Category Archives: Hardware

Poor man’s SSD: No news is no news

I haven’t mentioned it, because there wasn’t really anything to report. But since Anton Eliasson noted the six-month anniversary of the CF card installation, I suppose I should acknowledge it.

That’s right, six months with CF cards in two different machines, and a third one ordered a couple of weeks ago. Nothing wrong. Nothing broken. Nothing lost to hardware faults.

In sum, nothing to report. Even on the card that was “stress-tested” for the better part of a month.

For the most part I am overjoyed that the experiment has gone so well. After all, this is one of my personal triumphs, even if it wasn’t altogether my idea. ;)

But to be honest, there is a tiny part of me that’s just a little itty-bitty bit angry. I think it’s the same sense of frustration I had when I finally jumped ship from Windows, years ago.

Seeing through the veil of misinformation — in this case, all the advertising dreck and forum posts railing against the idea as a disaster waiting to happen — is both liberating … and irritating, to a much lesser degree.

So yes, I am happy that I have installed CF cards and adapters in three pre-1998 machines and seen nary a one cough up a fault.

But at the same time, I have to wonder now and again … who else is lying to me about what is possible, and what is not, with my computers?

I guess that’s for me to discover.

P.S.: Total spent to outfit three machines: Roughly US$100. Put that in your newfangled SSD and smoke it. :evil:

What’s a warranty worth?

It’s been almost three years now since Mom went online and bought a laptop preinstalled with Ubuntu. That in and of itself was a momentous occasion, although the magnitude is an issue of debate. ;)

Given the chance, she said she would get another one, but said she wouldn’t buy an extended warranty this time.

Her reason was that the value of the laptop was outstripped by the warranty price. True, it was a good machine and hasn’t given her many problems, but the full service warranty was expensive, and wasn’t often necessary.

I would agree. There was a time when I bought computers with full service plans, and occasionally I was very glad I did. But sometimes the cost of the computer is less than the cost of “maintaining” it.

And that’s when Moore’s law kicks in as well. The value of the machine doesn’t hold up over time, and the price of a comparative new machine is invariably lower.

Why strain through four years of a warranty, milking a computer for all the money you paid, when a new machine — even an underpowered one by cutting edge standards — can do the same for dirt cheap?

Save the money, expect to buy a new computer sooner, and if something breaks, take it in stride. That is her attitude now, and I would agree. For her, newer is better.

It might sound odd to hear me saying these things, and I admit it sounds odd saying them. I’m trying to take on the mindset of a casual computer user this time — not a die-hard zealot of outdated machines.

But it’s not that odd either. I’ve set free computers that were finicky or unreliable or just without merit, and never batted an eye.

There are thousands upon thousands of others, in as-good or even-better condition, waiting in line for attention.

But more importantly, I would never endorse out-of-date hardware as a solution for everyone. I endorse it as a solution for me, and anyone else who finds the challenge appealing.

Your way is the best way, and that is the mantra I shall repeat until the last post to this site, some dark day in the future.

Do what you like with your computer, exercise the freedoms you should be enjoying, and if you need a new one, don’t feel you have to rationalize it to anyone.

After all, that’s what freedom means. :)

The X60s: One year later

It’s about time for another little anniversary party. About a year ago, I finally broke down, waded through my indecisiveness and plopped down less than US$400 or so for a humdinger of a laptop.

To be perfectly, completely and absolutely honest, I haven’t ever regretted it. This machine has been a happy addition to the family, and given the chance I would not pick any other over this one.

It’s petite, light, speedy and flexible, and does so much work around the house it’s a wonder how I ever got on without it.

I would be hard-pressed to find something to complain about, unless I include battery life (which is not a huge concern for me) or a rather weak video card (which is also not a huge concern for me).

I’ve never had a stitch of trouble from it — either in terms of hardware reliability or Linux compatibility — and I would gladly endorse or recommend this machine to anyone else looking for a computer in the same bracket.

I admit freely that I picked a Thinkpad because I know and enjoy working with them, and that has not failed me. If I’m ever in the market for another computer, I’d definitely go with this brand.

But considering my propensity for milking hardware for every last second of its life … I might not need a new computer for about 15 years or so. … :shock:

Cheers and happy anniversary, X60s. :)

Five generations of junk

I realized something rather odd the other day, and as a result, I think it will lead to a few interesting experiments. That’s what I call these little adventures … “experiments.”

It’s a little bit generous to say it in some places, but I believe I now have at least one machine across five different “generations” and 15 years of PC hardware — from Pentium 1 to multiprocessor machines.

The X60s is a core duo, and the newest machine in the house.

