Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for February, 2006

Week #9

Posted by Trixter on February 26, 2006

Bad week; I was somewhat self-destructive.

  • 222.5 pounds
  • 28.5% body fat
  • Blood Pressure 139/80

0.5 increase in both.  I’m going to start running when I get some mobygames and demodvd obligations finished.

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Week #8

Posted by Trixter on February 19, 2006

Did some exercise, but had a very stressful week that I coped with by self-medicating with food. So, we have the puzzling results of:

  • 222 pounds
  • 28% body fat
  • Blood Pressure 125/79

2 pound increase, 2% body fat loss. Joy. I think my days of dieting only are just about over… I can feel my metabolism slowing down to cope with the lack of calories I’m ingesting.

Posted in Weight Loss | 5 Comments »

Week #7 – Blood Pressure

Posted by Trixter on February 13, 2006

Normally I take my blood pressure on Monday using a machine at the office, and then edit it into Sunday’s measurement post so I can keep the measurements together. But I got a shock when I took my blood pressure today:

  • Blood pressure 117/75

I didn’t believe it, so I took it again, and got a similar result. Took off my sweater, did it a third time — similar result.

So what happened? How did I go from Hypertension Stage 1 (last week’s 135/79) to Normal (117/75) in a single week? The only thing that changed that I can think of is that I exercised last night — for a grand total of 10 minutes joking around with Melissa during her actual workout. 10 minutes.

That can’t possibly be it, right? That’s the only thing different between last week and this week!

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Week #7

Posted by Trixter on February 12, 2006

No surprises:

  • 220.5 pounds
  • 30% body fat

Half a pound loss for the week.  This isn’t a surprise to me; I slacked off a bit. I’m getting back up on the horse for the next week and see if it helps. If not, it’s time to get physically active.

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Posted by Trixter on February 12, 2006

I discovered last night that the right-most ISA slot (the one closest to the power supply) in my newly-unearthed 5160 won’t take the Silicon Valley Computer ADP50L 8-bit IDE controller I’ve been playing with. It will take other (short!) cards, but when I put the IDE controller into it, either the option ROM is invisible (ie. the typical BIOS ROM extension signature “55AA” not found) or won’t initialize for some reason, because I don’t get functionality out of it and the boot “banner” produced by the card is missing.

At the time, I could only conclude that:

  1. The IDE board is slightly awry
  2. The right-most ISA slot is slightly awry
  3. There is some technical limitation I’m not aware of

#1 and #2 are easy to accept (the hardware is two decades old), but not #3. Was there such a limitation?

As it turns out, there is! The helpful folks on the cctalk mailing list were able to point out that the data lines on slot 8 are wired to the other side of a bus buffer chip to the data lines on the other 7 slots. A card in slot 8, therefore, has to assert a special signal on the ISA connector to enable this buffer. The most common use for this slot was either an Async card, or the card you use to connect the 5161 expansion chassis.

Yes, that’s right, I said expansion chassis. If 7 slots weren’t enough for you, you could connect 8 more using a chassis that looks like the XT does, but sits on top of it. If a PC with fifteen ISA slots isn’t the most badass thing you’ve ever heard of, then you’re reading the wrong damn blog!

What’s really sad is that I’ve already filled all 7 available slots on the XT. Don’t believe me? Weep:

  • Intel Above Board Plus 8 (2MB EMS)
  • CGA
  • Sound Blaster Pro
  • Serial/Parallel card
  • Floppy Controller
  • Roland SCC-1 (currently open to put in a network card)
  • Hard disk controller

…and that’s it, I’m full. I would really like to put three other Above Boards in here to reach ludicrous amounts of EMS memory (theoretical limit is 56MB!), and a Central Point Option Board so that I can dupe any disk I want, and another parallel port so I can attach an LPT DAC, and an ethernet card so I can stop transferring data over LPT, and the IBM Music Feature Card, and oh hell my *other* IBM Music Feature card to double the number of voices…

Shit, I’d just max out other one, wouldn’t I? I’m sick. I need help.

Posted in Vintage Computing | 1 Comment »


Posted by Trixter on February 8, 2006

Today was a very bad day.

I had a rough time at work, I obsessed over money while trying to hide it from my wife, I had to keep my cool around the kids when it came time to do homework and get them ready for bed… I was depressed, I blew my diet to the four winds with a bag of chips, I didn’t feel like working on the DVD project for some damn reason, and to top it all off: My 5150 died.

Yes, the IBM PC 5150 that I used to create 8088 Corruption died a horrible electric death; there’s a short or something on the board and I get no POST beeps, nothing. What makes it a particularly bad day for this to happen is that the 5150 is how I usually relax. Stop laughing! Seriously, I code 8088 assembler to relax, trying to come up with demo effects, or decompression routines, or PC speaker sound routines, etc. And boy did I need it tonight.

