[Update – February 2018: Some of the links and information provided here are old. Check out Part 4 for updates.]
2013 has been an incredibly busy year for me, and regrettably I didn’t spend much time using my oldest Macs and a Mac OS system version older than 8.1. This is the main reason I haven’t updated this blog as frequently as I wanted (but hopefully this is the kind of space one comes to visit for its archives, more than just looking for the latest piece).
Still, I have spent a generous amount of time with a few Macs of more recent vintages:
- A 12-inch PowerBook G4 (1GHz, 1.25GB RAM, 80GB hard drive), running Mac OS X 10.5.8, which was my main machine from 2004 to 2009.
- A 17-inch PowerBook G4 (1.33GHz, 1.5GB RAM, 80GB hard drive), running Mac OS X 10.5.8, which was donated to me in 2012 and has quickly turned out to be a very dependable workhorse and possibly the G4 laptop I’ve used the most throughout 2013.
- A Titanium PowerBook G4 (500MHz, 1GB RAM, 30GB hard drive), running Mac OS X 10.4.11, which I carried around a lot since I acquired a second battery that still lasts 2 hours and a half with moderate use.
- The trusty Power Mac G4 Cube (450MHz, 1.5GB RAM, 60GB hard drive) running Mac OS X 10.4.11 that’s an integral part of my main setup — and it has been since 2008.
- A clamshell iBook G3 FireWire (466MHz, 576MB RAM, 10GB hard drive) running Mac OS X 10.4.11, and another blueberry clamshell iBook G3 (300MHz, 288MB RAM, 3.2GB hard drive) which has now become a Mac OS 9.2.2-only machine.
- A PowerBook G3 ‘Lombard’ (400MHz, 256MB RAM, 6GB hard drive) running Mac OS X 10.3.9 but experimentally updated to 10.4.11 by creating a modified OS X Install DVD. This is probably the nicest PowerBook for long writing sessions. I love the keyboard and the comfortable palm rest area, not to mention its bright 14″ screen.
All these Macs, save for the Titanium PowerBook, sport minimalist installations and all non-necessary software has been removed. Of all the apps installed, some are PowerPC-only or Universal Binary versions that are no longer available for download but that I managed to find in my backups and archives. Then there’s a selection of apps which are still quite useful and whose developers have been kind enough to keep around on their websites even if they have stopped developing them for the PowerPC platform. Here’s a brief overview.
- AppZapper — Great utility to remove applications and all related files. As you can read in the Support page, you can still download version 1.8 for Mac OS X Tiger and Leopard. (It’s not free, though, you still need to purchase a licence.)
- Acorn — A very nice, simple yet powerful image editor. As mentioned at the top of the FAQ page, you can still download version 1.5.5 for Mac OS X Tiger and later. (Again, not free, you’ll have to purchase a licence. But if you own later versions of Acorn, you don’t have to. Read the FAQ for more information.)
- Bean — A great word processor (alas, no longer being developed). At the time of writing, you can still download version 3.1.1 for PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, and version 2.4.5 for PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. (Bean is free.)
- Audion — Still a fantastic option to play MP3s in a lighter package than iTunes. From the download page you can still download Audion for Mac OS X (requires at least Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar) and even a version for Mac OS 8.6/9, plus a few nice extras. Audion is free. Panic’s folks are the best.
- Dropbox — Incredibly, the latest version of Dropbox still supports PowerPC Macs running at least Mac OS X 10.4.11.
- Linotype FontExplorer X — The free, non-Pro 1.2.3 version is no longer available from the Linotype website, but you can still find it on the Web. A quick search turned up this page at Softpedia, for example. (A lot of clutter on that page, but download works.)
- Mailsmith — A powerful, versatile email client. Still supports PowerPC Macs running at least Mac OS X Leopard (10.5.8 recommended). And it’s free.
