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Thursday·21·September·2006

Yet another old laptop //at 04:13 //by abe

from the old-hardware-rules dept.

My father got me a nice IBM ThinkPad from 1996 earlier this year, so the next old laptop he digged up was planned to become a christmas present for my brother. But my father didn’t manage to find out, how old nor how fast that laptop was. And when I found out that it was a Pentium I with 90 MHz, it was clear, that my brother wouldn’t have any use for it, so he got “only” the used 850 MHz AMD Duron midi tower and my parents declared that old Compaq LTE 5100 laptop as a christmas present for me. :-)

As my IBM ThinkPad bijou, this Compaq LTE 5100 is from 1996 and has a Pentium I processor. Both also have a 800×600 resolution, a double PCMCIA slot and a floppy drive, which can be replaced by a CD-ROM drive (if I had one). But that are all similarities. Technically the Compaq has 90 MHz instead of the ThinkPad’s 133 MHz, but therefore has 72 MB RAM in comparison to the 48 Megs the ThinkPad has. Also regarding disk space the Compaq outperforms the ThinkPad: 1.6 Gigs of disk space in comparison to the ThinkPad 1.0 GB hard disk. Another difference is the battery: While the ThinkPad can work over 2.5 hours without external power, the Compaq even didn’t manage to completely boot its currently installed Windows 98 (the ThinkPad had a Windows NT installed when I got it) when running on battery. (Will do that test again when I can confirm, that the battery was full before testing. :-) Yet another difference is the keyboard layout: The ThinkPad has an US layout while the Compaq has a Swiss-German layout. But the most obvious difference is the look: The black ThinkPad still looks like having a modern design while the Compaq looks very very outdated in its perfect computer beige and with its quite small display.

So retroperspectively, it was a good a idea to name the ThinkPad “bijou” (French for jewel, jewellery, gem, etc.; named after a very neat british two-door limousine built in the UK by Slough on a 2CV base during the ’50s). Because now I have the choice between a lot of not so nice looking (not to say ugly ;-) 2CV derivatives to name the Compaq after. My favourites currently are the Iranian “Baby Brousse”, the Greek “Namco Pony” and the German “Fiberfab Sherpa”, all canvas and flatbed style 2CV based buggies, similar to the original Citroën Méhari but with steel body instead of the Méhari’s controversial plastic body. And one of the not used names, I can use for further ugly Compaq laptops¹.

Another question yet to answer is the question of what operating system to install on it. Since the ThinkPad runs fine with Debian 3.0 Woody and I have a lot of other Debian boxes at home (running Woody, Sarge or Sid), I currently think about installing the very fresh NetBSD 3.0 (released on Christmas’ Eve 2005), FreeBSD 6.0 (released early November 2005), DragonFly BSD 1.4 (to be released in December :-) or DeLi Linux 0.7 pre (which was also released in early December 2005 and already uses X11R7). Another idea was to install grml 0.5, but since grml is a live CD distribution, it probably would be hard to install it over network. Same counts for ReactOS (version 0.2.9 was released shortly before Christmas 2005), which doesn’t seem to have a floppy disk plus network install. Since I always planed to upgrade my currently defective Toshiba T6400 i486 laptop ayca (maybe after getting an organ donor on eBay or so) to DeLi Linux 0.7 (and perhaps write a review about it for Linux Magazine or so) and I may get an Sun Ultra Enterprise 2 soon (on which NetBSD 3.0 would be the perfect OS since Linux’ performance still seems to suck on Sparc :-), I currently prefer the FreeBSD or DragonFly idea. If the Ultra doesn’t come, it probably will get NetBSD, since I haven’t a NetBSD box yet. (Haven’t a DragonFly box either, but a FreeBSD 4.x running somewhere. :-)

Well, I guess, I’ll take even more old laptops than last year to the Vintage Computer Festival Europe (VCFe) in Munich next May. And since the two 1996 laptops are now 10 years old, they’re even ontopic! Yeah! ;-)

¹: I have two other not yet working Compaq laptops, both from an elder generation than Pentium I. One I got on a Swiss flea market for a few euros and the other was the first laptop of my boss, which he else would have thrown away. Unfortunately both are without power adapter and neither the usual allround laptop power adapters from Conrad, etc. nor the one from the LTE 5100 fits. But since there is eBay, I expect to get such a power adapter once. :-)

Tuesday·11·July·2006

Vintage Computer Festival Europe 7.0 ahead //at 09:50 //by abe

from the good-platforms-never-die dept.

