Planned system requirements changes this year

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Moonchild
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Planned system requirements changes this year

Unread post by Moonchild » 2024-03-18, 13:24

Later this year (probably somewhere in the summer), we will be changing the minimum system requirements for 64-bit Pale Moon builds (which means all main-line builds we publish except for Windows 32-bit) to once again be more in line with "modern processor optimization" as-advertised on our website.

This follows a lengthy discussion about the impact of this and a baseline poll on the forum to decide on how best to approach this issue. The gist of it is that our processor and build optimizations have fallen behind what current hardware supports, and we're leaving a lot of performance on the table as a result. This seriously holds back the browser's potential and lies at the root of some of the slowness users have been experiencing when dealing with very heavy "modern" websites.

What changes will be made to the system requirements?

Our requirements for 32-bit Windows will remain unchanged.

For 64-bit on x86 hardware, we will move from a minimum requirement of a CPU with SSE2 support, to one that supports at least the AVX instruction set. In Intel terms, this means x86_64 v2 + AVX.
Any desktop Intel CPU released after approximately 2011 (Intel Sandy Bridge or later), and any desktop AMD CPU released after approximately 2013 (AMD Bulldozer or later) should support AVX. Some users have indicated that particularly low-power mobile CPUs have lagged behind in their support for AVX a little (Some 10W Celerons, for example) so if you are running a particularly low-end CPU or laptop, you may want to double-check. If you are unsure, you can use e.g. CPU-Z on Windows to see what your CPU supports. Linux and other operating systems may have tools available inside the distribution itself to query CPU capabilities; please check your documentation (or community fora) if you need help.
For some alternative operating systems that would normally run on much older hardware (e.g. Solaris/Illumos), we may continue using an SSE2 baseline. Please check your maintainers' information if this is the case or not. It is expected that all our main distribution channels follow this requirement change, though, i.e. Windows, binary Linux from our website, and package distributions for major Linux distributions (Debian/Ubuntu/etc.)

What do I do if my CPU is too old?

You will have the option to (on Windows) switch to the 32-bit version of Pale Moon. Simply uninstalling the 64-bit version and installing the 32-bit version will be all you need to do, and you will continue to receive automatic updates from that point on. We currently do not have plans to continue releasing SSE2 64-bit official binaries but if there is enough demand for it, I may consider adding it as a courtesy build for a while (which would require manual updating).
On Linux, things may be a bit less transparent, but please check if your distro is planning to make less optimized community builds available when we are further along.
Of course the recommended course of action (if you are able to) will be to upgrade your hardware to something a bit newer than 10+ years old. Ageing hardware will not last forever, so you may be doing yourself multiple favours at once. There is a large second-hand market for PCs which will allow you to pick up capable hardware for very little money in most countries. We do, however, understand that this may not be an option for everyone.

Why are you doing this? Isn't Pale Moon supposed to be aimed at older hardware/operating systems?

We are doing this to get back to one of the core principles of Pale Moon: to provide an optimized, efficient alternative browser. The notion that Pale Moon would be specifically aimed at retro hardware is incorrect. While better efficiency has had as a side effect that it was less of a heavyweight in terms of resource use, it was never specifically aimed at old or more limited hardware use; in fact, Pale Moon has been ahead of the curve requiring SSE2 way before any of the mainstream browsers did so (we uncompromisingly required it back in 2009 when we got our start). Our current situation is no different, and as one of our core community members remarked, "switching to AVX would be kinda like returning back to our roots".

While we understand a small (probably vocal) minority might make their upset known, we simply can't make the rather niche use of our browser on retro hardware be detrimental to the vast majority of our user base. We will try to retain alternative builds for those users as long as feasible (either directly or through the freedom of community builds), however, we have to respond to the constantly evolving web which unfortunately requires more powerful hardware and optimized software for a good user experience.
"Sometimes, the best way to get what you want is to be a good person." -- Louis Rossmann
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