Friday, April 11, 2008

No internet, and a bit of history.

At least Ian tried to make me an att account so that I could get free wifi at b/n; at least he tried. Unfortunately I'm experiencing the same problem he is, when you go to log in it rejects your login even thought it's distinctly not supposed to, which is unfortunate.

I had planned on coming in here and spending the whole time talking to peoples in aim and IRC, and maybe doing some forum browsing but all of those need working innernets connection, which I ain't got.

So instead of these things, I suppose I can write about something else.... something else like... my current vintage computer situation. Sure, lets do that.

Ok so right now I have two main vintage computers I'm working on, a Quadra 700 from 1991, which is probably my favorite computer ever, and an SE from 1987, which is the same as my first computer ever. Lets start with the 700.

I got it about, I dunno, maybe five or six months ago, from Daniel F on the 68kmla, and quite nicely he gave it to me for free, with an ethernet card in it! Problem was, it only had the stock four megabytes of RAM in it, so it's uses were incredibly limited, as well as the operating systems it could run. Because of this, it spent a long time sitting on my desk, unplugged, waiting, while I tried to source RAM for it. I had several good, non-ebay, sources for it for a while, but unfortunately most of the people didn't reply to me after a while or never followed through with payment type instructions. Eventually Ian and I were talking about his quadra 950 (insanely huge tower) which used the same sort of RAM as the 700 does, it apparently had loads of spare RAM in it, so he offered to give me four matched 16MB sticks for it. Now, for those of you who aren't aware, four 16MB sticks in the mid/early 90s cost roughly $200 a stick, possibly even more considering this is matched kingston stuff; very high quality. I accepted his offer of $0 and soon enough he had them shipped and they were installed in the 700.

Needless to say this made the system about a million times more usable, it now had 64MB in those sticks, and the 4MB onboard that I was using, making even Mac OS 7.6.1 fly, which was more or less fantastic. The problem I was having, well, not really problem as much as concern, was that the hard drive in it was a 3.5" full height drive. Also Known As something that gets freaking insanely hot, so much that after an hour of running if you touch it you can burn your finger. The bay it's in fits it just fine, though it is very close, and there is almost no air movement at all around it, which makes me nervous. Running big things like that with no cooling potentially leads to big problems.

So, to get around this, I looked around my room for potential replacements, and I found three: a 2GB 7200 half height and a 4GB and 9.1GB of the same sort. Problem was, none of these drives were from macs, so using them wasn't exactly a piece of cake. The weekend I was working on them, my friend Landon from over in Raleigh came over, so we worked on it together. We left the huge drive that already had the system and my applications in the quadra, and then connected a case to the external SCSI port for the other HDD that we were preparing. Unfortunately none of the apple utilities were working at first, so I looked around online and found an application called silverlining that is good at this sort of things. We lowleveled the first drive, 2GB, which took around an hour to complete. After that it showed up just fine. I also lowleveled the 4GB, and gave the 9GB a new partition map because it was already in the right block structure. After that I put the drives in the the quadra where the huge one had been, and connected my external CD drive to install 7.6.1 onto. The installs for each of the drives went fine, but oddly enough when I disconnected the CD drive it wouldn't be able to find a startup disk when booting. Turns out the CD drive had an auto terminator, and the HDDs termination wasn't set. I haven't exactly resolved it yet, but I know what to do.

On to the other old computer, the SE. Now, back in the mid 90s, we got our computer, a power mac 6115CD, and very quickly I got less interested in the silly little games, and much more interested in what made it work, as that's in my nature. Soon enough I was digging through the system folder looking at files that made it work, and wondering what would happen if I shifted things around. My Dad was getting a bit worried about this, as he didn't exactly want me to break the brand new computer. Instead of telling me no, he did some research on state surplus auctions, and got three compact macs from a state surplus auction; an SE FDHD, an SE 800k, and an SE/30. I remember sitting in the car and instantly claiming the SE/30 for the soul reason that it had an awesome little tiny keyboard attached (Apple ADB Keyboard I.) Mind you, I was about 6 at the time, so I had no idea about the differences between the SE and the SE/30, so it didn't matter. My sister got the SE FDHD, and we kept the SE 800k for parts, it had some sort of problem, I don't really remember what it was.

When we got them home, Dad installed 7.5.5, word, excel, and a few games on both of them, and then ordered a new keyboard for the SE FDHD because it didn't come with one, so until it did my sister and I shared the SE/30. And man, I can't even begin to explain how amazing that was; having my very own little computer way back then. I did so much on that thing, and I learned how to move files around, and then how to boot off the rescue floppy and move them back; had I not owned this computer back in the 90s I would not be as attached to them as I am today.

