Thursday, December 18, 2014

OS X PowerPC Security Holes Katy Perry Kate Upton Chili Hot Dogs!!!

Given that Leopard and below are no longer supported by Apple, it's reasonable to expect security holes to pop up every now and then, and though Apple will never officially patch them, us PowerPC users can at least come up with the necessary workarounds. The only problem is, news of these vulnerabilities is a bit scattered, so I wanted to put up one post that's a compilation of all the security holes you should be aware of when running OS X on PowerPC--hence the clickbait title, I want everyone to see this (sorry Katy Kate fans). This post will also be linked on the right and updated as more security exploits are discovered.

Here's the big list, and honestly, this is mostly about linking to posts on Cameron Kaiser's TenFourFox Development blog since he wrote the bash replacement below and knows just as much as anybody:

1) Yes, the bash that comes with your PowerPC Mac is compromised. Cameron Kaiser was nice enough to build a new version) that fixes the security flaw so us PowerPC users can rest easy (also works for Snow Leopard).

2) SSLv3 is no longer safe. The solution here is to update TenFourFox and Tenfourbird to their latest versions which disable SSLv3. Webkit browsers that depend on the system SSL libraries remain vulnerable (UPDATE: leopard-webkit now disables SSLv3 as well).

3) Certain versions of OpenSSL have a hole. Older OpenSSL-based libraries bundled with Tiger and Leopard are not vulnerable to this specific bug, but if you have versions 1.0.1 to 1.0.1f installed on your system through Macports or Homebrew/Tigerbrew, you'll want to update to the latest version.

4) That handy tool sudo, giving you root access from the command line, is vulnerable to an exploit. Check this post for the solution and also look down to the comments on how to use nano to correct it in case vi is a mystery to you.

5) Flash is not safe.

6) Java is not safe. I've seen links about installing Open JDK 7 on Leopard, but I don't know how feasible it is. You could also put Debian on a separate partition and run the latest Java from there.

7) Finally, your Firewire ports are vulnerable to physical attack. You can check out Adam Albrec's Security Mode scripts to secure your laptops from this and other vulnerabilities.

As said, this post will be continually updated with developing news. Hopefully the list won't get too long. ;-)

UPDATE I:

And I've been informed of yet another one. The Diginotar SSL certificate is compromised. This was back in 2011 and was the first time Apple released a security update that didn't include PowerPC, so maybe that's why I blocked it out. Follow the step-by-step instructions at $ ps | Enable (their mpkg automator didn't seem to change things for me) to clear your system. This flaw only affects you if you use Safari or another browser that accesses your system's SSL certificates. It does not effect TenFourFox.

UPDATE II:

Via TenFourFox Development again, there are potential vulnerabilities in OS X's ntpd (Network Time Protocol daemon). This is used when you sync date and time automatically with Apple's time server in the Date & Time System Preference. I say potential because the typical user won't find themselves vulnerable, but people using ntpd in more elaborate ways should read the referenced blog post. A new version compiled for PowerPC is linked there for download.

UPDATE III:

Time to get your FREAK on! That's FREAK for "Factoring Attack on RSA-EXPORT Keys." Once again, if you're using TenFourFox you're not vulnerable, but Webkit users are. The comments on this post seem to indicate that (as of 3/8/15) development on Leopard Webkit is continuing and an update that ultimately plugs the hole may be arriving soon. Leopard-webkit has now been updated to plug this hole.

UPDATE IV:

This one's called Darwin Nuke and in theory can enable an outsider to trigger kernel panics on your system. I say in theory because Cameron Kaiser reports he's unable to trigger a successful attack against his PowerPC systems. However, since the vulnerable code does exist in the Tiger and Leopard kernels, it's safest to disable all incoming ICMP traffic on your router's firewall. On my Linksys router, this was already disabled by default with the Security --> Firewall setting, "Block Anonymous Internet Requests". If you don't see anything comparable on your router, google your router's brand and "disable ICMP". ICMP is used by network administrators for troubleshooting purposes, so the average user doesn't need it, anyway.

UPDATE V:

Run this RootPipeTester tool to see if you're vulnerable to something called systemsetupusthebomb. Read in detail at TenFourFox Development, but the short version is you should open your Security preference pane and check "Require password to unlock each secure system preference" (wording may be slightly different on Leopard), and you'll be secure against all known attacks. For an even more airtight solution, rename your writeconfig file according to the instructions Cameron Kaiser laid out on the linked post above.

UPDATE VI:

Turn off Bluetooth, or if your must use it, use it in a controlled environment.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Lock Down Your Mac With Security Mode

You may recognize Adam Albrec as the author of PPC Media Center, a suite of Applescripts that serves as a GUI wrapper for youtube-dl, and as a past guest poster here. Well, he's back, this time with another package of Applescripts called Security Mode (download at bottom of post). If you've ever wondered what it would take to completely lock down your PowerPC laptop in the modern jungle out there, this is what you've been waiting for.

Along with the Applescripts comes a very extensive Read Me file that has a lot of general tips as well as how to use/edit the scripts. In all honesty, I'd never heard of the Firewire vulnerability before perusing the Read Me, and I'm supposed to be on top of this stuff.

So what do the scripts do? As Adam writes:

The primary app is a simple toggle that will change your laptop to a 'Secure Mode' which implements the following security features:

- A password is now required to unlock the screen on waking the system from sleep (like after having the lid closed), or once the screensaver has become active.

- The unit will have the screensaver activate after 10 minutes.

- The display will sleep after 20 minutes of inactivity.

- The system will sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity.

- Firewire will be disabled - thus illuminating the threat of a DMA (Direct Memory Access) attack.

...

When toggled again, all the security features listed above go back to normal 'Home Mode':

- No password is required to wake the system or deactivate the screensaver.

- Both display and system sleep are set to 'Never'.

- Firewire will work normally.

As a convenient means of identifying the system's current security status, the Dock position will change in 'Secure Mode' to the left of the screen, and back to the bottom in 'Home Mode'.

The secondary helper app SM Fw-Disabler, when set as a login item, will make sure that whatever mode the system is in when it is shut down, will continue when restarted until the user chooses to change it.

Both scripts store your user name and password in plain text, so you need to keep the scripts on an encrypted volume. FileVault instructions are included in the Read Me for this purpose. Also...

As stated in the script comments, all the settings in the script including the sleep/screensaver times and Dock position changes can be set if the above are not to the user's liking. Those who are great at Applescript will have no trouble at this, but for those who might like some tips, just leave a comment here on the blog and I'll reply ASAP.

Finally, the Read Me concludes with some not-commonly-known tips on PCMCIA expansion bays, Open Firmware passwords, and TrueCrypt. All in all, this is great stuff, so download the scripts and the Read Me at the following Mediafire link:

(updated to version 2.0, addressing Finder-lockup problems in the previous release)
PowerPC Security v2.0.zip

(ADDED: This can also be useful for Snow Leopard. It'll take some tinkering with the Applescript, but leave a comment and Adam will be glad to help.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

An Offline Password Manager

I'm not a huge fan of the cloud. It's not just for tinfoil hat's sake. I've seen just enough server repositories and companies fail that I hesitate to truly trust them with my data security. I'd rather just back up my own stuff and do all my syncing over my home network. The one exception I've made is with Firefox Sync, where I can sync all my bookmarks, history, and passwords across the various TenFourfoxes and Iceweasels I have. But I've been thinking lately about those passwords and the ways Firefox sells password security short.

It's not just that it's in the cloud (though encrypted). Firefox keeps passwords in plain text on your hard drive unless you secure them with a master password, and if you pick a good password it starts to be inconvenient to enter it every time you start the browser. And if you're going to put up with a little inconvenience, why not just use an offline password manager?

