Captain Kerbal

Tag: Grandmother’s computer

Pronounced Dead

The iMac has finally been declared dead. I’ve donated the motherboard, the hard drive now lives in my grandmother’s computer, and the aluminum frame has been sold to a scrap metal merchant – only the power supply lives on (which is another story altogether).

It was not unexpected; I had already mentioned my possible plans for it. It seems like a good use for the parts… better than throwing them in the bin, anyway.

Decisions, decisions…

I’m still wondering what to do with the iMac. After all, it’s working fine. Apart from a dead screen.

And I’ve just discovered that I could upgrade the internals with a 64 bit CPU and up to 4GB of RAM. That would make it quite a powerhouse, at least by my standards! Or on-par with all of my other machines, at least.

My real issue is that I’ve already got another machine that’s more powerful – at least one, anyway – so there’s not a whole lot of point in getting yet another working. Assuming I buy another motherboard for the Vostro, I’d have four perfectly good machines capable of taking 4GB+ of RAM and a Core 2 Duo. Putting all of them to work would be difficult, to say the least!

And my PC can be upgraded to a Core 2 Quad, which should outperform anything else that I’ve got by an order of magnitude, at least for compiling jobs. Since I’m considering using the Acer for playing KSP on, the PC will be somewhat defunct – assuming that I get the Vostro working, that is. So it’ll be relegated to the task of churning out packages as required, and possibly a bit of light web browsing every now and again. And provided that I managed to find a processor with vt-x extensions, I’d have a pair of machines capable of running virtual machines.

Which will mean that the iMac is pretty much completely defunct. It turns out that I could use a USB to serial adaptor that we have lying around, and my new null modem cable would let me have emergency terminal access, as required. Plus I could use one of the spare disk drives to ensure that I always could access the system. But without a screen, I couldn’t update the firmware, so I’d have to sink at least NZ$30 into it, not including buying some more RAM, and a newer CPU.

So I’m most likely to salvage parts from it, unless I think of a use for it. Salvageable parts include the HDD and (firewire!) internal camera, and the power supply. I thought that I could use the HDD in my grand mother’s computer, whenever I get around to ‘upgrading’ it to Debian Jessie, although I have until 2018 to do so. It would be a size and speed upgrade, although only a minor one, and would give me more room to manoeuvre; I could always fall back to the older install if required!

Printing in Linux

Printing now works on my PC 🙂

I set it up one day to connect to our HP LaserJet P1606dn printer via Zeroconf – ie Bonjour or Avahi. It appears to be working… I’ve printed a few things.

However, my grandmother’s computer had a few hiccups with printing. I’m not sure why, but for some reason the printer became paused. And this (understandably) confused my grandmother – to her, it appeared that nothing was happening.

Fixed, now… hopefully it won’t come back!

Grandmothers and computers

Not so long ago, I went to help my grandmother with her computer, an 8 year old Sempron based machine, with 512MB of RAM. It’s now a Pentium based machine, with 2GB of RAM, running Debian (Gnome desktop…), instead of XP. Somewhat surprisingly, it is blazingly fast – especially compared to the same hardware with XP!

My grandmother is fairly with it, but computers are not her speciality – not by a long shot. On the other hand, she appears to have adjusted pretty quickly.

Overall impressions:

  • Simple is better, even if that just means less visible buttons
  • Pop down menus are evil
  • XP is a load of junk – or I’m not experienced enough to go poking around to find out exactly why it is so slow…
  • Debian’s package management is stupid, at least compared to pacman
  • Arch is great, even if things don’t magically work out of the box
  • I prefer to set things up, then know why they break. As opposed to have them break, and have no idea why. Deferring pain is not a good strategy…
  • Email is not simple…
  • Router firmware is made by a bunch of aliens from a small planet green-blue near Jupiter
  • My system at home is no where near complete, although it’s getting there
  • An 8 year old system should be more than capable, provided it is running (simple) Linux. A 3 year old system is old if it is running Mac OSX or Windows… even XP
  • Make sure that I dispose of my junk intelligently, i.e. destroy all data myself rather than rely on someone else…
  • New stuff is great, when it works the way it should
  • Hardware acceleration is great, but tends to need shader capable hardware

The only cost of the exercise was 4 days, one of which was spent fluffing around with XP, and some tech support calls after. Oh, yes, and a new HDD which was probably defunct. Never mind… it reduced the risk, and I may eventually set the old disk up as a backup drive.

My (updated) list of passions:

  • Computers are not old when they are 8; 16, maybe, but not 8! Especially not high end machines… and even 16 year old computers are quite capable
  • A simple UI for an application is essential. The world needs more applications with simple user interfaces!
  • Building systems is fun
  • Coding is enjoyable 🙂

The problems the trip revealed in my system:

  • It’s not beautiful – my desktop, I mean. I’m trying to fix that with Weston, with some success
  • Some things don’t work
  • I need a way of being notified when things don’t work (!)
  • The command line is defunct – although I have yet to see a really valid replacement

It seems kind of weird noting that the command line is defunct, but it really is. It is a rubbish scripting language – even missing a pair of quotation marks can cause major problems. However, it is standard, and most things are managed via it’s standard interface. So perhaps, what is really needed is a better shell… with some kind of framebuffer terminal support for inline images and generally prettier text.

A built in scripting language is powerful – it really is. However, as a user interface, it’s not so good. I’d expect some kind of WM functionality – often provided by screen, tmux, or similar – but each new application requires learning a whole new set of key bindings. Standardised it’s not – although having a choice about what standard would be nice, too.

Also, the terminal is inherently ugly. I’m not sure what to propose, but I guess support for inline images and prettier text would be a start. Though part of me wants backwards compatibility, most computers capable of running Linux will have at least framebuffer graphics support, so it’s not impossible.

Probably the best bet would be a Wayland compositor (lightweight!) of some sort, for window management, coupled with a smarter terminal – better shell and prettier images.