In 2001 and 2002, I managed Macintosh computers in the Arlington, Virginia public school system. As I was setting up these fast iMac G3 computers, I wondered if and when they would become obsolete. More than ten years later, it turns out they can still be used thanks to the open source TenFourFox web browser, built on top of Mozilla Firefox code. And, perhaps, they can be used for several more years to come.
A minimum of Mac OS 10.4 is required to use TenFourFox; I've installed it on a number of donated iMac G3, G4, and G5 (PowerPC) computers, then taken these computers to families who don't own a computer in Takoma Park, Maryland. TenFourFox is HTML5 compliant and works great for general web surfing and online email use (like, Gmail). Some Flash web games may not work, as Flash for PowerPC Macs has not been updated in several years, but it's possible to get YouTube videos to play if you have a G5 (PowerPC) Mac via a QuickTime enabler. To view QuickTime videos you need to follow the steps described on the TenFourFox website. YouTube videos will stutter if you try playing them on G4 and G3 Macs.
I should note that there are several versions of TenFourFox for different models of G4 Macintosh computers. To download the appropriate version, find out the model of the CPU in your G4 Macintosh. This can be done fairly quickly using the Terminal program found within Applications/Utilities on your Mac. If you need help from someone comfortable doing this, ask around within your tech friends or at your local public library or school.
This short screencast I created explains TenFourFox and shows the browser in use on a G5 iMac.
That's the beauty of open source. When Apple and Mozilla abandoned new browser development for PowerPC Macs, some excellent other people took up the banner to make sure these older computers got an extended life. The programmers who created TenFourFox will never meet the families, children and adults, in Takoma Park who are immensely grateful to receive a working computer with an up-to-date web browser.
I always explain to the families: "This web browser called TenFourFox was created by people all around the world who wanted you to have a good web browser on your older Mac. These programmers are just like the talented and kind prorammers who created LibreOffice, the excellent word processor I have installed on your computers." In the sometimes harsh world we live in, open source is kindness and caring, bundled together in software. When we spread kindness, we generate more kindness.
Phil Shapiro is an edtech educator at the Takoma Park Maryland Library, helping youth and adults use the 28 public Linux stations there. He also blogs for MAKE magazine. In his free time he delivers donated computers to families that don't have computers. You can reach him on Twitter or at email@example.com