How can I speed up image importing? [closed]

The following examples show how slow it is to load a simple GIF. Can anything be done to make it faster?

System #1: Mathematica 8.0.1.0, HP notebook, Win7 64Bit, 2 x 2.4Ghz Intel Core i5, 2GB RAM, w/ integrated Intel graphics chipset

AbsoluteTiming[Import[“ExampleData/rose.gif”];]
(*
==> {1.3650781, Null}
*)

System #2: Mathematica 8.0.1.0, MacBook Pro, OSX 10.7.2, 2.4GHz Intel Core i5, 8GB 1333 MHz DDR3 w/ integrated Intel HD graphics 3000 512MB

AbsoluteTiming[Import[“ExampleData/rose.gif”];]
(*
==> {2.549696, Null}
*)

Both installations are on local drives.

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1 Answer
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The cause of the slow speed is the presence of a modified System` function: StringJoin. As this modified StringJoin operates at suboptimal speed (see Leonid’s answer and comments here), there is a performance drop of 1-2 magnitudes. So I did learn the hard way why is it a bad idea to modify built-in symbols.