Miscellaneous Ramblings

Opera Issues Resolved, at Least for Intel Macs

Charles Moore - 2010.09.24 - Tip Jar

Earlier this week, I posted a somewhat dyspeptic grumble about some issues I've been having with recent versions of the Opera browser. The thing is, I really love Opera; in many respects is my favorite browser, and it's definitely the one I use most. What ropes me in is the speed combined with little touches like the infinite zoom popup menu on the lower right bottom margin of the browser window - very convenient at times for my 59-year-old eyes.

However, since about Opera 10.5, I've been having some issues with both the Intel builds for OS X 10.5 Leopard and 10.6 Snow Leopard, as well as the PowerPC build for OS X 10.4 Tiger, which I am still using on my two Pismo PowerBooks. Rather than re-plowing recently turned round, here's a link to the article.

After my latest Opera update report was posted on Tuesday, I received a very friendly and polite response from Opera Software's Desktop Product Tester Daniel Aleksandersen, offering to help and asking me to describe the issues I've been experiencing in greater detail, which I did.

I'm happy to report that his promptly returned advice has entirely solved the issue I had been having with recent Intel builds of Opera quitting on startup.

The news regarding the PowerPC version of Opera is considerably less encouraging, but I'm grateful to Aleksandersen for explaining the problem.

Good News: Opera for Intel Macs

First the good news.

In a nutshell, the issue I was having with recent builds of Opera in OS X 10.5 and 10.6 had to do with accumulated junk from (many) previous versions I've installed over the years created at various places in my User Library folder. As I mentioned in my article, I had tried removing all the Opera-related files from my user preferences folder, but it turns out there is other stuff Opera scatters around the User Library, and evidently accretions of old support files were in some way causing a conflict and preventing more recent versions of Opera from starting up.

Aleksandersen noted that it definitely sounded like preference corruption (at the very least) and that utilities like AppZapper and AppCleaner do not find all of Opera's resources, so you have to delete them manually. The files are:

  • ~/Library/Application Support/Opera/
  • ~/Library/Caches/Opera/
  • ~/Library/Preferences/com.operasoftware.Opera.plist
  • ~/Library/Preferences/com.operasoftware.OperaWidgets.plist
  • ~/Library/Preferences/Opera Preferences/

I had already tried deleting the preferences files from my User Library, but I hadn't been aware of the others. I'm not sure which one it was, but eliminating them all proved the charm, and Opera 10.62 now starts up just fine and has been running fast and stable on my Unibody MacBook, which I expect it will to continue to do, given my experience of Opera's general solidity.

The lesson here is to not let those old support files build up.

Bad News: Opera for PowerPC Macs

Now for the not so good news, at least for those of us still using older Macs. Aleksandersen says that since Opera 10.52, they have started using newer APIs that do not function on older OSes. Opera has put some workarounds in place, but, as he puts it, "these are not optimal for performance, causing issues like the slow typing on these systems."

He says that Opera plans on supporting Mac OS X 10.4 for a while longer, but the company recently decided to drop PowerPC support after the 10.6x releases. In a blog entry, The End of an Architecture, he elaborates that starting with the next version, Opera will be discontinuing support for the PowerPC architecture on Mac and Linux. While this is unfortunate, with third party vendor support dwindling away, Opera can no longer keep developing the browser for this architecture, and after ending support for PowerPC, Opera will be able to focus more on making sure its browser meets the needs of the modern browser user on more popular architectures.

Consequently, I don't expect we will see much improvement in Opera 10.6x for PowerPC from the level of performance and stability that currently obtains in version 10.62. As I noted in my previous article on this topic, 10.62 is usable on my old Pismo PowerBooks, although one has to type slowly and carefully in text fields and navigate deliberately in order to avoid triggering intervals of spinning beach ball inactivity.

PowerPC/Tiger Options

The writing on the wall is getting more vivid and distinct. PowerPC/OS X 10.4 users like me will still have a variety of older browsers - and presumably iCab (the latest version, 4.8a, supports PowerPC Macs and OS X 10.3.9, and iCab continues to develop it) - for some time.

The current versions of Camino and SeaMonkey still have full PowerPC and Tiger support, as does Firefox up to version 3.6, but that's the end of the road for support of those platforms in Firefox, and I deduce that when Camino and SeaMonkey upgrade to the state-of-the-art version of Mozilla's Gecko browser engine used in Firefox 4 and beyond, they will be unable to continue supporting OS X 10.4. This is, of course, inevitable, but it will be a sad day when no more contemporary browsers are available for the Tiger.

Anyway, thanks to Daniel Aleksandersen for solving/explaining the issues I've been having, and I'm once again a very happy camper in this speedy and conveniently-featured browser - at least on Intel.

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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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