Vintage Computers — 4

The next computer was a throwaway. The system had an Asus P2B mainboard, 350 MHz Pentium II-ECC (Deschutes) CPU, 128 MB of RAM, no hard disk, 3.5 inch floppy drive, Creative Labs 3Dfx Interactive Blaster Banshee AGP video card with 16 MB SGRAM, and C-Media 8738 PCI Plug and Play sound card.

I updated the computer to 448 MB RAM, installed a Seagate Barracuda IV ST340016A ATA/100 7200 RPM IDE 40 GB hard disk, added an ADMtek NC100 PCI Network Everywhere Fast Ethernet 10/100 network controller, and bought an HP CD-Writer+ 9300 10x/4x/32x CD Recorder.

To include this third computer in the office network I bought my first off-the-shelf router/switch combo, a Linksys WRT54GL 1.1 (CL7B), with a built-in 10/100 Mbps switch. I bought a spool of CAT5e Ethernet cable, connectors, and crimper. As I was then tinkering much with Linux distros, I installed DD-WRT onto the router. I began learning more about networking.

Then came a turning point.

I liked the way DOS and Windows 3.x were designed. Should anything go awry with Windows a user still had a functional operating system underneath with DOS. Starting with Windows NT4 I grew less fond of Microsoft operating systems because that tiered relationship was removed. Also removed was the reliance of text based INI configuration files in exchange for the Hydra monster known as the registry. When I began tinkering with Linux distros I was pleased to discover the graphical desktop layer ran on top of the operating system and system configuration was maintained with text files.

When I accepted that NT4 had exceeded the end-of-life (EOL) support cycle, I decided I should update NT4 to Windows 2000 (W2K).

W2K introduced NTFS 3.0, commonly called NTFS 5. This change contributed toward my dislike of proprietary software.

I am cautious when updating computers. I had backups and multiple partitions to limit damage. Being cautious I wanted to test the update with a spare hard disk on the Pentium II computer. I cloned the hard disk of my primary system. I updated the test system to W2K. All seemed well. I was satisfied everything worked as I wanted until I booted into the alternate NT4 partition. The proverbial Hell broke loose.

W2K was designed to forcibly update any and all NTFS 1.2 (commonly called NTFS 4) partitions to NTFS 5.

Any and all, including unmounted partitions. Without asking or confirming. The Microsoft folks did not understand or recognize the concept of multi-boot or concurrent systems.

Being cautious I wanted a test period of several weeks having concurrent W2K and NT4 partitions. I could and would boot only into one or the other at any one time, but this coercive updating thwarted that plan.

My disk partition scheme included a separate D: partition for application software and E: partition for data. Those partitions were forcibly updated. The NT4 operating system did not understand NTFS 5. I would be unable to use NT4 with W2K concurrently installed.

Adding proverbial salt to the wound is beginning with W2K, ripping Internet Explorer from the operating system became difficult to eventually impossible. Removing undesired operating system components in NT4 was straightforward.

These kinds of shifts were attitude problems. The idea of vendor lock-in and that users had no choice. With these kinds of changes I always have considered NT4 as the last of the benign proprietary operating systems.

I decided not to update to W2K. Thus began my distrust of proprietary systems and my migration to Linux based systems. I decided my days of depending on proprietary software were finished.

I began a slow migration that required several years. Professional requirements prevented me from going cold turkey but the migration began. During that period was a transition to using multiple computers. By then I had mostly stopped distro hopping and was using Slackware.

The next office system was in 2007 with an ASUS M2NPV-VM mainboard with an on-board Nvidia GPU, audio, and 1 Gbps network controller; 2.3 GHz AMD BE-2400 Dual Core CPU; 4 GB of RAM; and a 320 GB hard disk. All in a Antec Solo II case.

With that system I pushed toward migrating fully.

A few years later the M2NPV-VM mainboard died. I replaced that with an ASUS M3N78-EM. I added another 4 GB of RAM. I replaced the 320 GB hard disk with a 640 GB disk.

Dual core systems opened the doors to tinker with virtual machines (VMs). To help with my final migration push one of my first projects was converting the Windows NT4 system. I bridged the VM to the Slackware host machine subnet and on the host installed a basic Samba server to share data files with the VM. That virtual system remains active today to preserve several complex MS Word 97 documents.

During that period I put that copy of Windows 2000 (W2K) to use. I needed to remotely support a work contract that required using FrameMaker. I needed at least W2K to run FrameMaker. I installed that system into another VM. I had much fun configuring and using that VM. Nobody but me knew the system was virtual.

I updated the storage in that system to two hard disks, a 640 GB and 320 GB. I migrated my backups to rsnapshot on the second disk. Should the first disk fail — the system disk — my first round of backups would remain accessible for recovery. An external disk was used for weekly backups.

There would be one more new office system, the current 4-core system with 16 GB of RAM, but along the way I retained most of the previous computers and peripherals. Computers that now are considered “vintage.”

Vintage or not all of these computers remain functional and useful.

The last time I checked the Pentium II system used about 60 to 70 watts. The AMD system about 70 to 80 watts. The current office system about 55 to 80 watts.

More to come.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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