One bonobo's view of the world...and stuff.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Ghost of an Old Machine.

Last week, I bade farewell to a faithful, old companion. I tossed my pre-Cambrian PC out by the bins. It was almost 9 1/2 years old - a record, maybe? - but had served me well. I bought it from a dodgy backstreet outfit. PII 333MHz processor, 64MB RAM, 2GB HD (you can get bigger micro-SD cards nowadays!).

It was something of a George Washington's Axe of a PC, though. Over the years, I'd had to: replace the motherfuckerboard; add a CD-R drive (and then another, when that one wore out), add USB and Ethernet cards - they didn't have USB in those days - although I left the phone modem in, as a curioisity; replace the HD (upgrading to 4GB!) and add an extra one at a whopping 8GB; add more memory; and, most recently, replace the monitor with a better one, picked up for £5 in a car boot sale*.

Then there was the time they power unit failed. I googled (this was before ebay), and it turned out that there were only two of a suitable type in the whole UK...and they just happened to be in Bristol, where I was going the following day, right on my route from the airport. They were in a PC graveyard, a business run by a guy who bought up old equipment and disassembled it in his basement.

When I bought an iPod, In discovered two things. Firstly, iTunes won't run on anything olderv than Windows 2000. Secondly, my machine wouldn't handle XP. This set me off discovering the wonderful world of Ubuntu Linux, to be able to run gtkpod.

Here's what it looked like inside.

As my friend Gunnar once said, "When you become a parent, you have to put the case back on your PC." Wise words. Note the crafty use of duck tape in lieu of a hard drive bay. Marvellous stuff, duck tape. It's what holds the universe together.

The reason for replacement was that my brother-in-law donated one of his old PCs, on the grounds that it was '...too old to handle e-mail. It doesn't even have a modem.' I must tell him about the existence of USB network adapters sometime.

But the spirit lives on! I've stripped all the useful components (eg memory) from the dead machine and stuffed them into the new one. One of these is the IDE cable**. Bizarrely, the old one had a backward one which had to be twisted awkardly to get it into the back of a drive. And I've kept the old monitor, keyboard, mouse and graphics tablet (another car-boot £5).

I've not got a DVD-R working in it yet. I did buy one, from the same dodgy backstreet outfit (£17!) . But I knew it wasn't going tom work as soon as I plugged it in...on account of the smoke. Once I get that sorted, I plan to burn and install Ubuntu and dual-boot with XP.

* Complete this well-known phrase or saying:
"Don't get your knickers in a... boot sale."

** Grey ribbon-y thing that plugs into the back of DVD and CD drives.


Dan | thesamovar said...

It is quite fun tinkering around with old bits and pieces, but I don't do it so much nowadays because new ones are (relatively) inexpensive. I do have a new wheeze though, which is free graphics cards. Now that I'm technically doing computer vision research, I can write to Nvidia and claim I need their newest hardware for research. They're apparently so eager to get academics using them they just send free ones out. Haven't done it yet though.

Edward the Bonobo said...

ebay awaits :-)