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Time to talk about big, manly computers

Enough of this other stuff. I actually felt like messing around with computers yesterday. I read about Eric Raymond’s new PC (IBM was nice enough to finance building an obnoxious Linux box for Mr Raymond and Linus Torvalds), which is, in short, a dual Athlon-1200 setup with two big SCSI drives. Unfortunately, he neglected to mention how much memory he put in it. I’m assuming he splurged and got a gig or two. His comment? “I tried hard to gold-plate as much of the system as possible and load on all the extras and accessories I could, and was nevertheless unable to raise the total parts bill over $7,000.”
When they made the machine more reasonable (pulling the exotic tape backup drive and 21-inch monitor and other niceties), the system still cost $4,200. One participants’ comment? “People pay more than that for crap computers all the time.” Yup. I know one guy at work who had about $10,000 left in his budget at the end of July, so he decided he needed a new Macintosh. He spent every dime of it and didn’t get half the computer Raymond described.

The true test, of course, was compiling the Linux kernel. How long did it take? Two minutes, 21 seconds. I don’t think I have a computer that can compile it in under 10 minutes. Needless to say, I’m extremely jealous.

I had lunch with one of the seminarians assigned to my church (actually, seeing as it was at 3:30, I’m not sure what you would call that meal. Well, since people tend to argue whether the afternoon meal is lunch or dinner, and whether the evening meal is dinner or supper, I guess the 3:30 meal must be dinner). He mentioned that Best Bait-n-Switch had 256-meg Kingston DIMMs on sale for $25 after rebate, so we went. I picked one up.

With that, I had enough stuff to build a PC to replace several of the boxes I have laying around. Compare my setup to Raymond’s new setup:

CPU: AMD K6-2, 350 MHz
Mobo: AOpen AX59Pro
RAM: 256 MB Kingston
NIC: Generic cheapie Macronix (DEC Tulip derivative)
SCSI adapter: Initio 9090U (it came bundled with my CD-R way back when)
Hard drives: 850 MB Seagate IDE, 2 GB Quantum SCSI
CD-ROM: Generic, flaky 24X ATAPI
Video: STB Velocity 128 (nVidia Riva 128)
Case: InWin ATX desktop, no idea the model#, $37 at Directron a few months back

Yep. Pathetic. For whatever reason the machine wouldn’t boot off the Sorcerer CD, so I ended up installing Mandrake 7 on it (I wanted something reasonably modern that didn’t use the infamous GCC 2.96 compiler). It’s going to be an experimental mail server, so it doesn’t have to be fabulous.

Getting Courier-IMAP proved difficult. Someone at decided he didn’t like PacBell, and Southwestern Bell by association, so he blocks access from their networks. How nice of him. I understand not liking the companies (I hate Southwestern Bell as much as anyone), but punishing their customers isn’t going to accomplish anything. I’m stuck with SWBell because I don’t want to pay for basic cable so I can get a cable modem. If I get DSL from anyone else, then I’m using Southwestern Bell plus someone else, so they can blame each other. And who knows? If I connected from someone else who’s also using SWBell’s network, would I be blocked?

He posted his complaints to PacBell, and I have to wonder if part of the reason PacBell ignores him is because of his liberal use of a phrase that contains the word “mother” and implies incest…

At any rate, there’s an easy way to get past rude people who are blocking your ISP. Use someone else’s network. Go to, then punch in the forbidden web page. Now I’m not using Southwestern Bell’s network, but rather, Anonymizer’s network, which is then forwarding the information I requested.

Unfortunately I didn’t get the mailserver built, as Courier-IMAP is even harder to get running than it is to download, but it was kind of fun to mess around with Linux again.

If you’re interested in what I was doing, here’s the article I followed.
Hey, it’s playoffs time. And ESPN is highlighting 1986, which as far as I’m concerned, is the second-best postseason ever (no one can top my Royals’ magical 1985, of course). ESPN’s doing a “voices of 1986,” but I noticed the voice I most want to hear isn’t up there yet. They’d better not forget him. I’ll never forget the photo of young Bosox closer Calvin Schiraldi with his face buried in a towel after Game 6. Hobbling first baseman Bill Buckner was the goat, but Schiraldi took it hard.

