Embracing Obsolescence

Netscape 7, Internet Explorer 5, iCab, MacLynx, WaMCom, WannaBe, MachTen, and More Movies Made on Macs

- 2006.02.03

Over the past few weeks I've received a good amount of feedback on the various topics my Embracing Obsolescence articles have touched upon. I want to thank everyone who took time to send an email.

All feedback has been positive and often times quite informative. I try to be relatively thorough when writing an article, hopefully without crossing the "bore everyone to tears" threshold. I am sure I barrel right into that realm anyway, but I do try to keep readers interested without missing or glossing over too many details.

And I know that if an article is lacking some tidbit or detail, a knowledgeable reader will inform me by email. This article will serve to draw attention to some of the reader feedback from those past topics.

Netscape 7

Since I began my stint with Low End Mac by writing about web applications for the classic Mac OS (Two Browsers, an Email Client, and a 68k Mac), why not start there again. I was surprised to see how much of the feedback dealt with me giving short shrift to Netscape 7. I do confess I have long since abandoned any Netscape not named Mozilla. (Okay, I have used Firefox, Camino, and WaMCom, but they are all Mozilla releases.) I figured if Netscape was based on older versions of Mozilla, why not just use Mozilla. To some extent I still think that way. The latest version of Netscape was not very impressive and is now only supplied to Windows users. (Download WaMCom here.)

However, there are still many fans of Netscape 7.0.2, and I can understand why. In theory, Netscape should represent a more polished version of Mozilla. Netscape includes support for AIM and other Netscape/AOL services. While, WaMCom is certainly the latest release of Mozilla for the classic Mac OS, there are several odd bugs lingering around without any real hope of being fixed. Again, those intrepid coders out there with a fondness for the classic Mac OS, feel free to update WaMCom. After all, the code is open source.

Anyway, I can see the allure of Netscape as a stable, polished, and better integrated Mozilla.

However, after downloading Netscape 7.0.2, I took immediate disfavor with it. Whereas WaMCom doesn't need an installer - just drag and drop and you're ready to go - Netscape insists on one. Yuck.

I persevered and installed Netscape, but I ended up trashing the browser after 20 minutes of use. I did not have a stopwatch handy, but Netscape certainly felt sluggish on the 312 MHz G3 upgraded Power Mac (256 MB RAM for those keeping score). Launching the application was definitely slower, and rendering web pages seemed less snappy than WaMCom.

The AOL instant messenger tie-in was not a big deal for me, so I simply went back to WaMCom when I needed a Mozilla browsing experience. I kept the installer for Netscape 7.0.2 in case I ever felt the need to give it another try.

Internet Explorer 5

You never know how your browsing preferences might change. After all, I spent 10 minutes today hunting around for a place to download the last version of Internet Explorer 5. Most Mac users may already be aware of Microsoft's decision to stop support for the Mac version of Internet Explorer by the end of 2005. I should note the decision to discontinue support was really made almost three years ago; the 2005 announcement was simply a formality.

Sarcasm meter enabled - Now in 2006, Microsoft has disavowed any knowledge of any Internet Explorer release for the Mac platform. - Sarcasm meter disabled.

Okay, Microsoft was kind enough to leave a note directing Mac users to a suitable replacement, but I still needed a decent web browser that can run on Mac OS 8.1. At the time, the Power Mac 7600 was still running Mac OS 8.1, not the hacked OS 9 install from my Netscape 7.0.2 encounter.

Unfortunately, iCab 3.0 isn't compatible with Mac OS 8.1, although I tried a quick hack to make it work. Not unexpectedly, this procedure failed, but it was worth a try.

I figured WaMCom would likewise refuse to run on OS 8.1, which left me with iCab 2.9.8 and Internet Explorer 5.1.7. Internet Explorer had served me well during the file sharing shenanigans with my Performa 6400 media center project, so why not give it another try.

In the course of downloading Internet Explorer, I came to an epiphany and aborted the download. While on dialup, you have time to think when you initiate a download. Consequently, I recalled the host of junk which Internet Explorer would dump all over my hard drive. Not to mention, Internet Explorer is merely an okay browser, but not particularly great. I like the FTP integration, eBay auction manager (assuming this feature remains functional - I haven't had a chance to use it recently), and the decent support for keyboard navigation.


If I may digress... iCab doesn't seem to support keyboard navigation, and I can hardly ever get WaMCom's to work properly. Accursed Mozilla bugs strike again. I can get the "select each link in order" part to work, but if I try to jump to a link or piece of text using the / key or ' key, I fail to convince WaMCom to register my typing. The search simply times out without responding. If anyone knows what I am doing wrong, please inform me.

Since I had to do this much work in order to set up an acceptable browser, why not just hack an OS 9 installation onto the Power Mac 7600 and get my favored browsing setup running: WannaBe for everyday browsing and iCab or WaMCom for the tough stuff.

I would also be able to finally give Netscape 7.0.2 a try, which is where we began. Wow, this article is positively Tarantinoesque (with a dash of Lynchian surrealism) as my narration jumps in and out of chronological order, while going off on weird tangents.


Another reader, a fellow Low End Mac contributor, still has a soft spot for MacLynx. I also appreciate what MacLynx has to offer, but I no longer use it for browsing. MacLynx hasn't been updated in years, and Lynx, Links, Elinks, and other derivatives are more flexible, feature filled, and compatible with modern web standards.

Too bad none of those versions runs on the classic Mac OS, well without running a *nix environment (via a product like Tenon's MachTen or remotely over telnet or SSH). If you want a text browser for Mac OS 9 and earlier, you have two choices. WannaBe and MacLynx.

MacLynx has not seen the care and attention paid to the other members of its family, but it may be worth a try anyway. Feel free to download MacLynx and give it a whirl. Keyboard navigation is much better implemented than in WannaBe, but that is to be expected from an application originally designed for the terminal (or command line, if you prefer that nomenclature). Performing searches is also easier, as it does not require the aid of plugins.

Again, MacLynx was a nice little browser and could still be updated because of its open source nature, but I find WannaBe to be a better browser. Although limited, WannaBe has a wealth of plugins available for extending its feature set and overall seems more Mac-like than the *nix port which is MacLynx. Still, David W Owens makes a good case for giving MacLynx a whirl.

Voices of a Distant Star

The Voices of a Distant Star review was decidedly off topic - well, except for my clever (cough, yes, we will go with clever) and descriptive tie-in to what sort of creative work could be accomplished on an older Mac. I still received feedback from the Low End Mac readership, who did not mind the slight veering away from my more traditional Embracing Obsolescence fare.

Two more movies made on the Mac that might be worth checking out are Tarnation ($26.99 on DVD from Amazon.com) and the documentary, Broadway: The Golden Years ($17.99 on DVD from Amazon.com). Also, for those Voices of a Distant Star fans, The Place Promised In Our Early Days ($26.99 on DVD from Amazon.com) is said to be another fine piece created by the same very talented Makoto Shinkai.

Again, thanks to all the readers who make what I do possible and enjoyable. I'll try my best to keep you entertained and informed. My next article will allow us to revisit my media center project and discover a shocking new twist to the saga.

Until next we meet, keep those old Mac purring.

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