Offline password managers have the inconvenience of a couple more clicks but have the advantage of making you completely responsible for your own passwords. They're stored on an encrypted file on your hard drive and no one else has access. You never have to worry about how LastPass or Firefox Sync are storing your passwords or which institutional entities have the keys to the kingdom.

I'm not completely willing to give up the convenience of Firefox Sync. For the vast majority of my passwords, I don't hugely care about security. They're mostly forum passwords and sites I don't even remember registering with. But for sensitive passwords for banking, Paypal, or anything financial-related, I want to keep those out of Firefox Sync and encrypted on my hard drive. And it just so happens there's a password manager for this that's cross platform and still runs on Tiger PowerPC: it's called KeePassX.

Setup is pretty self-explanatory. You just start a new database and enter your passwords. One cool feature is it rates the quality of your existing password and also features a password generator with many parameters like password length and whether it's pronounceable. From then on, you just copy your password to the clipboard with a click and then paste it into your web page's password entry (Firefox usually auto-enters the username).

Some of you (okay, nearly all of you) might be bothered by the OS X icon. One generous soul, however, contributed their own, much better, icon in this KeePassX forum post. I couldn't get their .icns file to work, but I saved the .png image displayed in the post, used FastIcns to convert it to my own .icns and installed it in the app package (by right-clicking and choosing "Show Package Contents" and then finding and replacing the original .icns image).

Another forum post features an unofficial version of KeePassX with global auto-type: Global Autotype for OS X: at last! This allows you to hit a key combo without having to switch to KeePassX to copy a password. It's a universal binary, but it doesn't launch on Tiger, so I guess it requires Leopard.

One caveat when using KeePassX on Linux: KeePassX erases your password from the clipboard after several seconds, but some clipboard managers (I'm looking at you, Parcellite and Glipper) don't respect this and still keep your super secret password displayed in their menu. Something to be aware of.

Some people report good results syncing their KeePassX database file on Dropbox, but that kind of defeats the purpose of keeping your passwords offline, so it's not for me.

One fun thing about this is going into Firefox's password manager to delete your sensitive passwords and seeing all the crap you registered for in the past. I'm apparently signed up on cracked.com. I have beautiful taste.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lude Smuggler Will Not Be Suppressed

So I was perusing through Macintosh Garden in the arcade section, taking a trip down memory lane, when I noticed something not quite right. They had MacLanding and Missile Command and even its awesome clone, Ground Zero™, but still, something was missing. Lude Smuggler!

Lude Smuggler, for the uninitiated, was a re-skin of Lode Runner, which for a time was the addictive game de jour before Tetris and Cranky Birds or whatever. The object of Lode Runner was to dodge a bunch of enemies while collecting bags of gold and escaping to the next level. Lude Smuggler was the same, but instead of bags of gold, they're supposed to be bags of ludes.

So after failing to find Lude Smuggler on Macintosh Garden, I went googling to find some confirmation of its existence and couldn't find anything. I googled Lude Smuggler with quotes and got this:

Lude Smuggler search result

Can this be? Can there be literally no record of Lude Smuggler on the entire World Wide Web? No, no, no, no, no. This cannot stand. I know the drug war is taken to ridiculous extremes, but this is going too far. I knew I had Lude Smuggler on some hard drive somewhere, or at least on a floppy, so I became determined to retrieve it and upload it to the hallowed halls of the 'Garden.

So I got out my Power Mac 7100, which was my only Mac with a still-working high-density floppy drive, and hooked up my LCD monitor (with like a thousand adapters) and fired it up. Still works! And it turns out I did have Lude Smuggler on a floppy. Great! Now I just need to network it to my PowerBook and I can upload it from there.

(Author's note: Okay, I wrote about 800 words here about everything I had to do to get it to my Powerbook, but I'm cutting it because, frankly, it makes me sound crazy. Tl;dr version: it was a bitch.)

So finally Lude Smuggler is re-introduced to the masses. You can download it at its hopefully permanent home at Macintosh Garden and be smuggling ludes like a pro in no time. Here's the icon which my young impressionable mind would forever associate with "greasy":

Lude Smuggler icon

And here's a screenshot:

Lude Smuggler screenshot

My wasted youth.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A New Notebook for PowerPC?

Roberto Innocenti emails me that he's started a project to deliver a new PowerPC notebook in the DIY tradition of the Novena Project and the pi-top, only significantly more powerful. Apparently he intends to team up with an Italian motherboard producer and will present his project plans at Linux Day 2014 in Milan. According to Mobile Linux News, the laptop will feature upgradeable components such as the video card, RAM, and SDD/HDD. It will also be 64-bit with altivec and multi-threaded capabilities, and will fully support gnu/linux as well as OS X virtualization.

You can follow along with the project's news at PowerPC-Notebook.org. Needless to say, if this became a reality you could knock me over with a feather, but stranger things have happened. Like Apple switching to Intel. ;)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Mac OS 9 is a Lightning Rod

Apparently debating the merits of Mac OS 9 is very 2014. Via TenFourFox Development, all the hubbub was kicked off by an Ars Technica article* about living with OS 9.2.2 for a few days, which was followed with a rebuttal from Riccardo Mori at his blog. Some previous points of view on the subject are from The Vintage Mac Museum and LowEndMac, but I wanted to use this as an excuse to point to a Mac OS 9 Lives Forum thread which reveals how to boot OS 9 on MDD FW800 Power Macs.

(UPDATE: This note was left in the comments: Flashing the G4 FW800 MDD is no longer needed and it is not the preferred approach, we now have a Bootable 9.2.2 Install CD (with Modified ROM 10.2.1) that will boot unsupported G4s and Install 9.2.2. You can get the CD ISO image at www.macos9lives.com/smforum or at www.thinkclassic.org)

First sold in 2003, the FW800 models were the first Power Macs, and only G4 Power Macs, to not boot OS 9. This remained the case till over a decade later when this Mac OS 9 Lives thread, "Downgrade firmware of FW800 for OS9 comp", appeared. The whole thread is incredibly long (these were a dedicated, persistent bunch), but I'll just point to this post which has the actual solution. Basically it involves flashing the firmware with an older version that supports booting into OS 9. This works for the FW800s because the earlier firmware is for a very similar MDD model.

Efforts are also underway to duplicate this approach with other Macs, and the thread, "Mac Os 9 boot on unsupported iMac G4", reports limited success. Perhaps this won't work so well on other models because the only available firmware downgrades are too old and for too dissimilar hardware. It sure would be nice seeing an aluminum PowerBook booting OS 9, though.

As far as I read, the only limitations on the MDD are the disabling of the Firewire 400 ports in OS 9 and the Firewire 800 port running only at 400 speed, also only in OS 9. In OS X everything works fine. But for that, you get an OS 9 booting machine for your FW800, and now you too can join the online Mac OS 9 wars! Small price to pay for having access to all that great audio, productivity, and gaming software from the '90s-'00s.

*WARNING: That Ars Technica article is like weaponized banality.

Monday, September 29, 2014

8.6 Software Install Disc for Sawtooth AGP?

(UPDATE: Disc image found!)

Chris Nova from Mac OS 9 Lives has put out a call for a certain Software Install & Restore disc. This one's very rare, an 8.6 one specific to the Sawtooth AGP (not Yikes). Apparently they were bundled with Sawtooths only for a couple of months back in 1999, and not one has made its way onto Macintosh Garden or any other Mac archive site.

