I can read and write 9-track (half inch) magnetic tape, 8/5/3.5" floppies,
MO media (various sizes), all sorts of different tape and oddball media
(e.g., Orb disks), etc. In the past, these were necessary to support
arbitrary requests from clients ("Hey, I bought this really neat, oddball
tape drive! Can you send me the files you've created on one of these
I keep a Compaq Portable 386 to give me a couple of ISA slots
(I have an Opus "Personal Mainframe" that is ISA based):
I run virtual machines to support old OS's on newer hardware.
I've got a laptop that has floppy, PCMCIA, S-video, serial, parallel, etc.
ports that i use when I have to interface to a piece of equipment "in the
The only "generic" machines that I operate tend to be laptops. No
particular hardware (peripheral) quirks -- beyond what the manufacturer
supports in its drivers. And, only install applications that don't need to
access specific types of peripherals.
Yes. And, you have to constantly ask" what am I *gaining* for what I
am *losing* (which, at the very least, is a fair bit of time spent
reinstalling software on a "new" machine! That, of course, assumes the
protection schemes on "portable" and allow your license(s) to be
On Wed, 23 Sep 2015 23:23:52 -0400, "Ralph Mowery"
That is what my last W/98 machine is doing right now. It runs a real
nice SCSI scanner, a FAX program that is usually "off" (not answering
the phone) and it is my print server.
Occasionally I also do some old DOS stuff on it.
One of the down sides of W/7 for me is it will not talk to the W/98
In XP it is seamless.
I have a 1.44 drive in my media machine and it is shared as a mappable
drive on the network so if I have something looking for an A: drive, I
I have a soft copy shop manual for my old truck that needs it.
For most people who were not getting OTA stuff, that was barely
noticed. I have pretty much migrated to flat screens now but I still
have one CRT in my shop and we just set one on the curb ... working.
These days a modest size flat screen is only about $100. I paid $400
for a 58" one the other day.
On 09/24/2015 02:16 AM, email@example.com wrote:
It can be done but is a bit tricky.
Google "windows 7 to windows 98 networking" (without the quotes)
The best solution for me though was to buy my own network storage device.
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
That might be a good solution for net storage but it won't do much for
my scanner ;-)
I have a mirrored pair on one of my machines that maintains my common
files. I had one of those "toasters" but it was far from trouble free.
To start with it required a driver on every machine that used it and
that was bugware.
As the modified subject line says, what follows is pure technobabble...
On 9/24/2015 7:56 AM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
I've given up on COTS NAS boxen. They all tend to be "closed" solutions
(even those built on FOSS software). A good test is to crash a volume
(after having made an offline backup!) and see how painful and successful
recovering the volume will be! Then, crash the *appliance* (i.e., imagine
the *box* has died) and trying to recover the volume contents on "something
else". So, *when* either of these scenarios manifest, you'll know
what sort of nightmare you'll encounter! (Hint: rebuilding a multi-TB
array can be frighteningly slow -- especially on the underpowered
hardware often used for these appliances!)
Instead, I've been designing a "distributed NAS/RAID" system. I use a
set of Optiplex FX160's:
running headless and diskless. External (portable!) USB drives act as the
persistent stores. I PXE boot a custom OS/userland that turns them into
This allows me to serve files via a wide number of protocols: SMB/CIFS,
NFS, FTP, HTTP, etc. So, the stores are just seen as bytes -- they
don't care if they are accessed from a DOS machine, Windows, OS/X,
Daemons running on the boxes (more than one box could be online at any
given time, obviously) catalog the contents of the attached volumes.
Filename, "container" (which may be a directory *or* the name of an
archive "file" -- or, even an archive within an archive!), size,
MD5 fingerprint, date of modification, etc. are cataloged and maintained
on an RDBMS.
From this, the system can (automatically) determine equivalences; file
X on volume Y in container Z is another instance of file A on volume
B in container C.
A daemon periodically walks through the filesystem verifying each file
is accessible and HAS NOT BEEN CORRUPTED (i.e., it's computed MD5/size
agrees with its *stored* MD5/size). So, a user knows that a file is
still present (RDBMS catalogs the names of existing files; if a file
has gone missing, it will exist in the RDBMS but not on the associated
volume in the specified container!). AND, knows that it's contents are
still intact -- even if he hasn't tried to access the file recently!
(the daemon has done so for him!).
The equivalence relationships allow the system to recover a lost file
though this may require human intervention (e.g., if the backup copy
exists on another volume attached to a different host that isn't currently
powered up, then the user must perform those steps!).
It's not designed to be a highly *performant* solution but, rather,
automate what a user would do in an ad hoc manner to preserve large
quantities of information without having to herd them into a
"Crap! My copy of RinTinTin is trashed! Where do I have *a*
backup squirreled away? Let me drag out that disk and find
the backup. Then, refresh my "original" while I am at it
to ensure that I have at least N copies to fall back on!"
