Thursday, December 29, 2011

Posting Binaries on Usenet

I've written about Usenet before, as in downloading off Usenet, but I've never gotten around to posting binaries or feeling a need to. Until now. I saw a request for an old movie that I had as an ancient VHS rip, and the request looked so lonely I just had to fill it. But how? I never posted to Usenet before, so I fired up MT-Newswatcher X and thought it would be a simple process. Instead I found a deal-breaker. First, it doesn't encode files in yenc. Annoying, but not a death blow. But then I found out it doesn't post filenames longer than 31 characters. Hold on. Now I like Mac OS 9 just as much as the next person, but do we really want to go back there? No, no, no. There has to be another option.

So I went looking, and there aren't a ton of choices for OS X. There's Unison by Panic, Inc. (Panic, huh? As in kernel panic? Oh, wait, that's Unsanity). There's also Thoth by living legend Brian Clark. Both of these are shareware, and there's also a shareware utility called Cocoa Newspost whose developer website is missing, so support may have ended.

I also looked at the possibility of using Pan on OS X, but while deciding to steer clear of that PITA, I learned about a command line utility called Newspost. A command line utility? No simple GUI, having to learn complex text commands, having to compile it yourself? Baby, you're a black hole and I'm a nice plump juicy class G star!

Newspost's website calls it a "usenet binary autoposter for Unix," but there is no statement it runs on OS X. However, OS X is Unix, so why not compile it and try it, right? Well, what do ya know, it worked! All it took was a simple make && make install, no configure script necessary. The only glitch was man newspost returned No manual entry for newspost. Don't know why that is since it's in /usr/local. Oh well, the man page is here on the internet, too. Now let's get on to using it!

There are basically two commands you need to enter. First, setting your defaults (just once), and second, the command to post (for each time you post). Setting your defaults is the stunningly complicated and labor intensive task of typing this:

newspost -f emailaddress -F personality -o organization -i newsserver -u username -p password -z 119 -d

Replace emailaddress with the email you want other users to see, personality with the name you want other users to see (enclose it in quotes if it has a space), organization with your organization, newsserver with your Usenet news server address, username with your Usenet account username, password with your password (please make it more complex than "password"). The port number is always 119, and the trailing -d says to make these defaults.

Next it's time to post something, probably to alt.binaries.test for starters. If you're posting a single file, this will require the stunningly complicated and labor intensive task of typing this:

newspost -s "subject of your post" -n alt.binaries.test -y /path/to/file

Posting multiple files can be done like this:

cd to /directory/of/files

newspost -s "subject of your post" -n alt.binaries.test -y filename*


or:

newspost -s "subject of your post" -n alt.binaries.test -y *.mp4

The "filename*" means you're posting all the files in that folder with the same filename but with different extensions (like a split mp4 with a bunch of pars and an nfo). The "*mp4" means posting every file in that folder with an mp4 extension.

And that's pretty much it. The man page and this how-to pretty much tell you all you need. So happy posting! Just don't break Usenet.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

TenFourFox 9 is Out!

Well, a release candidate, anyway. But it's the debut of methodjit which will come to our rescue now that tracejit is going the way of the dodo, and as a result our javascript scores won't take a massively negative hit. All the details are blogged by Cameron Kaiser, the lead developer, here (download link included), so go read for the compiler pr0n. But I can report to you my Dromaeo scores are about ten percent faster from version 8 to 9 on my ancient Sawtooth, and Sunspider shows a 25 percent improvement. Not bad work;)

On the GUI side, the only difference I see is a de-coloring of the stop/reload button. It used to be red/blue, but now it just blends with the white of the menubar. I've seen just one rendering problem, unfortunately with Blogger's Dashboard interface, so I'm writing this post in Safari. I could just try clicking the "Try the updated Blogger interface" link that's been staring at me for several months now, but that wouldn't be living up to my namesake. I think I'll deploy a corollary of my tried-and-true life strategy Ignore It Until It Goes Away. In this case, I'll Wait It Out Until It Comes Back. I'm sure it'll work.

UPDATE: The Blogger problem is a Firefox problem, not just TenFourFox.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Download Vimeo Videos

For the first time a video on Vimeo.com lured me to their website where, as a Vimeo newbie, I was confronted with the PowerPC conundrum of having flash installed but it being so crappy it made the video unwatchable. So I thought, there's Mactubes for Youtube and ways to convert flash to .mp4 on Youtube. Maybe there's the same for Vimeo. And after a little searching I found three (three!) reliable ways to download Vimeo videos as .mp4's.

The first is www.downloadvimeo.com. It's just a simple website where you paste the video url into the download field and it downloads the .mp4 to your default download folder. Simple, though this being a website, you never know if it'll disappear overnight, so I went looking for an application or Firefox add-on that'll do the trick, and indeed there are two (two!) Firefox add-on solutions.

First is FlashVideoReplacer. It works on Youtube and other streaming sites as well as Vimeo, and it gives you the option of watching the vid either embedded with the Quicktime plug-in, or you can also download the .mp4 to your hard drive. For embedded playback you need your Quicktime plug-in enabled.

The second add-on is a Greasemonkey script called Free Youtube! Also works with Youtube as well as Vimeo. When you install it, instead of the embedded video you get a simple download link in its place. Downloads the .mp4 to your hard drive, and that's that.

And there's 270 more words dedicated to getting around flash on PowerPC. They're gonna have to build the modern day equivalent of the Library of Alexandria to store it all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Flash on Facebook

I'm told in comments there is a crisis of epic proportions on Facebook that has naturally spawned a new Facebook page! Okay, putting aside Facebook users' tendency to match the outrage of the day with a corresponding Facebook page, it seems this time there is justification for PPC users as Facebook will no longer play flash videos unless you have the current Flash 11.1 installed (and Adobe's PPC support ended with 10.1). There's an ingenious fix detailed in this Youtube video, however, where the creator has made a modified Flash plugin to report itself as 11.1 even though it's still 10.1. Lo and behold, Facebook videos now work.

The direct download link is here (with a ReadMe included): http://www.steelbin.com/FPforFBPPC.zip

I've read several reports in forums saying it works, though I can't verify it myself since I don't do Facebook. Also this probably has security holes you can drive a tank through, but luckily there don't appear to be enough PPC Mac users to attract the hackers of the world.

That Facebook page for PPC Macs above might be worth keeping an eye on, too, as there may be more issues popping up in the future.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Progress

Windows '95:

Windows 95 desktop

iOS '11:

iOS home screen

Wow. We've come a long way in 84 years.

OS X Stocking Stuffers

Since it's coming up one Christmas, Hanukkah and whatnot season, I thought I'd toss out some little OS X nuggets I've discovered over the years. These aren't full-fledged features per se, more like little stocking stuffers that not everyone is aware of:

Control-Click any text in cocoa apps for a quick dictionary/thesaurus definition. Just choose "Look Up in Dictionary" from the resulting menu and you get a mini popup dictionary. Very handy for when I want to look up a quick synonym.

Command-Click filename in window title bar to get the full path. This is useful if you have more than one partition or you're just disorganized in general.

Command-Click and drag menubar items to change their order. For the proper feng shui.

Shift-Click the Force Quit menu item to force quit current application. This is a nice easy way to relaunch the Finder.

Command-Option-Control-8 reverses or inverts screen colors. This is great if you're reading a black-background web page with white text and it's killing your eyes. Just hit the above key combo and you have black text on a white background. Also this can be good for dimming your screen since most of your screen is usually white or light colors. Like if you want to use your laptop in bed but you don't want to wake your partner after a particularly rigorous lovemaking session, just hit the keys and you have a nice dark screen that still retains contrast.

Also, dragging your home folder into the dock makes the Finder much more usable.

Now if only I could find a way to remove the existential taunting from a blinking cursor.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Compile mplayer on OS X

Finally, success. My tears of frustration did not short out my kkkkkkeyboard and I ca finally type ut thi simple howto (well, simle for me ayway).

