Flash? More like Strobe.
April 27, 2010 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Help me play YouTube and Hulu videos on my PowerBook.

My laptop is a 12" PowerBook (1.5GHz G4, 1.25GiB RAM), which a friend recently complimented using the phrase: "Whoa. Sweet vintage laptop, dude."

However, despite its age, I love the form factor, and it does just about everything that I need it to, except one:

Flash video playback on this machine sucks. 5-7 FPS if I'm lucky. YouTube is a bit better, but Hulu is completely unusable. Audio even occasionally drops out.

Thing is...it hasn't always been this way. Before a series of forced version upgrades, YouTube worked just fine. VLC can play FLV files without breaking a sweat (5-10% CPU usage), and I can also play 720p H264 and XVid videos without any major frame droppage.

Do I have any recourse here? Can I install an older version of Flash and spoof the version number for YouTube and Hulu? Can I force YouTube/Hulu videos to open in VLC? Gnash?

Can I legally satiate my occasional TV cravings without using Flash or paying $4 per episode?

PlayOn sounds intriguing, but I have no Windows desktop to run it on, virtualization seems to be too much of a hassle, and the app itself seems to be caught in a perpetual game of cat and mouse.

PS. No, I cannot afford a new laptop. My desktop does the heavy lifting. An iPad would actually be a great replacement for this machine, but alas suffers from the exact same issue.
posted by schmod to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
ClickToFlash, ClickToFlash, a thousand times ClickToFlash.

It lets you make YouTube default to playing H264.

Also, try opting into the HTML5 beta.
posted by Magnakai at 8:04 AM on April 27, 2010

Response by poster: I use FlashBlock in Firefox, but that doesn't help much when I actually want to view a Flash video. I know that there are YouTube workarounds -- I'm really more interested in Hulu at the moment.

I've also had issues with the HTML5 beta on my PowerBook. Is this feature not compiled into the PPC version of Safari?
posted by schmod at 8:32 AM on April 27, 2010

With ClickToFlash, you can play Youtube videos with Quicktime player—it's not just a Flash-blocker. Try it out! I use it on my old-time G4 laptop, and it works great.
posted by interrobang at 8:56 AM on April 27, 2010

Probably not the solution you want, but a viable option for extending the usefulness of your PowerBook: you could install Linux built for PPC on it. Yellow Dog specializes in it and there are lots of distros like Debian that have PPC versions.

There is no Flash for PPC Linux, but there is an open source alternative called Gnash that works OK on things like YouTube. And you'll always be able to get the latest browsers (with HTML5 support) really easily.
posted by quarterframer at 9:48 AM on April 27, 2010

Response by poster: PPC Linux isn't an option on the 12" Powerbook. The video card is mostly unsupported (with suspend/resume definitely unsupported, which is a complete dealbreaker).

The Apple/Adobe API isn't much of a help either, given that it's only supported on Snow Leopard and Intel chips. The machine definitely has the power to decode a measly 320x240 video without the help of the GPU. It's just that the current version of the Flash player is unmistakably awful on PPC macs.
posted by schmod at 10:55 AM on April 27, 2010

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