Sketchy little copycat


Every so often I google "PowerPC Liberation" to see what results spring up besides the pages here.  I did so this morning and found that some sketchy little senseless ape named Aman Rai has made a copycat blog to this one.  They have even used the same blog name but added a hyphen between, ie. powerpc-liberation in the blog address.  I am not going to link to it, as I don't want to encourage them more, but if you want to see their copy of this blog just enter a hyphen in the address and see for yourself.  If you do go there be warned, everything you click, even blank space, is a 3rd party pay per click link.

This person has literally copied this entire blog, and every word of every post, onto theirs and is passing it off as their own.  A truly sketchy ape brain at work.

I want to officially state that they have no authorization from me, no support from me, and have no involvement with the true PowerPC Liberation here. 


To Aman Rai I say:  Stop now or suffer my wrath.  You're illegally using every word I have ever written here as your own, and not giving any credit to the original author (myself and dr.dave), so stop now and take down your blog or I will use every possible legal means to make you suffer for being so pathetic and unoriginal.

Also, even if I had no issue with it, which I do, you're still not allowed to use every word someone else writes.  Check your "Fair Use" laws.  You also legally need my permission to use anything here.

If you take your blog, with all it's sketchy 3rd party links to make you money from my writing, down in the next week I won't pursue legal action against you.

You clearly have no shame though, so I don't expect you to take the easy way out.

People like you don't even deserve internet access.

XviD


In my opinion, XviD is the greatest overall, and most balanced video codec.  It's the open and more refined version of DivX.  Both are MPEG-4 based, but because XviD is open, a lot of different developers have tried to perfect it.  This has resulted in some great block smoothing advances in XviD which DivX lacks.

For people on PowerPC hardware (even as low as a G3 350MHz), XviD gives you the ability to have a respectable playback system with stock 13-14 year old hardware.  Something h.264 could never dream of.  DivX gives the same CPU efficient results as XviD but lacks some of the clarity.

I used DivX a lot myself in Handbrake for years, until I really took the time to see the visual advantages of XviD.  XviD in Handbrake 0.9.3 with a 1500+ kbps bitrate, and a 2-pass encode, can compete with h.264 of similar size.  The 1500kbps and 2-pass encode are key to that.

DivX in Handbrake is called FFmpeg, aka DX50, aka DivX 5.  Handbrake still retained FFmpeg in versions past 0.9.3, but dropped XviD and .avi wrapper support.  For these reasons, Handbrake 0.9.3 is the best overall version because every version after it is more limited.  I covered the same point in part 3 of the Video on PowerPC series.

A lot of the video industry has turned its back on XviD, but for us PowerPC users it's our best friend.  XviD makes 720p HD playable on a G4 under 1.0GHz.  Although I typically rip 400p XviD so that it will also play well on my slowest 400MHz CPU if ever needed.  400p XviD at 1500-2000kb in a 2-pass encode can compete with 480p h.264 for quality/clarity.

The main things that increase CPU use (after the codec of course) are resolution and framerate.  Bitrates under 3000kbps all use about the same amount of juice.  This is the key to making a low resolution look better than it is.  Keep the framerate at or under 30fps for best results on PowerPC hardware.  DVD are typically 24fps, but most video is 25-30.  If you rip something where the original is over 30fps, be sure to set your rip to 29.97 for best playback results.

Handbrake 0.9.3 needs Leopard, but if on Tiger then use 0.9.1.  Again, any version past 0.9.3 doesn't have XviD support.

Even those running modern Macs or any newer hardware can benefit from XviD.  XviD only consumes 1/2 to 1/3 of the CPU resources vs h.264 of the same resolution.  That means energy savings in your home for desktops, and longer battery life for portables vs. h.264.  Handbrake 0.9.3 runs perfectly on 10.6/10.7/10.8, but the version I link to below is PowerPC only.

The lesser appealing XviD is the mainstream stuff.  Most is only ripped around 1000kbps which is the main reason most who dislike XviD do, whether they realize that or not.  Once you get under 1300kbps it looks like a lesser codec.  Higher bitrates do equal bigger file sizes, but that is why I have almost 12TB of storage. Storage is infinite, CPU resources and energy aren't.

You could even say that XviD is a green alternative to h.264.

MP3 audio is typically best with XviD, but you can experiment with AC3 and AAC also if you desire.  128kbps for heavy dialogue, 256kbps for content with a lot of music.

Remember, 1500kbps+ and 2-pass = perfection!


Download Handbrake 0.9.3 for Leopard

Download Handbrake 0.9.1 for Tiger


This is how I would summarize the 3 codecs found in Handbrake 0.9.3 and 0.9.1:

DivX - rips fastest, efficient playback, looks the worst of the 3

h.264 - rips slowest, inefficient playback, quality only slightly better than HQ XviD

XviD - rips about 30% slower than DivX, efficient playback, quality only slightly lower than h.264, best of both worlds

Early review of PowerPC


I saw this years ago and enjoyed it.  It's from a PBS show called the Computer Chronicles.  This episode would be from 1994 when the PowerPC 601 was introduced by Apple.  The 601 was the first PowerPC chip.  The chip came out in 92, but wasn't released in an Apple system until 94, and it was still ahead of Intel tech at the time.

Keep in mind that this is the sub-100 MHz era.


The Computer Chronicles - PowerPC

Nvidia finally reaches out to Linux


Any Linux user knows what a pain it's always been to get even moderate function out of Nvidia GPU.  For a couple decades now, Nvidia has seemed very disinterested in working with most of the open source market.

It looks like they have finally seen the light.  Hopefully this will mean much better Nvidia drivers for Linux in the future.


Read the full story here

The truth about Linux


A lot of people have always claimed that Linux isn't very good.  They have also claimed that PowerPC Linux is buggy.  This is all very wrong for the most part.

Ubuntu is really the only distro that is overly buggy, and on x86 as well.  It's the curse of the constant release cycle that is to blame for this.  For those that don't know, every 6 months they release a new version, whether it's ready for the masses or not.  No matter how many bugs exist, they just keep pushing them out.

With Debian, this is not the case at all.  The Debian developer team doesn't promote their testing builds to stable until they are truly ready.  The testing builds (currently Jessie) spend at least 2 years in that state.

