Snow Leopard: the end of the line for PowerPC Macs

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Dr. Webster's picture
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Check out the system requirements for OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard:

http://www.apple.com/macosx/specs.html

Looks like PowerPC-based Macs are stuck at 10.5.

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Re: Snow Leopard: the end of the line for PowerPC Macs

Dr. Webster wrote:

Check out the system requirements for OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard:

http://www.apple.com/macosx/specs.html

Looks like PowerPC-based Macs are stuck at 10.5.

I agree - after getting Leopard to run on G4-upgraded pre-G3 Macs (http://www.applefritter.com/node/23084) I've been closely following the development of Snow Leopard.

Looking at the current state of the Snow Leopard build things are not good for PPC.

Much like G3 support was stripped out of both the Applications and Kernel Extensions support in 10.5 there is mounting evidenence that kernel extensions alone would not re-enable PPC support.

In the latest builds many of the kernel extensions are now listed as Intel only, the Finder.app (along with many others) is also listed as only supporting 386 and x64 architectures, no ppc. This means that it would not run on PPC at all - much like people found that iTunes, etc wouldn't run on later beta builds of Leopard when installed on a G3.

I'll keep monitoring the builds and of course the final release of Snow Leopard - but expect the complete removal of PPC support, except where it props up Rosetta to run some PPC code on Intel machines.

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RIP, I guess

Maybe this will put to rest that oft-touted "Mac Advantage" of "they last longer then PCs". Apple is all about forced obsolescence now. They have been since Jobs got back, but it took a while for it to become so blatantly obvious. At first they just tried to woo you to upgrade by changing the candy coating they slapped around the same old rickety parts year after year, but now the final reckoning is here.

The last PowerPC Macs weren't discontinued until August 2006, meaning the last guy who bought a brand new Quad-Core G5 gets a whopping three years one month of "currency" out of it. (And of course they were lingering on Apple's refurb site for almost another year, so it's very possible that there are going to be people finding themselves locked out of a new OS release before their AppleCare expires.) I suppose that's slightly better then the guy who bought a 68040 Performa in 1996 only to be locked out by OS 8.5 in 1998, but it is notable that in this case it's more likely to be the people who bought the high-end hardware that are hurt rather then the bottom feeders.

Oh, well. If you had $3000 to blow on a "good" Mac in 2006 you've got another $3000 to replace it now, right?

I suppose it would be unfair to point out that other then the "DirectX-9-class" video card recommendation the minimum requirements for Windows Vista correspond nicely with your average late-2001-ish vintage computer. :^b

--Peace

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It's not the worst thing ever

It's not the worst thing ever; it just means that you can't use the latest & greatest software. If you've already got software that works on your machine and does what you want, then what else do you need?

I could use an Apple //e for all of my word-processing if I didn't enjoy the convenience of being able to use a mouse to position the insertion point.

(Oooh, I just contradicted myself!)

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First, let me say that I ackn

First, let me say that I acknowledge that Apple has been crappy about retro-support for a long time. Whenever a major OS change has occurred, some sort of workaround has been required to install and/or run the new version on machines a little older than the latest ones. However...

When Snow Leopard is released, it's not that you'll suddenly be unable to use the latest and greatest software (with the exception of the OS itself.) Just like in the past, developers will continue to write software that will run under 10.5 at least for a while...and probably until the PowerPC's get so far behind in terms of muscle, etc. that they no longer meet people's (and the latest software's) needs. Then most people will naturally stop using them and upgrade, leaving the PPC's for enthusiasts like ourselves to occasionally tinker with in our basements. Then the amount of software written will start to decrease. THAT'S when they'll become obsolete. NOT when apple decides to stop supporting them with the newest, shiniest OS.

Also, Apple was until recently (or maybe still is, I don't know) still churning out updates for Tiger and there's no reason to think that they won't continue to maintenance Leopard for a while, as well.

By the way, it's easy for a computer to last a long time when you don't create a substantial update to your (unstable, cobbled-together, vulnerable) operating system for like 8 years (yes, I'm talking about M$.) Also, a machine built in 2001 (provided half its components haven't long since failed because it was slapped together in some crappy dell factory) might work with Vista with a little video card upgrade, but what's the processor's clock speed going to be? How about the bus speeds? How big's the hard drive? Good thing you've got the latest OS on there...so you can play ancient games, surf the web, and use instant messengers. You might even be able to use all those cool new features stolen from Apple.

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Re: First, let me say that I ackn

mike0315 wrote:

First, let me say that I acknowledge that Apple has been crappy about retro-support for a long time. Whenever a major OS change has occurred, some sort of workaround has been required to install and/or run the new version on machines a little older than the latest ones. However...