Here's a Mac OS 9 Lives forum link to the thread where Chris lays out the full details. If you can report a sighting of one of these rare birds, click on over and drop Chris a line. :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

FreeCol For PowerPC Macs

If any of you were downcast that the strategy game FreeCol required Java 1.6 and wouldn't run on PowerPC Macs, today's your lucky day. Thanks to the compiling talents of reader Javier A., we now have a new version of FreeCol that runs on Java 1.5. He uploaded it to his Dropbox folder (direct link), and it's only a 30 MB download.

Here's a blurb from the FreeCol website:
FreeCol is a turn-based strategy game based on the old game Colonization, and similar to Civilization. The objective of the game is to create an independent nation.

You start with only a few colonists defying the stormy seas in their search for new land. Will you guide them on the Colonization of a New World?
So it's a little like FreeCiv. FreeCol somehow escaped my attention, but I tried it out a little bit and it looks great. In addition to single player, you can also join multiplayer games over the internet. I'm not sure about the security implications of that, since Java 1.5 is outdated. From what I understand, only the web browser plug-in was vulnerable, but maybe someone can weigh in with a comment. I only do single player, anyway. It's humiliating enough when the A.I. kicks my ass ;)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gawker Writer Slave To Consumerism, Hates Self

One of Gawker's latest slew of nondescript hires, Leah Finnegan, wrote an odd polemic taking Chloe Sevigny to task for using a "15-year-old Macbook." Her point being, well, at the end of her word salad I'm not sure what her point is. Something about Chloe being pretentious for using a fashionably unfashionable fashion. As usual, what's left unsaid is more interesting, that Finnegan can't stand to see someone opt out of the upgrade merry-go-round and so that person must be attacked.

The worst part of it, though, was Finnegan quoting Gizmodo's Editor-in-Chief Brian Barrett on whether it was possible a human could have such an ancient machine in today's world. Now, Finnegan doesn't have to know anything. She writes for Gawker. But Barrett's supposed to be an expert. This is his area. So what does he say?

"Honestly that thing is several factors shittier than a shitty phone," he typed in a Slack message. "I would say if she does have a 14-year-old MacBook I hope she does not need to use it very often."

Barrett continued: "Assuming she has a 2000 PowerBook, she has half the disk space you'd need to run Chrome and probably half the RAM, but I don't think she even has the hardware you'd need. Basically Chrome alone would destroy her computer."

For the record, Chrome never existed on PowerPC. And for the record, a 2000 Powerbook can run TenFourFox 31 (equivalent of Firefox 31) and, if RAM is limited, have even better luck with Iceweasel and Linux. As to Barrett's point that the Powerbook is worse than a "shitty phone" by several factors, I don't see too many people using three-year-old phones much less 15-year-old phones like people still use their Pismos.

So go to Brian Barrett for all of Apple's latest press releases, but don't expect him to know what he's talking about.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Guest Post: The Truth About Benches

(Our friend Adam Albrec, creator of PPC Media Center, was nice enough to offer the following article to share with us. He has a lot of first hand experience to go with his points, so it's definitely worth the read.)

All this talk about "Benches" must mean outdoor-recreation is about to get more convenient or comfortable. Or could it be just another lame, and ultimately inaccurate measuring system (in this case for comparing digital willies)?

Like many users, I have upon occasion looked up the 'Geekbench' report for a system I have or to see relative power comparisons with other systems, and in all this time, I have learned one very simple truth: These numbers can be VERY misleading - especially when comparing one computer architecture to another.

My daily driver (or...computer) is a dual-processor G4 Desktop with twin 1.42 CPUs, and an Nvidia Geforce 4 Ti (128MB) graphics card. Geekbenches at about 1300 with my current configuration. This is well below most ARM based phones and certainly most Intel based Macs and PCs today. So why do I shut one of the CPUs off most of the time? Simple, because I don't need it all that often. Am running TenFouFox 31, TenFourBird, Webkit for PPC, Quicktime (to watch web videos with my PPC Media Center Applescript-App) and have iTunes in the background sniffing for my favorite podcasts. Does it run slow? nope.

I also have about 8 widgets going in Dashboard, Carbon Copy Cloner backing up everyday (which I honestly don't even notice happening) and the usage of my poultry 2GB of ram really never go above half most days.

To be fair, the system has a few things going for it that a G4 iMac wouldn't:

• 2 MB of cache per CPU,

• a 7200 RPM system drive and second 7200 RPM scratch/media drive that all my data is on (throughput is quite acceptable).

• IOGear universal WiFi N150 ethernet device replacing the old 'b/g' Airport cards.

Also have stayed on OSX 10.4, to avoid the lag of modern interface candy 'the Leopards' have forced on us.

What am I missing? Well x86 compatibility - but there is actually surprisingly little software (most all of which relates to gaming or the internet) that doesn't have a decent PPC version. Apps like Final Cut, Photoshop and certainly the awesome NeoOffice really do hold up well even today, and many of the internet apps and games that still do run on it are just fine.

The only time I even need the other CPU is when trans-coding video, watching HD videos in VLC or Quicktime or 20+ Photoshop action sets and then it is there when needed.

What most users don't realize is that you really mostly notice power, when there isn't enough of it. An app designed to run in OS9 on a G3, won't be much faster running on a G5 in classic if at all. Likewise, one's iTunes is only inadequate when running on hardware too old for it. A case and point would be the popular open-source shooter Open Arena.

I have it on the aforementioned G4 desktop, and the much newer Ouya android console (Geekbenches at around 1800). My G4 SPANKS the Ouya and its triple-core 1.7GHz CPU and 12-graphic core system! The Ouya won't even allow a number of the features like 'Bloom' to be turned on, and even on its best settings hangs around 30fps. My desktop will in Single CPU mode, with full features match its fps AND in Dual CPU are around 50-60! The Geforce 4 Ti graphics card is around 11 years old! Now some would say that all of this is because the Ouya's ARM chips are designed for mobile use - which is true, but going by 'Bench numbers' should be at least 40% faster, NOT 40% slower - as is the case.

During the last decade, all this new machine power has mostly served only to eliminate the need for optimization and tight-coding (has all but eliminated the need for highly-efficient assembly coding). There is a reason when the current generation of video game consoles really only look a 'Little' better than the previous, there is really not proper implementation of all this new power.

So what does all of this mean to consumers/users? If it ain't broke don't replace it. Computing is more about user preference than empirical bench marks. PPC systems are often criticized for their lack of ability to throw everything at a task, and thereby appearing to be slower, but many models (especially the ones with generous processor cache) have a different kind of power that, for me GREATLY makes up for it - the ability to do a whole lot of things simultaneously. My Mom's Macbook Pro (17" Dual 2.66GHz running OX 10.6/XP) is faster at any one task, but sure as hell doesn't shift gears as fast - like try opening a new Finder window and notice that it takes a full second to populate all her icons!! Somehow, a Geekbench of 3100+ should seem a bit peppier than that. And with my G4 able to convert a full dvd to MP4 in about 30 minutes, am quite content with what I have.

The path of keeping old gear isn't for everyone, but for those who enjoy it, there are many resources available (now cheap or free) and a lot of satisfaction from making one's own Applescripts and such to handle problems, or hunting down that rare piece of software. With apps like Dropbox, Rapido-Start (much like Launchpad), Carbon Copy and others, there are very few modern system functions that cannot be had on older hardware. My new Ouya and new Nintendo 3DS XL both backup to the G4 through neat and tidy applescript apps that make disc-images of them in a single click. Are there more modern methods to accomplish this on more powerful hardware - yes, of course, but the question is why spend money and electricity that isn't necessary??? The average modern powerhouse desktop uses CRAZY amounts of electrical-power. That is money better spent in oh, so many ways.

So the moral of the story is: "Don't be a sucker for the numbers". They only tell part of the story.