- Notational Velocity — I just love this little app, and I still use it on a daily basis to keep all my notes synchronised across vintage Macs, newer Macs, and also iOS devices (it syncs via Simplenote). It’s a Universal Binary that supports PowerPC Macs running at least Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. (Free)
- Skim — Great tool for handling PDF documents. From its main page, you can download older versions which will run on PowerPC Macs with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and 10.4 Tiger. (Free)
- Xee — From the website: “Xee is an streamlined and convenient image viewer and browser. It is similar to Mac OS X’s Preview.app, but lets you easily browse the entire contents of folders and archives, move and copy image files quickly, and supports many more image formats.” I really like this app, and from this page, you can still download the (free) 2.2 version, compatible with PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and higher.
- The Unarchiver — From the same developer of Xee, this is a must-have utility for unarchiving many different compressed archive formats. You can find older versions at this page. Version 1.6 works with PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and higher. The Unarchiver is free, but I suggest you make a donation to its generous developer.
- Find Any File — Great search tool, more useful than Spotlight. As I wrote in this old article, When I need to perform searches that dig deeper into the system, or I need a more readable & customisable search results window, I resort to Find Any File, which I love because its UI is based on the Find File application in the Classic Mac OS, and also because it lets me search for files even inside application packages and in places of the System where Spotlight is not allowed to snoop. From the app’s website, you can still download version 1.8.6 for PowerPC Macs (see right sidebar).
- iStumbler — From the website: “iStumbler is the leading wireless discovery tool for Mac OS X, providing plugins for finding AirPort networks, Bluetooth devices, Bonjour services and your GPS Location with your Mac.” A very nice, free network utility that’s still available for download for PowerPC Macs, supporting Mac OS X versions as far back as 10.2 Jaguar.
- Disco — A reliable tool to burn CDs and DVDs. Works with both PowerPC and Intel Macs. It’s not developed anymore, but it still works great and I never encountered any problem with it. Read my review for more information.
- f.lux — This little, free utility has really changed my life in front of a computer. From the website; “f.lux […] makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. Tell f.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live. Then forget about it. f.lux will do the rest, automatically.” It really works as advertised and since I often stay up late at night, it has saved my eyesight. No more going to bed with tired, red, bleary eyes. f.lux’s developers still offer a PPC version (v11) for download from the home page. Look for the small print below the big Download f.lux button. Remember to disallow updates if you install it.
A nice resource to download other discontinued Mac apps for the PowerPC platform is PowerPC Software Archive. Among other things, here you’ll find the last working Skype version for PowerPC Macs, not to mention Adium, or the official Spotify client.
Special mention: browsing the Web
If you want to browse the Web on a PowerPC Mac with a modern, secure browser that’s still in active development, then your choice shall be TenFourFox. It runs best on G4 and G5 machines, but it’s also available for G3 processors (on my PowerBook G3/400 it’s not very snappy, but I guess it’s mainly because it only has 256MB of RAM. On my iBook G3/466 with 576MB of RAM, things get better). If you’re running Mac OS 8.6/9, then you should use Classilla, from the same developer, Cameron Kaiser. Classilla works great also under Mac OS X 10.1.5 to 10.3.9 in the Classic Environment.
Another personal favourite is Stainless, which runs on PowerPC Macs with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. It’s no longer developed by its author, who has open sourced it. One of the features I really like (other than its general lightness and low CPU impact) is parallel sessions, which “allow you to log into a site using different credentials in separate tabs at the same time.”
I also like Plainview by Barbarian software, a “Fullscreen kiosk-style presentation content viewer” that is also a fullscreen Web browser. Read more information at this page, where you can also download the browser.
Both Stainless and Plainview are WebKit-based browsers, and their general performance on your PowerPC Mac will be similar to Safari. If you want a secure, up-to-date browser, you should definitely choose TenFourFox. (I even created a custom icon for it, by the way).
That’s all for this year, folks. Thank you to all those who visited System Folder or sent very nice appreciation emails. May you all have a fantastic 2014!
[Updated March 8, 2014 to add f.lux to the list.]