So why compile mplayer? There's a relatively recent binary for Tiger and up available here inside an application wrapper that you can extract if you want to use it from the command line. It's from September 2009, recent enough for pretty much anything now, but it's almost 2012 and 2014 or 2015 are just around the corner, and by then it'll be six years old. So what if nobody steps up and provides a distributable binary for Tiger or PowerPC users? What if it's 2015 and users clinging to Classic and using TenFourFox 147 need an updated binary? Well, you're gonna have to roll your own and here are the basic steps to do it.

First, in order to compile anything, you need to install Xcode. In fact, for this compile specifically, you'll need SVN and Git, too. Specific instructions about this are in two posts back here. Also, you'll need to install Make 3.82 available here.

If you haven't added /usr/local/bin to your path, do it now by editing or creating ~/.bash_profile and adding the line:

. ~/.bashrc
(don't forget both dots).

Then edit or create the file ~/.bashrc with the line:

PATH="$PATH:/usr/local/bin"

With this you can call anything installed in /usr/local/bin simply by typing the application name in the command line.

Onto compiling:

On the surface it's just a simple process of downloading the source, running ./configure, make, and sudo make install, but I came across a few hurdles that I'll show you how to get over.

First, create a new folder to download the source into, set that folder to the current directory, and then download the source with these three commands:

mkdir ~/Development

cd ~/Development

svn checkout svn://svn.mplayerhq.hu/mplayer/trunk mplayer (on one line)

Then you want to run the configuration script like this:

cd mplayer

./configure --enable-menu --with-freetype-config=/usr/X11R6/bin/freetype-config (on one line, the two arguments are for OSD support and require X11 to be installed)

At this point I got a message I wasn't prepared for: No FFmpeg checkout, press enter to download one with git or CTRL+C to abort

When I didn't have Git installed, that was a problem. But after I installed Git and reran the script, I simply pressed enter and continued on. At this point you may get a longer error message that ends with:

git pull failed, (re)move ffmpeg/mp_auto_pull to disable pulling

The solution is to remove "mp_auto_pull" from ~/Development/mplayer/ffmpeg. Then when the ./configure script ends, run make. But there's a bug here. Make 3.80 won't work. You'll get an error, make: *** virtual memory exhausted. Stop. You have to upgrade to Make 3.82.

After installing 3.82, you'll notice the default Make is still 3.80 in /usr/bin. Since I didn't know how to make the new version the default and wasn't sure of the implications of mixing an updated Make with other dev tools, I just invoked it by typing its full path. So after the ./configure script completes, type:

/usr/local/bin/make (this will take awhile)

Then at the conclusion, run:

sudo /usr/local/bin/make install

And that's it! You should have a working binary. To get Truetype subtitles working, you can copy any fontname.ttf file from your /Library/Fonts directory to ~/.mplayer/subfont.ttf like:

cp /Library/Fonts/fontname.ttf ~/.mplayer/subfont.ttf (one line)

The file in your ~/.mplayer folder must be called subfont.ttf.

When I first started this whole mess, I couldn't get it to compile with OSD support. I tried using Macports to install some of the dependencies as described here, and man what a nightmare. Finally I went back to look for a simple explanation and found the ./configure arguments for OSD support here.

And with that I'm gonna watch a movie.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Linux MintPPC 11 is Out!

I just installed the new MintPPC 11 and have been playing around with it, so this is more a quick look than a comprehensive review but I like what I see.

First, the authors announce this is based on Debian Wheezy (testing) so there are likely to be some bugs. This is roughly equivalent to what Ubuntu does, basing their releases on the "testing" branch rather than "stable". The advantage is you get newer versions of software like Iceweasel 7.

I can report to you that Iceweasel 7 is fast. Like super-fast. Another very cool piece of software installed by default is Minitube, a youtube viewer for PPC users lacking flash.

The install was hassle free. The only head scratcher was when confronted with a screen asking you to choose which kernel. I chose version 3 since it was highlighted by default. I thought, "Well, I'll probably break sleep with this, but what the hell? Latest and greatest, right?" And predictably, sleep doesn't work. Other users report sleep works fine, so maybe they went with the safer 2.6 kernel.

Setting up wireless was pretty painless. Sound began muted, but I just had to untick the mute box and had sound working. The LXDE desktop was slick and its memory usage was low. Everything runs comfortably in this iBook with 256 MB of RAM. MintPPC installs by default a variety of of useful software, so everything's there pretty much set up for the average user.

One last thing, unlike the stable branch, mplayer from testing now works on G3's. The stable version was compiled it appears for G4's only. However, VLC still breaks when playing video. I got the stable version working by compiling my own, but I haven't gotten to that here yet.

So give MintPPC a shot. If you're new to it, just register for free at their website and you'll find install instructions and a responsive forum area. Good luck.

UPDATE: If you have a dual boot system, beware that the Debian installer MintPPC uses can corrupt your OS 9 drivers making your OS 9 partition unbootable. The solution is to run Drive Setup from a Mac OS 9 install CD and update drivers. I wrote about this earlier here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

SVN, Git and Xcode for Tiger

So I'm having this nightmare trying to compile the latest development version of mplayer on Tiger, and I plan on writing about it if my tears don't short out my keyboard before then, but I thought I'd drop by with a quick post in the meantime about some tools you'll need in the process.

These are basic development tools that are getting hard to find for Tiger, and they're also not just for compiling mplayer. If you want to do any compiling or developing, these are the tools you want.

First one's the big one. Xcode from Apple. You can get this either from your install DVD or by downloading it from Apple's website. It's better to download it as you can get the latest version. You have to sign up for a free developer's account and then do a little hunting around on the site, but if you click Resources at the top, then find a Mac OS X Downloads link, you'll eventually come to the Downloads section. Tiger users want to download Xcode 2.5 Developer Tools. Leopard users, your latest version is I believe 3.1.4. The whole install will end up taking a couple of gigabytes, but on the plus side you now start developing all those awesome apps for Tiger you always wanted to.

Another tool you'll need to retrieve source code is SVN, a version control system that supplanted CVS as the popular choice. The Tiger version can be found by going to svnbinaries: Home, then clicking on "Need to download older binaries?", clicking the OS X folder, then choosing Subversion 1.4.6 Universal.

The last tool I have for you is Git, a version control system that supplanted SVN as the popular choice. Honestly, world, I wish you'd make up your mind. Both Tiger and Leopard universal binaries can be found here.

One thing going for Git, it has the funniest install ReadMe I've seen. It says, well, I'll just quote it:

GIT - the stupid content tracker

"git" can mean anything, depending on your mood.

• random three-letter combination that is pronounceable, and not actually used by any common UNIX command. The fact that it is a mispronunciation of "get" may or may not be relevant.
• stupid. contemptible and despicable. simple. Take your pick from the dictionary of slang.
• "global information tracker": you're in a good mood, and it actually works for you. Angels sing, and a light suddenly fills the room.
• "goddamn idiotic truckload of sh*t": when it breaks
I vote the latter.

UPDATE: Oh, look. Somebody made Homebrew for Tiger and Leopard PowerPC.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Editra - The Text Editor Written in Python for Tiger

Open source software projects make me feel useless. Reading through their forums and blogs brings me to posts about code and requests for code, and I don't know how to write code! So I decided this would change, that I'd learn a computer language hopefully enough to where I could contribute something in the not-too-faraway future. Since the consensus is that Python is the best language to learn first, I'm gonna take a crack at that.

Now I just need a text editor.

And, no, TextEdit isn't what I'm talking about. I want a full-featured text editor that's extensible and can come with all the bells and whistles if I want them. Also, current development for Tiger would be nice.

Lo and behold, there is such a text editor, and it's called Editra. It's cross-platform and appropriately enough written in Python. It has a tabbed interface and all the basic features of a real text editor, like syntax highlighting, etc., and it also comes with a plug-in system for extending the features further. And did I mention it still supports Tiger?