The downfall for most people is that Debian is aimed at the intermediate to advanced level users.  The ones that don't need their hand held.  It comes a lot more raw out of the box compared to Ubuntu, and thats the point.  Most Linux users like to configure everything themselves.  They don't want a bloated and eye candy rich experience, because that defeats the whole purpose of running Linux in the first place.

Linux is very much a DIY OS.  It is what you make it.  Nothing more, nothing less.

There are even some people that use Mac OS who have the balls to say Linux is dead on PowerPC.  What are these people smoking?  It is Mac OS that is dead on PowerPC, not Linux.  Linux is still very actively developed for PowerPC.  When it comes to Debian it is still officially supported.  That means it's not a community development project like Ubuntu/Lubuntu PowerPC, and it's not just limited to PowerPC and x86.  There are a total of 13 CPU types with official support, including ARM and SPARC.  All 13 of these chip types get full support from the official development team.

In the end, any OS is only going to be as capable as the person using it.  Period.  That is an indisputable stone cold fact.  If the user has limited ability, then so will the OS.

Don't blame Linux because you don't have the ability to make it do all you desire.  If you cannot bend it to your will, then you need to gain more skills so you can.  Again, it will not hold your hand like Mac OS.  You need real ability that goes far beyond pointing and clicking, and you need to learn most of it yourself, or it will never sink in.  These are not things you can have spoon fed to you.  You need to learn the theory behind what you're trying to do first, and then learn the steps you need to take.  People who say that Linux isn't good are really saying that they lack ability; whether they realize that or not.

I learned all that I know on my own.  I didn't have anyone to spoon feed me all these things.  You can do the same.  If all you want to do forever is point and click, and put as little thought as possible into your computing, then you'll be stuck in that rut forever.

I understand that most of you come from the Mac OS world.  A place where you can point and click your way out of any issue or task.  This is not at all what Linux is, and it never will be.

Linux allows the freedom to do anything you desire.  All you need is the ability to use it properly; this takes time.  If you put in the effort, I can promise that you will get great returns from it.  If you just want to compute at the lowest common denominator level, then I'm not even sure why you would visit this blog in the first place.


Linux and BSD = total control, and ongoing skill advancement.

Mac OS and Windows = very little control, and ongoing skill decline.

Choose wisely!     

Our first birthday!


I started this blog a year ago today, and a lot has happened in that time.  I have taken on everything from the greatness of the PowerPC architecture, to the backward immorality of Low End Mac.

In January of this year, the blog was made even better with the addition of Dr.Dave.  A veterinarian, and a man of many skills, Dave has been one of the greatest things to ever happen to this blog.  Together we have made this place a lightning rod for progressive ideas on how to move this amazing architecture forward, and keep those PowerPC Macs the healthiest and most secure they can be.

We have fought against the backward thinking ignoramuses that try to convince people to use only outdated and non-secure MacOS.  The good news is that this group is shrinking all the time.  Almost on a daily basis, in fact.  To those that were in denial, but have now seen the light, that is what this blog is all about.  There are now a lot less people pushing this backward thinking, so this has given the Dr. and myself a lot more time to concentrate on what is important, security and computing skill advancement.

Looking forward, we will continue on the same path we have always taken.  A path of advancement, with a big dose of unfiltered truth to munch on along the journey.

A big thanks to all our readers also.  Without you guys there would be no one to read what we write.

To help us celebrate our first birthday, we ask you to share what this blog has meant to you, and how it has helped you not only learn, but understand things you already knew in a different light.


Long live PowerPC, skill advancement, Debian, BSD, and this blog.

Three boring weeks with Debian 7


Debian 7.1 is boring. There, I said it and I meant it. Now, you have to understand that in my day job I do surgery, taking animals to a plane of existence not far from death, and boring is good. Very good. Sudden and unexplained jumps or drops in heart rate, drops in blood pressure, crashes of any kind are bad, very bad. Boring is what I want in the surgery suite, and, thanks to Debian I am discovering it is also what I want from my computing experience. In three weeks with Debian 7.1 I have yet to experience a crash, an application lock up, anything....it just works. Boring may just be the highest compliment any Linux distro or any OS can receive.

The Universal Operating System indeed.

I liked my boring Debian PowerPC experience so much that I decided to put Debian 7.1 on a old Dell laptop I had a end of life version of Linux Mint on, and discovered Debian can be all exciting and crashy, if you have a weird exotic hardware configuration, as the Dell does. This is a PowerPC blog so I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say early 2000 Dells with Pentium M's present some unique challenges.

Now....for the ultimate question, can it play youtube? It's still amazing to me that now, above all else watching funny cat videos is the litmus test for any computer in 2013. I am happy to report that yes, I can play youtube on this old Powermac. Firstly, all of the cross platform alternatives detailed so eloquently by the ppcluddite here work. My preferred method he describes is the Youtube EZ Download/Open With method. Why? Well, you can hand the video off to mplayer, and in the preferences for Open With you can add some of the luddites' mplayer arguments and thereby get good playback without issue. For some people however this seems to be a right click to far, and they have to be able to watch youtube inside the bloody browser. I am happy to say even that is easy peasy, with the Greasemonkey script Viewtube. Now, in the past I've tried using Totem and mplayers mozilla plugins with this method on other PowerPC Linux distros and it does not work, period. But VLC's plugin works well for me, and has a couple advantages to boot.

If you haven't already done so, install Greasemonkey in Iceweasel from the add ons (under tools, just like Firefox, cause it is Firefox) and head over to userscripts.org. You have two options there, either plain old vanilla Viewtube or Viewtube_VLC. In regular Viewtube you select the VLC plugin from the drop down menu at the top of the player window that says "Auto". Viewtube_VLC will only use VLC's plugin, so that step is already done for you. You of course need to install the VLC plugin by firing up a terminal and typing at the prompt (assuming you have added yourself to the sudoers file, otherwise you will need to do this as root):

sudo apt-get install mozilla-plugin-vlc

I have not bothered with mplayer or Totem's plugin due to past experience, but if you are willing to install them and report back in the comments I'd appreciate knowing if the past issues are sorted and they work for you.

Advantages? Unlike Totem and mplayer plugins which, if they work, insist on loading upwards of 20% of the video into cache before they play, VLC's pretty much starts playing the video immediately. Also, search ahead works (doesn't in either of the above plugins, on any platform), which is quite nice. The VLC plugin controls are limited, but with Viewtube's controls you have all of the control you need over the video. The fake fullscreen feature (it's the plus button on the right hand side) in viewtube also works well. Basically its all good.