- Adam Albrec
PPC/RISC Fan & App Dev.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Epic G5 Video



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TeYlg_cJsY

In case you were wondering whether or not to pick up a G5 Power Mac, here's a great video. Rick from DoogieLabs gives us a tour of the hardware and demos it running Debian/Linux Server along with some temperature and watt monitoring software. Cool stuff.

I'm starting to get tempted.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One Last Reminder About Flash and Java

I'm late to the game, but via TenFourFox Development and reiterated at PowerPC Liberation, the danger from Flash and Java on OS X PowerPC is no longer hypothetical but real. We knew sometime back that the Flashback virus exploited holes in older versions of Java, and if anyone ever compiled its payload as a universal binary we'd be screwed, too. Now we have recent news that Flash has its own killer virus out in the wild called Rosetta Flash. It works in a similar fashion, using security holes to take over your machine, and PowerPC versions of Flash will not be updated to fix it. So like Cameron Kaiser says, it's time to definitely stop using it.

As fiftysixk suggests, though, saying goodbye to Flash can also be an opportunity. There are dozens of ways to bypass its plug-in and stream video through external players. There's PPC Media Center, MacTubes, YouView, TenFourFox's QTE plug-in, various Mplayer plus Youtube-dl hacks, to name a few. The Youtube-dl hacks can be interesting. Youtube-dl supports a ton of sites, not just Youtube, and is frequently updated. In fact, it's the backend for PowerPC Media Center. You can also use Youtube-dl with Mplayer, with a terminal command like this (UPDATE: it appears this no longer works as Youtube broke the "--prefer-insecure" option, natch):

mplayer -quiet -framedrop -cache 8192 -cache-min 10 -cookies -cookies-file ~/.cookie.txt $(youtube-dl -gf 18 --prefer-insecure --cookies ~/.cookie.txt $(pbpaste))

Unpacking it from the inside out, "pbpaste" pastes the copied video URL into the Youtube-dl command retrieving the direct video URL, which is then passed to Mplayer to play. The "--prefer-insecure" option is needed because Mplayer can't play HTTPS links. However, Linux users can use Mpv and drop that option since Mpv plays HTTPS links just fine. Also on Linux, you'd want to install the package xsel and replace "pbpaste" above with "xsel --clipboard". Then save it as a bash script and you're rockin'.

As for Java, a faustian informant tells me there's a Java 6 version available for OS X PowerPC, but I believe it's too old to have the security fixes for the Flashback virus. There's a thread at the Minecraft Forums talking about it, and people also talk about using it to play Runescape, but it's still a huge security hole. You don't want to do any gaming like that unless you can completely disconnect from your network.

Let's stay safe out there!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mpv a Better Mplayer?

You may have seen references here and elsewhere to a new kid on the video-player block called Mpv. It's a fork of Mplayer2, which is a fork of Mplayer, which must be feeling so inadequate right now. So how does Mpv compare? It has a few new features but is generally the same as Mplayer, a shell-based video player with a thousand options under the hood. So I thought I'd do a little test comparison, running the same files through each player and see how they measure up in CPU usage. Just for kicks, I'll throw in VLC, too.

For my testing, I used a Powerbook with a 1.5 GHz G4 running Debian Wheezy. As Mpv is only available in the Jessie repository, getting it on Wheezy was a bit of a pain but possible. Also, I used three movie files to compare: a black and white 640 X 480 Xvid file, and two color 720p files, one an mp4 and the other an mkv. This testing isn't all that rigorous or in-depth, but I think it's useful as a general impression and might be an eye-opener. On to the numbers!

I'm too lazy for tables, so here are the CPU percentages for the standard def Xvid (rough average after a few minutes of playing):

Mplayer – 26%-28%
Mplayer2 – 30%
Mpv – 30%
VLC – 34%

And the 720p mp4:

Mplayer – 60%
Mplayer2 – 78%
Mpv – 65%
VLC – 76%

The 720p mkv maxed out the CPU with heavy frame skipping, so the following results are with the skiploopfilter=all option:

Mplayer – 100%, occasional frame skipping
Mplayer2 – 100%, constant frame skipping
Mpv – 100%, occasional frame skipping
VLC – 100%, constant frame skipping

So for CPU efficiency, Mplayer still comes out the best, but Mpv is a definite improvement over Mplayer2. As some additional information, I only used the drop late frames option on the first two files, passed as "-framedrop" in Mplayer & Mplayer2 and "--framedrop=vo" in Mpv (VLC has a corresponding option in its preferences). I also set my file manager to launch these files with a double-click, so I didn't launch them from a terminal.

None of this means Mplayer is automatically a better choice than Mpv. Mpv has several new features, like an improved onscreen display and it can also stream HTTPS links which Mplayer can't. Lately Youtube's been throwing up HTTPS links for its videos, so Mpv is a necessity unless you use Youtube-dl and its --prefer-insecure hack (no longer working) [and for a debate on the etymological propriety of insecure vs. unsecure as can only be found on Github, look here!].

Also, Debian maintainers are having one of their periodic Olympus Mons-sized insanity episodes by eliminating Mplayer from Sid:



Yeah. That happened.

Sid and Jessie users can still get Mplayer from the deb-multimedia.org repositories, but still, Mplayer not part of your distro? Whuh?

I think I mentioned in another post that Mpv worked on G3s out of the box, whereas Mplayer (and VLC) had to be compiled with the "--disable-altivec" configure option. I recently found that the Mplayer and VLC from deb-multimedia.org worked perfectly fine on my G3 running Jessie. I don't know if this is true for Wheezy, but it might be worth a look.

And one last video note for OS X users, Adam A.'s Youtube-dl GUI, PPC Media Center, got a recent update with some Comedy Central fixes among other improvements, so download the latest from that linked post :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

All You Can Do With Tenfourbird

It's been a couple of years now since Mozilla announced they were dialing back development of their email client Thunderbird and would basically proceed with security updates only, so you'd be forgiven if you thought there was nothing new to see here. Which brings us to Tenfourbird, TenFourFox's younger sibling (bastard hellspawn?) that brings current Thunderbird releases to PowerPC Macs. It turns out there have been new features recently added to Thunderbird (without a lot of hoopla), and lest you miss out, I thought I'd take a renewed look at all the ways Tenfourbird can take over help you manage your life.

I won't bore you with all the email features since we all know it's an email client that supports IMAP and POP and has a robust address book, etc., etc. One new feature you may not know of is its support for chat networks.

Tenfourbird chat

As you can see, the new chat feature supports IRC, Google Talk, and Twitter among others. I tried the Twitter client. It's not a full-fledged feature-rich one, but you can see your timeline, get real-time updates, and send out tweets.

Another great use of Tenfourbird is as an RSS and Usenet reader. They work in a similar way. You subscribe to feeds or newsgroups and they're displayed in the folder pane as folders with all your recent and unread messages. Very convenient for reading through a lot of headlines quickly.

Tenfourbird RSS and Newsgroups

Then there's the Lightning add-on that Tenfourbird is bundled with. When you enable it in the Add-ons tab, it gives you a calendar/task manager, and you can also sync it with your Google calendar by installing the Provider for Google Calendar add-on. Here's me demoing the events manager. As you can see, I'm not much of a calendar person.

Tenfourbird Lightning Calendar

One final new feature is called FileLink, where you can upload a large attachment to an online storage service and send the recipient a download link instead of emailing them the whole attachment. This is useful when going up against email size limits your server imposes, and it's all automatic once you set it up in the Attachments preferences. By default, you can set it up with your accounts at Box, Ubuntu One, or YouSendIt, and you can add Dropbox with the Dropbox for FileLink add-on.

