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How to Burn a Magnesium NeXT Cube 182

Saint Aardvark the Carpeted writes "How do you set a magnesium NeXT cube case on fire? It took this guy two years, *two* cases and the cooperation of Lawrence Livermore Lab's burn cell." A seriously bizarre tale, but worth a read if you're curious. And I have one of those cubes in my office... all sorts of fiendish ideas start.
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How to Burn a Magnesium NeXT Cube

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  • The server's what's on fire!
    ...or is it the Microsoft Worm (tm)?
  • I was pleased to see that the author of this little adventure was none other than Simson Garfinkel. Garfinkel is an excellent author who, among other things, co-wrote Practical Unix & Internet Security with Spaf. So this little missive suddenly gave me a whole new perspective on the term firewall. . .


  • Hm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by steveo777 ( 183629 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @12:45AM (#2117213) Homepage Journal
    Looks a lot like what we used to do with old Apple II's back in Electronics class, only there was more of a BOOM, and less flame.

    Ahh, those were happier times.

    • At this VAR I used to work for, we took care of the Apple IIs that a school district abruptly decided to obsolete. We had a pallat with 15 or so of these things that were going to the dumpster. Did we simply unceremoniously chuck them in the dumpster? Of course not! It was time to play Apple II Toss. You see, if you put just the right amount of force and arc on an Apple II tossed underhand it will come down with all the force on it's lower right corner. This sprays slices of Apple everywhere! Just about every keycap flies off and the housing disintegrates into several large scattering pieces. The electronics pretty much look like what was left in the Fax Smashing scene in Offficespace. Okay, so we had to get a pushbroom when we were done and our female manager was exasperated with us. It was WAAAAY more fun then leaving them intact for the dumpster divers.
  • Burning magnesium (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @01:16AM (#2119635) Homepage Journal
    I used to shave and burn (DowMetal) magnesium as a kid. Made my own sparklers with iron filings, magnesium powder and sulphur. :)

    On a different note, there used to be a speed week or something up at the Bonneville Salt Flats which would end with a ritual burning of a VW beetle engine block (which is magnesium) and would probably be visible from Mars. Can't find a link tho.

    • On slightly smaller note... those little metal pencil sharpeners are magnesium too. Get a pair of pliers and hold once over a gas hob for 5 mins... just make sure you have somewhere for falling lumps of blazing magnesuim to land or the wife won't be very happy about the mess you made of her shiny new cooker...
    • by Faux_Pseudo ( 141152 ) <Faux.PseudoNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday August 11, 2001 @02:06AM (#2146761) Homepage
      VW engin blocks are fun. We got one once and put it on a fire pit at the beach. We were about 2 blocks away once it got burning and could still feel the heat and it was bright as day out there at 02:00.
      "No officer that was here when we got here." "We thought about putting it out but couldn't get close enough."

    • Re:Burning magnesium (Score:3, Informative)

      by BWJones ( 18351 )
      Yeah, Magnesium alloys typically provide their own oxygen when they burn. This is why you have to use chemical extinguishers to put the fire out. (They will even burn under water as some soldiers in Vietnam found out when their Hueys were shot down and submerged in rivers. "Burnt like the sun")

      As for Bonneville, yeah its a geek fest in its own right. In addition to the hot rodded Studebakers and such, their is some truly bizzare hardware out there. We used to go out quite a bit a few years ago when a friend was racing, to support him and work the occaisonal pit crew bit. Two pits over there was this guy (Norwood or something, but a great guy) who had an 85 Ferrari GTO body wrapped around a tube frame with a twin turbo NASCAR engine in the thing. Strange....... There was also lots of incredibly innovative stuff as well including hydrogen powered, battery powered, some factory stuff etc....
      • Re:Burning magnesium (Score:2, Interesting)

        by neodymium ( 411811 )
        ... And even with chemical extinguishers, it can be difficult. Magnesium cannot only reduce water, but also carbon dioxide. So if you are trying to use a CO2-extinguisher, the Mg fire will crackle and sputter and produce a lot of carbon. A very cheap way to produce coal and fullerenes, though.
      • Re:Burning magnesium (Score:4, Informative)

        by markmoss ( 301064 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @05:18PM (#2146522)
        Yeah, Magnesium alloys typically provide their own oxygen when they burn. Wrong. Metals (alloys or otherwise) do not contain oxygen. However magnesium has sufficient affinity for oxygen that when it's hot, it will rip H2O apart to get more oxygen. That is, spray water on burning magnesium, you supply it with oxygen AND it releases hydrogen gas, which will drift til it mixes with some non-oxygen depleted air, and then probably ignite...
        • Mark?

          I did not intend to imply that magnesium alloys contain oxygen. What I did say however was correct. Magnesium alloys when strongly heated even in oxygen poor environments will form oxides giving MgO I believe (given Mg+2 and O -2). These reactions result in incredible heat production and the consumption of more oxygen if available. The oxygen typically comes from water or water vapor (thus the Huey in a river reference) but can also come from CO2 and O2.