Other options for youtube playback on Debian are minitube or smtube. Current versions of both are in the experimental (Sid) repositories. I have not tried either as I personally have no desire to descend into the fires of dependency hell. Minitube uses ffmpeg and gstreamer, and in my experience loading experimental versions of both will absolutely, positvely break something. Recall that I want my Debian boring. Speaking of which, below are some incredibly boring screenshots of applications on Debian 7.1 in action on my Powermac G4.







Next up for the dr., loading Debian 7 onto a Tangerine ibook with a couple compact flash cards to replace the ancient, tiny and loud stock HD. I suspect that this endeavour will not be boring, at all.

7448 chip is ready for space


Running at 1267 MHz, and with Altivec to assist it, this radiation hardened version of the G4 based 7448 will be a big boost over the G3 chips in the 200-300 MHz range that are currently being used.

I wonder if the next Mars Rover will be 7448 powered.  It takes at least a few years to implement new chips into hardware that will go to space, simply because of how deep the engineering and testing has to go. 


Read more about it here:

e2v Release Space Qualified GHz-Class Microprocessor

Ubuntu forum has been compromised


For those of you with accounts on the Ubuntu forum, I wanted to let you know it has been compromised. 


I received this email from the forum sysadmin:

Hello,

You are receiving this message because you have an account registered with this address on ubuntuforums.org.

The Ubuntu forums software was compromised by an external attacker. As a result, the attacker has gained access to read your username, email address and an encrypted copy of your password from the forum database.

If you have used this password and email address to authenticate at any other website, you are urged to reset the password on those accounts immediately as the attacker may be able to use the compromised personal information to access these other accounts. It is important to have a distinct password for different accounts.

The ubuntuforums.org website is currently offline and we are working to restore this service. Please take the time to change your ubuntuforums.org account password when service is restored.

We apologize for any inconvenience to the Ubuntu community, thank you for your understanding.

The Canonical Sysadmins.


I doubt that Debian would ever suffer such an exploit on their forum.  Canonical has become more sloppy as the days, months and years go by.

Shame on you, Canonical.

Quick and dirty; light and fast


About three days ago, a reader asked me to just write a short Debian install guide for a PowerPC system with a very small hard drive.  A guide isn't even needed.  All you need to know are a couple basic steps and you'll have a nice lightweight Debian install, with a very small drive footprint.

The light and small footprint factors are very complimentary indeed.  The PowerPC systems with the smallest drives are generally the slowest ones.  Their small drive actually forces you to make the right OS choice if you want any semblance of performance.

While this type of install is most beneficial to the slowest of PowerPC hardware, it can also have a good benefit on productivity with the fastest of hardware.  I keep it light no matter what OS or hardware I use, and I see the benefits all round with everything I use.  If you have any G3 or a slower G4, then you should at least give this method a test drive on your machine.

Here are the very simple steps to getting an ultra-light Debian install.  One that is actually lighter than Puppy Linux, and just about any Linux with a GUI.  For PowerPC users, this is the absolute best method to get the most out of your hardware on Linux.  This is easily the best route to take for a slower machine you want to dedicate to internet use.

I am going to use Debian stable (Jessie) in this install.



Step 1:

Download the Netinstall ISO image



Step 2:

Burn the image to a CD and boot it by holding down C.  At the Yaboot prompt, press enter or return to start the install.



Step 3:

When shown the options of what to install, deselect everything (even the GUI) but utilities at the very bottom.  Laptop users will also see a preselected option called "Laptop"; you will obviously want this selected for best hardware support.

The reason I say to deselect the GUI, even though these options are extended in the Jessie installer, is that installing a GUI from the Debian installer adds a lot of extra software packages that you may not want.  Installing the GUI manually afterward gives you just the GUI itself, without all the extras like LibreOffice, Gimp etc.  Remember, this is supposed to be a light install. 



Step 4:

Once it reboots you need to login as root with root/root pass you chose at install.



Step 5:

Once you have logged in as root, simply type the following:

apt-get install lxde

It will default to getting it from the same mirror you chose for the Debian install.


When the LXDE install is done type:

reboot

 It will then boot to a GUI login screen for LXDE.  Login with your user account.



Step 6:

Install whatever else you desire once logged into LXDE with your user account.  When you install this way you get no extra apps at all; not even Iceweasel, which is Debian's fork of Firefox.  It's not exactly lightweight, but is needed for the times when you need a heavily standardized experience.  It just works when the lightweight browsers need config.

Fire up the "Root Terminal" and type:

apt-get install iceweasel

Then simply keep using apt-get to install whatever else you desire.  Once the terminal is done an install you can simply tap the up arrow and get your last command.  Then you simply just replace the package name to keep installing everything else.  Jennifer didn't want office software or anything, just the OS and browser.


Other things I recommend installing for basic internet and system use:

  • sylpheed (lightweight email client)
  • luakit (lightweight webkit based browser)
  • xxxterm (lightweight webkit based browser) 
  • transmission (lightweight bit torrent client) 
  • pidgin (multi-protocol instant messenger)
  • netatalk (package for networking with Mac OS systems)
  • synaptic (gui for apt) (useful when you have a need but don't know package names)
  • hardinfo (system profiler-like app with benchmarks)
  • kupfer (very powerful but light app/document launcher)

If you also want some music on the system, I would try either 'rhythmbox' or 'audacious'.


Thats about it.  If you want LibreOffice, GIMP and all the other stuff that installs with the other Debian images then just use one of them.  The purpose of this install method is to stay light.  You could easily get by on 128 MB RAM with the install I just took a brisk pace through. 

You also get Openbox with LXDE, so you can still take advantage of all the configuration possibilities that Dan the PPC Luddite offers on his blog, along with Urukrama's guide

If you need any other details about the install then just ask in comments and I will add them.  I wrote this quickly without much time to spare.  Debian is very easy to install.  Just follow the onscreen instructions and you'll be fine.

Keep in mind that this install is designed around the idea of Debian being the only OS for a dedicated, lightweight and secure system.  I made this as simple and direct as possible.  Use your oldest/slowest PowerPC hardware first to see the true value of light.

When I do the exact above type of install, I am left with a Debian LXDE setup that only uses about 49-54 MB RAM after login.  You really can't beat that for a modern OS.  It would even be hard to beat that if you went back 5-10 years.

Debian's path is already lit by the Luddite


A couple readers have asked me to write a Debian Install guide, but there is no need.  There is already a great guide in existence from our close friend Dan the PPC Luddite.  Dan is a Debian chef of master class levels, and his guide can help you turn your install into a gourmet dish.

If you just want Debian as the only OS on the hardware in question, then you can easily install it without help in most situations.  You don't need to know any commands unless you tell it not to install a GUI.  If you want to tinker with other OS and such on the same machine, and other more specific things, then Dan's guide is for you.

The best reason to use Dan's guide is all the PowerPC-specific configuration help it gives.  Proper configuration is key to having a great Linux install when you're done.


Here are all five parts of his install guide, which he updates continually:

Part I - Pre-Installation

Part II - Installing the Base System

Part III - Installing the GUI 

Part IV - Configuring Stuff 

Part V - Bugs & Quirks 


The only real thing I would change is installing LXDE, rather than just Openbox as Dan does.  With LXDE you still get Openbox, along with all the added LXDE greatness.  Openbox comes totally raw out of the box.  It takes a lot of config to get it just right.  LXDE is more of a personal choice, but I can promise that a lot of Linux newbies will adapt far better to it.  I also recommend Fluxbox.  It's kind of a middle ground between LXDE and Openbox in terms of pre-configured things. 

I am working on more Debian content of my own, but I don't like redundancy in the community, so there will be no Debian install guide here, at least for now.  The Luddite's guide is very well done, and has a very capable user with legitimate experience behind every word.  You can trust Dan as much as us to look out for your computing well-being.

All Apologies


Dr. Dave here, it's been a month since my last post so I thought I'd apologize for the big break. This is not due to a lack of interest in PowerPC! It is in part due to a very hectic and full work schedule, but also due to yet another video chip failure on my ibook G4 1.07 ghz. This is now the third ibook (one G3 and two G4's) that has gone south due to the video chip becoming unseated from the board. I could of course try and "flame it" back down as others have famously done, but at this point I really want to move away from the ibook line as a whole. In part I kept with ibooks so I could use one machine as a parts mule for the other, but that is clearly a flawed plan when the video chips keep failing. I was debating my next PowerPC step when...

...A retired University professor I've known forever called. He was about to toss a Power Mac G4 he hadn't turned on in three years into a dumpster, after removing the hard drive of course. The specs? A 1.4 ghz (Giga Designs) upgraded Sawtooth (AGP graphics), 2 GB of RAM with a ATI Radeon 9200 with 128 MB of VRAM. I think everyone who reads this blog would sensibly do what I did, and throw themselves between the dumpster and the Power Mac.

Inspired by Zen's recent post  I decided to skip Lubuntu PPC or MintPPC and just go the the heart of the matter, ie the shiny new Debian 7. As with Zen, I'm happy to report the install was utterly painless, just a click or two here and there. In fact, I'd have to say it was one of the least painful Linux or Mac OS X installs I've ever done. Hat's off to the Debian PowerPC team, whoever and wherever you are! It's early days for me and Debian 7, but so far it is hella impressive. Debian 7 PowerPC is stable, secure and sweet. There are a few things to learn and do differently if you are more familiar with 'buntu land, but nothing major.

After 25 years I now no longer have any working Mac OS installs, PowerPC or Intel. It's my intention to use Linux exclusively in the future, as I don't really do any content creation that would require OS X, and find VLC and Mplayer wholly adequate for my media playback needs. With Debian 7 I've got Firefox 17.0.7 and luakit for my web browsing, and a host of audio players to choose from. Who needs OS X Maverick, anyway?

Near future posts will cover youtube playback, office suites and other neat things.

337


That is the number of known security vulnerabilities that have yet to be fixed for all Mac OS X versions, 337.  These vulnerabilities range from 2001 to the present and a large majority of them are specific to the PowerPC era at Apple.

A full list and explanations of these security vulnerabilities can be found here:

Apple Mac OS X Security Vulnerabilities 


It is not my intent to give anyone worry, but there are far too many of you in denial.

Over the last few days I have gotten a few emails from people who became concerned with Mac security. Rather than babble on and on and confuse those people further, I simply wanted to show a clear and direct example of all the vulnerabilities.

The point is that even OS X 10.8 has several issues with security while the PowerPC compatible versions hold a majority of them. Obviously the Intel versions of 10.4 and 10.5 have the same issues, but I can assure you that a majority of Tiger/Leopard users are PowerPC owners.

Your PowerPC Mac running Linux, at least for online activity and security, is more capable, and certainly safer, than a brand new Intel Mac running Mountain Lion.

New policy on Mac OS content


As of this post we will no longer be covering Mac OS PowerPC when it comes to any internet related activities.  With it being 4 years since the last meaningful security update, Leopard or older versions of Mac OS simply cannot cut it anymore to keep you and your system/data safe.

When it comes to internet based activity we will only be covering Linux and maybe even a bit of BSD.

My (our) stance is even if you truly do prefer Mac OS on your PowerPC system, you should still use Linux for internet based tasks.  Mac OS is still fine for browsing trusted sites where you know 100% there is nothing to worry about but other than that and email I don't recommend using it any longer.

Just because your hardware is several years old doesn't mean it needs to be stuck in a prison of old non-secure software.  I will keep using OS X PowerPC for offline tasks like content creation and video playback for years or even decades to come.  Having my small army of PowerPC hardware helps.

Use each OS for it's strength.  Linux dominates on security so use it online.  Mac OS X PowerPC dominates with content creation, multimedia playback and gaming.

We will do all we can to help ease the transition for those who are awake to the reality and take the plunge.  If you're in denial, and many are, we can't help you.

Remember, adopting Linux does not equal abandoning Mac OS.

Debian: Unrelenting Quality


I have mentioned before that I chose to cover Lubuntu, because Dan at PPC Luddite did such an amazing job writing about Debian.  I don't like to leave good software unwritten about, but if Lubuntu is good, then Debian is great.  I can no longer contain my unrelenting love for Debian, and its unrelenting quality standards for its software, and anything they package with it.

Debian is the poster child for what software standards should be, which is why so many distros are based on it.  The Ubuntu's, Mint, Crunchbang and Finnix (just to name a few) are all born from Debian code.  Debian have been setting the benchmark for quality, clean, reliable code since the mid 90's, and continue to do so today.  In 20 years there have only been 7 stable releases.  It's because when they release a stable build, they truly stand behind that.  The gap between 6 and 7 was quite short by their standards.  The project actually has about 1000 official developers overall.