This Celeron, while not a speed demon, is puttering along at 2.5Ghz and part of the Pentium 4 family.

Its little brother, a 700Mhz Coppermine Celeron, is representative of the Pentium III bracket.

And it’s a wee bit of a stretch, but as a high-end K6-2 and a Super Socket 7 machine, this Sotec was meant to stand up to Pentium IIs.

True, it’s not really a 686 and so not exactly in that class, but it’s somewhere in that range. And its inception date is about right.

Last but definitely not least, this machine and this machine and this machine are all holdovers from the first Pentiums, at 150Mhz or below.

Below that? I’m afraid I hardly ever see 486 machines any more. It may just be an aversion to 15-plus-year-old hardware in the mind of Japanese consumers, which keeps them out of the recycling shops.

Or it may be that they’re all just finally wearing down and disappearing, as must happen to us all.

In any case, it’s been a very, very long time since I even saw a 486-based machine, let alone one is good enough condition to put to work.

But I would if I could. :twisted:

So the next question should be obvious: What do you do with an assembly of machines that span a decade and a half of hardware evolution?

Well, the answer should be obvious too: Install the same brand of Linux on all five creatures … and complain about it! :mrgreen:

The worst best torrent client list

I had another one of those proverbial coffee-spitting moments this morning when I got a link to PC Magazine’s list of the best torrent clients for 2011.

Setting aside the fact that 2011 is all of about 25 days old, which makes it tough to pick out the best of the year, the four listed — BitTorrent, Deluge, uTorrent and Vuze — are hardly representative of what’s available.

And the fact that Vuze somehow gets a little yellow and red “EC” as some sort of award as editor’s choice … well, that’s just horrific.

It’s like reviewing four of the best cars available for 2011, and picking a Hummer as the top model. It defies all logic.

But who knows? Me and my rack of outdated computers don’t really understand — and don’t really want to understand — what passes for popular technology in 2011. I’ve been down this road before.

If Joe Shmoe with zero computer knowledge wants to download a movie or something, then maybe point-and-click Vuze, with its plethora of unrelated options (free trial DVD burning! gasp! :shock: ) is the answer for him. I won’t argue the point.

Somehow its sad though, that PC Magazine could only come up with four torrent clients, and picked quite possibly the worst of the lot to highlight and endorse. Stop me before I cringe again.

P.S.: No, I don’t actually drink coffee. Blech.

It never rains, but it pours

It figures. Only days after I am effectively overwhelmed with leftover computers, and after I get them all arranged in some semblance of order, and after I worry about what will happen next … the unbelievable occurs.

Quite nonchalantly and without so much as a by-your-leave, my boss says yesterday, “No one is using that old grey computer. You should take it home.”

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

Two years of surreptitiously using it as a Linux test bed, another year of shelf life, and out of the blue it’s suddenly mine to work with. I need a smiley that smacks itself on the head in disbelief.

Oh well. There’s naught so queer as folk.

So there it is. The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave is back, and it looks like it’s for good this time.

Another mixed blessing, it seems. What in the world am I going to do with this one … ? :shock:

Bring out the rack!

A couple more photos, just to see if I can make my fellow geeks jealous.

 

I am nearing critical mass in terms of the number of homeless computers I’ve taken in. This wheeled shelf and a rather pricey six-slot power strip seem to keep things organized though.

My wiring and strapping isn’t the best, but I wanted something I could keep organized and still pull apart at a moment’s notice.

Clockwise from upper left, the big dog of the rack, the 2.5Ghz Celeron, which is the media center for the house. Right now the palmrests are the only places those speakers will really fit.

Next to it is the scallywag 700Mhz Celeron, which looks a little better after a cleaning.

One odd thing about this machine, if you look close, is that the speakers are actually mounted on the hinge. It means the lid doesn’t block the sound when it’s closed. Ironic, therefore, that they sound awful. :roll:

Below that is the Pentium — the torrent slave and in-house nfs server. That’s what I use to pass stuff between machines, and is also where I keep my collection of ripped DVDs.

Finally, at lower left is the Mebius, which is really just resting there after being a surrogate two or three times over the past week or so.

Oddly enough, it was just as useful (although dreadfully slow) to install Debian for the Celeron on that machine, as it was to install it for the 120Mhz Pentium I’m using now. Of course, that means the Celeron is running i486 Debian. …

Altogether, my desk is pleasantly free of junk right now.

A clean desk is the sign of a disturbed mind. :twisted:

Of course, if things get any more dense in here I’m going to need to free up that bottom rack, and trap some computers there. That, however, could trigger the herd to panic. … :shock: