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"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

The Foolish Things We Do With Our Computers

By Mike "Iron" Orr


By Tony Pepin

This happened a long time ago, when a 20-megabyte hard disk was a giant, both in capacity and size. My friend had a Corvus 20 meg drive that was shared among five PCs which were used to run the accounting department of a small manufacturing business. The owner of the company was extremely pleased with my friend and the efficiency of the computerized accounting group.

One day, in the middle of month-end processing, the electric motor on the Corvus burned out. Payroll and Accounts Receivable needed to be done by the end of the day, and there were no backups of the data files. Since the Corvus had never failed, my friend had not bothered making backups.

Not having anything to lose, he opened up the case and removed the burned out motor. He then took an old electric hand drill with a variable speed motor and chucked it directly to the hard disk.

I wrote a quick and dirty program that read one sector of data and displayed a message when the read was successful. He ran this program while squeezing the trigger on the drill until it reported successful reads.

Once he had the speed right, he used black tape and taped the trigger so that it would not move.

The accounting group finished their month-end processing using the drill as the hard disk motor. He continued to use the drive with the drill for several weeks, after carefully making backups of the data however.


By John J Tobin

Here is a foolish story of what I did to a computer I was building.

Back before I had a lot of money to buy new hardware and such I had to make due with the few parts that I had lying around. One was an old XT case with a working power supply, I had enough money to get a motherboard and a DX4-100 chip, however cases and power supplies were expensive back then so I decided to use the XT case that I had. Since the XT motherboards were non-standard as far as mounting holes go and the new board wouldn't line up I had the great brainstorm to mount the board on the anti-static bag, I though "Sure it's anti-static it'll be safe." I ran it and it would boot up but the keyboard controller was failing. I took it back to the place that I bought and and I was explained to how the anti-static bag will actually conduct electricity and that I fried the board. Luckily he was willing to refund me half of my money, I then had to shell out for another board and a case this time. The lesson I learned was that if I am going to mount a board on anything but the pegs of the case I better use wood, something that is definitely and insulator.

By Kirk

Here follows the story of the geekiest use I've ever put my Palm III to.

I bought a Used Sparc Classic and it came with a hard drive, RAM, keyboard and mouse. It did not come with a monitor. Since I planned for it to be a server, the lack of a monitor wasn't a big deal except that I couldn't install Linux on it (or anything else for that matter) without being able to see what I was doing.

Palm III to the rescue! I had a serial cable that plugged into the bottom of the Palmpilot connected to a gender bender, connected to a DB25 <-> DB9 cable to plug into the serial port of the Sparc. The serial port on the Sparc actually has the wiring for both /dev/ttyS0 and /dev/ttyS1, but the first serial port has the same wiring as a PC, so it worked fine. Last but not least, I unplugged the keyboard.

Now that the hardware side was figured out, I downloaded a freeware vt100 program for my Palmpilot and configured it for the proper baud rate, stop bits and such. When I turned on the Sparc, it tried to find a keyboard and failed. Then it found a vt100 terminal on the serial port and used the Pilot as a console. I installed RedHat 6.2 to my Sparc using that tiny little screen.

After the install was done, I rebooted and telnetted in from my PC. Everything worked perfectly.

[If you have a story about something foolish or ingenious you did to your computer, send it to]

Mike Orr

Mike ("Iron") is the Editor of Linux Gazette. You can read what he has to say in the Back Page column in this issue. He has been a Linux enthusiast since 1991 and a Debian user since 1995. He is SSC's web technical coordinator, which means he gets to write a lot of Python scripts. Non-computer interests include Ska/Oi! music and the international language Esperanto. The nickname Iron was given to him in college--short for Iron Orr, hahaha.

Copyright © 2002, Mike "Iron" Orr.
Copying license
Published in Issue 75 of Linux Gazette, February 2002

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