I actually met Schiraldi three years later. He was pitching for the Cubs by then, trying to put his career back together in spite of manager Don “Gerbil” Zimmer’s best efforts to prevent it. Nice guy. All people remember now is an unreliable relief pitcher (the specifics: a 13.50 ERA in the World Series, thanks in part to a home run he gave up to Ray Knight and the three consecutive singles he gave up preceding Buckner’s error) and they forget his 1.41 ERA in the regular season, followed by his 1.50 ERA in the playoffs. I remember a tired, overworked pitcher who gave everything he had and in the end just had nothing left. Boston had four pitchers worth having that year: Bruce Hurst, the incomparable Roger Clemens, “Oil Can” Boyd, and Schiraldi. In the postseason, those four men pitched until their arms fell off, and Boyd and Schiraldi were never quite the same after that. Hurst went on to have a respectable career; Clemens of course is still pitching and is now known as one of the biggest jerks in the game. These days, Schiraldi’s a high school teacher and coach in Texas.

I went looking for stuff on Schiraldi and I found this short story: The Girl who Hated Calvin Schiraldi. Obviously I don’t see it her way.

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2 thoughts on “Time to talk about big, manly computers”

  1. I got a similar setup to your K6 Linux machine, also running Linux. I got a 350 MHz K6-2 and an Aopen AX59Pro. The similarity dies away right there ๐Ÿ™‚ I got the following components installed:

    128 meg RAM (soon to be 256).
    Matrox G400 32 Meg version
    IBM GXP34 harddrive, 20GB, 7200rpm
    Toshiba 32x CD-ROM (IDE)
    NIC: RealTek RTL 8139 cheapo stuff
    Sony SDT7000 DAT
    SCSI: Adaptec 2490UW
    Case: A converted old Compaq ATX box

    It is a very good computer to use with Linux and as a server machine it will do its work faithfully without giving you problems. Anyhow, I thought I should mention one thing, I am overclocking my CPU to 400MHz. It hasn’t given me one bit of trouble running at this speed. No, I am not one of those tweakers that does anything for a few extra MHz. For me, stability is everything but this setup hasn’t given me any problems at all. If it would then I would revert back to 350MHz right away. If you want to see how our two compare (if you would like to OC it) then here is my /proc/cpuinfo:

    processor : 0
    vendor_id : AuthenticAMD
    cpu family : 5
    model : 8
    model name : AMD-K6(tm) 3D processor
    stepping : 12
    cpu MHz : 400.914
    cache size : 64 KB
    fdiv_bug : no
    hlt_bug : no
    f00f_bug : no
    coma_bug : no
    fpu : yes
    fpu_exception : yes
    cpuid level : 1
    wp : yes
    flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr mce cx8 pge mmx syscall 3dnow k6_mtrr
    bogomips : 799.53

    I should also mention that I haven’t added a bigger heatsink or anything out of the ordinary. I also measure temperature (with a real heat measuring tool) when overclocking to see if there are any significant changes in temperature but this 50MHz bump didn’t make any difference on the outside of the cpu package, no matter where I measured.

    Keep up the good work…

    /Dave T.

  2. Wow, does that bring back memories..1986, ah the year the BoSox almost (crying in the background, sniff, wipe tear from eye) won it. Everybody and I mean everybody (well, my uncle the exception) thought that 1986 was the year. But true to the spirit of the Red Sox they lost. ๐Ÿ™‚ And boy, do I remember that pitching rotation. I really like Calvin Schiraldi too.
    This year, what a shambles.
    However, ever since the free agency got out of hand, players moving from team to team like changing socks (no pun intended), I really lost interest in sports altogether. I haven’t watched a complete game in 2 years, gee, maybe even more.
    However, I’m still a softy for the BoSox!

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