Psst: Want a Fast, Up-to-Date Browser for Your Old PowerPC Mac?

23 Comments

Still running a PowerPC Mac (s aapl) 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 (s intc) 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.

23 Comments

Astrochimp

Ahh, a childish insult… surer sign that I won the argument with actual knowledge and reasoning.

It’s a bad sign for Apple when proponents can’t do any better than sling mud.

Astrochimp

This clown invalidates his own arguments.

First, he doesn’t understand the difference between security and obscurity.

Second, use of the command line is not relevant, especially as it’s unnecessary with Windows 7 and very, very few users know how to do this (as it should be).

Third, he was biased throughout by his love of Macs.

I find that Apple’s brilliant marketing foments a religious view of the platform that conveniently removes facts from consideration.

RPMozley

Sorry about all the adverts at the download site, sadly this is the price you pay for free file hosting. I’m not connected to File Factory in any way (apart from them hosting my disk images).
If you really detest the File Factory site, please try out my alternate download host @ http://www.mediafire.com/rpm-mozilla

Also if you were wondering which G4 build was for your computer, open Terminal.app (found in Utilities folder) and enter “machine” (without the quotes of course) it will output which one you have (either ppc7400 or ppc7450).

Katie

Thanks so much for this tip! I use a PowerPC G5 at work, where cloud computing is how we operate. The speed (or lack there of) of Firefox for 9-10 hours per day was really getting to me. I just installed the optimized version and I cannot believe the improved web browsing performance.

Kam

Went through the wickets and downloaded both Firefox and Camino in the G3 750 versions. The disk images failed to mount. Reason: “no mountable file systems”

I noticed that the download window referred to each as a “.wav” file type. What’s up with that? I saved as “all types” but no joy.

RPMozley

What OS X version are you running? Also which versions of Firefox and Camino were you trying?
Do the disk images end with .dmg after downloading?

Kam

RPMozely, thanks – I was able to find links in your forum, and download from Media fire. I downloaded for G3 750: versions 2.0.0.20 and 2.0.0.23rpm. Those downloads worked. I’ve been trying both versions out, not seeing much speed increase as yet. I suspect something else is wrong with the computer (Pismo 2000, G3 750 as I said, running 10.3.9).

From Filefactory.com, I had downloaded the above 2 Firefox versions, plus Camino2.0.1-G3-750.dmg. All had the .dmg extension when downloaded from Filefactory. Not sure why the download window thought they were .wav files, but they would not mount.

Thanks for all your work on these browsers.

RPMozley

Camino 2.0.x is not compatible with OS X 10.3.9, it requires 10.4+
Also the compression used in the .dmg will not work on systems old than 10.4
For Panther (10.3.9) you can use Camino version 1.6.10

Firefox 2.0.0.23rpm is the latest security and stability update available on the 2.0.0.x branch. Version 2.0.0.20 was the last “official” release by Mozilla.

Charles W. Moore

Yo Astrochimp;

It takes a lot of chutzpah for a Windows fanboy to brag about “better security.” You may or may not be correct technically speaking, but the point is that with Windows you *really need* better security.

I’ve been using Macs for 17 years, have never bothered with anti-virus or other security software, and have never had occasion to miss it yet.

I’ve never owned a Mac that I didn’t think gave me my money’s worth and more. I don’t use those 10 year old Pismos because I can’t afford a newer computer (I have a very nice – and plenty speedy for my needs – 10 month old MacBook as well) — I use ’em because I really like them and have never found a laptop I like better than the Pismo.

But if you have the stomach to look at butt-ugly Windows every day and all the baggage that goes along with life in Microsoft space, whatever floats your boat.

CM

Astrochimp

Good point – Windows 7 (the current iteration) needs better security than Mac, because a) Mac only has about 5% market share b) Apple controls the information very fastidiously (i.e. I think they buy people to stay quiet) so when (not if, but when) security issues happen, you don’t hear about them so much.
I’m curious – what do you mean by “baggage?” Crapware that the hardware manufacturer threw on there? Yup, I hate that too, but I think it’s a small price to pay for so many hardware choices, some of which are nicer than what Apple sells, but most of them are half the price.
BTW, I am correct, technically speaking. Look it up.

Astrochimp

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.

Charles W. Moore

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

David MW

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.

Michael

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

KsbjA

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

Victor

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.

RB

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?

Nate

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

David MW

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?

lfom

“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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