This is pretty much how Debian developers operate:

1. Test
2. Test some more
3. Test some more
4. Test some more
5. Test some more
6. Check everything over again and again then test some more
7. Test some more
8. Test one last time just to be really really certain.


While these practices keep the stable build a good mile from the bleeding edge, the end result is stable, secure, never fail you code.  There is a reason Debian is usually a top choice for servers.   If you really desire the bleeding edge kernel and default apps then you can simply install Debian testing.  I honestly have more faith in their testing builds than the finals of pretty much every other distro.

Debian PowerPC is also about the last Linux distro with official support on the architecture still, and there are no signs of it ever stopping. Another thing Debain PowerPC does is allow apt to work perfectly.  In my experiences the Ubuntu's and other distros mess this up at some level.  As someone who prefers some command line on a daily basis this is a big selling point for me and I know it is for Dr.Dave also. 

I have been doing a lot of playing around and testing the newest stable release of Wheezy (7.1 currently) and several different GUI.  The memory usage difference between the various environments is quite significant.


Here are the memory usage totals for each GUI after simply logging in, and with nothing else running:

GNOME 3 - 188 MB

XFCE - 167 MB

Openbox - 101 MB (a bit higher than usual)

Fluxbox - 93 MB

LXDE - 81 MB (I have gotten it down to 69.8 MB now thanks to some trimming)

The system has 1.5 GB (1536 MB) RAM


LXDE is the reining champ, and is so much easier to use for Linux newbs than Openbox or Fluxbox, which use more memory.  I started with the Debian LXDE image and then installed the other enviroments.  LXDE, Fluxbox and Openbox fly while GNOME and XFCE sputter a bit on my G4 1.0GHz Sawtooth testing system.  GNOME and XFCE are still very usable but they simply can't compare performance-wise.  There is also a KDE offering but I have never used it with Deb7.  While KDE is very capable it's one of the most bloated GUI.  It's almost as bad as Unity in terms of system resource consumption.

I will be writing a lot more about Debian 7 soon but I wanted to get out some early observations on Wheezy stable which is only about a month old.  


A couple screens:






They all use the standard Debian installer, which is not a GUI like Lubuntu.  Don't worry though, there are no commands you need to know.  All you ever have to type are usernames and passwords you want.  Tab selects actions, arrows move selections, space makes selections and return/enter executes.  It's actually quite simple to use and should only take a person one use to learn.


It's good.  It's great.  It's all it should be.  It's all any OS should be.  It's free in every sense.

I put Debian on equal ground with BSD.  It's one of only 3 Linux distros I would say that about.  The other two would be Arch and Gentoo, but even they can't touch Debian in my mind.

The twitter situation


Using twitter the last few days has been moderately interesting, but for the most part I have been reminded why I never used my personal account.  I'm pretty much officially over Twitter (again) already.

Another thing of note is that the amount of visitors we get is at least 300-500 unique ip hits per day, yet we only have gotten 21 followers in the first week.  This tells me that the regular readers here are pretty much as crotchety about social networking as I am.  After all, it does take a specific kind of person to appreciate the angle this blog comes from.  People who think like the Dr. and myself have no time for trends of any type.  While Twitter is one of the better parts of the social networking world, it's still part of a culture that I really cannot relate to.

I can't speak for Dr. Dave, but I am over Twitter already.  I may post something now and then or we may just agree to delete the account.

All I really care to spend free tech time on is writing for this blog and using Linux more.  That is what I shall continue doing.

I tried...  140 characters just isn't for me.  Far too limiting and I also tend to hate popular things by default.

This blog will not make any other attempts at social networking.  All that matters is the forward motion of PowerPC and you can get that right here.

Note:  The twitter account has now been deactivated as of June 21.  


Side note

Debian 7 LXDE is amazingly good BTW.  The stable release was introduced in the recent past.  It puts Lubuntu to shame in terms of pure functionality and reliability.  Debian is not as bleeding edge with the kernel and default app versions as Lubuntu is but it's as rock solid as you can get. 

More on that soon.

The devolution of computing


I have been reflecting a lot lately about the state of computing today.  The state of both the development and the users, along with what drives the majority of people from both groups.  For myself, and anyone who prefers to compute from the drivers seat, the state of things is bad on almost all fronts; at least in terms of mainstream computing.

Computing at a high level in the 70's, 80's, and even the early 90's was much better, because any other users around you were at a high level also.  Almost everyone had real capability to compute far beyond pointing and clicking.  Before the GUI existed you literally had to know command lines, and have a catalog of them in your head at your disposal whenever needed.  There were no guides on websites to copy/paste commands from, which is the peak of text computing skills these days for the pointy clicky imprisoned types.  Even with how far the GUI has come, there are still many capabilities that even the most robust OS's UI would lack.  I have mentioned before that only about 60-70% of the full OS X capability is found in its GUI.  Everything else is accessed from the command line.  It is based on BSD after all.  Text/terminal use is the actual human language of computing, not pointy clicky.  A GUI can only do what it gives you options to click on.  A GUI is essentially just an OS hand holder.  All you need is basic hand-eye coordination, and all it's doing is typing the commands for you while you click away.

The user friendly obsession of MS and Apple software over the last couple decades has truly dumbed down the average user a great deal.  The sad truth is that most people only have the capability to point a mouse, and type in whatever language(s) they're literate in.  The even sadder truth is that some actually mistake this for having computer skills.  Some even go as far as to think such skills qualify them to "help" someone else by sharing their "experience".  Experience based on nothing.  When you can only compute at the level of a person that many would consider computer illiterate, then you have no experience to give. 

I'm sorry, but moving a pointing device around, and being literate in your language, is no type of computer "skill".  People who compute at that level need to keep their devolved computing culture to themselves, and focus on learning new ability, rather than trying to spread devolution.

The devolved ones are on some insane mission to spread their 'newer/faster hardware is always better' illogic, and follow Apple or MS blindly.  No one needs help to do such things, because all it requires is no thought.  Anyone can do that.  Give people true technical insight, not what they can get from a wikipedia or google visit.  If that is where you're getting your "experience" from, then you've turned yourself into a fake, and a redundant fake at that.  Pretty shameful.  I assume the goal was never to be a double negative, but that is the end result for some of you.