For another text editor that's cross platform, you could also try the java written jEdit. And though TextWrangler and Smultron dropped Tiger development, you can still download old versions (here for TextWrangler, here for Smultron).

At this point, though, I'm going with the Python app. And if you want to test the waters in learn a computer language yourself, check out this Youtube playlist - http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEA1FEF17E1E5C0DA. A lot of great instructional videos.

Monday, October 10, 2011

SSD Performance on Various 'Books

Check out these videos showing SSDs in action on iBooks and Powerbooks of yore.

First one is MintPPC Linux booting on an iBook G3 800Mhz:



Next one shows web browsing performance on a clamshell iBook:



Also, boot time comparison between a clamshell 466 MHz SSD vs. a Powerbook 1.67 GHz HDD:



Word:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spaces Alternatives for Tiger

I've never been a big fan of virtual desktops. They've been a longtime feature on Linux, though not on Tiger, so when Leopard came out with Spaces, I was indifferent. However, I stumbled across a couple of virtual desktop applications for Tiger and decided to take a look at all the fun I was missing.

The first I tried was VirtueDesktops:



Development was halted with the arrival of Leopard, but it still works on Panther and Tiger systems. On my Tiger install it seemed stable but incomplete. The preferences weren't as intuitive as I'm used to, and there appeared to be a pager feature that I couldn't get working. But for simple desktop switching (with hotkey support) it worked well.

The second Spaces alternative is Desktop Manager:



Development seems also to have halted, but it's very polished. Transitions are the same as VirtueDesktops, slide and cube, etc. However, Desktop Manager has a pager in the menubar for quick switching with the mouse, hotkey support, and also has an optional pager for the desktop.

All in all, I liked these little apps, but it's not enough to convince me to switch to multiple desktops. My word processing / browsing / email are so wrapped up in each other I like having the whole mess of them all on one screen. But if you want a little more organization in your life, go for it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

OS X Apps That Still Support PPC

As promised, following my not comprehensive list of old PPC versions of apps that stopped supporting PPC, here now is my not comprehensive list of applications that still, as of this writing, support the platform. There are actually many more, but I thought I'd list a mix of popular titles along with a few that you may not have heard of and should give a try. So download away:

Ableton (music production suite)

Adium (multi-platform chat client)

Audacity (sound recording/editing)

Burn (great disc burning app)

Carbon Copy Cloner (backup utility)

Celestia (astronomy, space simulator)

CorePlayer (I haven't tried this, but everyone who has swears it's the most CPU efficient media player there is)

Cyberduck (ftp)

DropBox (backup and syncing)

GraphicConverter (image editing)

Growl (system notification)

iText Express (TextEdit fork with expanded features, the perfect middle ground between a simple text editor and a huge office suite)

LibreOffice (huge office suite)

Mac DVDRipper Pro (backup your DVDs)

MacFamilyTree (genealogy)

MacTubes (Youtube viewer)

MPEG Streamclip (Quicktime-based video editor, still supports Jaguar!)

MPlayerOSX Extended (advanced GUI for mplayer)

OpenOffice.org (huge office suite)

Perian (extra codecs for Quicktime Player)

SABnzbd (usenet downloader)

Seashore (image editor)

Skim (pdf viewer, note taker)

TenFourFox (really, if you're not using this by now I don't know what more I can say)

ToyViewer (lightweight and surprisingly powerful image viewer/editor)

The Unarchiver (archive decompression, many many formats, essential at this point, just install it and don't look back)

VLC (media player, DVD decoding, streaming, everything)

Warbirds (massively multiplayer online WWII flight simulator)

X Lossless Decoder (CD ripping)

XBMC (all your media are belong to XBMC)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Old PPC Versions of Notable Apps

There comes a time when everyone has to let go. We turn the page and look forward to a new day. Unless we're PowerPC users and that new day isn't any better than the old day and has more RAM requirements. But this isn't a rant. It's merely to take note of some of the more notable applications that have halted PPC support and point out that not all is lost. There are still old PPC versions available for download, and in some cases (Skype) more usable than the new versions. So here it is in list form, my not comprehensive list of applications that have halted PPC support and where you can still download the old PPC versions:

Adobe Air 1.5.3 (a runtime environment for TweetDeck) available here.

Adobe Flash 10.1.102.64 available here.

Firefox 3.6.22 is here (TenFourFox is a PowerPC port for later versions of Firefox).

Google Earth 4.3 can be grabbed here. 5.2 is actually the last PPC version, but it tries to install an autoupdate bug/background-app that is way not cool. 4.3 is free of it.

Handbrake 0.91 (Tiger) and 0.94 (Leopard) are here. An unofficial PPC build for 0.95 is here, but it's Leopard only.

NeoOffice 3.1.2 (OpenOffice.org fork) can be had here.

Opera 10.63 is available here.

Quicksilver B54 (launcher and much more) is here.

Skype 2.8 is here.

Thunderbird 3.1.14 is here (TenFourBird is a PowerPC port for later versions of Thunderbird).

Transmission 2.22 (Leopard) and 1.54 (Tiger) are here (a newer build for version 2.31 that runs on Tiger with the Qt interface is available here).

Next up, in happier news, a not comprehensive list of applications still supporting PowerPC.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Free Racing Games For Your Mac

I have a new addiction. No, not pills. That's reserved for the next decade. No, my addiction is racing games. I made a big mistake downloading a few racing games for the Mac, and I thought I'd share them and turn you into wasted, glassy-eyed junkies, too. The three games are TORCS, VDrift, and Dolphinity Racer. The first two are open source, and all three are freely available for OS X as well as other platforms. They all have their pros and cons and are different enough to make you want to play all three. I tested these on a 1.5 GHz AlBook and a Sawtooth with an ATI 9000 upgrade. So here's the round up:

Dolphinity Racer is the most graphics and processor hungry of the three. The latest for OS X is v0.5.4.3, which is a universal binary so it'll work on PowerPC. Unfortunately the developer hasn't updated the OS X version in quite some time, and it's not open source so compiling newer versions isn't an option. That being said, it looks good in the graphics department, and the physics engine feels realistic.

The base install comes with just one track and one car type, so the idea is to download user-created tracks and cars which you can find links to on Racer's website (there's also a huge number of tracks and cars available here). They're generally high quality though I had to turn down the graphics settings to get good frame rates. On a low end machine like a Sawtooth forget about racing other cars. You can barely get usable frame rates racing alone. Obviously it's much better on the AlBook, and there's also an .ini file you can edit beyond the preferences presented in the GUI.

(UPDATE: The problem with user-created tracks is they don't come with an AI default.ini, so the AI cars default to 25 mph. You're supposed to be able to create an AI profile for the track yourself by pressing F6 before the start line, drive a good lap, then press F7 to save the profile and rename it "default.ini" to have it apply to all car models on that track. However, when I press F7 nothing is saved. Frustrating.

You can compensate for this somewhat by bringing down the console with Shift - ~, then entering the command "ai performance 2". This will make your dumb AI opponent go at twice its normal speed. "ai performance 3" will make it go three times normal (decimals can also be used). You may notice your AI car skidding off the track at this point, which you can deal with by increasing the AI's tire traction. Do this by editing "grip_factor" in that car model's "car.ini" found in the data folder. The Lamborghini that comes with the base install already has grip_factor in its car.ini, but you may find user-created cars omit it from theirs. In that case you can just copy and paste the Lamborghini's grip_factor into another car's ini file, though don't forget to paste that whole "ai" section including the open and close brackets. After applying all this, you will now enjoy a fast and totally reckless AI opponent.)

VDrift is about, you guessed it, drift racing. In many ways this is the best of the three. The graphics look good and framerates are higher than Racer. The physics engine feels very realistic, and you can also download and install new tracks and cars. The only negative was you can't collide with other cars. You just pass right through them (or they through you).

