No laughing matter

There's been a lot of PowerPC Linux talk on Macrumors lately, and the other day a frequent poster had this to say:

" Eh, at least Leopard actually works ;) Linux is not for newbies. Linux is not for a regular Mac "power user". Linux on PPC is inferior to Leopard on PPC, PPC for desktop computing was an uncommon platform at the peak of Apple's PPC days, and now it's basically a relic. The most devoted PowerPC developers are working for the Mac side of things."

This sentiment is both somewhat correct, and completely wrong. As Zen has noted recently there are many things that OS X just plain does better than Linux right now, particularly in the area of media creation. However, there will come a day, not that far off, when using PowerPC OS X will be like using OS 9 is today. Tenfourfox will no doubt still be around in some form, because Dr. Kaiser is one hardcore son of a vet. At that juncture we will have three choices, stay obsolete on PowerPC, go Intel, or go Linux. Ok, you could also go MorphOS, but that is....just really hella obscure. But at least you will have an excellent browser to watch Madonna videos with.

Rather than compare Linux directly to OS X or Windows, I think it's extremely useful to recall that OS X and Windows have two of the world's wealthiest and largest corporations behind them and Linux has....mostly ordinary people behind it. Imagine if you woke up one day and people like you and me were building the open source equivalents of Boeing's 767's, that could fly you around the world, safely, for a fraction the cost, or even for free. That's not a bad analogy, and in the future some predict it will actually happen. Why? Because open source is the future of the world. Free software is like freedom in general, it may take time, but it will eventually destroy every closed, totalitarian system or technology it comes into contact with. Yes, even North Korea will be free one day too. It's inevitable, and hopefully it won't involve any dawns that are brighter than a thousand suns.

I will confess it took me awhile (22 years to be precise), but one day I put down the Kool Aid and realized that Apple was, like North Korea, a totalitarian entity. In other words, once you get drawn into its eco-sytem Apple will control the totality of your technological life (the user "experience" which lets face it, is a very nice one), so it can suck its upgrade tithe out of you every 18-24 months. Apple does this by terrifying their cowering customer/citizens with loss of "support", and lack of new "features". Quick thought experiment: Imagine you bought the Beatles White Album, but in order to keep listening to it every two years you had to buy a completely new record or CD player. And a new copy of the White album, which would  have a couple brand new, not very good tracks on it from Sir Paul and Ringo. No one would do it. Why do we tolerate this kind of larceny when it comes to computers and technology? The same reason they do in North Korea: Fear, and the proper conditioning.

How do you break free from this fear based life? Like us you can become one of the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels who buck the system, resist the urge to upgrade and stay with older hardware and OS'es as long as you can. You're definitely better off, but you still aren't Not to get all Richard Stahllman on you, but today the only real path to technological freedom is Linux. PowerPC Linux developers are in fact doing amazing work keeping up with x86 Linux, despite an ever aging hardware base. I believe in PowerPC Linux. I believe Macrumors poster Wildy will actually get his Crunchbang PowerPC port completed and released to the wild. I believe the dual core Power P-cubed board from Servergy will get out there and have a RaspberryPi like effect on PowerPC in general. When all these things happen Linux on PowerPC will...suck less, be more newbie friendly, less techie centered. A reboot of Mac-on-Linux would be the final straw. Run your PowerPC mac apps while booted into a completely modern Lubuntu? Now that is some freedom talk.

But this will take smart, freedom-loving people (like us) using PowerPC Linux, not just dissing it. And no laughing matter.

Back to the Fox

As Dr. Kaiser noted on the development blog, Tenfourfox 17.0.3 is out, and as always this Dr. downloads the latest release and gives it a spin. For me (and many others) Tenfourfox 8 was the high water mark for Tenfourfox, fast, stable, awesomely awesome stuff. Every version since has seemed subjectively a little slower, and I've moved away from using it as my primary browser. Admitedly I've never done any scientificaly based performance tests, but text fields seemed to hang, pages took longer to load and the greasemonkey script viewtube became unusable for watching youtube within a browser. Maybe on a faster PowerPC mac these things wouldn't be so obvious.