The people who spread such things know who they are and they need to stop.  Your blind follower no skill thinking is a cancer to anything that resembles good information.  Stop it please.


Lastly

I am sorry if some of this sounds mean, but every word I have written here is nothing but true.  The truth shall set you free, as the saying goes, is as apt with computing as it is with anything else.

Anyone who feels the desire to help others, needs to first do it with something they can help with.  Something you have legitimate experience, knowledge and insight with.  Not something you wish to, but don't yet have, those qualities with.

Don't pretend or devolve.  Learn.

Stop letting billionaires control how you compute, and keeping most of you in a limited and fearful of evolving type of state.  The very reason most of you don't want to evolve your computing skills is that you've been conditioned to think that computing and real brain work don't go together.  Essentially a mainstream/self-induced computer user lobotomy.  That is the true end result of decades of user friendly obsession by the mainstream.

Slowend Mac


I don't visit lowendmac.com much these days, but I did the other day and was mildly amused to read Simon Royal's Tenfourfox post of the 17th of May. I've always enjoyed Mr. Royal's many fine contributions to the PowerPC mac community, though of late he seems to have gone Intel mac only, and was apparently shocked to learn that plugins had been disabled on Tenfourfox 17. Huh? That was like months and months ago, I thought. I then checked the date of the post to see if I was reading something really old, but no....it was a new post. This, the author seriously intoned, was a sad day for PowerPC mac users. A sad day that happened a long, long time ago.

Cameron Kaiser has been clear since day one of Tenfourfox that his primary and maybe even only concern is security. Security first, security last, security always. To that end Flash was disabled by default in Tenfourfox 6, though of course you enable it easily in the about:config, which many did. Plugins became totally disabled after 17 when Quickdraw support was removed by Mozilla. There are many well documented workarounds for Flash on PowerPC macs, some easier than others, and I will not bother to repeat them here. I suggest if you are new to the concept and want a full reading on the topic check out the ppcluddite's blog here.

What is of much greater concern to me are the many cannonballs Mozilla keeps firing at all the tier 3 Gecko browsers. In the end this may affect not only Tenfourfox, but the PowerPC Linux OS's as well. There are, however, some pretty big companies in the Power Linux sphere, most notably IBM, and I am hoping Big Blue will knock some sense into the Mozilla crowd. Kaiser and co continue to do heroic work giving us a source parity Gecko browser in 2013, but for the future things are looking more....grim. Methodjit is now sadly going bye-bye (which means also for Seamonkey PPC and Aurorafox), and on the development blog Kaiser says he expects near future builds of Tenfourfox to take a big performance hit when compared to 17. He also states that he hopes to have a build of IonMonkey, a new Javascript engine ready for Tenfourfox 24. For now I'll be sticking with Tenfourfox 17 as it is still perfectly usable on my ibook G4 1.07ghz. This will also give me a working quicktime plugin for use with the greasemonkey script viewtube for youtube. Not that there aren't lots of other methods I could use.

All of this brings up zen's excellent post on using the right OS for the right job in 2013. If you haven't already read it, read it now. I personally still use and feel relatively secure with Leopardwebkit and Tenfourfox in OS X, but if I'm gonna do some Internet banking, I'll boot on into Linux, where I know I have the latest and greatest Gecko and Webkit. Maybe I'm being overly paranoid. Sadly I have stopped using Camino and Omniweb, as more and more sites are not displaying correctly in both browsers. This leads me to suspect security is also slipping far behind now, and anyway its very unlikely that either will ever be updated, at least for PowerPC. There was talk of Camino being ported to webkit, but there doesn't seem to be any progress on that front, and I'd say its curtains for the Chimera.

Are these really dark days for PowerPC? I think not......yet. But stay tuned to this channel.

We're still alive!


It has been over two weeks since our last post, and I wanted to mention what has been going on.

Dr. Dave hurt his back a couple weeks ago, so that has put him out of commission for the time being.  Please join me in wishing him well and hopes for a quick recovery.  I am sure he will be feeling better soon enough.

I myself have been more busy than normal with the OpenBSD project in it's last phase of development.  The last phase (for me at least) is dealing with every bug so this has left my life with zero free time.  In the next week to 10 days I will be 100% done the project and I already have a couple things in mind to write about.

OS X: Disable your v-sync


This post falls under the heading of "maybe not the single greatest idea in the world, but perhaps not the worst either." As we all know, Apple, in its infinite wisdom put some (ok, lots of) extra eye candy into OS X when it leaped from 10.4 to 10.5, and as a result you and all your loved ones took a graphics hit moving from Tiger to Leopard. Many argue the hit is minimal, and Leopard has so much more software and hardware compatibility that is more than worth it, a sentiment to which I firmly adhere. I do miss Classic, but otherwise Leopard...rocks. On x86 Linux I got used to doing all kinds of tweaks to get better video performance out of older machines, and one of the main ways was to set the v-sync to blank. Usually this was achieved by clicking a box deep within the bowels of compiz or editing a metacity preference file in nano. I'm no expert, but on LCD monitors I've read the benefits afforded by v-sync are pretty much a non issue. Lets face it, not many people are sitting in front of CRT's in 2013. If I've just deeply insulted Al in Syracuse, who is still in love with his 21inch ViewSonic purchased for $1500 (no, for real) from MacMall back in 1997, I apologize.

Honestly I never knew this tweak was possible in OS X. I thought Apple just locked all of that graphics stuff down tight to keep it away from those pesky end users. Then I stumbled upon a youtube video from a fellow PowerPC enthusiast, which sadly now seems to have been taken down or I'd post a link to it for reference. He had a bunch of good tips for improving graphics performance, most of which are well known, like using a 2-D instead of a 3-D dock, etc, etc. I was just about to stop watching when he showed viewers how to disable v-sync, and that caught my attention.

In order to perform this maneuver safely you'll need to have Xcode installed. If you don't have it its a free download from Apple, you will have to register as a developer and then sign over your first born child for ritual sacrifice, but once that's done its just a 300 MB download. You'll need an older version of Xcode, 3.3.1, as the newer ones are naturally Intel only. It is possible to do this in Text Edit, but personally I lack the intestinal fortitude to do so, see..I once hosed a Panther install fiddling around with a preference file in Text Edit. Xcode makes this simple, and for reasons probably only in my head it feels much safer.