The ability to have car collisions came with the update just released, but it's Intel only. A developer in the forums said they'd try to build a universal binary but wasn't sure it was doable. Also if you download the previous version that supports PowerPC, the AlBook with an ATI 9700 Mobility renders smoke as solid white, no transparency, so it's not playable. The 2009-02-15 version, though, works great. Lower end users like on a Sawtooth might want to try version 2008-08-05 for better framerates.

Finally there's what may be the most addictive of them all, TORCS (The Open Racing Car Simulator). I don't know if the physics engine is totally realistic. It feels very frenetic and too fast at first. I've dealt with this by choosing older "historic" cars to race with (old sports cars from the 60's & 70's) which don't drive as fast and are easier to handle. That being said, this is the most action packed of the three. Some cars even deliberately bump you and try to take you out. The framerates are high, though the graphics aren't up to par with VDrift and Racer. It actually varies between tracks. Some are good, others look very 2002.

The latest OS X version on their website is 1.2.4, but Stephen Hudson has made his compile of 1.3.0 available here (UPDATED link here), so that's the version you want. It's a universal binary so it'll run on PowerPC. Unfortunately the latest version available to Windows and Linux users is 1.3.1 whose most significant changes are the addition of several cars and tracks, including the two best tracks from a graphics standpoint, "alpine-2" and "forza". However, 1.3.0 users can install these, too. You can download the 1.3.1 tracks separately here and install the new tracks in the TORCS app package by clicking "Show Package Contents" and placing the individual track folders in Torcs.app/Contents/Resources/tracks. Dirt tracks go in the "dirt" folder, road tracks go in the "road" folder, etc. Alpine-2 and forza are road tracks. I haven't tried adding cars with this method yet, but I suspect it would work, too.

With all three of these games you can use the mouse for steering. Only VDrift recognized my ten year old Macally iStick. There are no OS X drivers for the stick, so it's a crapshoot whether a game will recognize it. As far as maximizing framerates, toggle the view button so there's no hood visible (in TORCS) or at least put yourself inside the car (Racer), and limit the viewing distance to as little as you can tolerate.

Anyway, try all three. You're bound to get addicted to at least one, and then we can all enable each other's addiction and dig our claws into each other and drag each other down:)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Twitter Clients for PowerPC

There have been tons of Twitter clients over the years as Twitter has risen to be the sun we all revolve around, but those numbers have dwindled significantly as Twitter has repeatedly changed its sign-in protocols and rendered non-updated clients useless. Every time Twitter makes a change, more twitter birdies fall out of the sky.

The problem is even more pronounced for Tiger and Leopard users on PowerPC where older clients that still work on those platforms are most likely to fall by the wayside. However, I found five options that still work on PPC, four on Tiger and one that requires Leopard.

For Tiger, the first client is a menubar add-on called Twit Menulet. In fact, it even runs on Panther. It's the only shareware on this list ($8) and it works as a dropdown menu from the menubar that shows your Twitter feed along with options for individual tweets like retweet, reply, and direct message--the basics. Still, it's a unique concept that just works in a way that's simple and unobtrusive.

The second, Twidget, is similar except instead of a menulet it's a widget. This is another simple client that does the basics well, although one disappointment was that I couldn't enlarge the window to show more than a couple of tweets without having to scroll down.

If you want full-fledged Tiger clients with more than the basics, though, the only options I found are twhirl and TweetDeck, both requiring the Adobe Air runtime environment. Adobe Air stopped supporting PowerPC, but fortunately you can download the older PPC version (1.5.3) here which both twhirl and TweetDeck still run on (for now, anyway).

twhirl, like all Air applications uses a lot of RAM and can be a bit sluggish to the touch. It's a bit like using a java application but it's definitely usable. In addition to the basics it comes with additional options like search, url shortening, and picture posting. It's intuitive and, though not a cocoa app, it's not altogether unattractive. Nice dock integration, too.

TweetDeck is a bit of a RAM hog as well, though it has one innovation the others don't: multiple columns. Here's where you can really use the power of a Twitter client, by browsing through groups, filtering, searching, etc. Following dozens or hundreds of people can be overwhelming, and TweetDeck helps you manage it. It's the most popular Twitter client for a reason.

There's also Syrinx, which I could not test because it requires Leopard which I don't have, but it looks to be a solid client with a nice customizable interface. There's one other client called Bosco's Reader that runs on Tiger which I didn't install because the installer wanted an administrative password, and really, I wasn't in the mood for that. Not after I read a review of a media aggregator called Elmedia that installs a kernel extension (holy crap!). Bosco's Reader is ad supported, and they seem to be aggressive about promoting it on the web. I have to say, googling "Bosco's Reader OS X" and seeing endless results with sub-headings of "Bosco's Reader makes Twitter accessible to the rest of us. I designed it for my Mom, who constantly..." was one of the weirdest experiences of my life. But I wouldn't want that to deter you from trying it.

All that being said, if you still want to experience Twitter in your web browser, there are many fine add-ons you can install in TenFourFox. You are using TenFourFox, aren't you?

UPDATE: It looks like Tweetdeck for PowerPC bit the dust. Their homepage says the latest version requires 10.6 and a 64 bit processor. Normally my sympathies don't go out to Intel users, but a 64 bit requirement for a menial application like Tweetdeck? Harsh.

In the good news department, however, I've just discovered a command line client called TTYtter. It's by the same developer as TenFourFox, and it looks really good. Has an old IRC feel to it, so I recommend you check that out.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Linux MintPPC the Future?

Dr. Dave pointed me out in comments to MintPPC which I used briefly and forgot to write about. Dave says it's the future of powerpc, and I'm prone to agree with him. Basically it's an out-of-the-box-everything-just-works distribution that ports the Linux Mint Debian distribution over to PPC and includes some fixes specifically for PPC hardware. These are features Debian's main distribution makes you enable manually, giving birth to some of my more verbose and prose-award worthy blog posts, specifically wireless, graphic hardware rendering, and sound.

Wireless on an original Airport card and some hardware rendering don't work out of the box in Debian because of licensing issues, and sound doesn't work apparently out of ultra caution about some bug in the past that may not even exist anymore. But instead of making you, the user, muck around forums and horribly written blogs looking for answers, MintPPC takes care of all these features for you and has them enabled by default. Much easier on the newbie.

When I was using it, I was generally impressed. It has a slick look (screenshots) and snappy performance, and the MintPPC developers have even compiled the newest versions of Iceweasel (Firefox re-branded), something unavailable to Debian PPC users. I ended up going back to regular Debian, though, because I wanted to use Openbox on top of Gnome-core for my iBook install, which you can do on MintPPC but you'd end up with a bunch of Mint-specific software you weren't using. Also I'm a masochist.

So go ahead and check out MintPPC's website. It's completely painless.

Monday, September 5, 2011

TenFourFox 7 Beta

While Floodgap is temporarily down, I've been keeping track of TenFourFox's development via Cameron Kaiser's blog and saw he's released the first beta for TenFourFox 7, about the equivalent of Firefox 7 beta 4. I've been using it about a day and as always am really happy with it.

Visually it's almost the same, except they've now removed the http:// from the urls. So Mozilla's address bar team continues to fix problems that didn't exist. I haven't noticed any remarkable speed improvements on my ridiculously low-end system. Twitter definitely seems faster, other sites I couldn't tell. The best news is that RAM usage is a bit lower. It's been between 150 and 200 MB for me, though it's only been a day. I'm sure tomorrow it'll shoot up to 450.

So give it a download. You may have to upgrade your add-ons. I had to install a new Flashblock, which thankfully had been updated to be compatible. And stay safe out there. It's a jungle of SSL certificates.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Flight Simulators in OS X Classic

One of my favorite things about computers are flight simulators. Ever since I got a hand-me-down Mac Plus and played Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 and Bullseye's P-51 Mustang on it, I've been addicted. Seriously, when I looked away from the screen, I'd still see the pixelated horizon. It was a trip.

