Tag Archives: computers

I’m Part of That 3%, I Must Confess

I ran across an entertaining little bit while surfing around the Tech News Daily site this morning. It reminded me of a humorous computer story of my own.

Most of my online tech pals know what I’m talking about when I mention the night the Slacker danced the Irish jig. I’m not much of a dancer, but this one night I danced up a storm on my kitchen floor… on top of my computer tower. Heh! Yeah… it was a sight to see; a 265 lbs, 6’2″ man stomping maniacally on his computer tower that he had just recently scooped off the desk and slammed to the ground… along with all the hardwired peripherals and knick-knacks.

So yeah… I’m in that 3% group who have totally lost their cool and let an inanimate bunch of plastic, silicon, and metal get the best of me.

About nine percent of people have taken their frustrations out on the computer by hitting it with an object, such as a baseball bat or a fist. Only three percent have actually thrown a computer to the ground or against a piece of furniture, such as a desk.*

“What ever could have brought this about?” you might ask. If you can seriously ask that question, you’ve never used a computer before in your entire life. Here’s what happened, though… I had been having some buggy issues with an installation of Linux. I kept losing my configuration preferences and such.

It was really beginning to torque me up. It had been going on for about two weeks. It came to a head one evening shortly after another crash of a fresh installation. That’s when the dance party started. WOO-HOO! Everybody dance now! THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!

After a reassembly into another tower box and some more calm-minded troubleshooting, I tracked the issue to an intermittently failing Seagate hard drive that I had just recently bought and installed on this system. That was the very first… and the VERY LAST Seagate drive I even owned/used. I’ve mellowed over the years, though. I don’t blame Seagate anymore for my near-stroke. I’d buy one nowadays… if the price was right.

But not everyone reacts this way when faced with a computer issue. On the other end of the spectrum, about 38 percent of people said they would never yell at their computer because it’s “too sensitive.” Instead, they encourage it to keep working with positive words.*

*From the above mentioned article.

If you’re one of the above mentioned 38%, you really should seek some professional help. :crazy



Out With the Old…

… in with, well… nothing, actually. I spent the day today out in my shop weeding through boat anchor computers trying to put one good one together.

Nothing panned out, unfortunately. I ended up stripping an old Pentium III Compaq, an old Duron HP unit, and my old ericsbane02 machine. Each one had different problems but incompatible parts, so I couldn’t cannibalize to make one working unit. I kept the case and mobo from ericsbane02, but the other cases and mobos went to the curbside, where they were promptly scarfed up by the neighborhood scrap metal vultures.

My whole project aim was just to put together one machine to use as a shop system. I was focusing on ericsbane02, an AMD Athlon XP 2600+ based unit, because it was the most modern out there. Sadly, I think there is a mobo issue with that unit. I could have sworn it was working when I put it out there, but I have since taken most of the goodies out of that case. The replacement stuff I put in there today may have actually caused more issues.

It’s a project to return to another day.

At least I did make some room on the shelves by getting rid of those old dinosaurs that I had sitting there. Sheeeesh! One actually had a 10Gig hard drive. I remember paying $100 for that drive to upgrade my Pentium I machine back in 2000. A hundred bucks for 10 stinkin’ gig, huh? We’ve made some hardware progress since then, thankfully.

Well, enough rambling for this evening.



Our Very Own Babel Fish and How It Made the Internet Possible

In Douglas Adams’ classic science fiction series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there was a small animal called a babel fish that when inserted in one’s ear would translate languages into the user’s language.

We actually have such a thing in reality. It’s called TCP/IP, and it’s what allows you and I to interact today through countless computers, hubs, switches, routers, and servers to our monitor. Back in the dawning age of the Internet, when the U.S. Dept. of Defense was first playing around with it in the 1960s, they found that different computers manufactured by different companies and bought by the U.S. could not communicate with one another directly on a network. They didn’t speak the same language, you see.

The solution to this became what we now know as TCP/IP, which stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol. Were it not for this simple solution, you and I would be sending letters written with ink on paper back and forth to one another right now, instead of using this instantaneous method of communication that we’ve all come to love and sometimes hate. Of course, the United States Postal Service would love it to still be that way. HA! Fortunately for us, some really smart folks at the U.S. Dept. of Defense came up with TCP/IP.

How TCP/IP basically works:

As with all other communications protocol, TCP/IP is composed of layers:

  • IP – is responsible for moving packet of data from node to node. IP forwards each packet based on a four byte destination address (the IP number). The Internet authorities assign ranges of numbers to different organizations. The organizations assign groups of their numbers to departments. IP operates on gateway machines that move data from department to organization to region and then around the world.
  • TCP – is responsible for verifying the correct delivery of data from client to server. Data can be lost in the intermediate network. TCP adds support to detect errors or lost data and to trigger retransmission until the data is correctly and completely received.
  • Sockets – is a name given to the package of subroutines that provide access to TCP/IP on most systems.*

Here’s a little byte of the history of TCP/IP:

The Internet Protocol Suite resulted from research and development conducted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the early 1970s. After initiating the pioneering ARPANET in 1969, DARPA started work on a number of other data transmission technologies. In 1972, Robert E. Kahn joined the DARPA Information Processing Technology Office, where he worked on both satellite packet networks and ground-based radio packet networks, and recognized the value of being able to communicate across both. In the spring of 1973, Vinton Cerf, the developer of the existing ARPANET Network Control Program (NCP) protocol, joined Kahn to work on open-architecture interconnection models with the goal of designing the next protocol generation for the ARPANET.^

It can be fascinating to read a bit about how technologies were created and evolved. I don’t believe anyone from the 1960s,even with their wildest imaginations, could have dreamed that their tinkering with this and that would create what we now know as the Internet and the World Wide Web. It’s absolutely amazing, actually. Can you imagine what it’ll be like 50 years from now? Some of you younger folks will get to see it.

Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law of Prediction: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Learn something new. It won’t hurt you. I promise.



* Source: Yale University – Introduction to TCP/IP

^Source: Wikipedia – Internet Protocol Suite

–> If you learned something worthwhile at Wikipedia today, please help out a bit. Thanks!

Click to buy this book

Everyone’s Favorite Rodent

You fondle it. You move it about. You click it. You might even smear your boogers on it.

It’s the lowly computer mouse. Something you’ve rarely, if ever, given any serious thought to. You should have, though. It has an interesting story behind it. Did you ever wonder where the computer mouse came from? I mean… who would have thought of such a whacked out thing? Bill Gates? Nah. Linus Torvalds? Nah… actually, the computer mouse was invented six years before Linus was born. Got your curiosity up yet?

Earlier this evening, I was sitting here munching on a bowl of Crispy Hexagons. It’s a generic knockoff of Kellogg’s® Crispix® cereal sold by a local grocery chain here in my area. Anyway, on the back of the box was a series of brief articles about inventions. One of them was the computer mouse. I read it and thought, “WOW! I didn’t know that.” So I did a little online research and decided to post an article here about what I learned. Amazing where you can find inspiration for blog articles, huh?

It seems that back in 1963 an engineer named Douglas Englebart working for the Standford Research Institute was piddling around in the lab one day and cobbled together a device that could convert physical motion (on a desktop, for instance) into input data for other uses. Englebart called the device a mouse because the connecting wire reminded him of a mouse’s tail. The invention was just a part of Engelbart’s much larger project, aimed at augmenting human intellect.

John C. Dvorak, a well known columnist for PC Magazine and other periodicals and websites, once said, “There is no evidence that people want to use these things.” HA! Hope you didn’t have any money on that horse, John. Sadly, Englebart’s patent ran out before the mouse came into popular usage with modern personal computers. He never made a penny off of his invention. The good ol’ computer mouse… where would we be without it?

Mice are like shoes, too. Everyone has their own favorite. I prefer trackballs. I started using one (a Logitech Trakman) about six or seven years ago and just never turned back. I used to be into gaming (1st person shooters) back then and found that I could play much faster and more accurately with the trackball rather than the standard mouse. It requires a lot less desktop real estate, since you don’t have to move the actual mouse to navigate.

What’s your favorite?

Until next time, folks…

Happy Tails… er, I mean Trails.


My Journey to Linux

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. ~Lao-tzu

I was a relative late-comer to the world of modern personal computers. Even though I went to school for electronics and computers back in the late 70s and early 80s, the technology was in its infancy at that time. The most modern microprocessor was the Intel 8080A; an 8-bit processor that you can still occasionally find in sprinkler system timers and like contraptions.

In school, we learned to program the 8080 using octal machine code on a 0-9 numerical keypad. The output of the programming was displayed in blinking red LEDs. Spiffy stuff here, folks. All joking aside, even this obsolete CPU was light years beyond the contraptions they used for computers in the Apollo lunar landers, so I guess we were making progress.

A couple years later, a buddy of mine went out and bought himself a cool Commodore VIC-20 home computer system; complete with cassette tape drive and a solid epoxy-sealed power supply that could have doubled as a boat anchor. This system had an amazing 20K or RAM available. Of course, once you booted up, you lost a 1/4 of that to the operating system. A bit later, he upgraded to a Commodore 64 system… a vast improvement, actually. It still used the same boat anchor for a power supply, though.

We spent hours munching pizza and playing Zork* on that 64 system. Remember Zork? It was a 100% text-based adventure game created by a company called Infocom. I don’t know what those guys were smokin’, but the games they created were a blast to play. We literally wasted our lives away playing these games till all hours of the night and then showered and went to work in the morning. You wouldn’t believe the money we were spending on pizza, soda, and Marlboro while this was going on. FUN!

In ’93, I took a brief hiatus from my electronics career to go to work with my brother. He was/is a contractor/developer here in Florida. He had just started a major new residential home project and needed some help with getting odds and ends organized. I’m the organizer. I’m good at it. A place for everything and everything in its place. Anyway, one morning I walked into the office and there was a nice new 486 DX66 computer sitting on my desk. It was loaded with an operating system from some new company called Microsoft. The OS was called Windows 3.1. It was slicker than snot on a glass door knob. The only thing I had seen that was even close to its coolness was the Commodore Amiga’s windows-type OS. I had some fun with that computer.

I stepped away from computers for a while after that and went back into my analog electronics service world (RF communications and audio). I didn’t get back in touch with computers again till spring of 2000. My brother went out and bought himself a brand new system. He asked me if I’d like to have his old Pentium I computer. “Sure,” I replied. This was the beginning of my “modern” computering. I spent hours and hours online at USENET Newsgroups and forums/boards of all types. I’ve always been a forum junkie.

I tinkered. I learned. I built my own systems. I name them “ericsbane”. It’s appropriate. In the summer of ’06, after becoming somewhat aggravated with the fourth (in three years) Win XP security patch-caused catastrophic crash, I began my Linux Adventure. It started out with Ubuntu, and through many wipes/reformats/installs, ended up at Slackware. It’s been a blast. Another featured blogger here at Lockergnome, Ron Schenone, once reposted a story that I wrote about my first year with Linux. You can read that blog post at The Blade by Ron Schenone.

The journey continues…


*Note: You can still play Zork online HERE. Also, there are some ported versions that you can download and play in MS Windows and Mac, too. Have fun! Don’t forget to order the pizza!