This particular project, and the related Vegastrike project, are pretty much dead. The original developer here (John Cordell) was satisfied with where he got the project to, and indicated years ago that was it in terms of development. In fact, I'm not sure he's even logged in over the last number of years. Podbelski has created a user developed patch that addresses some issues, and he may be interested in some of the problems you have noticed, but I'll leave it up to him to pursue that. Not much any of us can do about any crashes however. Sorry about that.
In terms of which is the best version, I'm not going there.
That was the last big flame war, and it's best left in the past. This version is playable, and others are if you can still find them. They just have different gameplay. Which version is best is a personal opinion.
Finally, it's just my personal opinion, but I think that the reason a lot of these privateer projects have stalled is the number of commercial projects similar to Privateer that have emerged over the last few years, such as Elite Dangerous, Star Citizen, Starpoint Gemini 2, etc.