Unfortunately the golden age of flight sims on the Mac has passed (that was somewhere between 1994 and 1999), but that doesn't mean we can't still enjoy those older titles even if all our Macs can't boot into OS 9. This is where Classic Mode comes in. Unfortunately this feature was dropped in Leopard, but Tiger users can still fire up OS 9 software which goes to the purpose of this post. I want to focus on three flight simulators that perform great in Classic Mode.

Now, not all do. A-10 Cuba! and Apache Longbow for example have stuttering graphics, and forget about "Fly!" It won't even start. But there are three quality simulators that perform just as well as if you were booted into OS 9. The first is F/A-18 Korea Gold. This is a jet fighter sim, and as you can see in the screenshots, the graphics are antiquated but still respectable.

Looking down on Pearl Harbor:


Shooting down a Mig at dusk:


The max screen size for this sim is 1024 X 768, and with all the other graphics options maxed out, framerates are the same as OS 9 on my Sawtooth with an ATI 9000 video card. I couldn't see any degradation in performance in Classic Mode.

The second sim is a World War II simulator called SkyFighters 1945 by the late Donald Hill. It's both simple and challenging, and while lacking the eye-candy of IL-2 or the degree of difficulty of Targetware, it's great for just getting up and flying.

A Corsair escorting B-25's over the Soloman Islands:


That's me in the Spitfire getting shot down by an Me-109 over the White Cliffs of Dover:


As with F/A-18 Hornet, the screen size maxes out at 1024 X 768, and there was no loss of performance in Classic Mode compared to being booted in OS 9.

Finally there's Falcon 4.0. This was regarded as the most accurate of jet sims and kept a loyal following for years afterward. I think you'd need years just to get through the manual. This one was a bit peculiar, because while in 2D cockpit mode, the default, framerates were poor, but when using the virtual cockpit where you can swivel your head around instead of switching views in increments, framerates were very high. In fact, in the 2D cockpit framerates returned to very high if the view was anywhere but forward. There's something about having the 2D cockpit visible in front that really slows things down. Maybe you need a G5 for this, but nevertheless it's an excellent performer if you can adjust to flying full time in virtual cockpit mode.



All three of these are hosted on the abandonware site Macintosh Garden, and you can occasionally find them for sale on eBay as well in case you want to be all OCD and collect the original packaging (slowly raises hand).

And if you come to me on your knees begging forgiveness for upgrading to Leopard and say you'll never do it again, I won't be all hardass and deny you absolution.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

LibreOffice PPC Needs Beta Testers Like Mars Needs Women

I updated LibreOffice to 3.4.2 now that it's a final release and found a new feature that wasn't in the "What's New" docs. When using Writer, the font rendering of certain fixed-width fonts is a little... off. See if you can spot it. (UPDATE: This bug is fixed in LibreOffice 4.0.4)


Notice how lower case i's after lower case f's are scrunched together? The font above is Courier, but I also found the glitch on American Typewriter and Monaco, although not in other fixed-width fonts like Andale Mono and Courier New. Here's how the same sentence looked in 3.3 (and also in OpenOffice's current release):


That's how a monospace font is supposed to look, so something got screwed up in the update. Also, look what happens in the updated version when I open the sentence from a plain text document saved in TextEdit in Mac OS Roman format:


And then from a TextEdit file saved in .rtf format:


The special characters translate fine from a text document saved in UTF format, and also if it's saved in .doc format. The .rtf issue was not present in the older version, but I believe the Mac OS Roman issue was.

So get out there and start beta testing so they can catch these things!

(Don't look at me. Why are you looking at me like that?)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Prepping" For the Coming Apocalypse

I came across a new social movement the other day that I'd never heard of before. It's called the "Prepper" movement, and the gist of it is they're a bunch of individuals and families who believe some kind of apocalyptic event is approaching and they're "prepping" for it by buying and stocking up on wholesale goods like flower, rice, and freeze dried foods. This sounds a lot like the survivalists from the Cold War and Y2K days, but what's new is that wholesale outlets are now catering to this new crowd and reaching out for their business. Apparently there are enough of them to make a buck off of.

Anyway, all this apocalyptic talk got me thinking, "What's gonna happen to my blog?" What if the end of the world comes and Blogger pulls a Geocities with no warning? I need to back it up. I need to back it up on a hard drive. I need to back it up on disc. Hell, I need to transcribe it on stone tablet and bury it in the sand.

It turns out backing up your blog on Blogger is a simple affair. First, you sign in and go to your Dashboard and click on Settings. Right at the top are links Import Blog, Export Blog, and Delete Blog. First, put a post-it note on your screen over Delete Blog saying "DO NOT CLICK!" Then go over to Export Blog, click on it, and on the following page click the Download Blog button. An XML file containing all your posts and comments will be downloaded to your hard drive. Also, you might want to back up your blog template, so click on the Design tab at the top of the page, then hit the Edit HTML option and at the top will be a Download Full Template link. Click on it and you'll download another XML file containing your blog template. And you're done. As for transcribing it on stone tablets, I'll keep you updated on where to find a good chisel.

There's one other thing that got me thinking. Maybe these preppers are on to something. When hyperinflation or massive solar flares bring down the world order, we'll all be reduced to caveman technologies like manual can openers, hand crank generators, and... PowerPC! Think of the power we'll wield. Soon everyone will be turning to us for guidance. And when they ask us, "How do we turn off that darn fangled Spotlight?" we will tell them. And when they say, "How do I use this cotton pickin' Youtube?" we will show them the way. But I plead with you, fellow PowerPCers, show humility. They're likely to be traumatized, refugees in the truest sense. And don't make judgy comments about their tattered clothes. We must all survive together, PowerPCers, Intel refugees, tattered clothes and dirty faces and all.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Time to Update MacTubes Again

Youtube changed something in their url schemes, so time to update MacTubes to 3.0.8 to get it working again. Test it by doing a search of throwing muses bright yellow gun rvsaid and see possibly the most incongruent match between band and studio audience ever.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

WPA Wireless in Debian on a G3 iBook

Setting up wireless with an original Airport card is really easy with one caveat. WPA encryption doesn't work out of the box, just WEP, and everyone says using WEP is like opening your front door at night and having big search lights on your lawn inviting every robber in the greater metropolitan area to help themselves to your leftover chicken. And we don't want that.

So to get WPA access working, you need to add contrib and non-free repositories to your /etc/apt/sources.list file (just add contrib and non-free after main) and sudo aptitude update, and then:

sudo aptitude install linux-firmware-nonfree UPDATE: that's actually firmware-linux-nonfree

This installs the firmware needed to get WPA working. It also installs other bits of firmware, such as firmware for improved performance on ATI cards, so if you've already installed the package for your graphics card you don't need to install it again.

Next, you want to install wireless-tools and wicd. wicd is a very simple to use network manager that doesn't require Gnome, so you can use it in any environment. However, you can't have two network managers running at the same time, so if you already have Gnome's somewhat crappy network manager running, installing wicd will uninstall it.

Next, run wicd-client -n. This will open the graphical client. Open Preferences and type in your wireless interface (mine was eth1, but you can find out yours by running sudo iwconfig). Then close Preferences and hit the Refresh button and follow your intuition...

Okay, specifically find your network among the list and click Properties. Click "Use Encryption" and below select "WPA 1/2 (Passphrase)" and enter your router's wireless password. Then click Okay and then click Connect. You'll also want to check the "Automatically connect to this network" box if you want it to... automatically connect to the... you got it.

And as is my constant refrain, if the above didn't work I blame you. And that the response you get in the Debian forums will be slightly more professional.