Unfortunately, several years later they both died of something, that, had I kept them, I could have fixed them both. Instead they were just taking up space, so we had to get rid of them. I kept the keyboard, though. Since then I've had ten or so various old computers, but no little compacts like the SEs. Fast forward to about three weeks ago. I was browsing the 68kmla forums (dedicated to old macs and such) and came across a post made by a guy who was selling most of his macs because he was moving or something. I noticed he was selling an SE 800k for $8, good condition, with a little bit of paint on it and an untested hard drive in it. The total price came out to about $25, including shipping.

About a week later I got it, packed in a large box with balled up tractor feed paper instead of normal bubble wrap or whatever, which works fine. Upon first unboxing I noticed that, unfortunately, there was a rather large chip out of the bottom front, which bugged me, but had he told me about it I would have bought it anyway. The real problem, though, was that when I got it all set up and ready to run, it wasn't booting off any of my floppies I had made. I opened the case and reseated cables, and blew out the drive, and it worked fine, which was good. Then came another problem, of it not working. It was weird, I got the HDD to work (just needed some jumpering) and I got System 6 installed on it, but when I was using it I started to have weird problems. Bus Errors on bootup, or it would hard crash right when it loaded the mouse, or it would just display an empty box within infinite more empty boxes inside it. The thing is, for the first thirty seconds or so of working, it would be perfect, no problems, after that it was entirely hit or miss, probably a 70% chance of crashing.

My first thought was wash the logic board. Most people think computers + water = very bad but that's pretty irrational. As long as you fully remove the PRAM (the CMOS of macs) battery it'll be fine. I filled a little plastic tub with hot water and dish detergent and let the board soak for a few minutes. The advantage of this is that it can get rid of oxidation and crud on the board that causes all kinds of sorts of problems and whatever, that are generally bad. After the soaking I rinsed it with standard cold tap water (by the way this was the same weekend that landon was here, so we were working on it together) and we hung it out to dry out in the sun, and about four hours later it was nice and try. We popped out the chips to make sure there was no water under them, and thankfully there was none. We put it back in the case and booted it up, started it off the floppy and almost instantly... BUS ERROR! dun dun dun.... Oh well. We now have a nice pretty board, at least. No dust or crud, on to more troubleshooting.

I did some reading about the SE, and apparently it was sold in a variety of configurations, usually four 256k sticks for 1MB, four 512k sticks for 2MB, or if you really had money (several hundred dollars) you could push the limit and get four 1MB sticks to max it out at 4MB. Turns out the sticks it has in it are four 2MB sticks, which would show up as 8MB if there wasn't a limit, but there is, so I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, the extra addresses are causing problems or something, so right now I'm trying to find four 1MB or 256k sticks to try in it. I don't think the guy that sold me the SE knowingly sold me a junked machine, I think he just changed the RAM and forgot about it. If putting in four 1MB sticks doesn't fix anything, then I guess I'll just accept my $25 waste. I already gave the ethernet card that I got (since I didn't need it) away to a guy on the 68kmla, so that's something.

So to wrap it up, that's just about everything. This is probably the longest and most dedicated post I have so far, hope you didn't get bored to death.

Windows Live Writer

This post doesn't really have a point, I just installed WLW and I wanted to try it out to see how well it would work. The interface it has is even better in vista than it is in XP (cause it works with the aero so well.)

Mom should be here to pick me up from bojangles within twenty minutes or so, so that's cool.

Anyways.... Woo cake! (the artist, not the overused meme)

Holy crap, public unsecured internets!

This morning at around 12:30pm Dad came into my room to wake me up, asking if I wanted to go to Greenville with Mom, which she's been doing a lot recently to deliver drapes/pillows/bed dressings/etc to a house they're making them for, so I decided to tag along. The different thing about this time, though, is that she has to actually go to the house (multi million dollar mini-mansion) and sew some stuff onto pillows because they didn't provided them beforehand.

Instead of sitting around there for an hour or more, she asked if I'd like to hang out at Bojangles for a while while she did that. Bojangles has wifi so I figured, "what the heck, eh?" so where I am, on bojangles wifi, with a room full of people talking and having lunch. At least I had $5 so I was able to afford a chicken biscuit and some fries/tea. Mmmmmm.


The more I hear about personalized ads, and the more I see things like this, I begin to wonder.