Sunday, March 31, 2013
I don't think it's any secret that the Doctor and I are extremely busy people. I am an overworked hardware tech/software developer and Dr. Dave is a Veterinarian at two clinics. Dave's contributions have been greatly appreciated and have really helped fill the gaps here but like me he can only post so much. Currently, we produce new posts at a rate of about once per week but I would like that to be every 3-4 days at some point. At the times when Dave and I each have for free time our posts will increase also, but the norm is the post rate you usually see here.
The right person would of course have the same basic views and approach as we already have here. You need to be someone with a deep understanding of all the current and potential topics we cover. To be able to look at things in a very cerebral way to see it's full potential, so you can then tell others about it. Trying to advance a "dead" architecture takes people who think outside the mainstream box. People who are blind to nothing because they have all the ability needed to comprehend virtually anything that will come up as PowerPC users. The ability to say things like they are. To be forthright is to know and mean what you say.
No pretenders, fakers or blind fanboys welcome. I see through these people very quickly so don't waste your time or mine if this is you.
What you need to do if interested
All those who believe they are up to the task and want to be part of what we do here need to submit something of at least 800 words. It needs to cover something either Mac OS, Linux or BSD based and always take things like security and capability into consideration where needed. It should go without saying that it needs to be PowerPC related.
The one we choose will be given an author account here, your entry posted to the blog and become a direct part of one of the most respected PowerPC resources on the net. I imagine we will add writers again in the future. I never want to add more than one new writer at a time because I want the new addition to settle in well first just like the Doctor has. Growth is good but not when it's too rapid. Quality should always trump quantity.
Send all submissions to: email@example.com
Only the chosen person will be contacted.
Monday, March 25, 2013
So by now you've installed a lightweight Linux operating system on your aging but still mighty Powermac, and since its a low end system (like, say a 500mhz, G4 upgraded Blue and White G3) you're gonna want to install some lightweight apps. Top of that list should be a lightweight web browser, since browsers are arguably the most important, most used and most vulnerable of any software on your system. Firefox is the default browser on Lubuntu 12.04, and gives a user tremendous flexibility with its megaload of extensions. It may take awhile to launch, but after that I find you can still use it to its fullest potential, even at 500mhz. Sometimes though, there is simply no substitute for speed, and just because your machine is older doesn't mean it can't be as fast as the day it was made. Or the day it was upgraded. Almost all of the browsers I'll be looking at here today are webkit based, since pretty much nothing with a Gecko rendering engine can be considered lightweight in 2013. It should also be noted that most of these are either not available or have no equivalent on OS X, or you’d have to port the bastard yourself. These can all be installed from synaptic package manager, or, from the commandline if you like that sort of thing.
Midori is a German developed webkit browser, and is the default browser on many lightweight x86 Linux distros, such as Bodhi and some Puppy flavors. While being lightweight and fast it also has many of the features you'd expect with a modern browser such as a sparkling GUI, tabs, extensions, some adblocking, etc. I've used, liked and recommended Midori to others in the past, but really can't do so today, at least not on PowerPC Linux. In a few weeks of using it on Lubuntu 12.04 it has been utterly crash-tastic. Like, once a session out of the blue it will lock up and go down for the count. Purging and reinstalling the app garners no improvement, and the error logs are confusing at best. The version in the PowerPC repositories is 0.4.3, which is now a full six version revisions behind the current 0.4.9 release, which may have something to do with these issues. Hopefully a newer version will become available soon, in which case I may try to love it again. Until then, the Doctor says: Avoid.
Surf is a commandline based browser that is pretty much the definition of lightweight. Running a browser from the commandline is probably not for everyone but in return you get hellacious speed with virtually no overhead. On x86 distros with ancient hardware and low RAM it became my browser of choice last year. A Surf session takes less than 10 MB of RAM to launch a window, and that folks, is extremely impressive. It's available in the PowerPC repos, however, I was (despite quite a lot of effort) unable to get it to run stable on Lubuntu 12.04. Windows will launch, then close almost instantly. This may also be a version issue, as the version in the repos is 0.4.3, while the current release is 0.6. I love it on x86 so much that I tried to compile it for PowerPC, but was missing a ton of dependencies, so I gave up on it for now. I left Surf in the review in the hopes someone with better programming chops could get it running and report back on how he or she achieved it.