Also on the subject of add-ons, Tenfourbird's developer provides versions of Enigmail specifically compiled for PowerPC, so you can have support for OpenPGP and have some semblance of privacy.

The only downside is there's no easy way to sync Tenfourbird's data across all your computers. You can use a file syncing utility like Unison to sync your Thunderbird profile folders, but you have to remember to actually sync them after each use. You can sync your online calendars to a degree, and if you only have IMAP email accounts then no problem there, but I have a mix of IMAP and POP accounts. On my secondary computer I have Icedove, so I set my POP account there to leave messages on the server so I can still download them onto my primary computer even if they're already read. That's not really syncing, but it keeps things more or less in order.

All in all, Tenfourbird gets five out of five stars.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

LibreOffice on PowerPC Lives (and so does TenFourFox)

It apparently escaped my attention that LibreOffice dropped support for Tiger and Leopard, and hence PowerPC, sometime about six months ago. What, doesn't anyone tell me anything around here!

Anyway, Tiger users can always dual boot Linux for new versions, but here's the good news. Someone stepped in and started a PowerPC port of LibreOffice for Leopard. That's right, Leopard users can download the latest version at OSU Open Source Labs. It appears the maintainer is very active and knowledgeable, having sent patches upstream, and he even uploaded screenshots for the eyes of the non-believers.

The last official release that supports Tiger is at the LibreOffice archives.

Meanwhile, I've been taking TenFourFox 29 beta out for a spin. It hasn't suffered from the bug from hell that has affected Firefox 29 on PowerPC Linux. I'm sure everyone involved would appreciate your contribution if you have any knowledge to lend. But back to TenFourFox, the new GUI is zippier than ever. Page rendering is fast even though I'm running on a separate profile with no script or ad blocking add-ons. If Mr. Floodgap keeps this up, it'll end up the goto browser for Snow Leopard.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Integrate Rox-filer With Your Openbox Desktop

Awhile back I wrote about Rox-filer and I promised to augment that post with another detailing how to integrate it with your Openbox desktop, and right on schedule I'm here to do that now, several months later. Why Rox-filer, you ask? Besides being lightning quick, it's also somewhat similar to the old Mac OS 9 Finder so it brings back a bit of that Mac feel to your computer. It has its quirks and it takes a little extra work to set up things like desktop icons, mounting external devices, and integrating it with your Openbox menu, but it shouldn't take long with clear and well-articulated instructions. Okay, I can see your ironically raised eyebrows, but remember, this blog is free ;-)

Desktop Icons

Let's start with desktop icons. Rox has a Pinboard function that allows it to draw the desktop background and enable dragging and dropping icons onto it. It's not quite like other file managers where you drag and drop and the files get moved to the Desktop folder. Instead, dragging and dropping creates an iconified link on your desktop. The actual file remains in its original location.

So first you go into Rox's preferences by right-clicking on a Rox window and selecting "Options." Then click the "Desktop" section and make sure "Pinboard only" or "Panel and Pinboard" is selected (the Rox panel is somewhat gauche and ugly so I won't use it here). Next, in a terminal enter "rox --pinboard=MyPinboard" ("rox --pinboard=" with nothing after the equal sign conversely kills it). Here your desktop should turn a dull grey, because Rox is now painting your desktop. To get back your wallpaper, right-click on the desktop and choose "Backdrop..." and drag and drop your wallpaper file to the popup window. If you're wondering where your Openbox menu went, don't be alarmed. Go back into Rox's preferences, and in the "Compatibility" section click "Pass all backdrop mouse clicks to window manager." This gives you your Openbox menu back.

So now that you have it all set up, you can drag files (and applications) to your desktop. These are launchable icons that are right-clickable to bring down extra options, including removal. There are other options in the preferences for fine-tuning including choosing your icon theme, so make use. Once you're satisfied, you can put the command "rox --pinboard=MyPinboard" in your autostart file (don't forget the "&" at the end if it's an Openbox autostart file).

Mounting Drives

Now let's move on to mounting external media. It's easy for optical discs. You just open the mount point in Rox (/media/cdrom0 on Debian) and it automatically mounts. You can set the mount point as a Rox bookmark or add a pipe menu in your Openbox menu (more on that below) for shortcuts. Mounting external drives is basically the same, but they need unique entries in /etc/fstab for something called static mounting. At least you only have to do it once ;-)

(EDIT: Thanks to a tip in comments, you can automount any external media with udisks-glue. The steps are: install udisks-glue, then add "udisks-glue &" without quotes to ~/.config/openbox/autostart, and that's it! When you login again, your external drives will automount in /media. So with that you can probably disregard the next four paragraphs until you get to the pipe menus section. And on the subject of pipe menus and udisks-glue, take a look at obdevicemenu.)

First, create a mount point in /mnt with sudo mkdir /mnt/name of your drive. Next, you want to get the UUID (universally unique identifier) of the device by plugging it in and entering in a terminal sudo blkid /dev/sdb1. Or it may be sdc1 if you have two internal drives taking up sda and sdb. You'll know when you plug in the device with your /dev directory open. Just see what gets added, sdb1 or sdc1, whichever. The "1" at the end refers to the first partition, so if you're attaching, say, a Mac in Target Disk Mode, you'll likely enter sdb3 because OS X system partitions are usually the third on a disk.

Once the blkid command reveals your UUID (and your file system under "TYPE"), create a new line in /etc/fstab that looks something like this (all on one line):

UUID=5956-17FF /mnt/FLASH_DRIVE vfat user,noauto,noatime,nofail,rw,flush 0 0

That's for my thumb drive. The "vfat" is its file system, the flush option is specifically for vfat file systems, and the nofail prevents failure messages at boot when the drive might not be attached. For non-thumb drives you may want user,noauto,noatime,nofail,rw,defaults.

Now to mount when you attach it, just open the mount point for that specific drive in Rox and it mounts. Unmounting should work by closing the folder and getting a dialog, but if it doesn't you can right-click on the folder and choose the unmount or eject options. And you can create bookmarks of your mount points for shortcuts, too.

Pipe Menus

I mentioned earlier you can add shortcuts in your Openbox menu in the form of pipe menus. With pipe menus, you can browse the contents of your home folder from right inside your Openbox menu and launch files or choose a folder to open in Rox. You can also open mount points to mount devices.

This involves getting a script file and adding entries to Openbox's menu.xml that call the script and create the pipe menus. So first go to this Archbang wiki page and copy and paste the contents of the script into a new file. You just need to make one change. Where it says "spacefm", change it to "rox-filer" or whatever your file manager is. Save it as obpipemenu-places and make it executable with sudo chmod a+x.

Next, add the correct entries to ~/.config/openbox/menu.xml, placing the entries in the file where you want them to appear in the menu. Mine look like this:

<menu execute="/home/dan/Source/scripts/obpipemenu-places" id="browse" label="home folder"/>

<menu execute="/home/dan/Source/scripts/obpipemenu-places /media" id="browse2" label="media"/>

<menu execute="/home/dan/Source/scripts/obpipemenu-places /mnt" id="browse3" label="mnt"/>


Save the file, then choose Reconfigure from your Openbox menu (or openbox --reconfigure from the terminal) and you should see something like this:

Openbox and Rox

One more note on integration, Roxterm has a lot of drag and drop compatibility with Rox-filer, similar to the Finder and Terminal.app in OS X.

