Miscellaneous Ramblings

Safari 4: 'I Actually Like Safari Now'

Charles Moore - 2009.07.13 - Tip Jar

If you're a regular reader, you may recall my recent adventures experimenting with installing Safari 4 on my 550 MHz G4-upgraded Pismo PowerBook.

I liked Safari 4 but ran afoul of a bug in OS X 10.4.11 when I installed the mandatory Mac OS X Security Update 2009-002. That induced a looping popup error in the System Preferences Network panel with the message "Your network settings have been changed by another application", lapsing into Whack-a-Mole mode and blocking user access to the Network settings.

After trying everything I could think of off the top of my head (not encyclopedic), I disgustedly trashed the system, reinstalled Tiger from the OS X install DVD, and ran the 10.4.11 update I had archived, which meant saying good-bye to speedy Safari 4.

I needn't have. Several LEM readers kindly wrote suggesting and/or supplying links to a variety of fixes and workarounds for the "Your network settings have been changed" looping bug, which is a widely known issue that apparently affects only those of us who still use dialup modems due to Apple changing the way PPP and PPPoE passwords are maintained, apparently without taking the time to get it right for we dialup hostages and holdouts.

Happily, the fixes suggested turned out to be relatively simple and painless, so last weekend I finally got around to trying again. I ran the Security Update 2009-002 installer, and sure enough, the looping error manifested.

From the several potential modes of working around the issue, I chose going to the Security panel of System Preferences and checking "Require password to unlock each secure system preference", then closed the lock. It was recommended that one quit System Preferences to apply the change, which I did, then opened it again and selected Network. Happy day. No looping message. Apparently in some setups you may get the annoying popup once, but now when you click OK it will dismiss and not loop.

For a more thorough discussion of the issue and fix and dealing with possible complications that I didn't encounter, see Changing network settings since the 9/25/08 update.

I Finally Like Safari

It's great to have Safari 4 back on the old Pismo. Actually, this puts it a leg up on my workhorse Unibody MacBook, on which I'm not using Safari 4 yet because I've resolved not to install OS X 10.5.7 unless a more compelling reason than updating to use this browser emerges, since that update is widely panned as an extraordinarily buggy beast. Hopefully 10.5.8 will resolve those issues.

On the Pismo in OS X 10.4.11, Safari 4 is gratifyingly fast - not as fast as Opera 10 with the Turbo booster on, but with Safari you're still getting full image resolution. I actually like Safari now, for the first time since Apple launched it.

The Safari interface appearance is still prosaic, and it's somewhat feature-poor compared with Opera or iCab. The session restore feature is clumsy, but at least there is one, and the download manager is still lame compared with Opera's, but the program's tight integration with the operating system is slick, it starts up amazingly fast even on the old G4, and it's a generally smooth performer. (I qualify that with "generally", because I have experienced a bit of instability and even one crash requiring Force Quit in the brief interval I've been running it this time - certainly not bad enough to be a deal-breaker, though.)

My biggest complaint is the lack of a progress bar, more indication of Apple's resolve to throw low-bandwidth sufferers under the bus (at best) through benign neglect - an egregious omission - but at least Safari's prodigious page-load speed helps mitigate that grievance somewhat.

System Profiler shows if Quartz Extreme is supported.

Unfortunately, neither Safari 4's Top Sites or Cover Flow feature's will work on the Pismo with its puny Rage Mobility 128 GPU and paltry 8 MB of video RAM. Both features require a graphics card that supports Quartz Extreme, and the Rage 128 doesn't by several generations. If you're in doubt about this issue on your Mac, you can use System Profiler to check if it supports Quartz Extreme by clicking on "Graphics/Displays" in the left pane and then in the right pane, look for "Quartz Extreme: Supported" (or "Not Supported").

For Quartz Extreme support, you need you need a graphics processor unit with the following minimum specs:

  • ATI: Any AGP-based ATI Radeon GPU with at least 16 MB VRAM
  • Nvidia: Nvidia GeForce 2 MX or later, with at least 16 MB VRAM

As for general system requirements, Safari 4 for Mac requires either Mac OS X v10.5.7 "Leopard" or 10.4.11 "Tiger" (the latter updated with Security Update 2009-002), and a minimum 256 MB of memory It is designed to run on any Intel-based Mac or a Mac with a PowerPC G5, G4, or G3 processor and built-in FireWire.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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