Monday, January 20, 2014

IBM, MacTubes, monkeys and morons (plus: Quake is better in OS 9)

UPDATE: IBM sold the entire x86 server line to Lenovo after all, for a billion less than Google paid for the Nest.

About eight months ago, your faithful chronicler reported IBM, developers of the POWER architecture from which PowerPC descended, was trying to exit the x86 server business and sell it to Lenovo. As I mentioned in that article, margins are thinning on x86 servers, especially as companies like Google and Facebook build their own bespoke devices (Google has even looked at designing its own POWER and ARM processors), and IBM has never liked being in low-margin markets just as Apple doesn't. Well, looks like that foundered and IBM is shopping the business to Dell. Either way, IBM really wants out and I think you'll see the bottom fall out of the commodity x86 rackmount market, leaving the low-margin no-name companies to struggle for that money while the big corporations like Oracle and IBM continue to produce their proprietary RISC lines. (That must alarm Hewlett-Packard, which is stuck on Itanium with its clouded roadmap having jettisoned PA-RISC long ago. I have a fondness for PA-RISC since my first job out of college was working on a HP 9000 K-Class.) As I mentioned in the previous article, it's good news for POWER in general, since this makes it a bigger proportion of IBM's product portfolio and ensures its continued evolution even if it is gradually disappearing from the mass consumer market.

I've been playing with the next release of the MacTubes Enabler, which a number of you are already using. Since YouTube pages are only getting heavier and our computers aren't getting any faster, my current idea is to completely avoid making the browser do the work of loading the page so that you can labouriously click through the context menu to start MacTubes -- it should just hand the URL right off and halt the load so you can go back to what you're doing. And that's what it does: when a YouTube video URL is detected, it automatically fires up MacTubes and then either backs up to the previous page or closes the tab if it was a new tab like a program passing your browser a URL. In fact, if you visit any YouTube video page, the switchover occurs automatically, though things like the YouTube search are still within the browser (I figure you're doing that on purpose if you're not using MacTubes for the actual search portion). Embedded videos can be played if they properly include the embed code that has a link to the video -- you click the link and MacTubes starts, easy as that. You can still play an embedded video in WebM directly in the browser. If you use the QuickTime Player mode in MacTubes, you should be able to get HD videos and download them directly from the client.

So far this approach seems to be working well and it's nice that it's totally automatic. Please note that I haven't tested this with any tab-management addons, but this is using Mozilla's Add-on SDK for tab control, so it's not doing anything it shouldn't be. If anyone has objections, voice them in the comments; if people like how the idea sounds, I'll release that as the next version of the MTE in a couple of weeks.

IonMonkey PowerPC has progressed to the point where it can now compile and run loops in JavaScript, which particularly for floating point operations execute dramatically faster than the current PPCBC compiler (as expected). Memory usage is higher, but that is expected too; although function calls are still problematic, I have some ideas about how to fix this. I'm hoping to have a beta for IonMonkey for either 29-aurora or 31-aurora. If we make it to Fx31, I want IonMonkey to be ready by then as a marquee feature.

In other news, the morons at Google Code has shut down new downloads as threatened. Please extend your middle fingers in salute to this policy. All further uploads, including localization packs, will be on SourceForge; historical downloads will remain on Google Code "while they last." The transition to SourceForge is complete for file hosting, and we'll see what happens with the rest of it.

Finally, for you classic Mac OS gamers, I had some friends over for a good-old-fashioned LAN party so we could kill each other in Quake. We chose the original Quake because it has little network demand (particularly on modern networks), the same protocol works on Mac OS 9 and I have many OS 9 machines (this was a problem with Quake III Arena, where ioquake3 and the official id software Mac OS 9 compatible version use different network protocols), and you can get it hardware-accelerated with GLQuake for both OS X and OS 9. Our initial idea was to have the G5 be the Quake server, but GLQuake X crashed randomly and repeatedly during game play, greatly preventing me from firing rockets into my beloved friends' visceral cavities. So, just to see what would happen, I assigned server duties to the Power Mac 7300 running OS 9.1 (with 1GB RAM, a G4/800 Sonnet upgrade card and an ATI Rage Orion 3D accelerator). It never crashed for the hours of game play after that. Maybe GLQuake X is glitchy on 10.4, maybe it was some process on the G5, but if you want a solid Quake (or probably even Quake II) server, a reasonably-specced OS 9 machine did the trick for us. Go Classic go!

11 comments:

  1. New MTE sounds interesting, although it's a bit hard to imagine what it's actually doing in the new version without having it in front of you. I use "Open in MTE, close tab" all the time now, and yes, it would be great if the video page didn't have to load completely first. On the other hand – what if I wanted to read comments and see related links on the video page?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can get comments (both author and viewer) from within MacTubes (sprocket button, Information). Essentially this turns TenFourFox into just a discovery system for MacTubes.

      Delete
  2. Just a note of thanks for keeping my beloved G4 iMac a plausible tool a decade plus along...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As an iMac G4 user myself, you're welcome!

      Delete
  3. Problem today with 24.2. I keep getting the multi color spinning wheel. No problem with Roccat. None with 17.0.11.

    I quit 24.2 and relaunched, same problem. G4 Powerbook 1.67GHz.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the problem is simply launching 24.2.0 is enough to hang the app, obviously I can't reproduce that, because I'm typing this on a 1GHz iMac in 24.2.0. I'll need some way to trigger it. Testing in safe mode, seeing if a particular add-on is responsible and/or looking at the Console log would be places to start.

      Delete
    2. Similar thing here on my G3 iMac yesterday and this morning, but OK now.

      Only happened on the TFF default start page, just after it finished displaying the search box. 'top' showed the application consuming 20-80% CPU and the Finder ground to a halt. Had to ssh in a couple of times to kill the process.

      If I launched TFF from another app, straight into a different page, it was fine.

      Delete
    3. I'm sorry to hear about the problems, but if they can't be consistently reproduced even by those who are experiencing them, there's little I can do about them myself. I need steps to reproduce that are reasonably reliable. Again, safe-mode, review extensions, etc.

      Delete
    4. Sorry...I should have made it more clear...this wasn't so much a bug report as a response to the OP because I had a similar issue and it now seems to have sorted itself out. I was hoping that the OP's issue might also have disappeared.

      Does the TFF start page read HTML, etc. from Mozilla's site each time, or is it all self-contained?

      Delete
  4. Quick question - do any of the supposed "speed hacks", ala pipelining, have any effect in T4F? I seem to remember there was some conversation about the uselessness of pipelining in previous versions, but I could be mistaken.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The networking code is the same as Firefox, so the effect they have is the same as it would on Firefox, which is to say: yes, but in a way that can be incompatible with some servers. It certainly won't ever be turned on by default in TenFourFox unless and until Firefox does.

      Delete

Due to an increased frequency of spam, comments are now subject to moderation.