Bugs/Workarounds

You didn't think all this would be bug-free, did you? There are a couple of conflicts with Conky I can point out. First, right-clicking the desktop may cause your Conky output to blink. Since this is annoying, you can stop it by going into the "Compatibility" section in the preferences and select "Override window manager control of the pinboard and panels." Also, Conky transparency doesn't play well with Rox's pinboard. It'll show a black background on your Conky window. This might not be apparent at first if you have your previous wallpaper program running, but when you kill it and just have Rox drawing your desktop, you'll see it. The solution is to have both wallpaper programs running simultaneously, oddly enough. I use feh, which is low resource, anyway.

I also found a window focus bug. When I open a Rox window with the Pinboard running, the first click on the window unfocuses it, or if I first right-click on it, it brings down the Openbox menu as if I were clicking on the desktop. This is also annoying. To fix it, go into Rox's preferences, in the "Compatibility" section, and deselect "Pass all backdrop mouse clicks to window manager." But now you can't bring down your Openbox menu, right? Well, you can do it with a keybinding. I actually prefer this instead of hunting for an open space on the desktop to right-click on. Rather, you just hit a key combo wherever your cursor happens to be. To set a keybinding, edit your ~/.config/openbox/rc.xml by inserting the following into the <keyboard> section where all the keybindings are:

<keybind key="W-KP_Enter">
  <action name="ShowMenu"><menu>root-menu</menu></action>
</keybind>

The "W" in "W-KP_Enter" refers to the Windows key (Apple key on Apple keyboards) and "KP_Enter" is the Enter key (on the bottom row on laptops, or on the keypad on extended keyboards). Or you can delete the "W-" part and just have the keybinding be Enter. Looking at the other keybindings, you'll see that "S" refers to Shift, "C" is Control, and "A" is Alt. You can look up the other keys with the xev command, such as the spacebar being "space".

Finally, files and folders with ampersands, apostrophes, and possibly quotes, in their names will fail to open in the above pipe menu, so you can just modify the names (yes, I found out when my Guns N' Roses folder failed to open).

I think that about covers it. Oh, wait, I forgot setting up default applications. That can be done with the "Set Run Action..." menu item when right-clicking on a file. Drag and drop your chosen application's .desktop file from /usr/share/applications into the popup window, and you're all set.

You can also add an "Open With..." function, only in Rox it's called "Send To..." To add applications to your "Send To..." menu, right-click a file, select "Send To..." and then "Customize" and it'll open a folder at ~/.config/rox.sourceforge.net/SendTo to drag and drop symlinks from /usr/share/applications into. To drop a symlink, choose "Link (relative)" from the resulting menu. You can also divide the applications by file type by adding hidden folders like .text, .image, and .video into the SendTo folder and dragging the proper symlinks into their respective folders. You should rename the symlinks to get rid of the ".desktop" at the end. Now you should see a menu of applications popup when you click on "Send To..." :-)))

You're still here? Go. Go home.

Ferris Bueller

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Some Video Notes

If you've used youtube-dl from the command line lately, you may have noticed some breakage when passing a Youtube link to a video player, such as:

mplayer -quiet -framedrop -cache 8192 cache-min 10 $(youtube-dl -gf 18 "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP_-P_BS6KY")

Homie won't play that. It's 'cause lately Youtube has been returning HTTPS links which Mplayer and VLC can't stream. As a temporary fix, youtube-dl's developer added the option "--prefer-insecure" which, when added to the youtube-dl command, will return HTTP links which Mplayer and VLC can play.

mplayer -quiet -framedrop -cache 8192 cache-min 10 $(youtube-dl -gf 18 --prefer-insecure "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aP_-P_BS6KY")

Mein developer cautions that this could break at any moment and that he'll look for a more permanent fix in the future. ***UPDATE: This no longer appears to work. OS X users can instead use PPC Media Center, and Linux users can try Mpv.***

This situation (I've upgraded the severity from snafu to situation) can also adversely affect any Greasemonkey scripts you have for link extraction, though in my observation it's hit and miss. Thankfully none of this seems to affect OS X's PPC Media Center, but if you're on Linux or utilizing scripts that have command line args, you'll definitely want to upgrade youtube-dl (youtube-dl -U) and try out the new option.

Also Youtube related, Nathan left a comment on my Some Cross-Platform Flash Alternatives post and mentions Minitube is now available for Debian Jessie and also works on Wheezy by...Well, I'll just let him explain it:
Another Flash alternative you can do is downloading the Debian Testing version of Minitube here: https://packages.debian.org/jessie/minitube . It works perfectly if you install it on Wheezy with dpkg, and then do a "sudo apt-get -f install" to install all the required dependencies. You can then add Minitube to Open With (It's in /usr/bin), and simply right-clicking any link to a YouTube video will open it in Minitube.
Cool!

And one final cool thing, there's a new fork of mplayer2 called mpv. It's available in Jessie, too, though I haven't tried using the above method to get it onto a Wheezy box. I never liked mplayer2 'cause it used a bit more CPU than MPlayer, but mpv seems to have fixed that. Also, G3 users will be happy to know you won't have to compile it with the configuration option "--disable-altivec" to prevent a crash when playing video. Mpv works out of the box, no compiling necessary.

Now let's get back at the productivity Nazis at Lifehacker and watch some frickin' videos at work!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Compton Comes to Debian

(EDIT: This is also excellent for LXDE in case any of you got the impression this was for Openbox only.)

No, not the city, the compositor. Compton is a compositor program, like xcompmgr or cairo-compmgr, that adds effects to your desktop such as shadows and transparency. In fact, Compton is actually a sequel to xcompmgr that aims to improve and expand on the original with a whole host of bug fixes and new features, in particular adjusting window opacity.

Adjusting window opacity--for example, making all background windows transparent--is a feature I've been wanting for a long time. On OS X, there used to be an input manager called SetAlphaValue that did this, but it only worked for Cocoa windows and didn't work for the Finder or iTunes. For Linux, XFCE has had its own built-in compositor for awhile, and it's probably the only thing that's tempted me to switch, but I'm determined to be an Openbox loyalist. Xcompmgr is what we were stuck with, until Compton came along. The only problem was it wasn't in Debian's repositories, and for some excellent reason which is now completely lost to me, I never tried compiling it. But I don't have to dwell on my laziness anymore, because Compton has now arrived. It's now in the Jessie and Sid repositories, which I just noticed a week ago.

So after installing it, what do you do with it? Well, like xcompmgr, you can input all the settings from the command line (-cCf -D1 -t -8 -l -13 -r 10 -o .4), but with Compton you can also put all that junk in ~/.config/compton.conf and just enter "compton -b" in your autostart file (the -b daemonizes it). Here's my compton.conf:

# Shadow
# Enable client-side shadows on windows.
shadow = true;
# Avoid drawing shadows on dock/panel windows.
no-dock-shadow = true;
# Don't draw shadows on DND windows.
no-dnd-shadow = false;
# Zero the part of the shadow's mask behind
# the window (experimental).
clear-shadow = true;
# The blur radius for shadows. (default 12)
shadow-radius = 7;
# The left offset for shadows. (default -15)
shadow-offset-x = -11;
# The top offset for shadows. (default -15)
shadow-offset-y = -8;
# The translucency for shadows. (default .75)
shadow-opacity = 0.5;

# The shadow exclude options are helpful if you
# have shadows enabled. Due to the way compton
# draws its shadows, certain applications will
# have visual glitches (most applications are
# fine, only apps that do weird things with
# xshapes or argb are affected).
# This list includes all the affected apps I
# found in my testing. The "! name~=''" part
# excludes shadows on any "Unknown" windows,
# this prevents a visual glitch with the XFWM
# alt tab switcher (also prevents shadows on
# Openbox menu, so I commented it out).