Screenshot (x86, don't be hatin)
Links2 is a text/graphical browser which may be familiar to some as its based on the old text only Links browser. Fair warning, it is not for the lovers of eyecandy, and only supports HTML 1.0 so using it is kinda like what the Internet was in 1995. For us old fogeys (like the Dr.) who used Netscape 1.0 (honestly, that was my first web browser, and I BOUGHT it, kids) this is not such a bad thing. Over a number of hours of testing it seems very stable on Lubuntu PowerPC, and having inline images makes it seem almost mo-dern. Text field entries will appear as single lines, and searches and the like can be entered simply by clicking on the line. Navigation is dirt simple, typing "g"(for go) brings up a url address window, "z" gets you back from whence you came. If you forget the commands they are all accessible in hidden submenus found just to the right of the very small back arrow found in the upper left hand browser window. Pass your cursor over them and all shall be revealed. If all you want to do is READ the web, but still have a pretty picture or two, Links2 could be your new best friend. Plus, all your friends will wonder what on earth you are doing on Netscape 1, which is, as Miley Cyrus might say, pretty cool.
So what is the image that the name XXXterm brings up in your mind? I seriously thought it was some kind of terminal based porn downloader, and I don't think I'm alone. Well, actually XXXterm is just another uber lightweight webkit browser, first brought to my attention as its the default browser in ConnochaetOS, the successor to Deli Linux. ConnochaetOS is designed to work on REALLY old x86 hardware, like, umm Pentium I 100mhz old, so a lightweight browser on hardware that ancient is critical. The developer seems to have finally gotten the word that his choice of name is a tad….ummm, confusing, and has renamed XXXterm "Xombrero" in its most current release. XXXterm is what's available in the PowerPC repos and it seems largely the same as Xombrero on x86 to these eyes. The main benefit of using this browser, besides speed, is tight cookie managment. The world and his (Big) brother now tracks your movements on the world wide internets, and XXXterm gives the user tight control over what cookies will end up on your hard drive. I could go into far greater detail, but you are best off just reading the wiki. In terms of speed it seems almost as zippy as the other lightweight browsers, but you still get tabbed browsing, a url address bar, back buttons and a search bar where you expect them, though the search window does not appear to be working at the moment. Everything is else you’d expect in a modern browser is available via keyboard commands. Stability on Lubuntu 12.04 PowerPC is good to excellent, and besides, any application that has the Fight Club bar of soap as its icon has to be worth its salt. Definitely Doctor recommended.
Ok, I'll say it again. I just love this piece of software. Its just...bloody incredible. While perhaps not quite as lightweight as surf or Links2, it more than makes up for that with blazing speed and stability. I can't recall it ever crashing on me, either on the stormtrooper or any other machine I've installed it on. It's configurable, extensible (sort of), and gives a user almost total keyboard based control of their browsing, so much so that it's possible to barely even touch the mouse while browsing. Being webkit based its fully mo-dern, and even on “slow” hardware it renders pages fast. Do not pass go, do not get out of jail, download luakit today. Thou shall not be disappointed. Note: Be very careful when you are entering text into a field however, make sure you are actually in it, or a simple keyboard command like "d" could delete your tab, or even end your session. And that's annoying.
This here Linux PowerPC browser smackdown is by no means complete, and as with most things, your mileage may vary. I would love to hear about other lightweight Linux browsers you've used, and what your experiences have been. Netsurf and Dillo, for instance didn’t quite make the cut for this review, but you can surely download and try them out on your own if you are curious.
On lowend hardware its all about finding the right software for the job at hand, and hopefully one of these browsers will hit the sweet spot for you.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
One of the main reasons that has always been given around here to adopt Linux on PowerPC hardware is modern software with current updates. This is particularly important with internet software since this is where about 99% of all security threats exist.
I have been updating Lubuntu 13.04 on a daily basis because each day there are at least 5-6 to install. Some days (like today) there are boxes full of them. After updating it yesterday I checked again this morning and there were about 58 updates that had been made in 24 hours. Here is a screenshot of the massive amount of updates available today.
Obviously since 13.04 is still a development build it has more activity in terms of code fixes and app updates. The point is that this shows how active the development truly is on a "dead" architecture.
So to sum up:
Lubuntu PowerPC - 58 updates in one day in March 2013
Mac OS X PowerPC - No updates since August 5, 2009 (over 3.5 years)
Call this an attempt to convince the handful still in denial. Keep using Mac OS for non-internet based activity where needed (as I do myself) but for the love of security adopt Linux for internet tasks. As I have stated in the past, a modern browser in Leopard or Tiger still leaves you vulnerable at the OS level.
For full everyday use 12.04 is still the best for all round usability and reliability. I find 13.04 more stable and capable than 12.10 which doesn't make much sense but in some ways it does. In my history with Ubuntu's the x.04 versions tend to be more capable. That is my experience at least but your milage may vary. Lubuntu 12.04 still gets many updates and will for a while yet. At least 20-30 a week. Sometimes more.