UPDATE: I should also note the firmware supports only WPA, not WPA2. Also, connections will fail with AES encryption, so set your router for TKIP encryption instead.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TenFourFox 6 Beta

TenFourFox 6 Beta is here. It's based on Firefox 6. Are we already at Firefox 6? Soon it'll be 7, 8, and I'll feel like Keir Dullea in the last part of 2001 where he's the old man in the pristine white room whose world has passed him by. It seems like just yesterday I was oooing and awwing at version 3.

Anyway, the results so far are all good with one exception. The non domain name part of the url is grayed out in the address bar. It's kind of annoying at first, but it's easy to get over. Memory usage seems to a tad less than version 5 but not a huge difference. Speed? I never know if it's actually faster or if it's just the placebo effect of taking a nice new spiffy browser out of the box. But it feels zippy. Oh, and plugins are disabled by default, so if you want them you have to manually enable them as described here.

The best part, though, is now Twitter works again. They rewrote their website and it suddenly stopped working in 5. It was a javascript problem, and now it's fixed in 6. The whole debacle actually pointed me to a useful extension called YesScript. It's kind of like NoScript, only the complete opposite. It's not mind-numbingly complicated, and it enables you to blacklist individual sites instead of the entire internet. I used it to blacklist Twitter temporarily so I could at least read individual's pages with javascript turned off, but now all that's a moot point. Still, YesScript is a nice find and I recommend you try it out.

Oh, and I've been pointed to a highly experimental add-on that lets you play h.264 video in a Quicktime window. So if you want to turn your beta into an alpha, download it and install it per the instructions here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Top 10 Secret Features in Mac OS X Tiger

In honor of Lifehacker's Top 10 Secret Features in Mac OS X Lion, I think it's only fair to go back and compile a list of the secret features in Tiger. But don't tell anyone, 'cause it's a secret.

Anyway, here goes:

1. It won't eat your young when it takes over the pride.

2. You can run your old MacOS 9 applications in Classic mode.

3. An archaic Folders --> Files filing system that proves surprisingly useful. Go ahead, try it.

4. It doesn't require a minimum of 2GB of RAM to run. Shhhh. Don't tell anyone. Hardware manufacturers will throw a fit if you found out it's all about the software.

5. No longer supports Flash. Tell me that's obselescence and I'll go home and sew my mouth shut right now.

6. Free of touchscreen "features" for computers that are NOT TOUCH SCREEN.

7. Mail.app is feature frozen. Because it's just email, people. Stop with the mission creep!

8. Runs the latest and greatest in web browsers, TenFourFox.

9. Runs the latest and greatest in office suites, LibreOffice.

10. Not tethered to a ridiculous upgrade cycle where every couple of years you upgrade your system to play with the new toys only to find out after a couple of days they're completely useless.

11. The updated EULA requires the user feel a definite sense of superiority.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Too Much REM Sleep

I had a dream that Apple announced they were going back to the PowerPC architecture and I ran this video as the final post of this blog:



Oh, well. We can all dream, can't we?

Making ATI Cards Sing on Debian Linux

If you've installed Debian "Squeeze" on your laptop or desktop with an ATI card, you may have noticed that your graphics performance wasn't all that it could be, or more artfully, it's in the toilet. You may have investigated this problem by googling and peeking in numerous forums, always feeling you're so tantalizingly close to solving the problem that you could forgo posing a question to the grep nazis at the Debian forums for one more day, just one more day, and you'll have the answer. You pull your hair out and bang your keyboard. Soda cans and junk food wrappers pile up on your desk. You start bizarrely rocking back and forth in your chair thinking it can get you closer to your holy land. Well, before you go that far and embarrass yourself and, well, me frankly, take a look at this page.

Hint: install linux-firmware-nonfree.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for promulgating the above link so that anyone out there wouldn't waste hours of their time editing xorg.conf files and reading logs and mesa-utils outputs while the rest of you are no doubt sunning yourselves, making love, and biting grapes off from the stems like they did in those old Roman movies.

Thank you.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Newish mplayer Build For PPC and Tiger

So you may still be having nightmares at my previous post on mplayer (I know, it was as rambling as a terrorist manifesto), and you may remember I was using an mplayer binary from 2006 and I threw in some big talk about how I was gonna compile my own to bring it up to date. Well, someone else saved me the trouble. Sort of. This site has made available a GUI wrapper for mplayer, and, well, I'll let them explain it:
This is simply the MPlayer binary wrapped inside a MacOS X application bundle, allowing for drag and drop, file association and opening videofiles directly from the Finder. It is based on the application bundle from MPlayerOSX and the mplayer binary compiled from SVN@mplaerhq.hu (09.09.2009):

svn co -r29662 svn://svn.mplayerhq.hu/mplayer/trunk mplayer

This adaptation allows simple functionality like drag and drop, "Open with", file associations and opening of the MPlayer program without a graphical user interface. The mplayer binary itself provides with 300 video codecs and 141 audio codecs, the ability to open a wide range of movie files, streaming protocols dvd disks. In addition to the usual mplayer keyboard commands, there is support for the Apple remote.
The application comes with a bunch of configuration files that you edit manually, but since that requires a learning curve of, oh, about 5 minutes and I already know how to use mplayer from the commandline, I just extracted the binary file from the app package and used it in the Terminal. So now I have an mplayer binary from September, 2009. Not 2011 current, but it does much better decoding newer AVC files the 2006 version choked on.

So download it and use the GUI wrapper or whatever. I think you'll be pleased with the performance.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

An ATI Radeon 9000 Upgrade on a Sawtooth

I'd long wondered how much of a speed boost a new graphics card would be on my Sawtooth over my old, decrepit Rage 128 Pro. Seriously, the thing was actually turning gray, and it wasn't just the dust covering it. So when thinking about a replacement, I'd mentally settled on an ATI 9000 with 64 MB of memory. Now there are reasons you wouldn't want a 9000 on a Sawtooth, namely the ADC port won't work. Unlike all later Power Macs, the motherboard doesn't supply the ADC port with power, so unless you have an (expensive) adapter for the DVI port, you can't use an ADC monitor. Also, dual monitors are a no-go. But since I don't have an ADC monitor and made this far through life never having the urge to have dual monitors, I figured the 9000 would be an ideal upgrade for me because of the modest cost and lack of a cooling fan. And if you've ever had a graphics card fan wear out on you, you know what I'm talking about. (One more note: Linux has quality drivers for ATI cards, not so much for Nvidia cards, so if I want to boot Linux on this machine I'm gonna want an ATI card.)

So after looking on and off for a few months, I saw a 9000 on ebay for $0.99 plus $8.00 shipping and won the auction as the lone bidder. I also had to get a DVI to VGA adapter since my monitor is VGA, and that was it's own kind of adventure. Long story shorter, you need a DVI-I adapter, not a DVI-D adapter, which are sometimes referred to as DVI(24+1) as opposed to the DVI-Is which are sometimes referred to as DVI(24+5). Got all that? Now back to the 9000.

So I got all the stuff in the mail and installed the new card and fired it up. So how was it? The first thing I noticed was the mouse cursor now had a subtle shadow around it that wasn't rendered with the Rage 128 Pro. Then I did some speed tests on tasks that involved graphics and video and was pleasantly surprised at the results.

First I tried out an abandonware flight sim I like called OSX Skyfighters 1945. On an 800 X 600 resolution, frame rates were about 15% faster. Not a huge deal, but on a 1024 X 768 resolution, frame rates improved by about 35%. Video playback on vlc and mplayer was about 15% faster, and frame rates in the astronomy sim Celestia were between two and three times faster. Also, and I didn't expect this, frame rates in games played in Classic Mode improved as well.

Probably the most striking difference was with MacTubes. With the Rage 128 Pro, the videos would skip frames when displayed at 200% and stuttered in full screen to the point of being not very watchable. Now with the 9000 that's all gone. There's no frame skipping, not even in fullscreen. So now I'm watching fullscreen youtube videos on an eleven year old computer and having the last laugh. You have not defeated me, youtube. You have not defeated me.

