Help the 3-years-old Mac owner get speedier -- and smarter

So I recently got laid off. I was a full-time distance teleworker, using my company-owned nice slick Dell desktop for the last three years. All of a sudden, I’m back to my old Mac. I loves me my old Mac, but I’m feeling a little restrained here.

My wonderful husband has just raised me to the Tiger World (Mac 10.4) and that made me able to get the recent Firefox, Java, Flash, etc. updates. This is better… but I am sensing I could have so much more.

If I had my full Google-fu powers intact and available to me, I’m sure I could solve this myself, but Google (and all the associated clarity of the WWW) is fogged to me, as if behind some kind of veil…

What, if anything, should I buy and install to improve my Mac experience at this point? Processor, RAM, ROM, whatever the kids are shoutin’ out these days?

I know I need to invest in a serious work laptop soon if I want to be a freelancer, which I do. But in the meantime, what’s the most cost-effective way to pimp my ride?

My main activities:
[ul]
[li]factual research on the Web[/li][li]looking at Web videos (mostly Cuteoverload et al <blush>)[/li][li]word processing[/li][li]Photoshopping (old skool - v.8.0[/li][/ul]

Platform: Mac 10.4.11
Memory: 1.12 GB SDRAM

BUS SPEED: 100 Mhz
Boot ROM version 4.2.8f1

DIMM/J21 128 MB
DIMM/J22 512 MB
DIMM/J23 512 MB
DIMM/J24 empty

Any suggestions welcome! Well-explained suggestions even more welcome, of course.

There’s not much you can do to make the machine significantly faster. Yanking the 128M stick and putting in (2) 512’s will help a little bit. If you have a 5,400 RPM drive, replacing it with a new 7,200 RPM drive will help quite a bit.

You didn’t say which machine you have…

What Mac is this? The 100 MHz bus speed indicates a B+W G3 or early Power Mac G4. In that case, the best and most cost-effective upgrade is a newer machine. Processor upgrades are very hard to find and very expensive, and fall short on the cost-to-benefit scale IMO.

Sorry! Is this “what Mac is this”? : 450 MHz Power PC G4

Were they still selling new G4s three years ago? I have a G5 that’s four years old, and I’m thinking of upgrading.

A single G4 processor? That’s a Sawtooth, second in the G4 series. Not really worth upgrading any more. You can peruse a selection of processor upgrades here (http://eshop.macsales.com/MyOWC/Upgrades.cfm?model=158&type=Processor&TI=4338&shoupgrds=Show+Upgrades), but for 200-250 on eBay you can pick up a dual processor MDD G4, an all-around better computer with a faster system bus, better video card, SuperDrive, and official support for Mac OS 10.5.

Yeah, that computer is a lot older than three years. Closer to eight. I’m guessing you bought it used.

Anyway, my experience with computers of that era is to do the following:

  1. Max out the RAM
  2. Get a second hard drive. Install the OS and all applications on one, which doesn’t need to be very big (even 30-40 GB is good enough). Keep files and virtual memory on the second. This is huge for Photoshop in particular.

Also, go through your apps and the OS and turn off visual stuff - transparency on the menu bar, for example. Use solid colors as your desktop background. Turn off shadows. A lot of processing power is wasted on pretty. With a new computer, it’s not an issue, but with an older one, you want to simplify everything you can.

Don’t bother with processor upgrades. Having done this with the predecessor to your computer was very disappointing, and it was not a user-friendly upgrade either at the time or long-term.

SDRAM will be way too expensive to be worth upgrading. You need a new machine unless you can live with it the way it is.

If you are interested, browsing the main site and the forums of MajorGeeks.com can turn up possibly helpful freeware. I used it to help with some major malware infestation a few years ago.

Alternatively, if you’re not avers to spending a bit more, you can get the latest greatest Mac Mini for about $600 that would be a pretty big upgrade from what you’ve got, and can handle all the latest gizmos and doo-dads under Snow Leopard.