shadow-exclude = [
# "! name~=''",
"name = 'Notification'",
"name = 'Plank'",
"name = 'Docky'",
"name *= 'Firefox'",
"name *= 'VLC'",
"name *= 'Chrome'",
"name *= 'Chromium'",
"class_g = 'Conky'",
"class_g = 'Kupfer'",
"class_g = 'Synapse'",
"class_g ?= 'Notify-osd'",
"class_g ?= 'Cairo-dock'",
"class_g ?= 'Xfce4-notifyd'",
"class_g ?= 'Xfce4-power-manager'"
];

# Opacity
# The opacity for menus. (default 1.0)
menu-opacity = 0.94;
# Default opacity of inactive windows.
# (0.0 - 1.0)
inactive-opacity = 0.6;
# Exclude applications from opacity.
focus-exclude = [
"name *= 'mplayer2'",
"name *= 'VLC'",
"class_g = 'XScreenSaver'"
];

# XRender backend: Step size for alpha pictures.
# Increasing it may result in less X resource
# usage, though some of your effects may become
# disabled.
alpha-step = 0.04;

# This prevents opacity being ignored for some
# apps. For example without this enabled
# xfce4-notifyd is 100% opacity no matter what.
detect-client-opacity = true;

# Keeps Openbox OSD focused.
mark-ovredir-focused = true;

# Limit Compton to repaint at most once every
# 1 /refresh_rate second to boost performance.
# Incompatible with certain VSync methods.
sw-opti = true;

# Unredirect all windows if a full-screen
# opaque window is detected, to maximize
# performance for full-screen windows.
# This option prevented my Openbox desktop from
# loading when put in my autostart file, so I
# commented it out.
#unredir-if-possible = true;


Basically, this creates subtle shadows around windows and menus and makes all background windows transparent. Also, menus are slightly transparent. There are some glitches as not every application draws windows exactly the same, but as you can see, you can enter exclusion rules for both shadows and opacity if any are giving you problems. The excluded applications are from sample compton.conf files I copied and pasted from the web (obviously I'm not using Chrome), but I've added the opacity exclusions for my screensaver and video players. Also I found a couple of Openbox-specific glitches that are noted in the comments.



So, looks good, you say? But what about performance? Surely this luxurious fanciness slows your desktop to a crawl, does it not? Well, I don't have 3d acceleration on this laptop, so I have to use the XRender backend instead of glx. And even then, performance is good. Menus and window switching are slightly less responsive, but not enough to be annoying. CPU usage increases, but it's only momentary. All-in-all I give Compton an A+ and think maybe it's time for a Jessie upgrade on all my computers.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

PPC Media Center Update

Just a quick FYI, Adam A.'s youtube-dl GUI wrapper that I posted about has been updated to support Comedy Central while cutting out the commercial breaks. Here's the Mediafire link (outdated: see above link for updated version), and I'll always keep the original post updated with the latest version, too. And if you haven't downloaded this yet, really, you must. We won't hold your previous delinquency against you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hmmm...

I don't know what this is about, but I'll leave it here to get your hopes up ;-)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

It's a Cold Dark Universe

What better way to remind us of the universe as a cold, uncaring vast expanse and the prevalent threat of sudden death than space sims. The tradition started with the '80s classic Elite has been carried on with many 21st century titles that focus varyingly on trading, mining, combat, or just flying around in the space sim version of lurking. Among these sims are many freeware titles, and now that I've recently done a run down of first-person-shooters still available on PowerPC, I figured I'd do the same for space simulators.



We should start with Oolite since it's the most directly inspired by the original Elite. Like Elite, Oolite is open-ended, meaning what you do in the universe is entirely up to you. Wanna be a pirate? Go for it. Out of the box, the graphics are somewhat rudimentary, but you can change this by installing among tons of expansion packs -- ships, skins, HUDS, sound packs, and more. The stable release requires Tiger and is a universal binary, but their development release seems to require Intel and Leopard, so it looks like PowerPC development for OS X is dead unless someone wants to take the source code and run with it. Debian users can install the development release from their testing repositories, but given the state of PowerPC graphics drivers on Linux...ugh.



Similar to Oolite but perhaps more elaborate is Vega Strike. Their OS X download is a version behind the latest release and seems stuck there. I think they're looking for packagers. One weakness compared to the others on this list is its startup time, which is disconcertingly leisurely. It's also more demanding in the graphics department, though you can tone it down in the settings to play fluidly on almost any configuration at the expense of prettiness. Like Oolite, this is open-ended, too, though the universe here seems a bit more populated. Unlike Oolite, it's so complex it's hard to get into and start playing right away. Thankfully it comes with an extensive PDF manual. The more you're into this genre, the more you'll enjoy this.



Finally there's Babylon 5: I've Found Her. If you think Babylon 5 refers to the TV show, you are correct! IFH is a fan-made game from a couple of Russian developers, probably the best fan-made game you'll come across. Unlike Oolite and Vega Strike, IFH is mission-oriented rather than open-ended. It puts you in the cockpit of a starfury and is mostly focused on shoot 'em up style action, though there is some exploring as well. Fan-contributed missions can be downloaded from the FTP link in this thread (the unpacked files have to be manually installed into the app package -- ooo, fun). There's also a Simulator mode for quick dogfighting action. For training purposes, of course. Not to satisfy any blood lust. That would be unseemly.

Another option is FreeSpace Open, which requires the purchase of the original FreeSpace 2, and you also need a Windows system to extract FreeSpace 2's data files. Instructions for installing this on OS X are at the FreeSpace Wiki, though from the look of Youtube clips, FreeSpace Open might be too graphics intensive for all but the fastest G5s.

Friday, February 7, 2014

New GUI App for Youtube-dl

(UPDATE: Newer versions of PPC Media Center look somewhat different than the screenshot below and have additional features. The download link at the bottom has been updated to the latest version.)

I ought to complain more often. Just a few weeks ago I wrote a post about Vevo branded videos on Youtube breaking third party downloaders. Youtube-dl was the only one that worked, and it being command line, was slightly inconvenient. Well, lo and behold, good fortune knocked on my door (sent me email) and Adam A. left me a cool new Applescript app called PPC Media Center (download link at bottom). It's a simple and elegant GUI frontend for youtube-dl, and I can report on good authority that it's awesome.



Basically it works by copying a video link to the clipboard, launching the app, and pasting the URL in the text field. You can also assign a hotkey (with a tool like Spark) and use it to launch PPCMC QuickLaunch.app which makes the URL pasting automatic. More on that in the documentation. Either way, you'll see three buttons, all of which are fairly descriptive. From my testing on Youtube, the download and streaming buttons will give you choices of quality and then you're on your way. Streaming opens in Quicktime (Perian plug-in recommended), and the download button opens a Terminal window to show your progress. The "Check for Updates" button did just that and asked my administrative password to update youtube-dl in my /usr/local/bin.

All that and a cool icon.

Another cool thing, this being Applescript, is you can edit the script inside the app package with Script Editor.app. There's a little about adding site quality profiles in the documentation, and I wonder if it's super complicated to change the player from Quicktime to VLC or Mplayer. As the documentation notes, if you do make changes use the "Save" and not "Save As" command to avoid damaging the app bundle, and keep a backup copy of the original.

