Box is friendlier than Dropbox for older Macs

Ever since Dropbox dropped support for PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5, I’ve been trying to find a viable alternative to sync selected files and folders between my main Intel Mac, my iOS devices, and my various PowerPC machines. It was so great when Dropbox worked because I generally use my main Intel Mac at home, and tend to bring with me my PowerBook G4s when out and about. As I mentioned in A modicum of synchronisation, “When Dropbox worked, my workflow was excellent. I kept everything in sync without effort. I started working on documents on the PowerBook G4 to finish them later at home on the MacBook Pro, and vice versa. It was a seamless process.”

In the comments to that article, I was pointed to this thread at MacRumors, which explains how to make Dropbox work again if you’re using a PowerPC Mac with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. I haven’t tried this solution because I also have three Macs running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, and I’d really like to sync as many machines as possible.

In addition to the options I outlined in A modicum of synchronisation, in recent times I have often resorted to browsing my Dropbox archive using the web interface. However, and I don’t know since when exactly, I haven’t been able to simply download files from Dropbox to my local machine through the web interface (using TenFourFox, which seems to be the only browser to at least load the Dropbox web interface properly). Instead of regular files, like, say, chapter-23.rtf, I get things like wjdv6xxq.part. Frustrated, I’ve simply copied all the folders I want to keep in sync to my Box.com account, and have started using Box, which has a much friendlier web interface, that loads faster and is generally more reliable.

But it’s not all. The other day I discovered that Box supports WebDAV. In this support article, they explain how to set it up, the known issues, and so on. This is a great option because you can use (as suggested) a third-party client to access and manage the files and folders in your Box account, and it’s much more convenient than using the web interface to download and upload files. I have used Panic’s Transmit 4.2 and it works great, though I haven’t been able to use the Transmit Disk feature to mount the remote volume on the desktop and use this solution in a more Dropbox-like way (when I try, a kernel panic is triggered). You can download Transmit from here, but remember that it’s not freeware: you’ll have to purchase a licence to use it.

It gets better: you can use Goliath, a long-standing, more bare-bones WebDAV client, which presents some advantages: it still works, it’s free, and it’s available for much older versions of Mac OS: the classic Mac OS version requires Mac OS 8.1 or higher. The Carbon version runs on any Mac OS X version greater than 10.0.4. This means that you can theoretically use even older Macintoshes to connect to Box via WebDAV. (I say ‘theoretically’ simply because I haven’t tried myself yet, but I will soon. I’ll use my iBook G3/300 running Mac OS 9.2.2 and my PowerBook 1400 running Mac OS 8.1 and will update this information at a later date.)

Goliath’s interface is simple and effective:

#alttext#

You can expand folders by clicking on the triangle next to their names, or you can double-click on a folder and have it open in a new window. It’s very easy to upload a file to a folder in your Box account: you just drag from the Finder and drop it on the destination folder in the Goliath window. To avoid having to type the WebDAV address of your Box ‘drive’ and your credentials every time, you can save them by selecting File > Save connection (⌘-S).

#alttext#

Next time you need to access your Box stuff with Goliath, you simply select File > Open connection (⌘-O). I really hope Box doesn’t remove the WebDAV functionality in the future, because it’s really useful and convenient to have quick access to your files stored in the Box cloud even from older machines. It’s another little feature that helps to put them to good use.

Addenda

[Update 1 – 19 Jul 2017] • Jeremy Sherman reminded me that WebDAV is supported directly by Mac OS X’s Finder itself since Mac OS X 10.0 (!). This means that you can simply select Go > Connect to Server (⌘-K) in the Finder, and enter Box’s WebDAV server address (https://dav.box.com/dav). In the following dialog, you’ll be requested your Box account credentials:

Box WebDAV from Finder.png

 
The good thing is that this solution is even more integrated with the system and works with basically any version of Mac OS X. I maintain my suggestion to use Goliath because on older machines with G3 processors it feels a little bit faster, and because it’s still a good option for Macs running Mac OS 8.1 to 9.2.2.

