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A New Computer in the Family...

Date/Time Permalink: 07/15/06 11:26:03 am
Category: General

File this under "who cares" if you must, but I have replaced "Crash-Test Dummy". See, I try to keep three machines going. "Village Idiot" is the one that has to talk to the Internet, and is also the general family PC; it runs 'good-enough' distros like Mandriva. "Euclid" is the super-sophisticated box for my own use as a studio - it runs Slackware and it is perpetually tuned to a state of top-performance. "Crash-Test Dummy" is always the box that divides time between being a gaming box for the kids and a laboratory for my maddest experiments.

Got it at a yard-sale for $5.00, and I just barely got my money's worth. The lady at this yard sale was alarmed when I asked for an extension cord to plug it in and turn it on - what on Earth was I going to do without monitor, keyboard, and Windows NT installed on it? I plugged it in and turned it on, kneeling in the grass in somebody's yard, and I cocked an ear to the machine and listened intently. Seeing me pose like the RCA dog in front of the phonograph was evidently too much for her; she spun on her heels and emitted what I can only describe as a bark of scoffing laughter.

Well, just in case this Des Moines, Iowa home-bound proprietor recognizes herself from this description, what I was *doing*, madam, was listening to make sure the fans worked smoothly and waiting to hear the beep. A single beep means the motherboard POSTed - it passed the Power-On Self-Test. Other sequences of beeps can mean something specific is wrong. But yes, since you think I was so silly, I also listened to it talk in computer language. It told me about the porn your husband had stashed, your online gambling debts, your ripped MP3s, and your daughter's chat room sex life. What did you think? Honey, they call me "the Motherboard Whisperer". I can tell you what it dreams about when it sleeps.

Never mind, a visit to Tom's root-boot floppy wiped the NTFS file system remnants with "dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/hda", the magic spell I always use to wipe an old box of it's Microsoft Borging in preparation for guiding it to a new life as a servant of truth and justice and the Linux way. Changed the CMOS battery and flashed the BIOS, too. It was now a clean slate.

This is a very basic NEC box, the typical kind sold in a case big enough for transporting bodies to the junkyard but containing only a wee baby ATX and Pentium 3 McProcessor plus what passed for a graphics card in the Bronze Age. All of the above could just about fill up a shoe-box, and I bet it was sold as a loaded top-of-the-line machine. The remarkable thing is the 80 Gig hard drive, unheard-of for the time period of the Windows98 sticker. I wonder if they ever turned on "large disk support" so they knew about the 78 Gigabytes of storage that Windows couldn't show?

Ah well. It's currently spinning a Dyne:Bolic CD in it's 32x CD-ROM drive while I plan my strategy. I'm going to partition this puppy into 8 sections of 10Gigs each, and I plan to create the ultimate dual(or octal)-boot Beast. I hope eventually to have installs of Linux, BSD, ReactOS, Solaris, Plan 9, and one Linux From Scratch to play with. The Linux From Scratch I propose shall be the 6.1 book, and I'll be blogging step-by-step, from download-to-desktop, as a guide to others.

UPDATE 8/14/06: On second thought, Linux from Scratch ain't happening. What happened is, I grabbed the tarball and began running through the book using grml running live for the host system. I did quite well getting through the temporary system setup, but the drag was that it was taking three days. I had just enterred chroot and begun compiling and installing the headers when three disasters happened simultaneously: (1) I got hired to do more work, and have deadlines again. (2) the lightning storm from hell snapped off the machine, meaning that all the little settings and etc have to be re-enterred, the file system is kind of loused up, half an installed library of headers is in. Nothing makes sense but to start over at this point, and with (1) I don't have the time. (3) The afformentioned storm also toasted my modem, and the replacement they almost sent has been up and down like a yo-yo, and their replacement-replacement arrived today but is the new model that I have to figure out how to hack to make it work on Linux. Since my work is online, this also puts (1) into a state of crisis.

So no, I didn't wimp out. But in the meantime, I need a working install on that machine now, so I can set up both PCs (and maybe all three) for online, and I can set up LFS from whatever I install there at a later date. I got half the learning out of it, anyway. Now that Daniel Robbins is back to Gentoo, I might try that next release. I was right on the edge of grabbing Gentoo back when Robbins left the project for You Know Where.

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