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TenFourFox 5 Web browser for PowerPC review

Sections: Mac Software, Reviews, Web Applications / Development

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Provides: Web browsing on PowerPC computers
Format: Digital download
Developer: Contributors to TenFourFox
Minimum System Requirements: G3 Power Macintosh, Mac OS X v10.4.11, 100MB of free disk space and 256MB of RAM. 512MB of RAM and a G4 or G5 processor is recommended. Video playback is likely to be poor on systems slower than 1.25GHz; a G5 is recommended. Mac OS X versions up to 10.5.8 are supported.
Processor Compatibility: PowerPC
Price: Free
Availability: Now
Version Reviewed: v5

An increasing problem for users of older Power PC Macs that don’t support OS 10.5 Leopard (like my two 11 year old Pismo PowerBooks) is diminishing Web browser support. Mozilla.org indicated last week that it will most likely terminate support for Firefox 3.6, the last version of the browser that officially suports these older PPC machines, after version 3.6.19 update is released later this summer. It’s virtually certain that the current Safari 4.1.3 for PPC Macs is the ultimate version of Apple’s Web browser for OS 10.4 Tiger, and that means the various WebKit-based third party browsers that still support Tiger will be stalled in development going forward. Opera discontinued development for pre-Leopard PPC Macs a couple of versions ago.

Happily, Version 5 of TenFour Fox—FloodGap’s port of Firefox 5 for Power PC Macs that supports both Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5—has been released.

TenFourFox uses almost all the same code as Firefox 5 and has nearly all the same features, including faster JavaScript, WebM video, and HTML 5 and CSS 3 support, as well as new and emerging Web features, but with the code needed to keep your Power Mac functional and fast.

TFF5AT.jpg

The developers pledge that new future versions of TenFourFox will continue to be released until it is no longer possible to compile Mozilla’s source code. Subsequent to that, they will still release security updates.

I’ve been using TenFourFox on the old Pismos—which both have 550 MHz Motorola 7410 G4 PowerPC processors and are running Mac OS 10.4.11 Tiger—for several months, and find it offers arguably the most satisfactory all-round browser performance on these long-in-the-tooth machines. It’s among the fastest of the remaining Power PC compatible browsers as well, more lively than Firefox 3.6, and with most of the FireFox 5 feature improvements. A small, but significant thing is that I like the way new tabs open beside a referring tab instead of at the far right as in Firefox 3.6.18.

TenFourFox is not a perfect solution for us older Mac hardware holdouts (see comments below), but it probably comes closest among what’s still available for Power PC Macs. If you’re still running PPC hardware, you should check out TenFourFox.

104foxspeed

Note that there are actually four processor-tuned variants of TenFourFox available, and for the the best speed on your particular Macintosh you’ll want to download the appropriate build for your machine. Also be aware that download links from third-party sites may not link to the specific one you need.

The choices are:

  • TenFourFox for G3 processors
  • TenFourFox for G4 processors: 7400-series
  • TenFourFox for G4 processors: 7450-series (“G4e”)
  • TenFourFox for G5 processors

G3 and G5 owners can just download the G3 and/or G5 build respectively, but G4 users need to determine if their G4 is a 7450-series CPU (“G4e”), such as the 7447, 7447A, 7448, 7450, 7451, 7455 and 7457, or a 7400-series CPU, such as the 7400 and 7410. Typically the “G4e” series of CPU are in most G4s at and over 733MHz.

G4typeinfoIf you’re unsure which G4 variant is in your Mac, the easiest way to find out is to open the OS X Terminal.app and type “machine” (without the quotation marks). Your output will probably look something like that in the screen capture to the right. Download the appropriate version of TenFourFox, and you’re good to go.

Note that for users who require TenFourFox 4, there is a final release 4.0.3 available: G3 | G4/7400 | G4/7450 | G5. This release is intended only for users who require add-ons or plug-ins that are not compatible with TenFourFox 5. There will be no further updates to TenFourFox 4.

Notwithstanding some criticisms and shortcomings, I’ll give TenFourFox a four out of five rating—the highest rating I’d give any of the remaining PowerPC Web browsers. It’s still a bit of a RAM hog, although at gut level this seems improved with version 5 over version 4. You’ll get the best results with a G4 7450 or G5 machine (the more RAM the better), but it’s likely the best solution even for most slower hardware running Tiger, Panther, or PPC Leopard.

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TenFourFox 5 Web browser review

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