[Update 2 – 20 Jul 2017] • I performed some tests on my clamshell iBook G3/300 running Mac OS X 10.3.9 and Mac OS 9.2.2. I tried connecting to my Box account via the Finder under Mac OS X 10.3.9, but I got an error -36. Using Goliath, everything went well. Under Mac OS 9.2.2, I had no problems connecting to my Box account with Goliath. Navigating folders and accessing files was pleasantly fast. Now I’m updating this article while out and about, using my 12-inch PowerBook G4, and I can add this screenshot that was uploaded directly to Box from the iBook with Mac OS 9.2.2:

#alttext#

Maybe I’m not the first to have realised it, but I think this is a big deal, and a huge improvement to my workflow, much more seamless than before. Thanks to WebDAV support in Box, and thanks to a client like Goliath, you can have access to a modern cloud service with — in this instance — an 18-year old Mac running a 16-year old system software. Tonight I will conduct further testing on the PowerBook 1400c with Mac OS 8.1. If all goes well, I’ll be able to connect to Box using a Mac from 1996 running an OS version introduced in 1998.

It’s also a big deal because transferring files between obsolete Macs, vintage Macs, modern Macs and even iOS devices has become much faster and much more seamless than before. And I can quickly upload to the cloud any file I may have archived on vintage media (floppies or ZIP disks, for example) without having to figure out which vintage Mac I have to use as intermediary to move files from a machine to another.

[Update 3 – 21 Jul 2017] • I finally had the chance to do some testing on my PowerBook 1400c (with Sonnet Crescendo G3/333 upgrade) running Mac OS 8.1. I downloaded and installed Goliath, but when I launched it I was greeted with an error, saying that the application couldn’t be opened because the file ICAp;InternetConfigLib was missing. After a bit of research, it appears that the reason was that I needed a newer Internet Config Extension than the one installed in the PowerBook (v. 1.3). Using TomeViewer, I extracted a newer version (2.0.2) from the Installation CD of Mac OS 8.5, hoping it wasn’t too new, and dropped it in the System Folder. I restarted the Mac, relaunched Goliath, and all was well. After filling in the relevant credentials, I was able to connect to my Box account:

#alttext#
 
One thing I noticed is that — presumably to maintain a proper secure connection — when I attempted a few copy operations at first, I frequently saw this dialog popping up:

#alttext#
 
But it went away after checking the Install certificate option and confirming a couple of times.

I’m very glad this is working even under Mac OS 8.1. Accessing Box via WebDAV really gives this cloud service the widest system compatibility. I have two other PowerPC machines running Mac OS 8.1, the PowerBook 5300ce and the Power Macintosh 9500, that are even slightly older than the 1400; it’s exciting to be able to exchange files through Box with these older Macs I still use. Of course, another thing I’ve noticed is that uploading and downloading isn’t a particularly fast operation, possibly due to the slower network speeds and slower CPUs of these machines. But it’s still useful when uploading the occasional screenshot or image, or a bunch of text files. It may not be a fast process under Mac OS 8, but it’s still seamless. I can write without distractions on the PowerBook 1400c, upload the document to Box, then finish it (if necessary) on the iPad or MacBook Pro.

Another thing worth noting: I don’t know if this happens when mounting the Box WebDAV volume with the Finder as opposed to using Goliath, or if this happens no matter which method you use to access your Box account and files, but every copy operation leaves a ‘ghost’ file bearing the same name of the file you copied, but preceded by ‘._’ — you can see it when accessing Box from an iOS device:

#alttext#
 
It’s a bit of an annoyance, but I think these files can be deleted without problems.

[Update 4 – 24 Jul 2017] • Jeremy Sherman again (a very big thank-you to him, by the way): Suspect those ghost files are Apple Double files – they’re the resource fork of your files. Data fork goes in SomeFile, resource fork in ._SomeFile. And I agree. Jeremy’s been reminding me of things I knew but forgot over time.

