Friday, September 21, 2012

Slitaz = Life Saver

Well it has been quite a while since I wrote on this blog and that is probably because I never found the special need to do so, be it for whatever reason.

Today I had the chance to toy around with a Toshiba Laptop built somewhere around ´99 or 2000, Pentium III Proc @ 450 MHz and 64 MB of SDRAM, which I tried upgrading but didn´t work, and a superior 6 GB HDD. This, laughable as it may seem to some, was my perfect choice for a school laptop, as I need to write a lot and my old T60 is gone now, forever, which left me with my bare hands... yeah, no.

So I was playing around with this thing and I tried different Distros in it with no success, Debian 6 and 7 RC 2 were not working at all, as a matter of fact I couldn´t connect to the wireless network as it uses WPA and the Debian installer only allows WEP; PuppyLinux was just doing bad, probably because the video card ranges somewhere around 2 to 4 MB, maybe even less; I wasn´t doing DSL, I didn´t do DSL; Knoppix was also out of the question; Crux, which is a Distro I learned about from K. Mandla, wasn´t working either and I have no other laptop at hand to do the whole "transfer this to the faster one then finish the fight on the slower one", too much hassle and not enough resources; then came SliTaz and everything somehow changed.

You see, with all the other Distros I wasn´t getting anywhere, at all, and the furthest I managed to get through was with Debian 6 but yet again that didn´t go far with the PCMCIA Wireless Card, take note that this laptop has no internal wireless or ethernet, keyword, NO, ETHERNET.

BOOM, HEADSHOT!

Back to SliTaz. I give it a try, at first I´m not sure why it won´t boot in some modes, then I discover it is because of the video card, so I just let it roll and get to console, good, this thing boots at blazing 8 to 5 seconds, I am impressed but I need to find a way to get this working on the hard drive itself and get rid of the CD thing.

So I look around for instructions and find that it was easier than I expected, no compiling was required and only some slight tweaking here and there, including formatting the hard drive and what not, did everything for me. Copy this and move it here, mount that, unpack this, everything goes smooth even though I have to work with Vi, nothing against it but man I´d rather have Nano anyday.

So the thing boots, IT BOOTS, but it goes into this horrible twisted screen that could be a surrealist painting. It kinda looked alive but I wasn´t sure... so in the end the video was still screwed up.

Solution?

Console mode. By adding a single screen=text to grub it all worked juuuuuuust as I needed it, this whole adventure actually started because I needed a system that would run a console system not a GUI based system so this is what I got in the end and this is what I wanted, it was a win-win situation for everyone as the guy who put it in the office wasn´t really looking forward to seeing it coming back.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ancient Technology wins again

Been quite a while since I've wrote in this blog but that was because I was going around with school, work and other more important things and besides I had nothing really techy to talk about until now.

Just a few days ago I bought a desktop, nicknamed Anubis from now on, from a friend, this is probably the most advanced desktop I've ever owned as I transitioned to laptops quite a while back, and I was surprised by the casing itself which looks like some sort of ship, specs were quite nice actually and once I added a few hard drives, a DVD reader and installed Windows XP, because I wanted to try my hand at something a little bit more flexible for this baby, everything looked great except for the fact that when I tried to turn it on it just wasn't working and playing around with it got it to work but I wasn't 100% sure what the reason was.

Forward two weeks later and it goes completely dead again but this time nothing I do will turn it on and it isn't until the damn things blasts my hand, the PSU that is, that I decide I've had it with the thing and decide to return it although there was the additional solution of trying another PSU but I wasn't sure I had anything for this one, specially since that PSU was 650 watts and had cables going everywhere, but fortunately I found that there was, in between all the trash I keep from old computers that I dismantle when I can't sell them, a PSU that could fit and could work for this mobo.

Two minutes later this baby is running perfectly fine, as a matter of fact it's better than before, and I just got enough cables in it to connect everything without leaving anything flying around which makes me very happy since I hate seeing crap flying around and even though it's a meager 200/300 watts PSU it is just what I needed. All in all it seems investing in ancient technology does serve you in the end!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

eMachines keeps trolling me after so many years

I have been doing IT for some 7 years now, like I've mentioned a couple of times, in different fields which range from Call Center Technical Support, the cheapo and fancy version, up to personal support to customers and companies that range between your mom and pops business up to the thousands of employees Corporation, and never have I personally found something as disgusting or annoying as an eMachines Desktop.

Yes I get the point about building affordable systems for the common user but for the love of whatever it is that you praise do it right man and I am dead serious here.

All this comes here for one reason. Two days ago I bought this old L7VMM MOBO from the guy that gives me the old computers I refurbish and let me tell you that these two last days have been terror and horror to me but also they have provoked me to look for answers to things I had previously learned and with that I had forgotten since I never used them.