I have lost 2 drives in my mirrored set over the years and recovery
was pretty painless. I get a message that a drive has failed. I swap
out the bad one (you could hot swap them buy why bother)
Power up and the RAID controller sees the drive and restores it while
you are off doing other things. I am not sure how long it takes but
the next time I look things are fine.
I also keep an image of my C: from a fresh load and periodically after
It is the ultimate "System Restore" that gets around hardware failures
and the worst viruses.
The "data" drives are backed up many times, including drives in a
On 9/24/2015 3:42 PM, email@example.com wrote:
How large are your mirrors? E.g., my music archive is a bit larger than
1TB (plus another 1TB for its mirror); my "software" (purchased) archive
is about 2TB (with a 2TB copy); the historical archive for the
database used in my current project is 3TB (so a 3TB duplicate); etc.
Each of my workstations has at least 1T spinning ("working storage").
Rebuilding a complete mirror of any one drive takes a *long* time.
My USB approach is actually much worse (in terms of potential
rebuild time) because it is USB-based. But, putting drives *in*
a machine leaves me trapped with that particular type of
machine. E.g., I have SATA, SAS, SCA, SCSI-W and PATA drives...
which should I "standardize" on?
I image each system as I build it. E.g., after installing the OS.
After installing drivers. After installing updates. After installing
"core utilities" (like archivers, compressors, etc.). After installing
the applications. Then, finally, after configuring the applications.
So, I can roll back to an arbitrary point in the build process and
"start over" from that point. (I keep a typewritten log of the
build steps *in* the image so I can see what I did to get to a
particular point; includes any license activations, etc. so I
don't have to revisit the original media unnecessarily -- ISO's
kept in that 2T archive)
This is particularly useful with Windows machines. But, also
handy with the other boxen that I use -- too hard to keep track
of all the little details required for each system, otherwise!
I have two laptops that are configured to automatically restore
themselves from a custom image that I hide on a hidden "partition".
These are handy for on-line work: any infestation goes away as
soon as I reboot.
I have a 1TB mirrored set that is a little less than half full
I didn't think there was a terabyte of music out there ;-)
I have over 6000 songs and it is a lot smaller than a TB.
Movies are the ones that gobble up bytes.
It happens in the background so I don't care.
These days SATA seems to be the way everyone is going.
I have a few SCSI drives but they are tiny compared to newer drives
and I don't use them.
The last couple machines I bought don't even have PATA ports. I still
have a stack of drives tho
On 9/25/2015 8:17 AM, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
My archive is 96K/24b lossless. Far more "expensive" than MP3's
(even 320Kb MP3's are small by comparison). I "play" music
through "network speakers" throughout the house (like
streaming audio, in a sense, but higher fidelity and precision)
Rather than transcoding MP3's "on the fly", I've ripped or
transcoded all my music "one time" and stored it in this
"bigger" format (disk space is cheap!). This cuts down on
the processing required in the audio server and the "network
You are vulnerable to a second failure while the mirror is being
rebuilt. What if it dscovers the "mirror copy" is corrupt while
reading it to recreate the "primary"?
E.g., RAID5 arrays that incur an error often become irrecoverable
before the array can be rebuilt (admittedly, more costly than
rebuilding a simple mirror/RAID1)
This is why I have daemons running to verify each file is intact
whenever a volume is "spinning" -- so the window in which it
can fail is reduced. It also ensures *every* copy of a file
(which can be more than one on *a* spindle or more than one
spindle!) is checked for integrity -- its not "use the backup
if the primary fails (and HOPE the backup hasn't failed
BEFORE this but wasn't noticed)"
In the future, there will be something else. My archive spans more
than 30 years...
I image machines onto *bare* SATA drives (typically 80 or 160G).
I use a USB "dock" to connect the bare drive to the machine in
question (when creating or restoring the image). This lets me
keep many "image drives" in the same sort of space that
2.5" external USB laptop drives might occupy.
[I like one machine per drive so I don't have to put
much structure in the filesystem on the drive:
vs. an adhesive label ON the drive ("MachineA") with:
I don't have much that is not backed up on another machine. The
mirrored set is just for convenience.
My media files are on all of the media machines (4 PCs right now.)
That is the bulk of the material. The rest of the stuff is pretty
small and easy to keep backed up. A lot of it is in my "cloud" (my web
site) buried in a password protected FTP directory you can't navigate
to without the URL.
Sometimes products, sometimes people.
I saw on the local TV station (in North Carolina) where someone complained
and took a new car back because the built in GPS unit would not understand
voice commands. While voice reconition has came a long way , I still don't
think it is there yet. Sort of like me trying to understand some of the off
shore help line people.
It depends on whether you are looking for "limited domain" recognition
or completely unconstrained recognition. Also, the amount of "smarts"
you put into the vocabulary qualifier in each system.
For example, words like almond and salmon are often mispronounced.
Regional dialects can make BIG changes in how even simple things are
said (some places say "mash", others say "maysh"; the 'r' sound differs
from Boston to NYC to damn near everywhere else; "oil" --> "earl",
etc.) Some words defy pronunciation rules (Worcester --> wooster,
Billerica --> billricka, Berlin --> BURlin or burLIN). Some subcultures
alter the pronunciation of words (INsurance vs. inSURance, POlice vs. poLICE).