This document will be updated as more information becomes available.
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A modicum of synchronisation

I’m still irked by Dropbox dropping support of PowerPC Macs running Tiger and Leopard. I know I’m not a typical Mac user, and that expecting support for an architecture that — at least on the Mac — was left behind in 2006 is a bit too much, especially given the short memory technology has nowadays. Still, I use a bunch of PowerPC Macs as secondary machines, they’re still useful and capable enough. When I work on some of my projects away from home, I often leave the Intel Mac at home and bring with me one of my G4 PowerBooks. When Dropbox worked, my workflow was excellent. I kept everything in sync without effort. I started working on documents on the PowerBook G4 to finish them later at home on the MacBook Pro, and vice versa. It was a seamless process.

Dropbox wasn’t the only thing I used to keep stuff in sync, but it had the best interface for handling files. Now that I’m left without it, here’s a brief overview of the tools I still use — tools that still work on PPC machines — to retain a modicum of synchronisation between my PowerPC Macs and more modern Apple devices:

  • Notational Velocity — This is an amazing tool for keeping notes in sync. The app is a Universal Binary that works great on a system as old as Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and as new as Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan. The syncing service is through Simplenote, so all my notes and bits of text are also available and in sync on iOS devices thanks to the Simplenote app.
  • CloudApp — It’s a great software/service for quickly sharing screenshots and all kinds of different files (images, videos, code snippets, documents, etc.), and I also use it as a sort of ‘Dropbox Lite’ whenever I need to pass one or more files from my MacBook Pro to my G4 PowerBooks and vice versa. I was an early adopter, and version 1.x of CloudApp was available for PowerPC Macs running at least Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Surprisingly, it still works. Up until a few months ago, if you went to CloudApp’s Download page, you could still download older versions (unsupported, of course). Not anymore. But the WayBack Machine is your friend. And if that archived link should stop working as well, I have saved version 1.0.3 for PowerPC Macs here.
  • Firefox Sync — I only recently had the proverbial ‘eureka moment’, when I realised that by creating a Firefox account, not only could I keep browser tabs, bookmarks, passwords, history, add-ons and preferences synchronised between my MacBook Pro and my iOS devices, but I could also include my PowerPC Macs because TenFourFox supports Firefox Sync — at least for now. It’s great and very handy.
  • FTP — Always an option, of course. I resort to FTP when dealing with big files. I upload them on my server and use Transmit to handle my stuff. You can download older versions of Transmit from Panic’s archives at this page (the last version supporting PowerPC Macs should be 4.2 — You’ll still need to purchase a licence to use the app, naturally).

This is an important subject: having some form of synchronisation available to create a bridge between vintage Macs and modern devices is essential in order to keep older Macs useful. If you have other ideas, use other methods, or know about other applications/services which still support PowerPC Macs, feel free to chime in. Recently, I became interested in BitTorrent Sync, but it doesn’t explicitly support PowerPC Macs. However, by looking at the supported platforms, I was thinking that maybe there was a way to make the FreeBSD versions work… I’m not fluent enough in UNIX, though; if you are, your suggestions are welcome!

A hard drive for the SE/30 — The long rescue

After the unexpected setback with the hard drive extracted from the Quadra 950, I once again rummaged inside a couple of boxes with stored assorted vintage stuff in search of a possible candidate. I found a few hard drives (both SCSI and IDE) in “I honestly don’t remember” conditions, so I took out three SCSI drives and put them in my external drive enclosure, connected to the Macintosh Colour Classic. The first drive, a 500 MB Quantum-something, made a few terrible clicks while trying to mount, and repeatedly failed. The second, a nice 9 GB Seagate ST39140N made a low humming noise when I powered up the SCSI enclosure, then silence. All the diagnostic tools at my disposal didn’t even detect its presence on the SCSI chain. The third, a surprisingly compact and lightweight 1.2 GB Quantum Fireball drive, powered up and made all the right little noises that indicate a possibly functioning hard drive. Also, it was immediately detected on the SCSI chain, and FWB Mounter gave me hope:

FWB Mounter

There it was, SCSI ID 4, “Recoverable”. And the adventure began.

