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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Save All The Parts

I spent all day today fiddling with my podcast website.

I decided to move as much as possible from the main webpage out to additional pages, leaving the main page a bit more "lean and mean."  The only tool I've got for creating HTML is OpenOffice.org.  At least, it's the only tool I understand sufficiently.

I really don't understand HTML much.  I did get a couple books from the library a while back, but never found the time to read them -- and ended up with late fees, thinking eventually I'd get around to actually reading them.  Odd thing, I used to be pretty good at most computer stuff.  These days, though, all that seems to be well beyond me.

But, with what little I know, I managed to move a bunch of stuff off to little external pages, leaving a bit more "white space" on the main page.  It's still not perfect, but it's better.  And there's more I want to do.  One thing I wish I had is an adequate graphic for the combined podcast feed, that contains both "Grizzly's Growls" and "Stories from the Hiber-Nation" episodes.  I have IrfanView and Paint.Net, but I wasn't quite able to figure out how to even paste the two existing logos together, side-by-side.

I got my old Desktop machine working again, Windows 98SE, 30 Gig HD, 450 MHz processor.  Doesn't run fast, but it's fine for my mail server.  And I'm thinking I'll be turning it into a file server, too, and maybe a print server, and whatever else server-ish stuff that comes to mind.  When I get my SATA card, assuming it works in that machine, I'll use that to run Spinrite on the failed laptop drive, for some rediculous period of time, till it's well and truly done.  Might do all that and still get no data back.  But hey, again assuming the SATA card works, Win98SE can handle up to two Terabyte harddrives.   Fine for long-term storage and backups and whatnot.

 That's what gets forgotten about old computers.  They're not as fast as newer machines, and they're often quite slow running newer Stuff.  But they are just as fast doing the old Stuff as they ever were.  Assuming they're not broken, of course.  And not only does it cost money to throw the things out, they usually end up in a landfill somewhere, and are rarely recycled.  Leaving it in the basement isn't a productive use of either the machine or the space.  So it makes sense to use it for what it does reasonably well.

And by the way, that doesn't just work for Windows machines.  Got a fax machine?  Want to get faxes without tying down your swell new machine to a phoneline, and without paying for one of those fax-to-email services?  Look for a program called BGFax.  Receives and prints faxes just fine, thanks.  Can even be used (and I've done so) as the core of a digital document filing system.  Just figure out a way of sorting out the various graphic files that are the received faxes.

BGFax runs in MS-DOS.  So, yeah, there are ways of making reasonably practical use of even an old DOS machine.  Or hey, even impractical use -- there are lots of quite fun games written for MS-DOS, (Doom, the original Tomb Raider, Stealth Fighter, F-16), and a beat-up old MS-DOS machine might be newer than the game you want to play, and thus blazingly fast for some of these games.

For that matter, talk to your local "Linux Geek."  I still haven't quite managed to get my head around Linux, after several attempts.  I've got a stack of Ubuntu CDs from a while back.  But the folks that fiddle with such things tell me there are Linux versions to run on darn near anything, including, probably, that old piece-of-junk collecting dust in your basement.

There used to be a concept called "appropriate technology."  The idea was, if you have a working system and set of hardware to do a particular job, you don't necessarily upgrade to the latest-and-greatest.  You use the technology necessary to do the job.  You could dig a hole with a backhoe, or you could just use a shovel.  You could run everything on which you depend on one computer, or you could dedicate some older hardware to some of those tasks it'll handle just fine.

The first rule of the Intelligent Tinkerer is, "Save all the Parts."



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