I couldn't quite remember how to format a PC from a floppy, yes I am serious about the floppy thing and I have a bunch of them stored in a box, and it has been a while since I saw a FAT32 Partition in something that isn't a USB drive. That said it's also been years since I've seen a K7 in use, an AMD Duron @ 650 MHz to be precise, and I wanted to put it to use since... well the codename of the processor is "Spitfire" and using a computer with a CPU named like that sounds killer although it turned out to be a complete bummer.

How did all of this really start?

First off I placed everything in a case, that ironically states outside that it uses a P3 Celeron 600MHz CPU and that this PC NEVER goes obsolete...

Next, I try booting straight from the HDD with no luck and I start working around with it. Then I notice, in horror, that this is one of those PC's that for the life of me won't boot up from the CD-Drive and I am not sure why this is even happening but it has me terrified.

My first alternative turned out to be a Windows 98 boot floppy with CD-ROM support, because maybe you don't know it but back in the day some things weren't supported like CD-ROM drives or Floppy Drives and USB was non-existent.

As mentioned further above it had been a while since I saw a full partition of FAT32 and from there on it just went downhill. I got the CD recognized and I ran the WINNT exe to get the installation going but at first it wouldn't do it mentioning something about not enough swap space. Some ten minutes later I figured that I had to delete the NTFS partition that was occupying 99% of the hard drive... yeah I kept forgetting how the commands work.

Next stop was trying WINNT and it partially worked, then died on me, then worked, then died again, then I decided to go for Nomad, the codename for a 4GB hard drive I got laying around holding Debian 6, and it went into a deep coma state that could only be prevented if I went into the recovery state which meant I had to mess around with it a lot more than I wished for it, openSUSE laughed at me too or cried, not sure at this point, but it didn't work, Windows XP from another machine didn't work either and I've had it with this PC that will only run floppy systems, nothing bad with them but if I try and sell it to the normal customer I won't get much out of it.

Then there's the suspicion that the CPU may be damaged but I have no way to prove this since yet again I have no way to load Hirens or any other tool to test this out, RAM is also an option but that would give me a whole different bunch of errors and from what I've read, seen and understood it seems the culprit is the motherboard which has to be flashed immediately after being bought because of buggy software on the BIOS ROM which can only be done inside of Windows.

Level of Patience, almost null.

One more alternative before I give away and ask for my 10 bucks back... Windows 98 2nd Edition. May work, may not work, I don't know and I don't care but I am not letting this bad boy go out without a battle.

And in the end that also failed... that sums it up after I saw Windows 98 getting stuck several times during the installation and having to force the "restart" physically. At this point I am pretty sure the culprit is the processor and well there's nothing much I can do about this except return it and get my money back and buy a soda or something.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Victim of the Box

I usually don't judge a book by its cover so when I tried this game out I knew I was in for some sort of surprise and it only took me 10 tries to find the real answer to the puzzle. Try it out!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

QuickBASIC Modern Programs

Roaming around on the vast ocean that is the internet I found this site that offers QuickBASIC applications for old systems which can perform tasks such as sending and receiving e-mails up to TCP/IP traffic and HTML handling. While e-mail clients are not that uncommon in programming the Apache server is something I haven't seen, yet, in QuickBASIC so if you ever need to revive an old PC with dos then give some of this programs a try.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Facebook in a Spreadsheet!

No, it's not madness and no this ain't Sparta.

Go check out the app at the following link which allows you to check facebook in something that looks like an Excel Spreadsheet. How much more professional can you look at work while browsing Facebook?

Only limitation, from what I've seen, is that you don't get to see full-sized pictures but if you're addicted to Facebook you won't care that much, believe me, though in the future that may be fixed.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

IBM: Why bother?

A lot of people, throughout time, have bad mouthed IBM hard. An example of this is the hatred against AS/400 (We're talking about the servers) and the programming language (Can't be considered one to be honest) RPG.

Then the prices are also something the normal user runs away from. The laptop I currently use was made somewhere around 2005 and from what I've read this was the top of the line for IBM and went for around 1500 up to 1800 depending on the configuration and the add-ons you decided to put into your purchase.

Is it worth it, should you bother?

Real simple answer: Yes.

Long answer: Even though IBM has stopped building laptops and desktops for the end-user, that is the business end-user or companies that had the budget for it, Lenovo continued this process and reasonably began to lower their prices and continued the "economical" line that tries not to sacrifice power but that is for the common user to decide in the end.

Back when I worked at a Factory we used only IBM for our end-users. During my time I had 5 laptops assigned to me and all but one were IBM products going from a T41, a T60, a G50 and finally a T500, not included a Gateway laptop that I hated because it was heavier than most laptops I ever used and that is including the G50 which is a monster. The reason why I mention these models is because they were, at some point, the main mobile army of IBM for the businessman which even though light were powerful enough.

Desktops and Laptop alike, IBM made some really tough material back in their prime days that can still be found in many recycling shops and computer stores and it's guaranteed that even though most of them had seen a lifetime of abuse that they'll continue to last for another couple of years before finally giving up and going into eternal slumber. If you ever have the chance to find a T40 or her lesser cousins or maybe a T60 and you are in need of something powerful then do not hesitate to give it a try.