Re: Is my Acrobat up to speed?

Subject: Re: Is my Acrobat up to speed?
From: David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 11 Mar 2011 12:07:16 +0200


As others have indicated, you have a severe RAM deficit on that machine.

Also, I presume you have the usual complement of anti-virus and anti-malware software installed, which also takes CPU cycles and memory. Although as someone else pointed out, MS Security Essentials takes a fair amount of RAM on startup, once it's running it seems to be one of the lighter-weight ones out there--and, I'm happy to say, it seems very good. (My opinion of much of the other Microsoft products is much less positive, but I am happy to give credit where it is due.)

The bottom line is that if your machine isn't at least a dual core, a single core will have to split its time between the operating system and the apps--including the anti-malware stuff. To me, therefore, a dual core would be a minimum setup for productive use--and a new computer is far cheaper than wasted time at any reasonable rate of pay.

Acrobat, too, is something of a resource hog.

I would also look carefully at your production pipeline--for example, to be sure the images are as optimized as possible to give the output quality you desire while being as small as possible.

If you are not doing so, too, you may find that regular defragmentation of both the disk and the registry can bring solid performance benefits. The Windows defragmenter isn't very good, but fortunately there are some very acceptable ones out there in the freeware universe, not to mention some very good ones in the paid market as well. A few minutes each week doing this sort of system maintenance will save you much time in the interim. I always liked to do it on Friday afternoon before knocking off, while cleaning up paperwork and my work area before the weekend. That way, when I came in on Monday morning everything was nearly ready to roll at peak efficiency (except for any anti-virus updates and such that I checked for on Monday morning.)

Even after you either add RAM or upgrade the machine, this kind of routine maintenance should be a regular part of your schedule--few IT departments nowadays take care of this sort of thing with any sort of dependable schedule. Although there are some registry cleaners that are a bit better, the one in CCleaner is quite acceptable--and it also helps keep the temp files and other clutter at bay as well. Again, that is a free utility. CCleaner is from; they also have a decent defragmentation utility, also free (defraggler).

If your machine is a dual core and capable of running 64 bit software, I would put in for an upgrade to Win 7 64-bit; it recognizes more RAM and is a bit more efficient at the same time, I believe. I don't particularly care for 64 bit XP, as it is a bit flaky in my experience. However, I would seek at the very minimum an upgrade to the latest Acrobat; many security holes have been plugged in later versions than yours.

If I were doing freelance docs today, I would invest in a quad core machine with either two or three screens--you can't get too much desktop real estate so long as the performance is not compromised--I am much more productive with the resources I need all open at the same time--not having to open and close windows all the time is a definite boon. I would want a minimum of four GB of RAM, but more likely I'd go for eight. I would also want my operating system and my primary applications on a solid state drive, with data files on a fast rotating disk with 6 MB/second interface on both.

I say this to point out that when you are freelancing, the money for equipment comes out of your own pocket. Thus, buying unnecessary items is foolish, but anything that truly aids productivity and enables you to earn more cash is very worthwhile. I believe this sort of setup would simply allow me to be far more productive. I have analyzed all this quite carefully, and nothing I have mentioned would not pay its way. Thus, if it is worthwhile spending your own money when working on a freelance basis, would it not make similar sense in a corporate environment to get the most for the money being spent on payroll to provide decent equipment?

Still, it's pretty difficult to convince many of the bean counters that in many cases a tech writer needs hardware and software that is as good as what most programmers use. If you are not doing so, you might begin keeping a log of the time you must spend waiting on your equipment unnecessarily. In fairly short order, you can build a quantifiable case for why *not* upgrading what you have is a foolish use of resources.

I hope this helps.



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