It’s only seven weeks to the most important vintage computing event in Europe, the Vintage Computer Festival Europe (VCFe) in Munich, which for the first time will be three days this year because of May the 1st being a Monday this year and an official holiday in Germany and some of the swiss cantons (at least Zürich). So the VCFe 7.0 will take place from April the 29th to May the 1st 2006 in Munich and it’s focus this year is:

Home Made Brains
Kit-Computers and Individual Designs

I’m currently thinking about which old hardware I’ll present at this year’s VCFe. There are a few ideas flowing around in my head:

  • Old x86 laptops (1989-1996). This was my exhibition last year, but ayca, my i486 Toshiba laptop is broke (probably the display controller) and the “new” Compaq LTE pony hasn’t been setup yet. Nevertheless, I’ll bring my (nearly) everyday ThinkPad bijou with me since it’s now 10 years old and therefore ontopic now. Yeah!
  • The HP 9000 Apollo Series 400 I got from dwalin and dyfa, if I manage to get a NetBSD installed on that box.
  • Buying a tux case but installing some old hardware in it instead of the current FOX board. On the other hand: There should be at least a Linux running on that box.

Anyway, I’ll be there, many other Symlinker (at least dino and Venty) also will be there. And I hope to see you there, too. :-)

Oh, and btw: One wish to the Debian community regarding the VCFe: Perhaps someone who’s familiar with the Debian m68k Port could give a talk about how Debian plans to save this port although the old hardware isn’t fast enough to fit the requirements for inclusion in a Debian release. This would give a really interesting talk about old and new hardware. Talks can be held at least in German or Englisch IIRC. TIA. :-)

Update 16:26h: I thought of this mail by Wouter Verhelst about how modern ColdFire computers could run buildds for a hybrid m68k and ColdFire port when writing this paragraph. See also this Symlink story [German] about that topic.

Sunday·26·March·2006

New old computers //at 23:41 //by abe

from the spare-parts dept.

My employer cleared out old hardware this week and besides saving an old Compaq laptop docking-station from the junkyard (will bring it together with a second one to the flea market of the next Vintage Computer Festival Europe in Munich), I got a bunch of old PCs (about 5 or so), starting with an old 486 DX 33, which was our firewall when I came into the company, ranging to my old workstation (without processor), which was thrown out after two harddisks left there life in there with a offset of only four months. Unfortunately three further gigahertz ranged mini desktops were not working anymore…

But the optical highlight was an Unisys Aquanta CP mini desktop (picture) with a passively cooled 200 MHz Pentium MMX, which I now call tryane. This nice monitor post probably becomes my new Sarge based gateway and firewall since the old Woody based one, called azu needs more space and current and had some ext3 filesystem problems which looked like setting it up from scratch wouldn’t be the baddest idea.

Saturday·11·March·2006

Some new old non-x86 hardware //at 16:39 //by abe

from the HPsUX dept.

Because dyfa and dwalin are moving they had some old hardware (but not only hardware) to give away.

I got from them an old HP Apollo 9000 Series 400 Model 400t from 1990 (with an MC68040 processor like some Amigas had, 24 MB RAM and some 1992 HP-UX as operating system), which I decided to call »tub« (“Le TUB” was the prototype of the Citroën HY), a Sun Sparcstation IPC (which I decided to call »acadiane«) and two terminals, one true DEC VT320 and one VT100 compatible.

The IPC unfortunately seems to have a defect power supply, so I probably have to look around at eBay a little bit. The Apollo boots fine and probably also had the correct date in the hardware clock, but the software didn’t accept it. So it asked for the current date. Went fine. Until it asked me for the current year:

WARNING: bad date in real-time clock--check and reset the date
[...]
_______________________________________________________________________________

You will be prompted for the daten and time.  Please enter all values
numerically, for example January is 1.  The values in the paraenthesis
give the acceptable range of responses.
_______________________________________________________________________________


Please enter the month (1-12), then press [Return] 9

Please enter the day of the month (1-31), then press [Return] 28

Please enter the last two digits of the year (70-99), then press [Return] 05
Value out of range. Please try again.


Please enter the last two digits of the year (70-99), then press [Return] 

Using cal, I found out that 1977 has exactly the same calendar as 2005 and is in the same distance to the leap years. So I set the year to 77.

Yet another case of programmers not believing how long their software will run. And this box was only ten years old when Y2K came — some parts of the operating system on it even only eight years… Well, I hope, that’s history when NetBSD runs on that box.

Haven’t tested the the terminals yet, although I don’t expect any Y2K issues with them. ;-)

Now playing: Roxette — Real Sugar

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