I tried to mount it with FWB Mounter, but mounting failed after two long minutes during which the Mac appeared completely frozen. I launched FWB Hard Disk Toolkit 2.5, but the result was the same. My initial approach, I have to say, was to try to read and/or salvage any useful data stored on the drive before attempting a reformatting. Then I remembered I had a CD-ROM with a copy of DiskWarrior for the classic Mac OS (version 2.1, I think), so the fastest route was switching to a Mac with both a CD-ROM drive and a SCSI port. The PowerBook G3 Lombard was at hand, and fit the criteria. I booted in Mac OS 9.2.2, launched DiskWarrior, but it didn’t even detect the Quantum hard drive in the SCSI enclosure. I rebooted in Mac OS X Tiger and tried DiskWarrior 3 under Mac OS X. Same result. I rebooted again in Mac OS 9.2.2 and launched Disk First Aid, which did detect the drive but gave up almost immediately during the verification process, saying something along the lines of “This disk has too many errors and I can’t repair it.”

Since I still have all my Compact Macs out these days after performing a general check-up on them, I took the Macintosh Classic, connected the SCSI drive enclosure to it, and launched Norton Disk Doctor. At first, it didn’t detect the Quantum drive, but after issuing the “Show Missing Disks” command, the drive showed up. Clicking on Examine started a very long process where Norton Disk Doctor appeared to be running in slow-motion. After twenty minutes with the progress bar in the “Checking for bad blocks” test that was not progressing, I skipped the test (as soon as the Mac registered my input). When it came to checking the drive’s directory structure, Norton Disk Doctor kept throwing alarming errors. It indeed tried to fix a few issues, but I was starting to get the feeling that whatever had been on that drive was irrecoverable.

From that point on, I dropped any attempt to diagnose or repair the drive and focussed on actually trying to format and mount it.

On the Macintosh Classic I have an older version (1.8) of the FWB hard disk utilities, so I launched HDT Primer and see what it could do. HDT Primer recognised the drive and let me perform a low-level formatting, warning that the operation would take 81 minutes. I let it work and went to my studio to take care of other business. When I returned to the living-room after about an hour, HDT Primer was already done, and a dialog box informed me that the hard drive had been successfully formatted. So I went and tried to initialise/partition it, but unfortunately I kept getting errors.

Another frustrating chapter was beginning: trying different applications (on different Macs) to create partitions and logical volumes on the disk. Since I knew that that Quantum Fireball drive had bad sectors, I figured that the best course of action was attempting to partition it in different ways, so that maybe I could at least get to a point where, say, two out of three or four partitions were in a good-enough state to be mounted as volumes. After many, many fruitless efforts, and with Apple’s Drive Setup being this close to succeeding, my friend Grant Hutchinson suggested I tried using Silverlining Pro. I looked in my archives and found an old copy of Silverlining, then a newer one (Silverlining Pro 6.1). Thanks to Silverlining Pro 6.1 I could install a proper driver on the drive and managed to create two partitions of roughly 600 MB each; then, with version 6.5.8 I was finally able to initialise and mount one of those partitions.

I then used Norton Disk Doctor again to see whether such partition was good enough — and again, the “Checking for bad blocks” test was taking an inordinate amount of time, so I skipped it, assumed there were bad blocks, and let Norton perform the remaining tests. The disk passed them all, and knowing that the directory structure was sound was enough for me. With the disk now mounted on the PowerBook 1400’s desktop, I carried out some informal tests of my own, copying files to and from the partition (which I simply called “Q1”), launching applications from Q1, unmounting and mounting Q1 several times, and so forth. All went well, and I was actually surprised at seeing how fast this drive is in reading/writing files. Again, thanks to Silverlining Pro I was able to instruct the drive to mount automatically the Q1 partition when connected. Then I powered off the SCSI enclosure, disconnected the drive, changed the jumper configuration so that the SCSI ID was 0 instead of 4 (as it should be for an internal drive), opened the Macintosh SE/30 and mounted the Quantum Fireball hard drive on the metal shelf.

Drive inside the SE30

As you can see, the Quantum Fireball drive is rather slim (just so you have an idea: the former 40 MB beast of a hard drive that was inside the SE/30 weighed 850 grams, this Quantum Fireball weighs less than 250 grams).

I closed the SE/30, connected it to the mains, and turned it on for the moment of truth.

