Best Version of OSX for CRT iMacs?
I am responsible for the computer lab at a small Bible college in Fiji. Our current computer lab is a mix of Macs (+ one HP that probably won't last long in tropical condidtions). Our oldest units are a few all-in-one Peforma '040LC's and the newest is a G3 in a beige box to match the 7600's of which we have five. We have a few other models as well and keeping them all set up and running is a chore, especially since the G3 needs OS8.5 or higher and the 040's need 8.0 or lower.
We have just received donations of a few CRT iMacs of several vintages, and have the opportunity to buy more from a Mac dealer that is "reconditioning" them for resale (they were trade-ins from an Apple program, probably run for schools). They will sell by the piece or by the pallet load and pallet loads are very cheap, so we want to update.
I am new to OSX (love my new iBook G4 14") and have been away from UNIX for 20+ years, so I have some questions.
First, what is the "best" version of OSX to run on an assortment of CRT iMacs? To us, "best" means mainly one thing - stable, stable , stable. Cheap is also important. We can't pony up for 25 copies of Tiger and even that many copies of Panther will stretch the budget. We do want all machines to run the exact same OS and app's configured exactly the same way. Special features will mostly be unused. These machines will be used for word processing, printing word processing files, occasional viewing of libraries stored as PDF's, and little else.
Second question, what is the best cheap word processor? We currently run MS Word 5.1a (quite stable, no macro virus problems as with 6.0 and up, cheap or free since it is basically a garage sale item). What recommendations do I hear for a stable, cheap and easy to use WP for our prospective new iMacs? Is Word Perfect any good? Any other hot tips? We need to be able to produce documents of up to 50 pages (10 or less is most common) with footnotes (not end notes). Ability to open and edit recent MS Word files is a big plus, as is the ability to export/save in a format that MS Word can open.
Third, we will have all our 16 machines on a network, and we want to have all student files accesible from every machine. Currently, we keep them all on a second hard drive burried inside one of our 7600's, but the problem is that only 12-13 other machines can connect to that drive at one time, and we have several hokey work-arounds. If we go to OSX do we eliminate such limitations? How many user accounts can we reasonably have on these OSX iMacs? Can we have one for each of our 150 students and staff? If so, do we need to create a separate account for each person on each machine? or is there an easy way to create one account for each person and have that same account accesible from every machine on the network?
Finally, what are the best printers to share? Our current lab uses Stylewriter 1200's and the cheap ink (and moderatly cheap replacement cartridges when reloading don't work no more) is a real plus. Lack of decent paper in and out trays are a pain at times. We monkeyed with a Laserwriter 300 select for a while but it cannot use standard paper, and American paper is not available here, so we gave up on it despite high speed, excellent print, and very cheap consumables. We need printing in basic black - color is not wanted, nor is camera-ready quality needed. Reliability, ease of use, and economy are the watchwords.
Any helps and hints will be much appreciated!