Download PPC Media Center here:

(7/10/16: Updated to version 6.0, supports 10.4 - 10.8, PowerPC and Intel. Consult the Read Me for all the updated features.)

http://www.mediafire.com/download/r5wqp9y40p88r95/PPC_Media_Center_6.0.zip

MD5: 04188b4e00b69eae8c667dfc0cf2701c
SHA 1: d56e5d721fc3d6d85c54a28121194d3945b3edc8

And here's a 6.5 updater that requires 6.0 be installed first:

PPC_Media_Center_6.5.zip

One more note, you may notice on the right I've added a new link to my blogroll. It's Mac OS 9 Lives, and it has a special focus on audio workstations and music producing which was always a strength of the classic Mac OS and still is. They also have an active forum section, so go check them out!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tor Browser Bundle for PowerPC

A little birdie left a comment saying there was an unofficial Tor Browser Bundle for Tiger and Leopard at sourceforge.net/projects/osxpowerpcpackages. Given that I wrote a long torturous post about how to use Tor without the bundle since Tor officially dropped PowerPC, I naturally wanted to check this out.

So I downloaded it and it turns out it's no joke. It really is the Tor Browser Bundle for PowerPC. From the ReadMe:
The packages in this directory are UNOFFICIAL builds of the Tor Browser Bundle for Mac OS X Tiger (10.4) and Leopard (10.5), PowerPC architecture. Optimized builds are available for the different PowerPC versions, namely, the G3, G4 (7450) and G5.

The bundle is based on the official Tor Browser Bundle with changes to make it work on older Mac OS X versions and the PowerPC architecture. Most notably, Qt is downgraded to the last Mac OS X 10.4 compatible version (4.7.4) and Firefox is patched with suitable parts from the TenFourFox changeset.

Note that the 2.3.25-15 bundle version is already outdated. More current version based on Tor Browser Bundle 3.5 is in the works.
As said, it's a bit outdated so it's more proof of concept, but everything works. It all comes in one app bundle, and inside it are Vidalia and Firefox, with Firefox having its own profile in TorBrowser.app/Library/Application Support/, so you can run this side-by-side with TenFourFox with no problems.

It also sets your user agent to the default Tor user agent, has private browsing enabled, and sets network.proxy.socks_remote_dns to "true," so all your bases are covered. It comes with two add-ons, HTTPS Everywhere and NoScript. NoScript is set to allow scripts by default, so you want to click the "Forbid Scripts" option.

Basically all you need to do is start the application, watch Vidalia establish a connection until Firefox opens to a page announcing you're browsing anonymously. Easy like it's supposed to be.

I'm also intrigued by the account name on that Sourceforge page. It's called "OS X PowerPC Packages" with the description, "A repository providing binaries of open source packages built for OS X Tiger (10.4) and Leopard (10.5) PowerPC." So maybe there'll be more in the future.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Vevo Videos on Youtube

For a few months now you may have noticed Vevo titles on Youtube aren't working with Mactubes and a number of Greasemonkey scripts. If you like watching music videos, this puts a serious crimp on things as most "official" video releases are Vevo vids. Right now, the only third party tool I know of that can get around this is youtube-dl. So install* it if you don't have it, or update your copy with:

youtube-dl -U

With the newer version you can either download the videos or retrieve the links and stream them through a player like Mplayer (see Some Cross Platform Flash Alternatives). Both methods work.

*On the download page, if you don't have curl or wget, you can just click the download link at the top and then move it to your /usr/local/bin before running the chmod command. It can also be installed with Tigerbrew or Macports.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

First Person Shooter Party Fun Time!

As I'm not one to manage my time well in general, I never have enough time to enjoy the finer things in life — like the mass carnage of first person shooter games. But I do manage to download things and try them out once in a while, which is what I did recently with Open Arena and a few other open source first person shooters. So why not a roundup? This is a blog, that's kind of what we do here. So here's the story on some open source FPS games for your PowerPC Macs.

Open Arena

Heavily based on Quake III Arena, Open Arena is, well, Quake III Arena. That about covers it. Okay, there are slight differences. The game characters and maps are different, but the concept and game play are pretty much identical.



On my aluminum Powerbook (1.5 GHz, Tiger), this performs really well in a 640 x 480 resolution. In tweaking the settings (not just in Open Arena but in everything reviewed here), I found that screen resolution and the number of opponents are by far the biggest factors in getting good frame rates. So adjust accordingly. The game is a 460 MB download, and there's also a single player mod called OARemix available at Mod DB. OARemix is a separate game folder where you copy the OpenArena.app into it and play with all new maps (the one on the oil rig is really good).

If you're having trouble getting sound, turn OpenAL off in the Sound settings, and if your mod doesn't have that setting (like True Combat mentioned below), switch to the console with Shift + ESC and enter /s_useopenal 0, then restart the sound with /snd_restart.

Also, reader Peter S. compiled OpenArena for G3s (altivec disabled) available at this link.

(ADDENDUM: There's a Quake III mod that also works on Open Arena called True Combat. The physics and weapons are all about realism, and it's the best Quake III/Open Arena mod I've seen. Just download it and put the "truecombat" folder in your Open Arena folder, then start Open Arena and click "Mods." To do single player, choose "StartServer" under the Combat tab, and then you can choose your mission type and skill level. Further instructions are found on the True Combat features page.)

Sauerbraten

Cube 2: Sauerbraten is another title that's been in development forever and shows no signs of going away. It's much like Open Arena, though a major difference is the addition of a Campaign mode where you can progress from level to level.



This is slightly more resource hungry than Open Arena, and there's a wider disparity in frame rates from map to map. Most rendered well, but a few were very slow (You'll notice I resisted the temptation to type out a dozen w's at the end of slow. It always bugged me how much bandwidth that wasted.). When you download the DMG file, it installs as a simple app package. No need to hunt for binaries or change file permissions, so that's nice. Like Open Arena, the game play is very fast and challenging.

Nexuiz

Nexuiz, or Nexuiz Classic, stopped development with version 2.5.2 when one of its developers left to develop a new version of Nexuiz with IllFonic, and those left behind created an new open source fork called Xonotic. But Nexuiz Classic is still available for download at Sourceforge.



Although Nexuiz comes with a nice in-game tutorial, I had real difficulty getting good frame rates out of this. I could really only play it with one bot, and even then it was iffy. So I didn't explore this one as much as the other two. Xonotic may be an alternative for Leopard users. I know they don't support Tiger, but Leopard PPC, I'm not sure (that linked post was from 2010).

There are other games out there, too. There's Aleph One, which is an open source update of Marathon. There's also Tremulous, which I haven't tried. Those alien spiders were a bit too creepy. Maybe later. Also, Alien Arena advertises OS X support, but OS X (and Linux) users must compile from source, and I found no references on the net of anyone succeeding. Maybe later.

The only one of these games I tried on Linux PPC was Open Arena. I got good frame rates, but the colors were all messed up. Apparently the Radeon driver doesn't agree with my ATI Mobility Radeon 9700. I'll be on pins and needles for bug fixes.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New PowerPC Blog!

So I was cruising around the internets, and in my habitual browsing I came across powerpc-liberation.blogspot.ca, a spiffy new blog about our beloved computing platform. It's surprisingly in-depth and comprehensive for such a young blog, with posts about Debian 7, all kinds of content on video playback, an amusing post about scrolling vs. page up/page down...

Wait. That sounds suspiciously like Zen's blog at http://powerpcliberation.blogspot.ca/. In fact, it is his blog, lifted word for word except for the "-" between powerpc and liberation. With ads, too! Well, well, it seems we have a copycat among us. As soon as I got over the hurt that my blog wasn't copied, I got righteously indignant. This is about as blatant a case of theft as there is.

So Zen wrote about this on his blog, and I'm just passing on the warning. To all the PowerPC bloggers out there, it's probably a good idea to google your blog every now and then to see if someone out there is ripping off your content.

The really disappointing thing is the imposter didn't have the guts to copy Zen's last post ripping him a new one. As long as you're gonna steal word-for-word...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Scratch Another Off the List...

Even Bar Refaeli is parting with her PowerPC:



Must we all be forsaken?