Silverlining

This, appearing at startup, was comforting. Then of course I got the floppy icon with the flashing question mark. Normal, since there wasn’t yet a valid system software installed on the drive. So I took the original set of floppy disks for System 7.0 and inserted the first one. After choosing a System 7.0 installation tailored for the Macintosh SE/30, it was time to see whether the Installer would recognise the Q1 partition… and it did! Once installation was complete, I restarted the SE/30 and it booted into System 7 in roughly 20 seconds. I was amazed and also very happy that my efforts and the time spent on this hadn’t been a complete waste…

Q1 mounted

So now the Macintosh SE/30 has a working-enough hard drive. Of course, it’s a temporary solution (the drive has a fair amount of bad sectors), but for now it’s usable, and even if I cannot take advantage of all the original 1.2 GB of storage space, a 620 MB partition for this system is far more than enough.

Let’s talk backup

As of late, I’ve been suggesting a few great applications that are still available for PowerPC Macs (where by ‘PowerPC Macs’ I generally mean ‘PowerPC G3/G4/G5 Macs running Mac OS X’). For this article I thought I could gather a few resources and reading material related to the essential practice of backing up data.

A necessary preamble: up to the advent of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard in October 2007, my personal backup strategy was a selective, manual backup of all the data I considered vital, so I never really used any tool to perform automated backups, therefore I don’t have any real direct experience with some of the applications mentioned below. The majority of them have an impeccable reputation, though, so I guess they’ll be useful to you.

Backup tools for PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X (and Mac OS 9.2.2)

  • If you’re running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, don’t forget that a basic backup tool is built in the system itself: Time Machine. I started using it since I upgraded to Leopard and I’ve never lost a backup. Considering a few horror stories I’ve heard, I may have been lucky. My only bit of advice: let Time Machine do its job, no matter how long it takes. I never interfered, nor tinkered with it, and never had a problem.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner — A great tool to clone disks and make bootable backup copies of them. And this is just one of the many features this application offers. You can download version 3.4.7, which is compatible with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard from this download page.
  • SuperDuper! — I have actually used SuperDuper! and it was extremely helpful in a few key circumstances. I like its interface because it really guides you every step of the way and explains what the app will do according to the options you choose. The links to download older versions of the app are provided in the sidebar of the page I’ve linked to. There are versions for Mac OS X Leopard, Tiger, Panther and even Jaguar. Customer support is fantastic. One thing worth quoting from SuperDuper’s page is this bit: Please note that SuperDuper! is not designed to back up to CDs, DVDs or Tape, and needs a location (other than the boot volume) to store the backup – typically a volume on an internal or external (FireWire) drive. SuperDuper! only copies HFS+ (Mac-native/Mac OS Extended) volumes.

SuperDuper’s developer offers another important reminder. Old-time Mac users know this already, but it may be useful especially for those who are discovering vintage PowerPC Macs only now:

Note also that USB drives do not allow booting Power PC based Macintoshes under any version of Mac OS X: this is not a SuperDuper! limitation, but one of the OS. If you would like to boot from a backup stored on an external drive, and have a Power PC based Mac, please purchase a Mac compatible FireWire drive. Intel Mac users can boot from either USB or FireWire drives.

  • Dantz Retrospect — Probably one of the backup applications for the Mac with the longest history. This is commercial software, and a licence is required even for older versions. Explore the Retrospect website and see if such software meet your needs. Older versions of Retrospect (for Mac, Windows, Linux) can be found at this page. I never used this product, but heard much praise for it over the years.
  • SilverKeeper — A free utility that used to be made available by LaCie. If you look for it on the Web, you’ll probably find the newer 2.0.2 version (for example on MacUpdate), which requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later. I have made available for download the older 1.1.4 version which supports Mac OS X 10.0 to 10.4 and can also be used under Mac OS 9.2.2. It’s a Zip archive of the SilverKeeper installer and related documentation. Let me know if you have problems extracting it.
  • SimpleBackup — I found this little utility by chance. It may be a simple solution for even older Macs. The developer calls it a “Finder alias-based backup utility.”