Unfortunately, though, and this was the only disappointment, flash playing in a web browser showed no improvement, and that was with Hardware Acceleration in the settings menu switched on and off. But flash is evil, so we'll ignore this.

So the lesson here? If you have an old Power Mac with a Rage 128 Pro or, god forbid, a GeForce 2MX, a graphics card might be a cheap and easy upgrade well worth your time. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go watch MacTubes and make the 21st Century my bitch.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Tour Through TenFourFox's about:config

One of the coolest things about Firefox has been its about:config feature and its near endless array of preferences. You simply type about:config in the address bar, and it's like the keys to the kingdom. Turns out TenFourFox is no different and even has a few custom preferences of its own, so I thought I'd take a brief tour through some of the settings with an eye on speed enhancements.

First, type about:config in the address bar and make the obligatory promises not to break stuff. Then find the following preferences:

javascript.options.tracejit.chrome

This is set to false by default. Double click on false which changes it to true, and you might notice the interface seems a little snappier.

browser.download.manager.showWhenStarting

When true, this raises the download manager window when a download starts. However, on my Sawtooth I noticed that blue animated progress bar takes about 20%-25% of my CPU, so rather than keep closing the window after it pops up, I just have it not open at all. I already have MenuMeters in my menubar telling me my network activity, so I already know something's downloading.

browser.tabs.animate

Don't want animated tabs slowing you down? Set this to false.

Speaking of tabs, here are a couple more:

browser.tabs.tabClipWidth

This clips the width of your tabs when you have too many open, but it also eliminates the close tab button from all tabs except the one focused. The default value is 140 pixels. I switched mine to 80, and now the close button remains visible on all tabs.

browser.allTabs.previews

Set this to true and click on the list all tabs button at the right end of the tab bar.

And one more:

image.animation_mode

Change the value to once. Then animations will only play once and won't loop and slow down your browsing.

There are also a few settings that are unique to TenFourFox. Just type tenfourfox in the filter bar and you'll see there are three for now. They have to do with disabling certain troublesome plug-in features, and the developer has promised there will be more settings unique to TenFourFox in the future.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

HD On an Old Mac With mplayer

Probably the one thing, judging by people's statements in the many Mac forums, that makes people upgrade to Intel more than any other is HD video playback. They say their old Powerbook/Powermac is too slow, playback is choppy, or even [shiver] slideshow-esque. But in my extensive studies;) on this issue, I've found this isn't only a hardware question. There is a software component that many people aren't adequately exploring.

It should be noted right here, though, that if you're talking about flash video streamed in HD over the internet, you're most probably permanently out of luck. Flash is dead on PPC, and it was never any good when in active development, and HD video pushes it past the edge on everything except maybe a G5 quad.

But if you're talking about H.264 files like mp4's and mkv's, you may be in luck. By now you've probably tried Quicktime with the Perian plug-in or VLC and found the results lacking. Playback stutters, your computer's too slow, and you're back to square one. However, there's another player that's much more CPU efficient called mplayer, specifically, running the mplayer binary from the command line.

You can download a GUI version, MPlayer OSX, that's a bit long in the tooth here (UPDATE: a newer binary is available inside this app package). Maybe you've tried it before and didn't like it because the GUI was old. But the real strength of mplayer is the many parameters you can use from the command line. There are literally hundreds, too many to fit into a GUI, and a few of them greatly enhance playback on slower computers.

So the point of the above download is not to use the GUI, but to extract the binary by control-clicking on the app and choosing "Show Package Contents." Open Contents-->Resources-->External_Binaries and control-click on "mplayer_ppc.app" if you're on a G4 or "mplayer_noaltivec.app" if you're on a G3. Choose "Show Package Contents" again and open Contents-->MacOS and there's your binary. Duplicate "mplayer" and move it somewhere convenient like your desktop or applications folder. Other people say create a symlink to your /usr/local/bin, but my system doesn't have that folder, and now is not a good time for me to break my system so I'm gonna steer clear of that, thanks very much. I just put it in my applications folder and invoke it with /Applications/mplayer in Terminal.app. Luckily I don't have to type this out every time as I can hit the up arrow key to cycle through my previous commands.

Now let's fire up mplayer and experiment with its parameters. The simplest way is to enter /Applications/mplayer in the terminal, then add a space, then drag the file you want to play onto the terminal window. You will now notice the path to file has been printed after the final space like this:

/Applications/mplayer /Users/username/Desktop/themostgodawfultabooyoucanthinkof.mp4

Now press return and a window should arise playing the movie. And there are several keys to control playback, a listing of which is here. Arrow keys for moving backward and forward, f for fullscreen, q for quit, etc. No command-key necessary.

At this point, you'll say, "Great, but it's not that much different than VLC or Quicktime. It still stutters." That's because you're not using any parameters (slapping you upside the head). Now try this (all on one line):

/Applications/mplayer -really-quiet -framedrop /Path/To/File (no space between -really and -quiet)

(Incidentally, you can download a Star Trek trailer here that we can use as a common reference. It's a 720p mp4, and it's dubbed in Spanish!)

The -really-quiet is for reducing the output in the terminal window as the movie plays. The -framedrop is to skip late frames and keep the audio in sync.

Now you may say it's a little better, but still not there. Well, it's a little better than VLC/Quicktime because there's no GUI taking away CPU cycles. It only displays the movie itself. Quick demonstration: Play a movie in MPlayer OSX PPC and open Activity Monitor (or run top if you prefer). Notice how there are two entries, one "MPlayer Window" (the video itself), and the other "MPlayer OSX PPC" (the GUI). Notice the GUI using an additional percentage of your CPU in addition to the movie playing?

Now let's go back to the command line and add another parameter like this (again on one line):

/Applications/mplayer -really-quiet -framedrop -lavdopts skiploopfilter=all /Path/To/File

With the above Star Trek trailer, I can now view it stutter-free on a 1.5 GHz G4 Powerbook, something I can't do with VLC or Quicktime. However, you may not have a 1.5 GHz G4, and you still can't see smooth playback. Is there anything else you can do? Yes, with a qualification. You can add another option to the -lavdopts parameter, skipframe=nonref, that will reduce CPU usage by about 50% by skipping some frames to decode. This will result in something of a blinky effect like you're looking at an old zoetrope, but it makes a lot of files playable that weren't before. You can try it and see if your eyes adjust to it or not. Enter this (all on one line):

/Applications/mplayer -really-quiet -framedrop -lavdopts skiploopfilter=all:skipframe=nonref /Path/To/File

Also, I don't have a dual processor to test this on, but you can assign two threads for decoding with the -lavdopts option "threads=2" so it would read (all on one line):

mplayer -really-quiet -framedrop -lavdopts skiploopfilter=all:threads=2 /Path/To/File

So there you have it, the tools necessary to run HD video on your PPC Mac. There is one minor hitch in that the binary we used above is from December, 2006, and although it works with almost any file you throw at it, it doesn't correctly decode some newer AVC files. So the only solution here is to get an up-to-date binary, which you can only do by compiling it yourself, which I have no idea how to do. So I'll be writing a future post on my adventures or misadventures in compiling, depending on how things go.

One last thing. I noticed on a Sawtooth with an ATI Rage 128 Pro video card, the option -vo quartz is less demanding on the CPU than the default CoreVideo, but there's no difference on an aluminum Powerbook. My guess is it's because the Sawtooth's video card is not Quartz Extreme capable, but in any event you might want to use -vo quartz if you're running on a calcified card like the Rage 128.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

An eDonkey That Plays With Tiger

UPDATE: Somewhere in the time since this post was written, aMule released a new version 2.3.1 which resumes support for Tiger. Cool!

