Classilla Gives New Life to Mac OS 9
I’m not sure if anyone knows who coined the phrase, but Google certainly pioneered it. “The browser is the OS.” With the launch of Google Chrome and the idea of instant-on cloud computing, there’s a feeling that — yeah — pretty much everything you use a computer for these days revolves around if you’ve actually got an Internet connection. And as long as you’re not a PC Gamer, what do you need your computer to do? It needs to be fast, and get on the Internet. That’s about it. So that got me thinking…what do I do with my Apple G4 Cube (running Mac OS 9) that’s collecting some dust? Classilla gave me the answer.
My Cube is actually capable of running OS X 10.5, and it works, even the 3D and transparency stuff. But Mac OS 9 is a speed demon. For the geeks out there, it’s a PowerPC at 450Hz with 768 MB of RAM. And OS 9 is so snappy and responsive it makes me wish it was still a supported operating system. And to an extent — it is.
But hold on.
I hear your argument out there. You could compare it to putting Windows 98 on some top-of-the line machine from the time and calling it blazing fast. But here’s the difference: where Windows sputtered in the late 90’s, OS 9 took up the slack. Mac OS 9 was arguably the most multi-media friendly operating system for its time. OS 9 did a lot of heavy lifting with Final Cut, Photoshop and other post-production software. It had native CD burning software and WiFI drivers. It had an indexed file system. It was the OS that iTunes launched on. Its final incarnation (9.2.2.) is incredibly rock solid and stable. Features that made it ahead of its time in 2000, make it worth your time today. And so my point is: It’s still usable. And you can browse the web on it. And if the browser is the OS, according to Google…isn’t a fast computer plus a browser all you need?
And so, Classilla was born. Wrought out of code from Mozilla, Classilla is a full featured web browser for OS 9 that’s secure, fast and stable, and remarkbly well featured. No, it doesn’t do fancy AJAX-y stuff, and Google Apps wont be running inside it anytime soon, but it actually plays Flash video — even from YouTube — and I can even post to The VAR Guy inside it. Craiglist, eBay, Gmail, blogs, banking, heck — nearly 95% of my web browsing can be easily — and quickly — done from the snappy little 8 inch cube.
What’s more, there’s a Google Group for Mac OS 9. There’s a small niche of dedicated users who see the value in the stability and speed that OS 9 can still give them. And there’s people who love to help bring the OS into the 21st Century, even if it’s just small tweaks. And although Steve Jobs put OS 9 six feet under there’s still tons of support for it on Apple’s website, including downloads and drivers.
OS 9 wasn’t a pretty operating system. And maybe that’s part of its charm and why people still gravitate towards it. In truth, a late night writing session (in Apple Works!) feels much more pleasant on an operating system that gets out of your way instead of being in your face. And as elegant as OS X and Windows 7 are, you might note that the GUI is starting to feel…heavy.
So here’s the thing: As the world moves closer and closer to the cloud, you might wonder: how much power do you really need to get your work done? And maybe, potentially, that old Mac in your basement might have some use again. And yeah, you could invest $300 in a new netbook, but you might want to head over to Craigslist or eBay and drop $150 on a G4 Mac. Maybe.
So here’s some food for thought: with the advent of cloud computing, the old computer is new again.