Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tigers eat Mavericks, don't they?

OS X 10.9 "Mavericks," the first in Apple's new line of non-felid versions of Mac OS X, is now out and that can only mean one thing: I have to update our TenFourFox page layout to mock that instead. :) (The 10.9 spoof layout will come out for 24.0.2 final when we decommission 17.)

Mavericks runs on the same machines 10.8 did, which is to say, no Power Macs, but it is nice that no new machines are left behind. It seems to continue some incremental improvements from 10.8 away from the overly iOSified interface of 10.7 and does not implement the excessive portions of the super flattened iOS 7 aesthetic, but it does not undo some of the irritating interface changes first introduced in 10.7 (scroll bars, ahem), and does not really add much to the underlying operating system other than some truly noteworthy improvements to energy saving. But hey, it's absolutely free. Whaddya want for free?

Instead of a full review -- if you want that, read John Siracusa's typically studious Ars Technica Mavericks analysis -- I think I'll just point out a few things especially relevant to us in the geriatric machine world that most of the 10.9 coverage has missed or not emphasized:

  • No one has said what this means for Snow Leopard, and by extension, anyone still having a need to run PowerPC applications or anyone still rocking a 32-bit Intel Mac (or those of us whose token Intel Macs can't run 10.8 and refuse to update to 10.7). I'm presuming nothing good; I was surprised Apple still supported 10.6 with updates after 10.8 came out, and 10.6 is now four years old. Apple has historically not said when support ends for a particular version and it has always been inferred by what doesn't receive updates anymore. The last update as of this writing was in October 2013, consistent with Apple releasing a "final rollup" just before support is dropped in the wake of a new OS release.

  • Apple has also declared war on plugins in Safari 7, just as Chrome and Mozilla have. Again, stealing from Siracusa's insanely detailed review, Apple has plugin blocking for both energy and security reasons in 10.9's release. It also shows considerable technical improvement in WebKit2, which because of its greatly improved reliability is now likely to completely eclipse the original WebKit in the very near future, and cannot be good news for Leopard WebKit.

  • App Nap, the major power-saving framework in 10.9, is an integral part of Cocoa, and only Cocoa (and only GUI Cocoa apps, at that). Given Apple's increasing emphasis on battery life and power savings, it is eminently possible that this will accelerate the timeframe in which Carbon will be banned entirely from OS X. I would not be surprised if 10.9 is the last version of OS X with any Carbon support, but Apple to my knowledge has not taken the step of banning them from the Mac App Store ... yet.

In port news, IonMonkey PowerPC is evolving, but is not quite up to phase 3 (running simple scripts). It does now get entirely through code generation and optimization after fixing an endian bug in Ion, but I still have to write some of the Ion-specific pieces that I worked around for PPCBC. I'm aiming for a timeframe of 27 or 28, all things remaining equal.

Australis is still a big question mark. On OS X, there remain significant performance regressions, including some 10.6-specific issues. Now that 10.9 is out, this might accelerate Mozilla's desire to drop 10.6 support because we should expect some of the older Snow Leopard-only computers to get replaced (and drop Mozilla's 10.6 user base proportion), particularly if Apple is perceived to withdraw support. This does not mean that Australis can't be ported to 10.4, and because we are entirely software-drawn does not mean that we will have the same performance issues in exactly the same fashion, but it's a little concerning. It doesn't appear that it will be in Firefox 27 either, and there are still a lot of bugs on all the supported OSes.

The beta for TenFourFox 24 has been mercifully well-received, despite the benchmark regression. Most people find it more responsive overall than 17, which is very encouraging. Other than the known problem with Personas and window redrawing, the only other bug that has cropped up is a rare issue with an unresponsive menu bar. The app still works and can be quit and restarted, but the circumstances are not understood; I personally experienced it once, and I have not been able to trip it since. I do not consider this bug a showstopper at this time. I would appreciate anyone who has reliable steps to reproduce.

17.0.10 is building and should be available for testing by Saturday, our final 17 release. 24.0.1 will be released hopefully late next week as the last 24 beta. I am also planning to attack the 26 beta right away.


