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Thoughts on computing

I've been using computers for over 20 years now (I remember using an Apple II and a Commodore PET when I was about 12 or 13 years old). Not everything that I've used has pleased me much.

Most of my computing experience has been with PCs. I also dabble with Solaris, FreeBSD and Linux, and over the past 3 or 4 years, I've been using unix more and more. I use NT/W2K a little bit, though if I could avoid it, I would. At least in 2007, my use of Windows 2000 has been quite limited by the ease with which it goes from working to broken, and the extreme difficulty in getting it to work again. I'm not counting the 'certified' solution of doing a reinstall.

I've more or less had to abandon a couple of my pet projects due to lack of time. Well, not so much that I don't have the time, more that I try to do more things than are possible in the time available. I'd like to be proficient at programming my HP48GX and HP489G calculators. (I can't resist making a dig at HP. For ages they were the leader in the scientific and engineering calculator market. But then they had to face stiff competition from TI [and to a lesser extent at the low end of the market from Casio]. They haven't exactly fought back with vigour. Instead, their latest top end calculator, the 49G contains mostly the same hardware as the 48GX, but with a snazzy metallic blue case, better software and more memory. The packaging is incredibly tacky. The keys are cheapo rubber, and the LCD display has a plastic cover that is a fine example of how low cost injection moulded plastic can exhibit stress induced birefringence. Some people might find the resulting rainbow effect aesthetically pleasing, but I suspect that most people who buy an expensive calculator would prefer simply to be able to read the display clearly. It's sad that a company that started out producing technically excellent products has now become a company that markets cheap and shoddy stuff using that reputation).

I did have a link to HP's 48GX site, and then to HP's 49G site. Sadly neither of them lasted very long.

I don't think much of my ADSL router. I'd also like to be better at programming Oberon.

Some of these comments are really old. I'll clear them out one of these days.

Here's a brief rundown of the Floyd hardware history

My first PC (1993) was a Dell 466/M. 466 refers to an Intel 486 clocked at 66MHz. 8Mbytes of RAM, 235Mbyte hard disk, and an S3 1Mbyte video card on the planar. To the original machine, I added a QIC40 cassette drive (noisy, slow but better than nothing), an Adaptec 1542AF SCSI HBA, a Toshiba 3401 CD drive, a 2nd level cache card, a network card, probably 3Com 3C509. Much later I upgraded the RAM to 64Mbytes. Added an external 2Gbyte SCSI disk. At present (since summer 1997), the hard disk seems to be dead, and I'm waiting to cannibalize a few of the bits, in particular the QIC40 cassette. Just in case I ever need to read one of those backups. You never know.

PC number 2 (1999) was a home brew jobby. ASUS P3B-F planar, Intel Pentium III 500MHz, 256Mbytes of RAM (progressively upgraded to 1Gbyte), Matrox G400 video, Yamaha 6416 CD-RW (later replaced by a Panasonic DVD+/-RW drive), Toshiba SDM-1201 DVD-ROM, cheapo rtl8139 NIC. Originally no sound card. Then I had a cheap Yamaha one. But that got burnt out by the OS/2 driver that I used for it - the only driver available came from patching an existing binary driver from a similar card, changing all occurrences of the PCI ID. This didn't work too well, as I think that a few too many changes were made. It was replaced by a SoundBlaster Live!. Early on it had a nasty Adaptec ISA SCSI card (1505 or something like that) to drive my scanner. When ISA HBAs were dropped in Solaris 8, I chained the scanner to my external SCSI disk. This worked for a while, until Solaris 10 decided that it didn't like it any more (not sure what exactly, async SCSI or something that was going on on the 25 way connection). Was out of service for a long while in 2007. Replaced several of the components before arriving at the conclusion that neither the sound card or the video card seemed to be working. In the process of replacing the bits, the CPU gained 200MHz, and the video card was swapped for the G450 model.

My wife has a Compaq thingy (2000?), running Windows 98. Celeron processor, DVD ROM, Yamaha ATAPI CD-RW drive that I added. 320Mbytes of RAM. Don't know what the hard disk is, but it is slow anc chugs a lot. The video is by Trident, and it shares (or uses) the main memory. Which is of course slow.

Back in the 21st century, I have a MacBook Pro (2007), 17", 2Gbytes RAM, 140Gbyte SATA disk (a bit slow), 2.33GHz Intel Core Duo, ATI Radeon X1600, DVD+/-RW drive.

Back in the PC world is my latest addition, an HP xw9400 (2007), 4Gbytes RAM, 2x73Gbyte SAS disks, 2x2.8GHz AMD 2220, Nvidia 1500, DVD+/-RW drive.

Copyright © Paul John Floyd 2002 - 2007

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