I spent the better part of 2008 on an old Pentium I with 64mb RAM, accessing the internet over 33.6k dialup, so I did learn some tricks to help speed things up.
If you are not using a script/flash/ad blocker, you should.
And for general purpose browsing, when you just want to see the content and will not need to login, try this:
prefix URLs with the following: http://www.google.co...t/n?_gwt_pg=0&u=
It's not always the best experience for every page, but for most pages, it does work well.
You can grab the bookmarklet for it at the top of the sidebar on my old Snailware site
. Use it whenever you hit a site that is taking too long to load.
You can also try using the mobile versions of sites you visit often. A lot of them do work on the desktop. You said the basic HTML interface for Gmail loads, but have you ever tried the even more basic
one? I bet it will load a lot faster.
For some sites, you won't be able to do stuff like that without changing your browser's user agent to something it identifies as a mobile device. And for many sites, there isn't a separate mobile version. They have opted to just have one version for all, and use a responsive design to make it fit small screens (resizing your browser window before you visit the site might
help force those sites to load smaller, lower res images). A good user agent to use would be any iPhone one, since any site specifically designed for that device will be free of any flash content.
For blogs you like to visit often, try subscribing to their feed in a desktop RSS reader. This can be one of your best options, if the site provides full content in their feed. Just be sure to set your rss reader up not to automatically refresh the feeds. Do it manually, as needed, one feed at a time, as you are about to read them. Otherwise, all of your bandwidth will be sucked up by your feed reader and you will have nothing left for anything else.