I spend a dozen hours each week working on a Microsoft Content Management System (CMS). I need to copy and paste text, edit it in a text editor (using Applescript to speed the process), paste it back into the system, as well as into one of half a dozen Omni Outliner Pro documents for record-keeping, Eudora as an email confirmation and Mars Edit to send it to a blog supplying an RSS feed. As part of the process I need to keep a web browser running (OmniWeb these days) in order to check various websites. In addition I have a number of utilities running, including PathFinder, CopyPaste and Launchbar, all of which have an important role to play.
I’m obliged to use Windows Internet Explorer to interact with the CMS so I do this via Virtual PC and Windows XP Pro. Occasionally I need to also open up a Word document or PDF too.
The whole process is complex and bedevilled by being frustratingly slow. I have a 1.5 Ghz Powerbook G4 with 2 Gb RAM — not a bad machine when I bought it, but I’m very conscious that it’s fallen well behind the desktop machines. Virtual PC is a real RAM hog and the CMS is diabolically and grindingly slow. I make many more mistakes than I’d normally tolerate because I lose concentration while waiting, waiting, waiting for windows to redraw themselves. I know that if I could do all the work natively on my Mac it would be a smooth and efficient process. The good news is that I can do all the text transformations, record keeping etc in the interstices between Windows redrawing the screen.
Now I think I’ve made a breakthrough. Last night I was able to delegate the Virtual PC part of the process to my Mac Mini, with no other software running. I connected in wirelessly via Chicken of the VNC, which allowed me to operate the Mini and work with the screen through a window on my Powerbook. Mysteriously, the ‘right-click’ keystroke I needed to be able to switch the the edit mode on the CMS was available via Option Click, rather than Control Click.
The next problem was to be able to copy and paste between the two Macs. This is a crucial part of the process and appeared to be an insurmountable hurdle. Some Googling though led me to ClipboardSharing, a menu extra that makes it easy for you to share your clipboard between several computers. Copy text, images or anything else on one computer, and paste it on another. What’s more this can happen automatically — with a bit of sneakery:
The main problem with ClipboardSharing on Tiger seems to be a crash that occurs when AutoSync is enabled. This is bad of course, but there is a workaround: populate the list of AutoSync’d computers with IP addresses instead of the “User @ Computer” names that are used by default.
At the moment my Mac Mini is somewhat lacking in RAM, but I was able to work effectively across the two Macs; it was speedier than trying to do it all on my Powerbook. More RAM is on its way and I anticipate a much happier time each week on the regular work. This may even be able to quell my desire for a speedier Powerbook until a real and substantial improvement is available, rather than just a minor update.