    In the readme file he explains how the application works: SimpleBackup is a very simple and easy to use file backup utility. I wrote it because I wanted a quick-and-easy way to back up all those files that are spread out over the hard disk, in the preferences folder, in the documents folder, certain folders and files in the applications folder, etc… I decided that I didn’t want to write a user interface for the utility, so I got the idea of letting the Finder do the work for me by using aliases. The result is a backup program that is actually easy to use! You simply navigate through your hard disk and find the files or entire folders that you want to backup that are buried in the System Folder, Applications, Documents folders etc., and tell SimpleBackup about those files/folders by using aliases.

  • SimpleBackup website (There are other interesting utilities you may want to check out there. The website is old, but the links appear to work.)

Some reading material

I think that this four-part essay on backups by Adam Engst is still worth reading and saving. It was written in 1998 but it’s full of essential pieces of advice and links to other backup software I haven’t mentioned here.

Check also this other piece by Adam Engst, written in 2001: What About Backing Up to FireWire Hard Disks?

This is a start to help you find some backup solutions and ideas, but feel free to chime in and share your suggestions/experience in the comments. Thank you!

Great apps still available for PowerPC Macs (Part 3)

The launchers special

Here’s another brief addition to the list of useful apps that are still made available for PowerPC Macs by their developers. Since apparently application launchers are all the rage today, I thought it’d be nice to remind PowerPC users that they still have a few options out there.

  • Butler — From Butler’s website: Butler’s purpose is to ease all those routine tasks you do every day: controlling iTunes, opening programs and documents, switching users, searching for stuff on the web, and more. Butler can act as an application launcher, but can do a lot of other stuff. Among the many other tasks Butler can accomplish: open/move/copy files, access preference panes, manage bookmarks, enter text snippets, search the web, control iTunes, and so on. Make sure you check the extensive documentation provided on the website to learn how to make the most out of it. Here are the direct download links:
  •  

  • LaunchBar — LaunchBar is the oldest application of this kind, since it goes back all the way to NEXTSTEP and OPENSTEP. Check this page for a summary of the many features (bear in mind that some of them may be missing from older versions). LaunchBar is available for any Mac OS X version. Visit the Legacy download page and pick the right one for your Mac.
  •  

  • Quicksilver — Another application launcher with a long history, and one I’ve tried to master many times. From the Quicksilver About page:

    An introduction to Quicksilver’s abilities include:

    • Accessing applications, documents, contacts, music and much, much more.
    • Browsing your Mac’s filesystem elegantly using keywords and ‘fuzzy’ matching.
    • Managing content through drag and drop, or grabbing selected content directly.
    • Interacting with installed applications through plugins.
  • From Quicksilver’s Download page you can download all present and pasts version of the app, going as far back as Mac OS X 10.3 Panther.

These are the first apps of this type to come to mind. I’ve always used Mac OS X’s Spotlight, so I may have forgotten other important applications (by the way, there’s no PowerPC version of Alfred — I checked). Feel free to chime in and provide suggestions. Thanks!

A final related mention: NotLight

Suppose you don’t particularly like the approach of these application launchers / file finders, and at the same time you’re not satisfied by what Spotlight offers with regard to search. There’s a little program I still love and use on my iBook G3/466 SE Graphite — NotLight, written by the excellent Matt Neuburg:

[NotLight is] a simple Spotlight front-end substitute. […] You can do any kind of Spotlight search; seven search keys are built in, and you can add more, and you can even view and edit a search as text if you like. You can use wildcards or not, specify word-based, case-insensitive, and diacritic-insensitive searches, and construct complex searches with AND, OR, and NOT. A Date Assistant translates dates into Spotlight’s query language for you. Results are a simple list of filename and paths. Download it here.

Here’s a review of NotLight by Dan Frakes on Macworld.

 


 
Previously:

  • Great apps still available for PowerPC Macs — Part 1
  • Great apps still available for PowerPC Macs — Part 2
  • Great apps still available for PowerPC Macs (Part 2)

    My previous article, Great apps still available for PowerPC Macs, published at the end of last year, got a lot of attention. I’m always looking for older PPC versions of great Mac applications graciously made available by their developers, so I thought I’d post a quick follow-up to the aforementioned article.