But, if you *integrate* the application with the speech recognizer, you
can get significantly improved performance. E.g., a driver might command
"Radio ON" or "Radio OFF" or "CD On" etc. But, you wouldn't expect
him to say "Radio own" or "Radio fluff". So, don't consider words other
than those you *expect* to encounter when you do the analysis/recognition.
If a user genuinely says "Radio own", it's sort of OK for you to
MISrecognize that as "Radio on"! :>
But, wouldn't you at least expect the average user to know what a
plug/power chord is?
A long time ago there were some issues with a particular public database
list was crashing. No one could figure out why it was doing that, so one
day I had some time on my hands and thought I'd give it a try and see if
I could figure it out. It turns out that the back end of the DB list
had a flaw. When a new list title was created with a particular symbol
that was actually invisible when created, that symbol would crash the
list. It could only be seen from looking at the list from the back end,
not the public view. If that new list item was deleted from the DB, the
list could then be refreshed and returned to normal working view.
Some people thought it was funny to crash the list, but no one tried to
fix it because they thought it was some big mystery. I'm not even a
major techie when it comes to stuff like that, but I like to analyze and
solve problems. Kind of even surprised myself when I fixed the issue.
Then I passed on the solution to the others who needed to know.
I guess I think it's not so hard to do that sort of stuff, but then
again being analytical is kind of normal for me. Many people just
My neighbor's mom had some car problems. She brought the car over to the
neighbor's house. Neighbor went out to take a peek: "Mom, how do you
open the hood?" "Gee, I don't know! When I take it to the gas station,
the guy just does THIS (puts arms out at her sides like a priest
inviting his congregation to pray) and *poof*, it opens!"
There are lots of cases of software not properly handling "unexpected"
input. Business wants to lower the quality of individuals they "need"
for any given task. Just like McDonald's has a cash register that
features *pictures* of the food items (so the operators don't have to
THINK about what they are doing -- 5 hamburgers? Just press teh hamburger
button 5 times!), software is moving towards a "black box" implementation
Which is fine. *If* the black boxes are well defined and folks
completely understand how they operate. If, OTOH, they just "kinda"
know what the box is supposed to do (and imagine that it does all
the "other stuff" exactly the way they happen to NEED it to be done,
at this point in time), then you're in for a rude awakening when it
Just because you happen to think A then B then C then D doesn't mean
the real world (or real users!) will comply with that expected behavior!
In school, damn near every course had its own "custom" computer system
(this predates the PC). Each professor had his own idea how a computer
system should work, etc.
The system for one of my classes had two disk drives (volumes): 0 and 1
(sort of like C: and D:). If you asked the system to show you the
contents of disk *2*, it died.
But, back then, we were using dot matrix printing terminals (DECwriters).
So, it took a while for everything the computer had "sent" to your terminal
to actually get printed. There were ~30-40 of these attached to the computer
all residing in the "lab" where we did our homework.
The favorite trick was to finish YOUR homework assignment in the wee hours
of the morning (when all the "staff" was home, asleep) and then list disk 2
and calmly walk out of the room -- listening to the printers stopping,
one by one, as you walked down the hall. Then, the groans from the
remaining students who knew they could not finish their homework by
morning (machine is dead until someone comes in to reboot it!)
Exactly. Many people want to be told "the answer". And, if not spoon
fed that answer, just sit in "pause" mode waiting for it!
yeah, that's for sure. I used to train people to do specific tasks.
Many people could learn the tasks, but more often then not I had to
alter the material being used to teach them and re-present it to them in
a more dumbed down fashion. Everyone was different and it always
required me to find out how they learned before they'd understand the
tasks they were learning. There was only 1 person who couldn't learn
the material no matter how I presented it to him.
LOL not nice!
In school I was always asked to show my work on how I solved a
particular problem. I used to love to diagram sentences!
In general, your process should tolerate folks doing things in whatever
order suits them -- or the circumstances under which they are operating.
You can *choose* to train them to do things in a particular order.
But, it is rarely a good idea to *force* that order on them *in*
E.g., when I fill out my income taxes, I don't start at line 1
and proceed through all lines in sequential order. I *rarely*
fill in my name and address until the return is complete (why
bother filling it in if I might end up having to start over on a
fresh form?) So, forcing me to do A then B then C is wasteful
and regarded as an unnecessary constraint. What if I can't recall
my SSN? Does that mean I can't fill out the form until I've
I went to an engineering school. This was almost expected behavior.
If you weren't probing to see how things worked (or didn't) you
probably should have been an accountant, not an engineer!
Yes. As a kid, it was *stressed* -- you'd often receive a fair portion of
the "credit" for an answer if you showed your work and the teacher could
see where your mistake crept in. By contrast, if you just write down
your "answer", then the teacher is left with a simple go/nogo
decision. (If the answer is 37, then 25 is wrong; not 46% wrong!)
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