  1. I'm still using a PowerMac G4/350 PCI with 128mb running Tiger here at work. It's an Applescript server and a print server. I HAVE to have it because it's the only way I can print to our Appletalk printers with the one Mac Pro in the shop (mine).

    Just updated the MP to Mavericks this morning. BTW, I am writing this in T4Fx 17.0.2 on the Mac Pro. Yes, the Intel version of T4Fx is still running just fine on OS X 10.9!

    1. Not sure what we will do with the Intel port now that 17 is making its final bow. Perhaps Claudio has a thought about this.

  2. WebKit API possibly being deprecated in the near future?
    You've must have said this to provoke some reaction from my side - maybe even some more participation in current TenFourFox development.

    Well, Leopard WebKit will definitely be retired when the WebKit API is deprecated. And Apple wouldn't want to support two APIs where one is just a subset of the other. So the successor to Mavericks ("OS XX 20.0" ;-) ) might possibly deprecate WebKit in favor of WebKit2.
    WebKit's API stability is what makes Leopard WebKit possible as otherwise an actively developed browser shell would be needed.
    Until now all patches and features are developed for WebKit and WebKit2 simultaneously, so it's still a primary target and its deprecation maybe not quite so near.

    What's currently causing trouble to Leopard WebKit is working around the usage of more and more C++11 stuff in the WebKit foundation (WTF) classes and the consequences throughout the code base. That's because there's currently no decent Objective C++11 compiler available for PowerPC OS X (PowerPC OS X support in clang is progressing slowly, Objective C/C++ support in gcc isn't up to the task of a big C++/Objective C++ code base like WebKit and there's no work being done on it).

    Interestingly immediately after the release of 10.9 the pieces necessary for building WebKit on and against 10.9 were checked into the repository, some 10.7 incompatible change was done to WebKit2 and 10.7 build bots were stopped - so 10.7 is definitely deprecated now.

    1. While I'd love to prod you further, it was merely an observation on my side :) but that said, stopping the 10.7 build bots is certainly not a good sign. I do have a star on your issue about code that needs to be backported and it seems like that change list is getting as long as mine.

  3. Twice had the menu bar problem. Quit 24 and relaunched. 1.67GHz G4 Powerbook running 10.5.8.

    1. I had no idea it could happen to other people AFTER I ALSO EXPERIENCED IT. *smack*

      Find me what triggered it for you and that will help me a lot more.

    2. One thing did occur to me. Are you (or any of the affected folks) using a Persona or skin? Does it happen with the default skin? The only computer I can reproduce it on, and only the one time, had a Persona. Otherwise, they're both 7450 or G5, all 10.4.11, all gobs of RAM.

    3. Ok. If you find something that can trigger it reliably, please post it to issue 248.

  4. Good to see TenFourFox continue to be updated. Ever since I turned the plugin blocker off, this has been the most useful piece of software on my G5.

    Now if only someone would update and port Flash player the same way they did FF (is Flash even open source in any way at all?).

    Keep the updates coming.


    1. There are a couple of open source clones, but to put it in perspective, the last version of Flash for *OS 9* is more functional than they are.

      Really, we're waiting for Shumway (Mozilla's open-source JS Flash VM implementation) to mature, and IonMonkey will make it at least feasible on PowerPC. Then the chain is fully under our control.

    2. I just read the "User" stories on their website for Shumway. And by God, are they creepy. Let's take a read!
      "As a Metro Firefox user, I experience rich ads so that I don't have to see a bunch of empty boxes as I surf the Web without Adobe Flash player.
      As a Firefox user, I have a more stable browsing experience because Firefox natively renders Flash ads, increasing my user satisfaction, usage, and likelihood to recommend.
      As a Firefox user, I have a more responsive browsing experience because Flash ads in background tabs are throttled, increasing my user satisfaction, usage, and likelihood to recommend.
      As a Firefox user, I can opt in to Firefox native Flash support so that I can help Mozilla test the feature.
      As a Firefox user, I have a mechanism to revert to the Adobe Flash player for specific content blocks, so I am not broken in cases where Firefox's native rendering is insufficient. "
      Apparently Firefox users LIKE ads all of a sudden. And are part of the Borg (I thought Microsoft had that market segment covered!). The actual technology's pretty cool, though.