I was looking for an eDonkey client because I wanted to try out eD2k links to quench my thirst for old movies that you can't find anywhere else but, well, the eDonkey network. I had used aMule a few years ago, but I only used it to download through searching the network through the client. I never got around to downloading directly through eD2k links. So I went searching for the latest version but found it required Leopard (An OS Too Far) and couldn't immediately find the last version for Tiger.

Well, after much searching and scouring, I found the download link to aMule 2.2.5 here. Download the "aMule-2.2.5-OSX10.4+.dmg" file. It's a universal binary and it runs on Tiger. Happy hunting.*

*And on the whole downloading-copyrighted-material thing, I sort of go by the copyright laws we had before Hollywood money bought off Washington and purchased legislation to ensure Disney owned Mickey Mouse's copyright into perpetuity. If the makers of a movie, for example, are all long dead, I think it's okay to download a TV rip, at least.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

TenFourFox Final vs. Beta 12

On the TenFourFox development blog, the 4.0 final release came with a caveat that a last minute bug fix caused a 10% to 15% slowdown in javascript performance (stability wins over speed). This bug wasn't present in the betas, just the release candidate. The developer then released another quickie update that he said largely corrected the speed hit, so I wanted to check out which was faster, the last beta (12) or the updated final release (4.0s).

I tested both browsers with Sunspider and here were the results (lower number is faster):

Beta 12 - 7392.0 ms
4.0s - 7724.3 ms

Yeah, I know, but I'm on a Sawtooth. Cut me some slack.

Then I went over to Dromaeo, and the results were (higher number is faster):

Beta 12 - 18.89 runs/sec.
4.0s - 16.78 runs/sec.

So in Sunspider, the beta's javascript performance remains about 4% faster than the final, and slightly faster still in Dromaeo, though these results aren't always absolutely consistent when repeated. However, the beta was consistently very slightly faster.

So should you use the beta instead of the final? Well, the final had security fixes, but I have a need for speed so I'll stick with the beta.

Danger is my middle name.

Addendum: Lest you think the final release is some kind of slouch, it still beats the pants off Firefox 3.6, whose Sunspider score was 18786.2 ms, a full two and a half times slower. So if you're using Firefox 3.6 and not TenFourFox, then you probably haven't read this far yet 'cause your renderer is so slooooooooow.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Replace TenFourFox Icon

So I'm reading people are loving the new TenFourFox, Firefox 4 custom made for PPCs on Tiger, except for one nagging issue. They don't like the icon. I know. Some people are very particular about this. I don't know what to say. It's not the ugliest icon I've ever seen. That award goes to the original icon for Phoenix Slides. In fact, I kind of like it. It has a certain kind of whimsy.

But being that people shouldn't have a stupid icon separating themselves from probably the most valuable piece of software you can run on Tiger, here's a quick tutorial on changing it. This will also apply to changing the icon to any other application.

Step 1) Choose the image file you want to use. Here's a sample png you can download. It's the Firefox globe without the tasty critter:


Step 2) If your image file isn't already in .icns format, you need to convert it using img2icns.app (link goes to the Tiger version). It's very simple, just drag and drop. You should now have your .icns file.

Step 3) Right+click or control+click on TenFourFox.app and choose "Show Package Contents." Go into Contents --> Resources, and there you will find a file called firefox.icns. Rename it something like firefox-old.icns, then name your replacement icon firefox.icns and move it into the same folder.

Step 4) Close everything and start up Firefox (if you already had it in your dock, you should remove it first). You should see your new icon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Update Your Mactubes

I've written a bit about Mactubes for OS X before. It's among the best kept secrets for PPC users as it allows smooth playback of Youtube videos even on something as low end as a Sawtooth. All you do is choose Quicktime for playback in the preferences, and Mactubes ignores the flash wrapper and plays back the videos as mp4 files. Much much easier on the CPU.

However, there's a chink in Mactubes's armor. Every once in a while, Youtube changes something in the urls Mactubes uses to retrieve the mp4's, causing Quicktime playback to go dead. You get a popup alert saying something like, "Can not open video. Please open URL with browser." Luckily this is a temporary problem as all it requires is a minor update from the developer, and everything's fixed. And luckier still, the developer is very prompt about providing updates for when this happens.

So anytime Mactubes gives you a popup alert like the above, wait a day or two, and by then the developer will likely have an updated version for you to download. And we can all safely return to wasting hours and hours watching random videos on the internet:)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Getting Conky To Display Your iBook or Powerbook Battery

I couldn't figure out how to get Conky, a lightweight system monitor for Linux, to display the battery charge on the G3 iBook given that most of the example conkyrc files I saw were for the Intel architecture and used ACPI or APM for power management and monitoring, neither of which is utilized on PPC machines. So off to Google I went.

Long story short, if I knew to google "conky pb_battery" it would have saved me a whole lot of time. It turns out you need to insert the variable pb_battery in your conkyrc file like this: under the TEXT section at the bottom insert {pb_battery percent} in the appropriate spot accompanied by whatever text you want displayed with it, like "Battery:" so that it displays out "Battery: 93%" or somesuch.

percent isn't the only item within the variable you can display. There's also status and time. status shows whether the battery is "fully charged, charging, discharging, or absent (running on AC)."* time shows "the time remaining until the battery will be fully charged or discharged at current rate."* Note that under percent and time, nothing will be displayed if battery is fully charged or is running on AC power. Also note that you can only specify one item. Your variable must read either {pb_battery percent} or {pb_battery status} or {pb_battery time}.

Or if you want to do all this commando style, you can monitor your battery from the command line. Just type cat /proc/pmu/battery_0, and you'll get the output you want.

*Quotes taken from Conky's website.

One last note: the monospace font makes it look like there's a space between "{" and "pb_battery". There isn't. Just copy and paste for the right syntax.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When Mac Cultists Attack

I love Mac forums. I love Mac forums for the information they give. I love them for the community they foster. I love them for all sorts of reasons. But most of all, I think I love them for the occasional outbreaks of genuine cultism in response to what can seem the most innocuous question.

You may have observed the same phenomena yourselves. The process invariably starts like this. Some schlep newbie will come along asking innocently, "Hi, can anyone suggest an alternative to Apple's [insert name here].app? Thanks."

Then the first response comes. "I'm curious. What is your problem with Apple's [insert name here].app? Perhaps I can assist you."

At this point, the victim has no idea what they've walked into. "No problems. I'm just 'thinking differently' as they say. :)"

"I don't appreciate the appropriation of that tagline, and I'm sure you are in violation of the board's code of conduct. I will say again, what is your problem with [insert name here].app? Please respond with specifics."

"Sorry, no offense intended," the OP responds. "I'm really just looking for an answer to my original question. I really wasn't looking to get in a debate about the pros and cons of one particular app. Just looking more for a list of alternatives."

"Listen, troll," a moderator jumps in, "if you continue to be unresponsive, I'm gonna shut down this thread. We can't help you if you won't help us."

Another poster chimes in. "[insert name here].app works for me! I love [insert name here].app!"

The OP bravely weathers the storm. "That's great, and I appreciate that others may have different tastes which is why I'm asking for alternatives. So I'll ask any lurkers, do you know of any alternatives to [insert name here].app?"

Another poster expresses their concern. "I have to say, I'm disturbed by your increasingly hostile attitude which is indicative of a borderline personality disorder. Perhaps rather than question the utility of [insert name here].app, you should look within yourself for the answer to what is truly missing in your life. With all humility, I myself have done so when some of Apple's software have come up lacking at first glance, and I'm a much richer person for it. Good luck with your journey."

"Whuh?"

"That's it," the moderator says. "I'm locking down this thread. The OP can go to Yahoo Answers if he wants to keep up this crap. This is a Mac forum. We will not have our community denigrated by trolls who would slap Steve's hand that feeds them. Best wishes."

Some may accuse me of exaggerating, and I will concede that the above is a composite rather than a re-creation of a single thread, but my larger point about cultism stands. And stumbling upon these incidents of insanity is what, in this day and age, makes my day.