    Here are a few more apps you can enjoy on your PowerPC Macs (running Mac OS X 10.4 and above):

    • Ulysses — Ulysses III is one of the best Mac applications for writers. If you own a PowerPC Mac, you can’t install the latest and greatest version, but The Soulmen have made available previous versions of the app on their site. Read carefully the descriptions near each package at the link provided. The only version that is completely unlocked and doesn’t require a licence is Ulysses 1.6, for Mac OS X 10.4 and above. I installed it on my 17-inch PowerBook G4 and works just fine.
    • CloudApp — CloudApp is a very nice app to quickly share screenshots and all kinds of files. It installs a menu extra in the menubar and then it’s just a matter of dragging and dropping. It’s now on version 2.0.2, but you still can download version 1.0.3 — the last to support PowerPC Macs — at the link provided. (Requires at least Mac OS X 10.5).
    • Transmit: The best FTP client for the Mac, period. You can download older versions of Transmit from Panic’s archives at this page. I think the last version supporting PowerPC Macs is 4.1.9 — I have it on my G4 PowerBooks running Mac OS X 10.5.8 and when I select Check for Updates from inside the app, Transmit says it’s “currently the newest version available.” Of course you’ll have to purchase a licence to use the app.
    • Other Panic apps — Panic has made available previous versions of all the apps they made over the years. Check out The Panic File Museum, where you can find other great apps like CandyBar, Stattoo and Unison.
    • NetNewsWire — One of the best RSS readers for the Mac. Now in version 4 Beta, you can still download version 3.2.15 — the last supporting PowerPC Macs running at least Mac OS X 10.5 — from the Version 3 page. It’s worth reminding that older versions of NetNewsWire now can only be used to check RSS feeds manually, as they don’t support RSS services like Feedly, FeedBin, etc., that came after Google discontinued their Reader service.

    Great apps still available for PowerPC Macs

    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.]

    Some very useful Contextual Menu add-ons

    The other day I was using my Titanium PowerBook G4 and I needed to perform a series of checks on a couple of folders containing a bunch of old digital photos. I remembered that a few years back I had stumbled on a series of very cool third-party Contextual Menu add-ons but I couldn’t locate them right away or recall their precise names. I turned to the trusty iBook G3/466 and after a bit of digging I was able to find some information, and to find these Contextual Menu add-ons again on the Web. They were all developed by Pixture Studio and the company has made them available on this page.

    They are all very useful, and also very light on the system, which is perfect if you still use a vintage iBook or PowerBook. My favourites (and those I needed for the task at hand) are PhotoToolCM and QuickImageCM. Installing these little extensions is quite easy: you download the compressed archive, it extracts into a DMG file, you mount the disk image and there’s a handy AppleScript application that will install the software in the right place for you. Just follow the prompts and you’re good to go in a few seconds. Once the add-ons are installed, and you relaunch the Finder, they’ll appear at the bottom of the contextual menu in the Finder when you right-click or Ctrl-click on an item.

    PhotoToolCM adds two entries to the contextual menu, Photo Exif Info and Photo Tool:

    #alttext#

     

    #alttext#

     

    As you can see, Photo Exif Info is quite handy: you select the photo you want information about, Ctrl-click on its icon, choose Photo Exif Info and the EXIF data appears right there in a submenu. As far as I know, this is, to this day, still the quickest way to have that amount of EXIF data on the fly. It was incredibly useful for what I needed to do — quickly parse a folder full of photos I didn’t remember much about, either the camera I used to shoot them with, or the date/time. (The information you see in the screenshots is just to show you how the tool works, it’s not related to what I was doing.)

    And the Photo Tool menu gives you a series of powerful features you can take advantage of without leaving the Finder. Same goes for QuickImage — take a look:

    #alttext#

    You can quickly convert an image in a bunch of different formats by selecting Convert to:

    #alttext#

    (The JPEG command has yet another submenu where you can choose the quality for the JPEG conversion).

