Cat&Mouse

Firefox 4 and the slow death of PPC Macs

If you hadn’t heard yet, Mozilla.org recently released the latest version their web browser called Firefox 4.  Firefox 4 brings along some new features and performance improvements.  But one thing that is missing in the release is support for Macs with PowerPC (PPC) processors.

For those of you that don’t know, there are a lot of differences between Macs and PCs.  For many years, the processor inside of Macintosh computer was a totally different kind of processor.  A processor is the brains of your computer, and just like humans, these processors speak different languages.  Most computers today use a language based of of Intel’s x86 Instruction set.  Mac’s started out using a CPU from Motorola, and then switched to a PowerPC CPU, made by IBM.

Now most people don’t care what language their CPU speaks, as long as it works.  But some people used to have something similar to religious arguments about PowerPC vs x86.  Remember in the Matrix when the Merovingian talked about how he felt French was a better language for swearing?  Well, it turns out that some CPU languages are better for certain tasks too.

But does any of this matter? Well, no. It doesn’t.  Because although one CPU might be better for Video Editing than another, the laws of supply and demand say that if there are more people with Intel CPUs, programmers are going to make software for Intel CPUs.  It doesn’t matter which one is better.  It matters which one has more market share.

But still, it makes me sad.  My family got a PowerPC-based Mac around 1994, when I was in Jr High.  In 1999, I bought a “Blue & White” PowerMac G3 to take to college with me.  In 2003 I bought a PowerMac G5 (with dual CPUs!) which I’m typing this blog post on right now.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll keep my trusty PowerMac G5.  But I do know that Apple has stopped supporting it.  I can’t get any new Operating Systems for my 8 year old machine.  And now, with Firefox 4, I can’t get the latest browser from Mozilla.  So I know that one day, I will have to retire my trusty silver desktop, probably for a shiny little MacBook laptop.

Don’t get me wrong, I am big supporter of Mozilla and their work towards creating a standards compliant browser that works on as many platforms as they can support.  I know that there is no way they can continue to support a CPU that less and less people are using.  But still, I hate to watch the slow death of PowerPC based Macs. 🙁