Miscellaneous Ramblings

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Increasingly Left Behind by Browser Updates

Charles Moore - 2010.05.25 - Tip Jar

The entropic process of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger for PowerPC's gradual erosion of compatibility seems to be accelerating. There was no Tiger version among Apple's latest batches of OS X security updates, and browser support is showing distinct signs dwindling, in much the same way it did for OS 9 in the early-to-mid '00s.

Opera and Tiger

For a topical, concrete example, Opera says its current Opera version 10.53 supports Tiger or higher on Intel- or PowerPC-based systems. That should include my aging but still highly serviceable Pismo PowerBooks, but I've discovered not so much.

I've found that the latest builds of Opera, starting with version 10.52, have been essentially unusable on the Pismo. Versions up to 10.51 work great. Consequently I've stuck with earlier Opera builds on my Pismos after trying (and then soon afterward deinstalling) version 10.52.

Last Sunday I found that the usually solid and dependable Pismo had suddenly gone very flaky on me. Pages were taking forever to load in Opera, or refusing to load at all, and other browsers were misbehaving, with the same sort of stalling. This was a puzzlement until I eventually Force Quit Opera in order to terminate a protracted interval of beach ball spinning, and upon restarting a "Welcome to Opera 10.53" page appeared.

Since I had just quit and then immediately restarted the program, no deliberate update had been involved, so I had to deduce that the trouble started by the program somehow downloading the 10.53 updater unbidden and installing it, at which point the Pismo's Internet performance went south.

I quit Opera again, rummaged around for a version 10.51 installer, found a build from last October, installed that, restarted the program, and everything returned to normalcy and tranquility.

I have no idea what the issue is with Opera versions 10.52 and 10.53, but I should add that 10.52 has not been an especially happy camper on my Unibody MacBook either, and 10.53 refuses to start up on the MacBook at all in either OS X 10.5 or 10.6. Curiously, I've been running Opera 10.52 Beta 2 Build 8330 reasonably successfully on the MacBook for the past couple of months, and it's been stable, but it refuses to "stick" in any assigned Spaces desktop, insisting on following one's navigation from space to space. My workaround is to (uncharacteristically for me) collapse it to the Dock when it's not in use.

As for version 10.53's crash on launch issue, I contacted Opera, and they asked me to send a transcript of the crash logs, which I did, and to create a new, clean user account and try starting up in that, which I haven't gotten around to yet. I've heard nothing back regarding the crash logs.*

Other Browsers

But I digress. I was discussing the state of browser support for Tiger. For now, Opera 10.51 is perfectly serviceable. It doesn't fare very well dealing with Flash content, but neither does the cutting-edge iPad. However, the proverbial handwriting is on the wall. Safari 4 is only partly functional on the old Pismos, and some of the cool newer browsers, especially Google's Chrome (finally out of beta for the Mac), but also neat indie ones like Stainless and Cruz, don't support Tiger at all.

My current browser troika on the Pismo consists of Opera, which is my default browser and the one I use most on that machine by far, augmented by whatever the latest versions of SeaMonkey and Shiira are.

SeaMonkey is decently fast loading Web pages, very solid and stable, but noticeably sluggish in executing GUI functions and navigation, especially after the memory heap gets full (I have the RAM on my Pismos maxed out at 1 GB) and Tiger starts dipping into swapfiles. I use it mainly where stability and compatibility are priorities.

Shiira is fast and light on its feet compared with SeaMonkey, starts up quickly, and the thumbnail bookmarks can be useful in some instances. I like the look and feel of Shiira, and my main complaint is its frequent instability - crashing and/or locking up much more frequently than other modern browsers. But at least it supports Tiger.

It Will Get Worse

I don't know for how much longer, though. Since Shiira is based on Apple's WebKit, the prospects are probably dim after Apple releases Safari 5, which I'm not expecting to support Tiger.

It would be nice to think that Opera might fix the Tiger support issues, but it didn't happen with the 10.53 release, and I won't be surprised if Opera 11 drops Tiger support altogether.

Indeed, I suspect that within a couple of years, up-to-date Web browsers supporting OS X 10.4 Tiger may be pretty thin on the ground.

* Editor's note: I just installed Opera 10.5.3 on my Tiger machine, a dual 1 GHz Power Mac G4 from that's a couple years newer than Moore's G4-upgraded Pismos. I've visited a few websites, including YouTube, and had no problems whatsoever. dk

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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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