Miscellaneous Ramblings

Safari 4.1.3 for Tiger: Fast, but Not Perfect

Charles Moore - 2011.03.15 - Tip Jar

Apple takes a lot of stick from users of older Mac hardware for dropping support for their machines from later versions of the Mac OS - and for older Mac OS versions from the latest software.

As a user of two old 2000 Pismo PowerBooks, for which Mac OS X 10.4.11 Tiger was the end of the road, I'm very much aware of rapidly eroding standards compatibility for this hardware/OS/software combo. It's not welcome, but my rational side acknowledges that it's unreasonable to complain about Apple (and most software developers) no longer being willing or able to allocate engineering resources to support 11-year-old hardware and a nearly 6-year-old operating system. At least if we want to enjoy the full advantage of development progress at the other end.

However, I want to salute Apple for just releasing one more update of its Safari browser for OS X 10.4 users. Version 10.4 is not supported by the current Safari (version 5), but along with the latest Safari 5 security update release, Apple also issued a Safari 4.1.3 update for us holdout Tiger users, and it seems to be a very decent browser - possibly the best left among the diminishing handful of up-to-date browsers that still support OS X 10.4.

My usual favorite browser, Opera, discontinued Tiger support after version 10.6.3, and the last several builds of Opera that nominally did support 10.4 had some annoying bugs - most notably an issue (acknowledged by Opera) with text entry on Web pages causing long stalls. I've continued to use Opera because of its speed and general stability, but after trying out this new version of Safari - which seems to be just as fast as Opera if not even faster - I thought I might switch to it as my default browser on the old Pismos.

That plan lasted about an hour, until I noticed that there was a lot of hard drive activity going on in the background even when I wasn't doing anything. I tried closing tabs. Still no joy.

However, quitting Safari 4.1.3 ended the background busy-work Starting up Safari caused it to resume. Bummer, that doesn't happen with Opera, OmniWeb, or SeaMonkey, all of which I use regularly on the Pismo.

So Safari 4.1.3 is close, but no cigar. Aside from that issue and the need to use an installer and restart the machine after installation instead of just dragging the application into the Applications Folder Safari 4.1.3 for Tiger is a nice browser.

Speaking of installers, I also had to download and install the OS X Security Update 2009-005, which I hadn't gotten around to doing yet. That took longer than installing Safari itself, but I suppose it's to the good.

Anyway, I'm back to Opera 10.63 as my anchor browser, and I'm also using OmniWeb 5.10.3 a lot these days on the Pismos. It and SeaMonkey are probably the best-working OS X 10.4 compatible browsers left, the latter taking the nod over its Camino and Firefox stable-mates by virtue of its simpler, speedier user interface.

However, if it's raw speed you want, Safari and Opera are the fastest, at least on my 550 MHz G4 upgraded rig.

I'm not sure whether the hard drive activity thing with Safari 4.1.3 is unique to my setup or a general issue. OmniWeb is also based on Apple's open source WebKit browser engine,* and it doesn't have the busy hard drive problem, for whatever that's worth.

* WebKit is also used in Google Chrome, Flock, iCab, Konqueror, Shiira, and several other browsers.

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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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