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The Foolish Things We Do With Our Computers

By Ben Okopnik

Whack-A-Rack, or Impact-Based PC Repair

from Thomas Adam

[ ** This was posted to my LUG. I have obtained permission from Isaac, who said we can publish this for next month's edition of LG. ** ]

 --- ISAAC CLOSE  wrote: 
 --- Thomas Adam  wrote:
> --- Paul Tansom  wrote: 
> > Strangely enough I think that is all I remember of my assembly
> > programming on either 68000 or Z80 processors, although I still have
> > my faithful Z80 programming reference book somewhere.  Were computers
> > really more fun back then or am I just jaded now?!
> Nope, it is all good fun. I have a unit at the moment, which is
> assembly programming on the 68HC05 (a motorola chip), although most of
> my assembly programming I learnt from my BBC Micro.

the ol' 6502 - 2MHz ?
cant remember nothing else tho ;)


A possibly well known trick to bring an hdd back to
life, is to smack it on the side with a soft hammer.
not too hard, but a whack indeed and presto. 
born again.

One time, I dropped a 14" Samsung monitor face down -
smack onto a concrete step and watched helplessly as it
rolled down a further twenty or so, in the pouring rain.
No problem, took it home, let it dry out a couple of
days, works fine - still gottit, but a bit 'chipped' on
the screen!


My development server was found lid off in horrendous
rain, (old ibm p166), I payed five quid for it. 

Took it home, two days later switch on - fine ! 
even put a 40GB drive in it. Bios thort it was 8.5GB
(the old limit) but nope all 39GB useable. 

Then one day, I overclocked it, and it died! 
but came back to life strangley about a day or so 
later, I did nothing to it, just tried the power 
switch and it returned to life ? 

Then, another day, I set it up on the floor, dead.
put it on a table, fine. back on the floor, dead,
table, fine - wtf.

Then, sold it to a woman in Lewisham SE London,
she phoned me about a week later saying it bust.
So I went up their with spare bits. This damn computer
would not accept any hdd or cable! just ignored them
all. So, I took it back home. Plugged it in.
Guess what...

It is now sitting in my cupboard, last reboot 10 days
ago. Longest uptime (before I had to swap some plugs)
was over four months.

And the only computer I ever heard of that suffered from
the millenium bug was mine! (seen a few since) when I
booted my 30 day trial paint shop pro had expired by
about 32000 days, but worked fine for six months.

I could go on and on, but maybe another time.


Rootless Wanderer Saved By SSH

from Heather Stern

Once upon a time I was logged into a system. I wasn't too careful about the terminal type setting - and I certainly wasn't careful enough - let's just say the setting was a little iffy, going from this nice FreeBSD box to my remote Solaris account. I didn't let this faze me since I know vi even in primitive keys mode without cursors, and I just needed something edited rather quickly.

As root. Whoops.

The passwd file, to fix a path. Carefully, carefully. Not carefully enough to avoid bumping into an extended key code just before the magic of ZZ took effect and saved the file...

...with the username root changed to the case sensitive and utterly different name Root from what shows in shadow, and guess who can't log in now. To put an even finer point on it, Solaris of that particular vintage has a few system functions that want to be the user root except - can you guess? Bet you can... by name, not by number. No such user. Bad things start happening like that great Garfield cartoon where all the things are going kerplooey and he races to the kitchen to see that all the warranties have expired.

Luckily having been logged in only moments ago I know what the problem is. Unluckily I know it will require root ... err... user 0 type access. Can I do it? ssh ... long pause ... authenticates me, and I am in. Hooray. THe normal authentication mechanism was one of the dying breed but ssh ignored it as I passed muster with my key. With sudo I raced to repair the damaged character and the day was saved.

I'll always be a fan of ssh and sudo. No doubt at all.

A Nice Clean Computer

from Tom Brown

A while back, I had the case off an old 486 "pizza-box" computer: removing something or adding something, I don't remember what. Anyway, while my back was turned, my son (who was 5 years old at the time) had come into the room. He was looking into the guts of the computer when his hand slipped on the glass of water he was holding, and the entire contents spilled into the machine. Only the fact that the computer was off, and the power cord pulled, saved us both from what would have been a dramatic light show.

Recognizing the better part of valor, my son vanished from the room, taking his now-empty glass with him.

The first thing I did was carry the computer to the nearest sink, and pour the water out of it. There was quite a lot, as the glass had been nearly full. From there, I disassembled every last part of the machine, and spent the rest of the afternoon applying my wife's hair drier on the soaked motherboard, memory, and assorted IDE cards. Lucky it was water, and not something like juice or soda! Surprisingly enough, when everything was dry, and reassembled, the computer worked, although, periodically, the machine would refuse to boot, and I had to push and pull on the components a bit, flexing the motherboard until it booted. Guess I missed a spot.

As for my son, he never again went near a computer with a drink in his hand.

[ If you have a story about something foolish or ingenious you did to your computer, send it to articles@lists.linuxgazette.net. -Ben ]


picture Ben is the Editor-in-Chief for Linux Gazette and a member of The Answer Gang.

Ben was born in Moscow, Russia in 1962. He became interested in electricity at the tender age of six, promptly demonstrated it by sticking a fork into a socket and starting a fire, and has been falling down technological mineshafts ever since. He has been working with computers since the Elder Days, when they had to be built by soldering parts onto printed circuit boards and programs had to fit into 4k of memory. He would gladly pay good money to any psychologist who can cure him of the recurrent nightmares.

His subsequent experiences include creating software in nearly a dozen languages, network and database maintenance during the approach of a hurricane, and writing articles for publications ranging from sailing magazines to technological journals. After a seven-year Atlantic/Caribbean cruise under sail and passages up and down the East coast of the US, he is currently anchored in St. Augustine, Florida. He works as a technical instructor for Sun Microsystems and a private Open Source consultant/Web developer. His current set of hobbies includes flying, yoga, martial arts, motorcycles, writing, and Roman history; his Palm Pilot is crammed full of alarms, many of which contain exclamation points.

He has been working with Linux since 1997, and credits it with his complete loss of interest in waging nuclear warfare on parts of the Pacific Northwest.

Copyright © 2004, Ben Okopnik. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 101 of Linux Gazette, April 2004

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