P3: 97 (-1/+7)
  • Unprioritized: 2 (-13/+2)

Note:  in all my previous MemShrink reports, I mentioned bug fixes as soon as they landed on mozilla-inbound.  As of this week, I’m changing things so that I (mostly) only mention bug fixes that have landed on mozilla-central and thus been marked as RESOLVED.  This will make my life easier (tracking RESOLVED bugs is easy with Bugzilla search), and it will also mean that the changes in bug counts better match the descriptions of bug fixes.  But it means that some bug fixes will be reported two weeks later than they previously would.