Try them all out for yourself and pick your fav from your own experience. Trial and error is one of the greatest ways to learn.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
So, as briefly mentioned in previous posts, Zen has kindly sent down from the great white north to this Doctor one of his prized possessions, a blue and white G3, heavily modded and re-painted in standard Imperial Forces White and Black. I saw this machine in a post on a certain mac forum a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away and was blown away by it at the time. Its frankly one of the best, understated mods ever, and its amazing to me that the Stormtrooper is now in my possession. Some specs:
PowerPC G4 500mhz
1 GB of RAM
ATI Radeon 7000 with 32 MB of VRAM
Quietest Fans currently allowed by Imperial Forces
Now I am old enough to have watched the Blue and White G3's launch live on a raw feed on C-band Satellite (those are the huge satellite dishes, now virtually extinct) in January of 1999 while living the middle of nowhere, Utah. Actually, you would first need to drive to the middle of nowhere, Utah, then drive a little further to get to my very isolated abode. The Steve Jobs re-revolution at Apple had just begun, and I was in possession of a sparkling new revision B Bondi Blue iMac. I didn't really need the iMac per se, but I justified buying it as a small investment in my future. I was going back to college after a long break to pursue my goal of becoming a veterinarian, and I told myself I would need something with a little more umph to it than a four year old 68k Powerbook 520c, my sole personal machine at the time.
Those were hella exciting days after Apple's extremely close brush with death, and I was one of the many on the edge of my seat as the Blue and White G3 was announced. And also one of the many cheering along with the audience as Steve and Steve showed a G3 trouncing a Pentium something with a faster clock speed in a barage of likely biased Photoshop tests. I had been doing some work in desktop publishing prior to this, and knew a thing or two about Photoshop and it all looked a tad fishy to me, but what the hay. Steve was really BACK. These Blue and Whites, and the early G4's, are the main battle tanks of Apple's PowerPC computers, what they may lack in speed they make up for in insane levels of reliability over G5's and any Intel macs. They have, as I like to say, a violently fierce integrity to them.
So, on to the mightly Stormtrooper. As you can tell from the specs, this machine is not fast. In fact, some would actually call it slow, and depending on the software you run on it, yes, surely it can bog down in 2013. But that is the beauty of Linux and Open Source, unlike the closed walls of Cupertino, we have many, many options with Linux. Option a): Run a lightweight operating system, like say, ummm, Lubuntu. Zen had kindly installed Lubuntu 12.04 on the Stormtrooper prior to shipping, so it arrived with a sparkling clean zen master install. Not that there weren't a few issues, there always are with Linux, but Precise, true to its name, for the most part, JUST WORKS. A small word of advice, before even booting up, if you don't have one, invest in a two button mouse with a scroll wheel. It really makes a big difference, especially if you are a new user not having to remember which fracking F button (its 12) is right click in Linux. Yes, you can remap it with mousemenu, but...just get a different mouse.
On first boot, Lubuntu just...booted. No headaches, no surprises. Firefox 18 launched, and...just worked. Gnome Mplayer played standard definition (360p) video just like it should. HD choked it like a chicken bone chokes a dog, but one would expect that at 500mhz. Abiword and Gnumeric just worked. But, as usual with Linux, when you start applying updates..."stuff" starts to happen.
Firstly, I strongly recommend updating from the command line with sudo apt-update, and avoiding the GUI update manager. It crashed twice on me, on the third try it appeared to be doing absolutely nothing so I forced quit it, right in the middle of an update. I knew I was in for some fun times then. Sure enough, Firefox wouldn't launch on reboot, nor would mplayer. Sudo apt-get purge-ing the half downloaded updates and reinstalling worked a charm, but I was then greeted with the now infamous Blue tinged photos in Firefox 19. Fortunately I read my own blog and knew Zen had already posted a simple fix.
There is of course, no Flash for PowerPC, so I tested out some of my tried an true flash work arounds on Firefox, first of which being the greasemonkey script Viewtube. Well, Viewtube just didn't work for me, I believe its soley a browser plugin issue with mplayer and totem mozilla. It's also....a dreaded "Upstream Debian" bug. "Upstream Debian", if you didn't know, is geek code for the mythical land where Debian bugs are fixed, its commonly thought to be located in a large glacier on the east coast of Greenland. Every spring the Debian glacier calves one, maybe two, bug fixes, but never more. So don't hold your breath for browser plugin fixes is what I am saying. VLC"s browser plugin did work, but playback was choppy, and I have never really liked VLC's browser plugin. It's plain, fugly, and slow, and has limited opitons. And, its made by French people, who killed my English ancestors for centuries upon centuries. Those sorta things are guaranteed to get you dumped off my machine.