  5. Retired journalist, used to write about macs and pcs, once got cash from MacWorld for a tip. Was so proud the day I purchased my G4 Mirrored Drive Door (Wind Tunnel). Loved it. A little annoyed the way Apple threw SCSI under the bus, but overall a fine experience. Until I realized that Apple was throwing the entire PPC platform under the bus too. Ouch. To add insult to injury, the power supply blew on the G4 out of warranty -- a known issue -- and will not discuss the cost of the fix because small children may read this. Ironically, I have since written a series of articles about the used Thinkpad T42 I purchased for about $140 that, with a few mods, is able to do anything in laptop computing today (except editing HD) and do it really well too. Am writing this on the T42. I love my T42. You can get parts on Ebay right from China, really cheap. It is the Model T of laptops, designed to be worked on. Here is the killer, it was introduced the same year as myG4 MDD. Thanks for the 104-fox, it is a nice piece of work, but Apple and I no longer agree on how long products should be supported. Especially premium products that, at the time, cost double the competition.

    1. "Here is the killer, it was introduced the same year as myG4 MDD. "

      Actually G4 MDD was released 2002 and T42 was released 2004.

  6. Maybe leading too far away from the topic, but: I look at my Pismo PowerBook (*May 2000) sort of the same way you look at your Thinkpad. The Pismo can run OS 9 to 10.4, replacement/upgrade parts are available, and it does everything except HD editing. I guess it's also a matter of luck how long hardware lasts. Thinkpads are generally solid machines, but so are Macs.

    Regarding support: I don't know much about what's under the hood of an OS like Windows. But an OS that makes heavy use of modern GPUs (like Mac OS X 10.7/10.8) cannot be expected to run on a laptop with 8 MB video RAM. The same goes for the processor (hyperthreading), the speed and amount of RAM that can be addressed etc. If Windows 7 can still run on a 12 year old laptop, there can't be any radical improvements or changes to the OS. It's all a matter of balancing out technical progress vs. support for old machines in the end. I'd like Apple to be less radical sometimes, but I guess there have to be some companies that run ahead, otherwise we might still be using command line computers.

  7. I know this isn't inherently TFF related, but since 10.9 was mentioned... Some of the most interesting features that intrigue me about 10.9 are the timer coalescing and compressed memory. Though I speculate that the timer coalescing would most likely improve battery (moreso than compressed memory), I'm not sure how feasible this would be to implement for Tiger or even Leopard. I'm more curious, with the compressed memory feature being similar in use to the RAM Doubler which was not built into the older OS, would it be possible to have a kernel extension in Tiger or Leopard to achieve the same goal?

    1. Maybe, but one of the both nice and frustrating things about the classic Mac OS is that there wasn't a lot of protection of the operating system, so lots of things could patch it with impunity. This sort of trick essentially requires replacing Mach's virtual memory manager (which is, in fact, what RAM Doubler did to OS 8/9), and I don't know if a kext has the ability to hook into that in 10.4 or 10.5. My suspicion is no because this is obviously not a new idea and if someone could have I'm sure they would have, but I would like to be wrong. :)

  8. As a Quad Core G5 and Mac Pro 1,1 Owner, I am not a little annoyed that I can only run two OS X Versions (10.4/10.5 PPC and 10.6/10.7 Intel). Yet both are 64 bit CPUs.
    Why so many other computers have 4 or 5 OSX upgrades paths yet my systems outperform most of them and are more upgradable.

    I'm a little leery to purchase another tower like the new 2013 tower coming in December and again be limited to two OSX operating systems, ie 10.9 and 10.10-future.

    Speaking of 10.9. I've already downgraded two of my customers after they were dissatisfied with Mavericks lack of application support. Sometimes free isn't always better. I'd happly pay $129 for 10.9 that supports all my hardware and software then get a free OS X that doesn't.

    Keep up the good work. My European friends love TenFourFox when I introduce them to it on their older systems! :D


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