What you want to do is go to your Hard Drive and open up the Library folder, then the Preferences folder. What you are looking for is com.apple.windowserver.plist, right click on that file, if you have Xcode you'll have the Property List Editor as an option, and open it with that. Now under Compositor look for "deferred updates" and set that to zero. Congratulations, you have just set your v-sync to blank on 10.5. There are some other settings which some turn off in there relating to Quartz Extreme and OpenGL but personally, I left those well enough alone.

Now anytime one fools around with system files, especially com.apple.plist's, bad things can happen. So, readers beware, and exercise all due caution. I followed the above steps and nothing bad happened, and, upon reboot I noted some definite improvements in overall window snappiness (such a technical term). Dock minimizations, even the hated "genie" effect were now lightning quick. The vicious tear I had passing my cursor over the dock in 3-D mode was also gone. Personally I use the 2-D dock so it wasn't a huge win for me, but overall this was a satisfying tweak.

On PowerPC OS X in 2013 its all about them little victories.

Help the Children Learn


Today someone, probably well under the age of 15, excitedly sent this Doctor a Youtube link to a recently posted video which they claimed showed a user how to install Flash 11.5 on a PowerPC Mac. It was of course no such thing, just a redo of the old "Facebook" hack which tricks some websites into offering up Flash video to your tired, unsupported, enough security holes to drive a (pun intended) Mack truck through 10.1 Flash plugin. I will not bother to repost the video or link here, as I do not like to spread bad or misleading information around the interwebs. But this does bring up a very important point. PowerPC macs are now so cheap they are an easy entry point for young mac enthusiasts eager to test out the OS X and Linux waters. I think that's great, but as with all things, kids need to be educated. So if you know one of these young PowerPC mac enthusiasts, don't be embarrassed, sit them down and give them the talk. Not that talk, this talk:

"Now young man (or woman), you need to know Adobe Flash was never a great piece of software on PowerPC. It was poorly written and never optimized for your machine. Today its old, and such a crap-tastic performer that will bring your otherwise excellent system to a screeching halt. It should be avoided on OS X PowerPC, at all costs. On PowerPC Linux this is a non issue, as there never was nor will there ever be Flash Player or Plugin. In this here year of 2013 you are far, far better using Flash workarounds. Here are few you can try..

Mactubes. Its been often said that this is an awesome piece of kit that keeps PowerPC Macs alive and well in the age of youtube. Make sure to set your player to Quicktime for best results, and have Perian installed as well. This makes many larger format flash files available for download and playback. The version of Quicktime that works with Mactubes well is 7.6.4.

Youview. This software pretty much does what Mactubes does, but unlike Mactubes you have to pay for certain features, like downloading. But it's handy to have in reserve.

Viewtube. This is a Greasemonkey script for Tenfourfox, it can be made to work with Safari as well by installing SIMBL and Greasekit. First go to Add-ons under tools and install Greasemonkey. You'll have to stick with Tenfourfox 17.X.X, as anything newer has plugins disabled and it just won't work. It works with some other sites besides youtube too, and the developer is a decent guy who is constantly improving and updating the script. It'll also use the Quicktime plugin, but right in the browser.

ClicktoFlash and ClicktoPlugin these work great with Safari (and Leopard webkit). By installing both you can do the same thing your trying to do with the Flash hack, that is, trick the website into believing you have the latest Flash installed. Many websites will then offer you up video. You'll have to click on the "QT Player" logo, and it will launch a standalone Quicktime player.

There are some other methods too, they're a little trickier, so try these ones out first. And remember... on PowerPC the only good Flash is no Flash. Tell all your mac loving friends."

It's a tired old cliche, but the kids really are the future, especially it seems when it comes to PowerPC macs...

Uber Lightweight Linux Browser Smackdown


***Dr.Dave (former writer here) wrote this during his Lubuntu user era, but all of these browsers are just as capable under Debian, which is the Linux now supported here.***


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

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

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.





Links2

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.





XXXTerm/Xombrero

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.





Luakit

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.

Roccat 3.0


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…

Best of all, Greasekit and Viewtube now work in Roccat 3.0, which was not the case with prior versions. In fact, on my ibook G4, prior versions of Roccat would crash on launch if Greasekit was present. For the uninitiated, Greasekit is a way of making Greasemonkey scripts work on most webkit browsers. Firstly, you will need to download and install SIMBL, and then Greasekit, from here. In Roccat, Safari or Leopardwebkit you can then use the Greasekit menu that now appears to manage which webkit applications Greasekit will work for. Fair warning: Greasekit is OLD not all Greasemonkey scripts will work with Greasekit, and as always with anything javascript you need to be cautious about what you install. But this enables you to head over to userscripts dot org and install viewtube, a greasemonkey script that nicely swaps the hated FLASH for Quicktime, allowing for very decent embedded video playback on youtube and quite a few other sites. I am pleased to say playback is MOST EXCELLENT in Roccat 3.0, though I do have a slightly annoying bug where I have to scroll down then back up to get the video playing to be visible. This however may be a pecularilty of my system and no one elses.

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.

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 really....free. 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 freedom....is 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.

PowerPC heroes


A few posts back Zen, who always tells it like it is, gave credit where credit was due and nominated some PowePC friends among us. I’d like to go a step further and nominate some PowerPC heroes among us. My definition of a hero is someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty, and these folks have certainly done that for a platform Apple abandoned many years ago now.


Cameron Kaiser

For those who don’t know Dr. Kaiser (yup, he is a bona-fide MD, with degree, and unlike this DVM can also code) is the man, the myth, the legend behind both Classilla and Tenfourfox. During the day he practices the finer medical arts on homo sapiens. At night he is almost single handedly is keeping viable browsers alive on not one, but two PowerPC operating systems. In 2013 this is no mean feat, and has required many selfless hours of coding and pathching in front of a PowerMac G5. Classilla is, for the one person reading this blog not already aware of it, the only browser anyone should be using on Mac OS 9. Now at version 9.3.2, Kaiser is focusing on a series of security rollups that will hopefully bring Classilla on a par with Mozilla 1.6 in the near future. You might not want to do your internet banking with Classilla, but for routine tasks it is surprisingly usable. Even if you don’t use or like Tenfourfox we all owe an enormous debt to Kaiser and the rest development team for keeping a Mozilla browser at source parity with Firefox in 2013. Dr. Kaiser also consistently declines all donations, as he thinks money would cloud things up. He’s probably right, but I wish I could give something other than praise and thanks to this most noble cause.