When Snow Leopard is released, it's not that you'll suddenly be unable to use the latest and greatest software (with the exception of the OS itself.) Just like in the past, developers will continue to write software that will run under 10.5 at least for a while...and probably until the PowerPC's get so far behind in terms of muscle, etc. that they no longer meet people's (and the latest software's) needs. Then most people will naturally stop using them and upgrade, leaving the PPC's for enthusiasts like ourselves to occasionally tinker with in our basements. Then the amount of software written will start to decrease. THAT'S when they'll become obsolete. NOT when apple decides to stop supporting them with the newest, shiniest OS.

Also, Apple was until recently (or maybe still is, I don't know) still churning out updates for Tiger and there's no reason to think that they won't continue to maintenance Leopard for a while, as well.

By the way, it's easy for a computer to last a long time when you don't create a substantial update to your (unstable, cobbled-together, vulnerable) operating system for like 8 years (yes, I'm talking about M$.) Also, a machine built in 2001 (provided half its components haven't long since failed because it was slapped together in some crappy dell factory) might work with Vista with a little video card upgrade, but what's the processor's clock speed going to be? How about the bus speeds? How big's the hard drive? Good thing you've got the latest OS on there...so you can play ancient games, surf the web, and use instant messengers. You might even be able to use all those cool new features stolen from Apple.

I don't think I really agree with Apple having a reputation of "terrible retro support" Until 10.5 came along, the requirements for new versions of Mac OS X were quite forgiving. Things like built in USB and Firewire aren't exactly hard to achieve, and like others have said, there are ways to work around those requirements. I will say that starting with 10.5, Apple definitely decided to take things to another level by killing off all G3 support and a good chunk of G4 support as well. Now with 10.6 Apple has killed off the rest of the G4 and G5's in one fell swoop. Its a shame because there are lots of great/powerful systems out there that are still VERY usable by todays standards. I would bet there are quite a few G5 systems out there that could smoke a lot of early Intel Macs, and maybe even be on par with some of the more recent ones. In fact, I would rather have one of the last G5 towers than my MacBook Pro. what I think burns a lot of people is the fact that someone who spent $3299 on a quad G5 in August 06 won't be able to run Snow Leopard while the person who spent $599 on a core solo Mini that same time will be able to. That just doesn't add up for me. Its a shame because in every way, that G5 would eat the Mini for lunch, but Apple has decided not to continue support.

Just food for thought:

B&W G3: full OS support for 8 years
Powermac G5: At a maximum 6, minimum 2.5 years.

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A few things to consider/reme

A few things to consider/remember:

1. Computers are not an investment. Do not expect a long useful life out of them. The average length of time between buying new computers is about 3 years.

2. If Apple were to keep PPC support, they'd have to build at least 3 versions of OS X -- PPC, Intel x86 and Intel x64. I'm sure it's been a PITA enough for Apple to have had to maintain the PPC and Intel x32 versions for the past few years.

3. Apple doesn't make money off of software (not the Mac OS, at least) -- they make it by selling hardware. If they kept making OS releases that supported old hardware, they'd be cutting down their revenue stream. Comparing Apple's hardware support to Microsoft's doesn't work, as Microsoft actually does make its money from software -- they don't care what hardware you have since they don't sell any.

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Re: A few things to consider/reme

Dr. Webster wrote:

A few things to consider/remember:

1. Computers are not an investment. Do not expect a long useful life out of them. The average length of time between buying new computers is about 3 years.

Snarky comments aside, I actually do believe that phasing out PowerPC support ASAP is the "right" thing from a business perspective for Apple to do. It is just something of an amusing poke in the eye to anyone that actually still believed the old myth of Macs somehow being immortal compared to their PC brethren.

You're certainly right that computers are *not* an investment. The idea of Macs being immortal is for a large part an artifact of the investment-level prices Apple has a reputation for charging for them. (The premium isn't so harsh anymore when comparing *directly comparable* machines, but with entry-level PC notebooks easily had for $500 and less while the cheapest Mac notebook is an even grand it's easy to see why the "Macs = Expensive" stigma lingers.) Macs last "forever" not because the electronics are any better but because someone that spends $2000+ for something is going to be a lot more attached to it then the guy who buys nothing but $799 Fry's/CompUSA/Dell/whatever specials every three years. Maybe having MacOS instead of whatever Windows flavor-of-the-day that's getting slapped on those cheap boxes is worth the price premium, but that still doesn't cushion the blow much when the realization dawns that in the final analysis the object you paid $2000 for is "disposable" on roughly the same timescale as your neighbor's $800 one.

