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Summary:

Still running a PowerPC Mac and hurting for some serious browser speed, up-to-date security and web standards compatibility? Being open-source applications, Mozilla’s web browsers and Thunderbird email client are open to being breathed on by third-party developers, several of whom specialize in optimization of particular versions […]

Still running a PowerPC Mac and hurting for some serious browser speed, up-to-date security and web standards compatibility? Being open-source applications, Mozilla’s web browsers and Thunderbird email client are open to being breathed on by third-party developers, several of whom specialize in optimization of particular versions of the Mac OS — such as Chris Latko’s Mac Intel-optimized variants of Firefox.

Terrific Results

However, for us PowerPC holdouts, a reader recently tipped me to some PowerPC-optimized Mozilla web browsers plus Thunderbird by R.P. Mozely, noting that he’s been getting terrific results and highly recommends these tweaked apps.

That sounded promising, as I’m still using two G4-upgraded Pismo PowerBooks for production work, and haven’t found the latest Mozilla gecko-based browsers to be particularly happy campers on the old laptops running OS 10.4 .11. So I keep reverting to old Netscape Navigator 9, which works nicely, but is getting long in the tooth, beginning to encounter some limitations content-compatibility wise. Of course it hasn’t had any security updates for nearly two years, since development was terminated.

Squeezing Every Bit of Speed Potential Out

Now this R.P. Mozely cat doesn’t just provide a one-size-fits-all PowerPC generic optimization, but discrete dedicated versions for G3 PowerPC 750, G4 PowerPC 7400, G4 PowerPC 7450, and G5 PowerPC 970, presumably all the better to squeeze every bit of potential speed out of each respective processor. My hot-rodder Pismos have 550 MHz G4 7400 CPUs, so last weekend I proceeded to download the G4 7400 optimized builds of Firefox 3.5.6, Camino 2.0.1, and the SeaMonkey 2.0.1 Internet suite application.

Worth the Effort?

So was it worth the effort? I think so. These browsers are definitely faster than the stock builds, performing remarkably well on the old Pismo, even when it really needed a restart to clear the memory heap, dipping into virtual memory swapfiles on the hard drive routinely.

I had been especially hopeful that the PPC-optimized Camino would work well, and it does. My seat-of-the-pants assessment is that it’s the fastest browser I’ve used on the Pismo — livelier even than Opera 10, which is no slouch speed-wise itself.

Sluggishness Banished

I’ve found recent versions of Firefox, Camino and SeaMonkey a bit sluggish on the old G4 machines, which is a big part of why I keep using Navigator 9. But that complaint is pretty much eliminated with these PowerPC optimized builds of the current Gecko browsers, at least in their G4 7400 iterations. However, for what it’s worth, I think the Camino variant is the pick of the litter.

If you’re still hanging in with a PowerPC Mac, I think you’ll thank yourself for taking the trouble to download one or more of these PowerPC-optimized browser versions.

  1. “I’ve found recent versions of Firefox, Camaro, and SeaMonkey a bit sluggish”

    I think it was a typo and you meant “of Firefox, Camino and SeaMonkey”. ;)

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  2. Now if Adobe would create a Flash plugin that played fair with G4’s! Flash 9 isn’t an option with Hulu, but I used to play video quite well on my Powerbook, but no longer…
    Any suggestions on what version of the Mac OS is best optimized for G4’s? Any parts of the OS to jettison to improve performance?

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  3. If you want it even faster go get a cheap SSD drive (as long as you have sata).

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  4. I see a lot of ads served plus it’s hard to find the direct download link on his page. Then, once it’s finally located, clicking the link pops up a seedy ad during the wait, all the while trying to hard sell File Factory Premium.

    With all that going on do I even trust his optimized builds? Are they safe?

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  5. easily the fastest browser for aging ppcs is stainless. I downloaded an older release for my indigo ibook and it works pretty darn well considering. it’s not the best browser in the world, but its certainly the lightest and works really well on old ppcs.

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  6. I have a PowerBook G4 (1 GHz) with Tiger and latest Safari. Have no problems, except occasional Safari crashes, and slow Flash.

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  7. Google chrome. EOF.

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    1. Except that Google Chrome is not available for PPC machines… (and is very unlikely to be ported)

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  8. Stainless requires Leopard at a minimum. Non starter for a Tiger machine.

    I have a 1 Ghz G4 Powerbook hooked up to my AV but the video it supplies is poor at best. I would love to not have to upgrade, especially as upgrade means going to the darkside in order to include a blu-ray player if I’m going to pay to upgrade my media server.

    AppleTV is a bad joke, I’m looking for a solution that allows me to have a range of possibilities, not limiting me to only Job’s revenue stream.

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  9. Charles W. Moore Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Hi iFom;

    Whoops!

    “Firefox, Camino and SeaMonkey”

    I had to do a triple take to pick that one up even after reading your heads-up. I have chronic polyneuritis and fibromyalgia, so I try to use MacSpeech Dictate as much as possible for input to cut down stress on peropheral nerves. Dictate is remarkably accurate, but one of the hazards of using even the best dictation software is that perfectly-spelled non-sequitur typos can so easlily sneak in. In this instance, I suppose it’s quite understandable that Dictate thought I was referring to the Chevy musclecar.

    Hi David MW:

    FWIW, I’ve found that for my purposes, OS 10.4.11 seems to provide the best all-round performance compromise of any Mac OS version on my old Pismos. I do task any but the most minimal video work to my Core 2 Duo MacBook with its GeForce 9400M graphics.

    Nate: Regrettably, my 10-year-old laptops are ATA only.

    RB: The ad-heavy download page is a frustrating pain in the butt, but I persevered and got all three 7410 optimized browsers eventually downloaded, and they work fine. No problems noted, although I can’t categorically declare them “safe.” Proceed at your own risk tolerance level as with any software download.

    Victor: I like Stainless a lot, but unfortunately it requires OS 10.5 or higher, and my Pismos only support up to OS 10.4.11 (I know Leopard installs can be hacked, but given its lacksadaisical video performance on my 1.33 GHz PowerBook G4 with a Radeon 9600 GPU and 64 MB of VRAM, I’m not even tempted to try it with a RAGE Mobility 128 and • MB VRAM)

    And as others have noted, Chrome is not an option for PPC (Love it — tied for my fave browser on the Intel Mac).

    I do have Safari 4 on the Pismos, but it’s a memory hog, and I prefer th optimized Gecko browsers for OS 10.4.

    Charles Moore

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  10. Buy a Windows 7 laptop next time. You’ll have better security (if you doubt that, you probably don’t understand security) and you’ll be able to afford to buy another computer in a few years! Or, do what I did: for $1.1K in parts, build a screaming fast computer – faster than anything Apple ships, and less than half the cost – and then get Windows 7 to run on it. Still less than half the cost of an Apple machine that isn’t actually that fast.
    OTOH if you *really* need to spend the extra money to get the Apple brand and feel OK about yourself, I understand.

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