Tobias Netzel

An important contributor to Tenfourfox, Tobias is also the developer behind Leopard Webkit. Leopard Webkit gives you an up to date webkit-rendering engine in the skin of Safari 5.0.6, turning what was a terrible web browsing experience with Safari on Leopard into something…frankly awesome. The hybrid gold ringed Safari/L-webkit icon is now my go to browser on 10.5, something I would have never thought would happen.


Marc Hoyis

Marc is the guy behind Click to Plugin and I belive also now maintains Click to Flash. These are Safari extensions that give a delightful one-two punch to the most hated software ever made (that would be, I don't like to even say the word, so I'll just sign it out Freddy Mercury style...."Flash-ahh-haaaaa") and replace it with Quicktime on not only Youtube but also a surprising number of other commonly visited web sites. It may seem ridiculous at first to have both extensions installed, but as the very useful macrumors forum poster B-G discovered, Click to Flash not only blocks Flash but also presents itself to the server as Flash 11.5. This fools even the BBC, I had all but given up ever watching clips on the site in Leopard but now most video gets served up to my PowerPC mac with no complaints. The Click to Plugin extension takes over at this point and gives you several file quality playback options in either the native HTML 5 player or Quicktime. On a lower speck G4 ibook Quicktime in 360p works…awesome. You may not think 360p is all that, but Quicktime does it good. Combine that with a Quicktime Pro license and you can also download the file once it fully loads. They are just....awesome extensions.


Jeroen Diederen

Jeroen hails from the low country across the pond and is the lead developer and chief cheerleader of MintPPC. Taking a basic Debian PPC install and slapping the Mint LXDE desktop on top of it in 2009 was a stroke of genius, and has breathed new life into many an old mac. Jeroen has removed most of the major headaches from your typical Debian PPC install, though even a casual browse of the MintPPC forum will show there are still tons of issues. Most of them due to the exotic mobile hardware choices Apple made back in the day. Lets face it, Apple never intended for Linux to run on an ibook G4, and the fact that it does at all, let alone well, is pretty remarkable. Jeoroen is always helpful to those with difficult hardware, always willing to compile the applications people want for MintPPC, and never gets impatient with people less technically savvy than he. Which would be almost everyone. An honorable mention must also be made here to os911, a regular MintPPC contributor who has written some excellent installation manuals, and is also uniquely helpful, especially with old world macs and all the challenges they bring to the table.


Microsoft

Yes. That Microsoft. Microsoft still provides regular security updates for Office 2004 and 2008 for PowerPC. Apple doesn’t do anything similar for its in house apps, and credit is where credit does, the behemoth from Redmond gets some respect from a former hater.

Well, those are my nominations for PowerPC heroes. Please feel free to disagree, or nominate anyone else you think worthy in the comments and thanks again to the above for keeping this architecture “Alive and Kicking…”. Man, I just had a Freddy Mercury and a Jim Kerr moment in one post. Its officical, the Doctor is old. Very old.

Origin of the architecture name and other terms


The main misperception most people have is in thinking the "PC" in the PowerPC name means PC in the way they know.  It does not stand for personal computer.  PowerPC is an acronym for Performance optimization with enhanced risc Performance Computing.  I believe the capital P and C at the end is what leads most to think it means personal computer.

For those that don't know what "RISC" means, I can assure you it doesn't mean it takes any type of risk.  RISC and CISC are the two fundamental computer architecture bases.  RISC means reduced instruction set computer, and CISC means complex instruction set computer.  ARM, Power and PowerPC are examples of RISC.  Intel and AMD are examples of CISC.  Reduced instruction does not mean it skips things but rather that it carries more data per cycle.  CISC pipelines can be over 20 steps long compared to under 10 for most RISC architectures.  PowerPC systems, like the G4 for example, only need 7 steps in the pipeline.

Personal computer is another term that has been horrifically misused over the years.  PC is the acronym that was started for computers that could sit on a desk, in the era which most still took up whole rooms or at least an entire wall of a room.  The PC term has somehow evolved into meaning wintel/x86 hardware specifically when it really means any computer that can fit on a table.  All Mac hardware is as much a PC as any wintel system.  The sad fact is that Apple themselves have helped twist this term.  They are easily the biggest culprit in all this to be honest.  They have used the term themselves since the 80's to separate the Mac from the rest of the industry.  The proper term for a windows PC is "Wintel".  This term started to specifically mean a Windows system powered by Intel but has evolved to mean windows systems in general.  I assume this was due to Intel's dominance especially early on in the game.   

Although I respect the names of anything PowerPC related that uses the "PPC" term this is an incorrect way to refer to it.  When it comes to the technology industry as a whole most people would take PPC to mean pocket PC.  This is the term used in the CorePlayer pocket PC version and the one that fools the unknowing into thinking they have found Mac copies of it online.  For the record the Mac copy has always been named CorePlayer OS X.  To be fair to those that use PPC I cannot blame them because there are actually developers that use it so it's easy to mistake it for a legitimate acronym.  All the BSD versions available on PowerPC for example are all referred to as PPC as are several Linux distros.  Mainstream Mac software sites like MacUpdate always use PPC also. 

It was years of hearing and seeing these terms misused combined with the google search hits I get here that motivated me to write this.  It's shocking how many separate the power and pc when they type it.  It is an acronym and they don't have spaces.  So once again, the "PC" at the end of PowerPC stands for performance computing.

The doctor is in


PowerPC Liberation welcomes a new writer to the fold today.  Dr. Dave is someone you may know from his active participation as a commenter and knowledge spreader from PPC Luddite and on this blog along with several others he frequents.

Since my busy life keeps me from posting as much as I would like it was only natural to go this route.  Two heads are better than one as they say, and in this situation that is certainly an apt description.   The "Dr" in his blogger name is no front either.  He's the real deal. 

When it came time to add another author here, Dave was the first person I thought of.  He is a man of great intelligence and technical comprehension, but is far too modest to even understand that about himself.  He has a real knack for sniffing out the greatest software on earth, and has on several occasions.  It's always very cleanly coded and efficient software also, which shows he not only gets it but has no taste for bloat.  My kind of techie.

So please join me in welcoming the doctor.