Technical Writing with an iMac PowerPC G5 with 512MB of RAM Part 2
The Hardware, Operating System, and Software
FYI Technical writers
OS X 10.4 and Adobe Suite CS2 exhibits issues with JPEGs and old versions of EPS. There are some bugs in the Adobe Suite's interface in Mac, though not as much as when running in Windows.
I've never been a fan of shortcuts but feel somewhat ashamed when someone sees me using menus. However, when technical writing in Mac OSX 10.4 with CS2, shortcuts are essential. I wore out the paint on the Windows/Super button within a week. Adobe's Mac shortcuts are fairly intuitive but it's the desktop shortcuts that are infinitely useful (e.g. Taking a screenshot).
Notable Applications with Mac OSX 10.4:
1. Dashboard - I never liked widgets in Mac, Windows, or Linux but the Dashboard was especially useless when tech writing.
2. Mac OS 9 compatibility layer - With the glut of available freeware for OSX, there really is no need for running OS 9 unless you're chained to an older Adobe PageMaker version. Otherwise VirtualBox for MacOSX PPPC would suit most user needs for other platforms.
3. Spotlight/Finder - The earlier iteration of Spotlight was surprisingly useful and fast when searching for EPS, TIFF, or that lost InDesign file. Finder and Spotlight were infinitely superior to Windows XP's desktop search, and on par with Windows 7's. However, digging through Finder for applications couldn't compare to Linux's ALT+F2 command window.
4. Dictionary - Logically, technical writers will welcome this included feature . . . but really isn't useful with highly technical terms. It was comforting having it around though. In comparison, Linux provides mostly online dictionaries and Microsoft still hasn't packaged a dictionary on any of their operating systems.
Mac OSX has long been stable and as long as a technical writer doesn't push the hardware past its limits, OSX will never crash. The decrepit iMac I used deserves an applause for running LibreOffice for PowerPC, unpacking huge compressed file, and easily connecting to a Windows/RHEL network.
A Matter of Preference - a Linux user Perspective
Even Mac worshippers would agree the desktop of OSX Tiger is not without its faults. In truth, as I switched back and forth using ALT+~, F11 and F9, I found myself slowing down rather than speeding up in terms of productivity. I found myself missing Linux Gnome 2 and KDE (which I had used for years with openSUSE, Mint, and pre-Unity Ubuntu). To be fair, OSX 10.5 largely corrected the desktop flaws of 10.4 and the later version of Expose eventually became as useful as the Linux pager.
It's hard to imagine a technical writer and designer working on Linux while being expected to run industry-standard Adobe products, but I felt crippled by the gasping Mac OSX. There were also a lot of moments when it occurred to me how useful even Aero Snap (Windows 7) was. OS X's desktop interface isn't as vomit-inducing as the obsolete Windows XP's Luna theme, but it's getting pretty old.
All throughout my projects with the aged iMac, I kept getting tempted to pop in Fedora or openSUSE (or at least access a virtual machine of Ubuntu). Here are a few observations from a Linux point of view:
1. For users accustomed to later versions of Mac OSX (such as the excellent Snow Leopard and Lion), regressing to 10.4 is somewhat jarring. Switching windows is a pain and a wrong click of the mouse can send you to the desktop rather than the correct application. Most veteran users of OSX are familiar with the issues associated with right-click options and window management. Even Linux's low-powered LXDE was preferable when it came to multi-tasking and those who have tried Linux's file managers (Nautilus, Dolphin, PCMANFM, or Thunar) would instantly feel stifled.
2. OSX 10.4's Preview isn't very useful. The file formats are limited and only one image at a time is displayed. With Adobe Bridge slowing to a halt, I kept praying for KDE's Gwenview, Gnome Eye, Okular, or Evince.
3. The Dock has always been a gimmick to me, just like Ubuntu Unity's Launcher. I've always preferred a clean desktop free of obstructions and the Dock just takes up precious screen estate in OSX Tiger.
4. Technical writers can use many Linux alternatives that are fast and efficient. Scribus, Bluefish, Gimp, Kompozer, and many applications can run on a PowerPC Linux distribution installed on the aged iMac without any loss in productivity.
3. Although not an OSX utility, the classic RAR and StuffIt archiver utilities on a Mac seems a bit dated compared to the archive formats in use today. I missed 7z or even tar.gz. StuffIt actually corrupted some of the JPEGs on unpacking and .Zip/.rar seems so . . . yesteryear.
For all my complaints about the limited hardware and OSX 10.4's desktop, there's very little difficulty doing technical writing on an aged PowerPC iMac OSX.4 with 512 MB RAM - a big compliment to the iMac and to Apple in general. Tech writers would have to get used to working with one Adobe application at a time and patiently waiting for the spinning pizza to stop, but otherwise it's all good. Apple's ability to release machines that last is a prickly topic but this iMac certainly proved it could hold its own in today's work environment. When this machine dies (and it will), I'll ask if I can do a bit of work on it and install Fedora. By then, it has more than paid its dues.