Yes, you can use a PowerPC in 2020 (or any other year)

Yes, you can use a PowerPC in 2020 (or any other year)

It’s that time again. PowerPC (PPC) is being slammed by the unknowing.

If I had the time I’d make a response video, like Greg Hrutkay has, and set the record straight on a few things. Sadly, I do not have the time to shoot and edit such a video so I’ll write this article instead. Now I won’t start hating on this guy. I don’t know him or his channel so I won’t judge him for being terribly misinformed. Why do I say he’s misinformed? Let’s get into this..

According to MacintoshMen there are two big problems that make using a PPC in 2020 a big no-no.

1. CPU Speed.
2. Software support.

I won’t re-hash the whole video, it’s 10 lines up, just watch it there 🙂 I will address the two issues as stated.

CPU Speed
As the last PPC was made in 2005, the best CPU you can hope for is a dual dual core (quad) 2.5GHz G5. If we’re talking raw specs, this is a machine that scores just over 3600 on Geekbench. Compare that with a low end Intel Mac, let’s say a Late 2006 1.83GHz MacBook, which benches 2400 on a good day, the G5 doesn’t look too bad. Compare the G5 with a 2012 Mac Pro 12-core 3.06 which benches 25,000, the G5 looks pretty shitty.

At the end of the day, guess what, these numbers don’t matter! The 2015 MacBook which is 10 years newer than that same G5, benchmarks 2500-2800 which is still 1000 points shy of the G5 score. As much of a garbage product as the MacBook was, it was better optimized to deal with the modern web and applications, so it can do things the G5 can only dream of. I’m just pointing out that geekbench scores mean very little.

I use a Power Mac G4 MDD almost every day. I’ve used it with supercharged dual 2.0GHz CPU upgrade cards, overclocked dual 1.67GHz CPU cards and am currently using it with a lowly dual 867 MHz CPU card. Geekbench had this machine at 1621, which is pretty damn good for a G4 but is absolutely worthless in the eyes of geekbench comparisons. But what if I were to tell you I can do 90% of my daily work on this machine?

Modern processors outperform the PPC by a long shot, MacintoshMen states. This is true of course but does not invalidate the power a PPC has.

Software Support
You can’t use any OS newer than 10.5. You can’t run any of the latest apps as developers have abandoned PPC a decade ago. Browsing the web is a nightmare as the hardware is too slow. Forget Youtube, forget streaming, forget netflix. No Office, no Photoshop. It’s so frustrating to use, it’s slow and sluggish. Yadda yadda.

So what?

I run my PPC on 10.4.11 Tiger. Adobe CS 4 runs better and faster on my G4 than Adobe CC 2020 runs on my 12-core Mac Pro! I can update my database, update my website, work on my wordpress websites (hi, typing this on my G4 now), send and receive email on ALL of my accounts which are IMAP and connect over SSL and this includes iCloud. Using software support as an argument to invalidate older hardware is bogus. How often do you contact Apple for support? How often do you contact developers for support? I know the answer. “Support” is just a buzzword that means absolutely nothing.

My OS is not supported by Apple. The hardware itself is not supported by Apple. None of the applications I use are supported by their developers. But it all, still, works.

With a 1TB SATA SSD and 2GB of RAM, I can start productive work 50 seconds after I press the power button. Waking the system from sleep takes no more than 3 seconds. Starting Photoshop CS 4 takes 9 seconds (CC 2020 takes 15 seconds to start). Dreamweaver CS 4 launches in 10 seconds. I can textedit and spreadsheet just as well in AppleWorks or iWork on the PPC just as well as Office or other apps on Intel. Browsing the web is a non-issue. It takes TenFourFox a while to get going from a cold start but once the browser is running and fully loaded, pulling up a new tab and loading a site is no problem. Sure it’s not as fast as browsing on a modern Intel but that is to be expected. Doesn’t mean browsing on the PPC is a no-go.

I can go on and on about all the apps I use and all the work I do on my PPC but you’ll just have to take my word for it; it’s as usable today as it was 17 years ago.

Audio producers can get the job done on a PPC (in fact, many still prefer PPC even today).
Graphic designers can get the job done on a PPC.
Gamers have more choice of games on PPC than they do on Intel.
Web developers can code just as well on a PPC as they can on an Intel.
Bloggers can update their blogs on a PPC.
Accountants can use office, quicken and other apps on the PPC.
The. List. Goes. On.

So why the constant “advice” that PPC is useless? Because people don’t remember (or have never experienced) how to use a computer. If you use a multi-thousand dollar system for entertainment only, you need something fairly recent. Youtube, social media, reddit, 4chan, discord, whatever other time wasting stuff is out there. These things do not work on a PPC. This does not mean a PPC is useless! This just means PPC’s are reserved for those that remember how to do productive work on an older machine and can enjoy older forms of entertainment.

Yes, compromises have to be made. No iCloud drive, no dropbox, no *insert most cloud solutions here*. But there are ways around that. Why would anyone do work on a PPC and then use an Intel machine later to upload/share that work to various cloud services? Productivity. The time saved by doing productive work on a PPC completely justifies the additional step of sharing that work from an Intel machine later. You’ll likely still have saved an hour or more in your day after that. Any documents that need to be synced to online services which are not available on my G4 are synced with other apps. Carbon Copy Cloner syncs documents from my G4 to my Mac Pro constantly, the Mac Pro syncs these with online services as soon as they land on it’s drive. You can automate these things.

“PowerPC is dead, it has been dead” Wrong. PowerPC is alive and kicking and still offer significant productive value for those that know how to harness it. There is more to computer usage than youtube and social media but this is a point that is difficult to drive home to most people born after the year 2000 as they mostly have no idea what a computer has historically been used for. I can talk about this for a hundred pages but I’ll wrap it up here.

Want to build a website? Grab a PPC. Want to learn a new language, learn PHP, hone your writing skills…. do any of a million things! Grab a PPC. You’ll appreciate being able to do these things without the constant distractions from notifications, pings, blings, mentions, tags, messages etc. If you’re serious about being productive, 90% of people would be better off using a PPC.

Change my mind. (you won’t but feel free to try)

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One thought on “Yes, you can use a PowerPC in 2020 (or any other year)

  1. I’m mostly taken by the launch times between the two setups.

    I don’t think web dev is something you can do much of using PPC unless you’re SSHing into servers as a backend guy or making some Ruby stuff. Most of the modern web tools arrived long after the death of PPC Macs, Node (and the billion things that depend on it), webpack, docker, modern linters, and access to any modern browsers that use modern JS engines to support ES2015 etc. Perhaps there’s a git port for PPC macs? Dunno.

    You might be able to swing a good chunk of it in Linux. Node is big enough there probably is a PPC port, and there’s probably modern browsers. Writing a React app would be slow to compile and painful to debug because of RAM limitations but it _probably_ is feasible if you used Gulp and not webpack. Hmm…..

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