Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Firefox 4 on PPC

One of the worries of finding an operating system you like and wanting to stick with it is that the great Browser Wars will leave your OS behind. Such as it is with OS X Tiger. Tiger is the last version to support Classic mode. It has all the vital modern technologies. It's not so hard on the GPU. In other words, it's Leopard/Snow Leopard without so much eye candy. And less ugly. And more efficient. And not as buggy. Okay, so you get why I want to stick with Tiger.

However, there was one catch. Over the course of the last year, all the major browsers announced they were ceasing support for Tiger. In fact, I can't think of any browsers that continue to support Tiger, unless you count Camino 2.0.6, which is powered by an old Gecko 1.9.0 engine. Even Camino's alpha 2.1 prerelease uses Gecko 1.9.2, which is the same as Firefox 3.6.x, the final Firefox version to support Tiger. So how long would it be before the current incarnations of Safari, Firefox, Camino, and Opera became hopelessly obsolete and surfing the web becomes what it must be like for iCab users of today, or for Netscape 1.0 users when frames became widely adopted? (If you don't get that last reference, stick your nose back in your touch screen. There's nothing to see here.)

Well, it looks like we'll never have to find out thanks to TenFourFox. It's a fork of Firefox 4, heretofore available only to Leopard/Snow Leopard Intel users, that runs on PPC Macs running Leopard and Tiger. There are some advanced features that won't work because they require Barftel processors, but the new rendering engine is there, as well as HTML 5 and CSS 3 support.

So how does it measure up? I took it for a spin and found it to have a similar feel as 3.6 as far as speed. It's more of a memory hog, but being in beta, that's to be expected. I read one report that repeatedly pressing the back button will cause a crash, and I can confirm that. It also seems to have trouble opening a bookmark when no window is previously open. But other than that, it's stable. There are some GUI changes that I suppose are a matter of taste, but I mostly liked what I saw.

This is a promising start, and maybe I can hold off a few years switching to Linux on my everyday desktop just to find a modern, supported browser.

Update: TenFourFox 4.0 Final is out. Javascript much improved over early betas. This is now my default browser.


  1. don't totally agree with the barftel comment... PPC had a good run, my first mac was a PPC (Powerbook G4 AL 1ghz - first gen) & the worst computer I've ever owned too. 13 repairs in 2.5 years. On my 3rd replacement machine now (17" quad i7) just screams (Mac Pro performance, faster than any G5 on the geekbench scores). ~30 sec boot time. tho I will agree with you that it seems outrageous you need a quad chip & 8gb ram to get most things done now (I use photoshop, aperture, boinxtv, some ilife & iwork stuff).

  2. one more thing... picked a dual 867 MDD out of the trash for my kids. dead psu. got it running. using for pbs kids, it does ok.