Dust off your NPAPI for a peek inside Perlin’s Menagerie

Written by Nick Vitovitch on November 22, 2018

There is a treasure trove of graphical goodness hiding in plain sight on Ken Perlin’s homepage.

Illustrations, experiments, examples, teaching aids, simple games, you name it; for any topic there is a blog post and source code two clicks away. Or so it was, until ~2015 when most modern browsers deprecated their support for NPAPI.

NPAPI (Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface) was the glue which enabled native Java web applications to run in-browser.  While the deprecation of NPAPI did much to improve security, the march of progress trampled over a few good applications.

Fortunately for us, there are still legacy and extended-support releases of pre-2015 browsers available for download.

Without further ado, here are the resources to get you up and running:

Grab a copy of Firefox ESR

According to this post on Java.com, the last version of Firefox to support NPAPI was the 32-bit release of 52.0.  You can download a copy from Mozilla’s Firefox archives:

For Windows users, I recommend a Custom install to a distinct “-ESR” folder; and disallowing start menu and desktop shortcuts.  Don’t want to use this version of Firefox by accident!

(P.S. for those running Windows, you could also use Internet Explorer.  If you had to.)

Install the Java Runtime Environment

32-bit is key to match the architecture of our browser.  I used Java 8 JRE from Oracle.  Once installed, follow these instructions to enable the Java Runtime plugin in browser.

And you’re ready to roll

After a few short steps, you’re now running Java in browser like it’s 2014.  Head on over to https://mrl.nyu.edu/~perlin and have fun exploring.

P.S. I cannot in good conscience advocate for unsafe web browsing without restating the (hopefully) obvious:

  • Limit your use of outdated browsers; if you don’t need it, don’t use it.
  • Keep your security settings high and whitelist trusted sites as needed.

P.P.S. All imagery credit to Ken Perlin and his excellent blog.  Stop reading and check it out!

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