Since we moved into the house 5 years ago, I’ve been uncovering all sorts of little and medium-sized boxes that I had delivered to me back when ebay was a cheap place to get vintage parts (nowadays it’s a flea market populated by sheer idiots, but that’s a rant for some other day) but haven’t yet opened… video cards, sound cards, the occaisional analog joystick (CH Products: The only choice), etc. so I thought I’d go basement-diving to find something to cheer me up. Maybe a spare Adlib card or something. So I pushed aside some crap and found a somewhat large box delivered in 2001, right when we moved here. Got the swiss army knife, opened it up, and almost pissed my pants.

Inside was an IBM PC 5160 (the original PC/XT).

Not just any 5160 either — this thing is clean. It is the cleanest IBM PC I have ever owned; it looks like it is mint out of the box. Even the keyboard is clean. In the 8088 Corruption video you should be able to see a keyboard with a stretched-out cord and WordPerfect keycap stickers… this keyboard is mint with a perfect cord. But better than that, it’s been expanded to the point where it is very useful for someone who likes to code 8088 assembler and play old games: It has two floppies instead of one; it has a 25-pin parallel port which is great for transferring files over a special LPT cable at high speed and also hooking up parallel-port network adapters or Zip drives (yes, you can use a Zip drive on an XT) so backing my work up won’t be a problem; finally, a 9-pin serial port (most old PCs have 25-pin) which means I don’t have to dig for a 9-to-25-pin adapter and can hook up a mouse without hassles.

But did it work? I fired it up, it counted to 640K (another bonus), and after what seemed like eons, the floppy drives timed out and it booted from the internal hard drive with no errors… directly into Norton Commander… and into the root directory with the following contents:


And that, my friends, is when I started to cry. Those who know me well will know why.

Today was a very good day.

Posted in Vintage Computing | 10 Comments »

Week #6

Posted by Trixter on February 5, 2006

Pleasant surprise today:

  • 221.5 pounds
  • 30% body fat
  • Blood pressure 135/79

Lost pounds, body fat percentage, and blood pressure. Looks like there’s still life in the program I’m following (which has no formal definition, just “eat less, eat healthier, eat more often”).

Posted in Weight Loss | 7 Comments »

Computing Myth #2: Broadband only works with a new computer

Posted by Trixter on February 2, 2006

While this isn’t technically true, I can definitely see how this myth was formed. My father ran on a 486/66 with a modem from 1995-2001. In 2001 he got cable modem broadband, but his 486/66 was so slow that it couldn’t process complex web pages much quicker than it already was, so he saw no actual speed benefit. So he went back to the modem, at which point I almost lost it (“How can you want to go slower?!”)

Later he upgraded to a Pentium 3 @ 450MHz, and could finally perceive the modem as a bottleneck.

Ironically, two years later, I did the same type of thing (downgrade powerful hardware): Through a telephone conversation mix-up, I agreed to reserve and purchase a Yamaha snowblower — and when I got there, I had reserved the wrong one. What I thought was going to be a $600 18- or 24-inch blower was actually a $1300 36-inch semi-industrial model. I was coerced into buying it because renigging on the reservation meant I would be charged $50 because these things were in demand in the middle of winter. So I bought it to avoid the fee, took it home, opened the box, took one look at it and knew I could never use it for my tiny driveway without being embarrased (it wouldn’t even fit in my garage with both cars), and proceeded to box it up and return it. On that day, a snowstorm began. As I’m returning this monster snowblower, I get a goofy look from the kid helping me; when I inquire, he says, “I’ve just never seen anyone return a snowblower in the middle of a snow storm!”.

Posted in Family, Home Ownership, Technology | 5 Comments »

Computing Myth #1: Software cannot damage hardware

Posted by Trixter on February 2, 2006

Oh yes it can. Here’s a story for you: In my teens, I had a friend who got the IBM 5155 (the Portable Computer — you know, the heavy luggable one with the monochrome CRT monitor inside it) from a Computerland. He was screwing around with POKE in BASIC and POKE’d a value somewhere into CGA-land, saw some pretty squiggles for about 3 seconds, then poof and we smell the familiar smell of ozone. We went back to Computerland, but they told him that there was no way that software could have damaged hardware and they weren’t going to repair it (thinking that he had dropped it or something). So my friend, with salesman watching with one eye from across the room, walks over to another one on display, takes the diskette out, boots into BASIC, writes a 1-line program, and poof, ozone, and no more monitor. Salesman didn’t quite know what had happened, so my friend walked over to another one on display and does it again, but steps aside so that the salesman can see it this time.

Let me tell you, I’ve never seen an overweight, balding, 50+yr old move so fast. He sprang like a gazelle toward us and for a second I thought I was going to get the crap beaten out of me. Thankfully, all he did was yell, about how we were going to have to pay for that, etc. This got the attention of the manager, who came out and said they’d honor the warranty and fix his machine if the kid would stop blowing up all the IBM 5155 monitors in the store.

Posted in Technology | 30 Comments »