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) (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 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 ( 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 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.