     

    In the QuickImage submenu, if you choose View… you’ll get a mini image editor directly in the Finder:

    #alttext#

    It’s not a full-blown editor, but for basic retouching is surely enough. And you’re still inside the Finder! And did I say the impact on CPU resources is minimal? This window in Activity Monitor on my PowerBook G4 17″ showed 0.2% CPU usage.

     

    System Requirements

    These Contextual Menu add-ons only work on PowerPC Macs. On the Pixture website you’ll notice Jaguar, Panther under System Compatibility, but they also work under Tiger and Leopard. (In Leopard, the additional contextual menus are added to the More command at the bottom of the standard Finder contextual menu — you can see that in the screenshots above). These tools do not work on Intel Macs. I hope you’ll find them as useful as I did, and if someone from Pixture Studio is reading this, thank you for creating these great add-ons.

    Forgotten utilities: TattleTech

    Personal Computer World magazine used to have (maybe it still has — I haven’t bought a copy in the last 10 years or so) a very nice Hands On section, with a lot of articles divided in various categories: 3D, 32 bit, Beginners, Computer Answers, DOS, Graphics & DTP, Multimedia, Networks, OS/2, Windows, etc., and of course a Macintosh category. I have several PDFs of this Hands On section from the 1995-1997 era, and I’m very glad I kept the old CDs where they were stored.

    In the Macintosh Hands On articles of that time, there usually was a box with a short review of the Utility of The Month. And this is the review by Chris Cain taken from PCW’s December 1995 issue — the Utility of the Month is TattleTech, a very nifty application I always include in the set of utilities I copy throughout my vintage Macs.

    Here is a little shareware number I pulled down from eWorld, called TattleTech. No sooner was it downloaded, it saved the day. TattleTech was originally known as “TattleTale”, a program I first encountered in my Mac IIsi days. Much improved since then, it is a semi-diagnostic program that investigates your machine’s configuration and reports the findings. TattleTech can tell you about general hardware, such as what kind of processor your machine has, what speed it is and how much RAM there is, and also about more complicated issues such as system patches, extension version numbers and open files. A complete list can then be printed for your records. TattleTech is ideal for keeping track of what’s in and on your system, seeing what parts are written in native PowerPC code, and for tracking down problems with extensions. It costs nothing to try out and could save you a lot of time if you have a software conflict. TattleTech currently resides in the ZiffNet Hot Downloads section in the eWorld Computer Center. It doesn’t support PCI at the moment. […]

    Here are a couple of screenshots of the latest (and last) version of TattleTech (2.84) taken on my PowerBook 5300:

     

    The main TattleTech window, which usually opens the General Hardware section.
    The main TattleTech window, which usually opens the General Hardware section.

     

     

     

    All the information TattleTech can provide about your Mac is divided in various sections, accessible from this drop-down menu.
    All the information TattleTech can provide about your Mac is divided in various sections, accessible from this drop-down menu.

     

     

    Of course, TattleTech 2.84, being released in 2002, does support PCI and also runs in the Classic Environment under Mac OS X (up to Tiger), although the author John Mancino in the Read Me file warns:

    TattleTech will run under Classic in OS X. However, due to Apple’s implementation of the Name Registry under Classic, some of the more important information related to hardware is no longer available. To regain this functionality would require a major re-write of the code to run under Carbon and I have elected not to undertake this effort.

    TattleTech used to be shareware. I had the 2.81 version and thought it was the most recent. While researching prior to writing this post, I discovered that 2.84 is the latest and last, and also that it has been turned into a freeware application. Surprisingly, despite many search results in Google, a valid download link is quite hard to find. Sites like VersionTracker, ZDNet, Cnet, Donwload.com and the like all point to the homepage of TattleTech’s author, John Mancino (the direct link is this), but currently that website appears down.

    I managed to find a copy on a Taiwanese university FTP site (direct download link). I usually don’t abuse FTP sites — some have bandwidth problems and usually prevent massive simultaneous access to their resources. So I’ll also provide a link here. (Disclaimer: I’m doing this under a ‘fair use’ perspective: if the author of the software doesn’t want me to distribute TattleTech this way, he can contact me and I will remove the link(s) provided).

    Download TattleTech 2.84

    [Update: link fixed, thanks Nicola!].