I've only spent just a little over 48 hrs with this Fox, but I am more than a little surprised at how speedy it seems. Pages load well, even with add-ons like Adblocker enabled. Viewtube is again usable, and playback compares well with Click to Plugin in Leopard webkit. Dr. Kaisers' QTE also seems to "see" more webvideo than it did in the past, or maybe its just that more sites are trying to offer up video to flash free devices. The New York Times front page videos as an example are now viewable via the QTE.

This Dr's Rx for this week is: download Tenfourfox 17.0.3, give it a whirl and comment on your personal findings below.

Presto...and its all gone

I am sure you will all join me in wishing good luck to Zen and his new OpenBSD and PowerPC coding adventure. I will do all I can to pick up the slack but the Zen master is unique in his knowledge and depth of PowerPC architecture, the Dr is but a eager student. I am also transitioning jobs at the moment, and starting up a new veterinary clinic is no easy matter. Zen's mighty Stormtrooper G4 (actually a blue and white G3, heavily modded with only the best hardware upgrades) is heading my way soon, complete with a fresh install of 12.04. I plan to put OS X and OS 9 (yes, I think there is still a place for the classic Mac OS in this world) on separate drives and to good use, and pass my old school and new found knowledge along to all who come this way.

As noted by countless others on the web Opera has announced this week that it is switching over from its own Presto rendering engine to the all-mighty juggernaut that is Webkit. Why should PowerPC users care about this, you might ask? Opera abandoned PowerPC OS X and PowerPC Linux back in 2010. Well, the reason is this: a quick run down of Webkit browsers show that it is fast becoming the defacto web browser standard, and as the good Dr. Kaiser has just noted on the tenfourfox development blog, that is more than a little troubling. Think Internet Explorer 6 if you need any recollection of what a defacto web standard looks like. God bloody awful.

With Presto going bye-bye, in 2013 for major browser rendering engines there are: Trident (Internet Explorer and Maxthon, IE was obviously long abandoned for PowerPC), Gecko (Firefox, Seamonkey and for now anyway, Camnio) and Webkit (Safari, Chrome, Chromium, Iron, Midori, iCab, Omniweb, Roccat, Surf, luakit...and on and on). Increasingly, mega corporations Apple and Google dominate the web, the mobile space, and Webkit is the sharp tip of their spear. Even if webkit is opensource, Apple and Google are most certainly in it for the cash mo-oney (dollar dollar bills, y'all), and that could spell dark days in the years ahead for FOSS software. Gecko is still mighty competition for Webkit, but soon it will be nothing but Firefox and community supported editions like tenfourfox, as long as Dr. Kaiser can keep up with Mozilla's twists and turns that is.

As users of a decidedly third tier platform we need all the browser we can get. That's why I became quite hot and bothered when I happened upon Netsurf, a open source browser built primarily for the RISC OS with its own rendering engine. I had only vaguely heard of the RISC OS, its a fascinating UK based operating system dating back to the 80's. Netsurf runs on almost every OS on the planet (though not on well on Windows, apparently) and will even run in a framebuffer, with no operating system or GUI requirements. It is quite modern as far HTML and CSS goes, but with no Javascript support. That, as many will tell you, is ultimately not a bad thing for a third tier OS. There is a Mac OS X PowerPC port of Netsurf, its a couple generations old but despite everything I could throw at it I couldn't get it to run on my ibook G4. I've downloaded the source code and am making it my first attempt at a compile, wish me luck. If I get it to run on Mac OS X PowerPC, I'll move over to build it for PowerPC Linux as well. If that works....who knows, maybe...dare I even say it....a Mac OS 9 port? All hail Classilla, but if there is any OS in desperate need of another browser option its the classic Mac OS.

Update : A little more digging on UK Netsurf forums and I've discovered no compile of Netsurf 2.7 for PowerPC is needed, however to even use it you need to download and install Xcode (3.1.3 is what I could find) from Apple's developer site. Xcode sets the MIME type of the CSS for Netsurf, without which the browser crashes on startup. To say this is an inelegant solution is putting it....mildly. You will also have to have an iTunes account or register a new account with the mothership to download Xcode. I haven't used iTunes in so long that I forgot my login!

My first impression of Netsurf for PowerPC: Not anywhere near as fast as webkit, most pages do not render perfectly, but all and all its not a bad little browser. Will not be my browser of choice for 10.5.8 anytime soon, however that right now is Leopard Webkit. I will now turn my attention to learning more about Framebuffers and Codewarrior in preparation for an OS 9 assualt.