It's certainly possible to rationalize that it "doesn't matter" that you can't run the latest OS, not being able to doesn't make your computer stop doing what it's always done, etc, etc, but... Apple tends to be pretty quick in discontinuing patch support for previous OSes. (Take for instance the 2007 Daylight Savings Time change. Apple initially balked in releasing a patch for 10.3 even though it'd only been two years since Tiger's release, and they never did release one for earlier systems.) I don't know if they've released any timelines regarding how long they intend to continue security patch releases for the earlier OSes (I'd love to know if someone has a link. For all Microsoft's evilness they at least publish their intended drop-dead dates.) If you're going to be connected to the Internet security patches *are* important.

Anyway. Just call me bitter because I'm worried this will be the end of Tiger updates, and that's what's still installed on my family's fleet of hand-me-down Powerbook G4s. (Tiger because they have some old educational games that need Classic and partitioning and dual-booting is a *really* annoying alternative. And Leopard is pretty much da suck on G4s anyway.) :^b

--Peace

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Re: A few things to consider/reme

Eudimorphodon wrote:

If you're going to be connected to the Internet security patches *are* important.

What dangers are there if you're not getting these patches? Browsers and all their related software are the major drawback to not having the latest OS, correct? Is that the only area where keeping up might be considered critical and unavoidable? The internet constantly develops regardless and it's the constantly developing internet that is the driver of obsolescence. Otherwise, features and compatibility to new hardware is the only benefit to a newer OS, correct? If you're satisfied with your present features and hardware, only online connection is your weak spot and the tug at your wallet.

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It's more then browsers

Hawaii Cruiser wrote:
Eudimorphodon wrote:

If you're going to be connected to the Internet security patches *are* important.

What dangers are there if you're not getting these patches? Browsers and all their related software are the major drawback to not having the latest OS, correct? Is that the only area where keeping up might be considered critical and unavoidable?

No, although not being able to run current versions of browsers and associated plugins is a *major* problem, since once they stop making new versions for your platform whatever vulnerabilities are lurking in the last version that runs on your machine you're going to have *forever*.

Outside of that there is a whole class of remote exploits which can render an affected machine vulnerable simply by connecting it to a network where it might be exposed to a hostile port scan. [URL=http://webapp.iss.net/Search.do?searchType=vuln&keyword=OS X]OS X has had plenty of those. Just click around.[/URL] Another class of security holes that matter is bugs affecting shared operating system libraries. Here an example of that. (There are plenty more.) These sorts of problems can affect *any program on the system that uses that library*, whether it's new or old software. So even if some nice person keeps privately updating the browser security holes in a fork of Firefox compiled to run on your not-supported-by-Apple-anymore version of OS X there's still the possibility that something could wreck your system from the Internet due to a bug in an unpatched library the browser uses.

I'll grant that these sorts of thing haven't had much success in the wild with OS X, but that's largely due to Windows being a much lower hanging fruit. In truth you're probably "mostly safe" running a dead version of OS X as long as you're behind a firewall. But if anything does start going around, well, no one's going to fix it. That *is* important. Unless you don't mind some jerk in Russia reading your passwords and sending *ick enlargement emails through your computer every time you're online

Sure, granted, you could solve this problem by not using an unpatchable computer on a network at all anymore. Somehow I don't see that as a reasonable solution given what we expect computers to do for us these days.

--Peace

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end of powerpc software support

Now, I'll admit that Snow Leopard going intel only isn't going to be terribly pleasant for a fair number of people. Truth is, the majority of people who plunked down large sums of money for G5's up to 2006 have already gotten their money out of the machine and/or upgraded to a Mac Pro by now.

Of the macs in the family - we only have one intel based machine - my macbook pro. My wife has an iBook G4, and I have a Power Mac G5 dual 2.0 as my desktop. I've only installed 10.5 on my macbook pro, 10.4 on all the powerpc machines. I've not had the best experiences with 10.5 on powerpc equipment, so I've generally leaned towards 10.4.

Since Apple has been about keeping 10.4 updated, I don't see any issues with keeping powerpc machines going for at least another two years. I'm planning to get my wife a macbook or macbook pro within the next 12-18 months, and intend on running my macbook pro until it's dead.

Truth is, the people who tended to buy G5's well into the early days of the intel switch did so because they needed something that ran powerpc software at the highest speed possible, or because hardware/software they used required that type of machine. I don't think it's such a bad thing.

The G5 is one of the saddest hardware and software dead ends in Apple's history. Not as much of a screw job as the Apple IIgs, but most people who bought G5's after the intel switch started knew what was coming (odds were that they saw what happened with the IIvx, Apple IIgs, and other such machines along the way.

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