Fortunately for me I also read the ppcluddites blog religiously, in fact, if the luddite ever decides to start a cult, I am so there, shaved head and all. On his blog the Luddite has posted many workarounds to the no flash on PowerPC issue, the best and most reliable for me is the Firefox DownloadHelper extension, and handing off the video to mplayer, by copying the URL of the video. The binary mplayer, not the Gnome one. The difference at 500mhz, is, frankly, night and day. Gnome Mplayer can barely playback 360p, even with all the fancy arguements applied. 480p for the binary is a non-issue. Playback with the binary is smooth, like buddah. In Firefox you can of course download almost any file with downloadhelper, or the unplug extension and playback in whatever player you happen to like that day. There is also, for the geeky set, the commandline options of quvi, and yt-download. So, basically what I am saying is web video playback is a non issue in Lubuntu, at least 12.04, even on PowerPC. Sounds like Raring Ringtail has a long way to go yet, but I am excited to give that a try soon, on a separate hard drive, of course.
To get some semblance of speed on the stormtrooper I went ahead and downloaded the one, the awesome, the amazing, luakit. Luakit was reveiewed earlier by Zen and is a minimalist web browser, in every sense of that word, that has no equal on OS X. It has been, without any doubt, the best peice of software I have used in many, many years. Even at 500mhz luakit FLIES. No, correction, it soars, way above the rest. Pages load almost instantly, scrolling the page on a mouse with a scroll button is effortless, browser commands can be entered directly from the keyboard with a single keystroke. You still have your tabbed browsing, you can even search google from the browser itself, and, have I said its fast? Like, at everything. I will shut up now because Luakit just really has to be experienced to be believed. I can hear the OS X complainypants starting up, so for the record no, extensions don't really work, bookmarks are truly a pain, but...the speed, my god, the speed. If you have any older machine, running Linux x86 or PPC, you owe it to yourself you download luakit. Surf and Vimperator and Xombrero are some other lightweight Linux browsers in the same vein if you care to give them a go.
So the thrust of what I am saying is, you should try out Lubuntu...if you read this blog, likely you have already. If you haven't, I urge you, nay, command you to give it a go. On tower hardware, especially G3's and G4's, it really is in many ways a viable replacement for OS X, unless you are a major league content producer and gotsta have your Final Cut and Photoshop. On portables...there are lots of issues still, and I lean heavily towards MintPPC on the portable side of life.
Future plans for the trooper: MintPPC, OpenSuse PPC, Fedora PPC, Kubuntu PPC. And, maybe even an OS 9 install. And blog about it all. Without end.
Here is a screenshot of my minimalist 12.04 desktop ( I like my bar on top, yo) if you like that sort of thing. I do.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
There are many great mysteries on planet earth, but none greater in 2013 than the Harlem Shake youtube phenomena. Millions, no tens of millions of people, myself included, have wasted a portion of the little time they have on planet earth watching groups of people do a ridiculous “dance”, which in reality is little more than a uncoordinated spasm. In my defense, I only watched one Harlem Shake video as there was a Brooklyn indie rock band, now defunct, that went by almost the same name that I quite liked back in the year of 2009. Turns out they named themselves after the original Harlem Shake dance, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the nonsense on youtube today.
The good news for OS X 10.5 PowerPC users is that if you so desire, you have yet another supported, lightweight browser you can watch the real Harlem Shake videos on, Roccat. While Roccat is not new, version 3.0 is, and I’ve been using it for a couple days now. It’s definitely worth the bandwidth to download. Why? Well, for one, Roccat is fast, in fact its one of the faster browsers on OS X, and the developer has stated he intends to support PowerPC for as long as he possibly can. Not many people say that sort of thing these days, and I for one intend to support any developer who says they’ll support PowerPC.
Roccat is yet another of the army of webkit browsers out in the wild, but the only one with built in Facebook and Twitter integration. Now, this Dr. is utterly convinced Facebook is evil and Twitter is for the birds, but if you use either social media service, you will probably enjoy the ease of integration Roccat provides. Pulling down the Facebook login caused me nothing but headaches and a restart of Roccat, so fair warning, your mileage may vary. Another nice feature of Roccat is a built in user agent switcher for spoofing your bank into thinking your one of the 54% of people dumb enough to actually use Internet Explorer. There’s also an “undercover” private browsing option for the one PowerPC OS X user in Iran. If there is another use for private browsing, I have no idea what that could be…
Please give Roccat a try, and if you like it, tell the developer, and make sure he knows you are on a PowerPC mac, or as we used to say back in the old world days, a Power Macintosh.