          Chemistry was one of my undergraduate majors.
          • OK, you know more chemistry than I do, but what you said wasn't exactly what you meant. To me, "provide" implies the alloy contains the oxygen, not that it gets it by breaking down other substances in the vicinity.

            Anyway, just what in heck will put out a magnesium fire, other than flooding the room with N2 (which is possible only if you made arrangements long before the fire started)? A CO2 fire extinguisher obviously is no good, and anything water-based is disastrous (relased H2 might cause secondary explosions). Would Halon work (I don't remember the chemical formula), or would the Mg extract chlorine or something from Halon and keep on burning? Someone suggested burying it in sand, which would put the problem out of sight and eventually seal the Mg in molten glass, but might leave it burning away by SiO2 + 2 Mg --> Si + 2 MgO.

  • by fiori ( 45848 )
    Material Safety Data Sheet == MSDS. Not Material Date Safety Sheet. A real chemist would know that.
  • MSDS [cornell.edu] for Magnesium

    To bad Juanita [pdq.net] didn't have a magnesium flare during her crisis.

  • Funny story.

    A few years ago there was a ton of NeXT stuff for sale on the net but every system was missing a HD. Seems that these systems came from the CIA. They sold the computers to a junk dealer, but removed the hard drives in order to insure that the data was nuked! The hard drives ended up going through a metal shreaded and got mix into the new asphalt that they were using to re-pave the parking lots at the CIA HQ. This is a true story.

    On another note, I worked with someone at my last job that worked at NeXT (help design the motherboards). He told me that they used to take defective cubes and burn them at a big bonfire a few times a year. He had pictures. I will have to see if I can scan get 'em and scan 'em.
  • You should try putting an old VW Beetle engine block in a fire. That big lump of Mg alloy makes night into day. Much fun...

  • I haven't been able to see the site yet but the problem seems very simple to me. A small pile of magnesium powder and a bit of detergent and water and you should be able to ignite virtually any piece of solid magnesium (and possibly a lot of the surroundings). Don't try it at home though.
  • google cache (Score:2, Informative)

    by MSittig ( 246604 )
    At least most of the page is available for perusing on the Google cache:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:oudSX-rG5cA:s imson.net/photos/hacks/cubefire.html+site:simson.n et+next&hl=en [google.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've worked with a few ex-Next people in my time. They told stories about taking defective cases to the beach and building magnesium bonfires. They did say that it was quite difficult to get them lit. Unfortunately I can't recall their method. (One of these people works at Telocity/DirecTV - given the previously mentioned "smoking gateways" it's a good thing that _they_ didn't use a magnesium case.)

    They also mentioned having to buy special equipment for the manufacturing of the cases since you really don't want too much magnesium dust floating around a factory... My father actually helped me buy powdered magnesium and saltpeter when I was a kid - it's a wonder that I still have all of my fingers!

  • I've got a 1.1 Mbps SDSL link, but my primary server had a CPU problem and so now the web server is running off a 200Mhz K6 computer. It's plenty fine most of the time, but it can't handle the 5hits/sec that Slashdotters were sending at me. So I shut down the web server.

    Try again in a few days.... If you want me to drop you an email when it is back up, drop a note to cube@nitroba.com

    I may even have t-shirts with the burning cube on them!

    • Okay, I figured out how to make this work on the Nitroba system. I just lowered the MAX number of servers from 150 (Apache's default) to 5.

      Who made Apache's default 150? That's insane. Well, it might not be insane if Apaache was multi-threaded, but with a process for each child, it's insanity.
  • And I've got karma to burn baby so here goes!

    How about a Beowulf Cluster of those. You could light up a city block!

    -1 Troll, I await you!

  • Wow, that's gotta be some sort of world record slashdot effect...No comments and it's down...
  • by the_other_one ( 178565 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @01:03AM (#2131088) Homepage

    1 - Set NeXT Cube up as a server

    2 - Post Story link on /.

    3 - Pictures tomorrow...

  • NeXT boxes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @01:55AM (#2131408) Homepage Journal
    Remember this NeXT poster?

    "In the 90s, we'll probably see only ten real breakthroughs in computers.
    Here are seven of them." The seven:

    R/W Optical Disk
    The power of Unix (with a GUI)
    VLSI chips
    Postscript (display and printing)
    Digital sound
    Multimedia e-mail
    Object-oriented/visual development

    The NeXT cubes that we used to use were something special. This NeXT poster essentially got it all right, years before its time. Hell we even had a program called zilla.app written by a true code master (Richard Crandall) that allowed us to do distributed computing across platforms (SGI at least). This was back in 1989 or 1990? I think. Wow great machines. I wish I could have purchased one for my own use like the ones in the lab we had back then, but the in our campus bookstore Cubes outfitted like that were something like $10k. But that would get you a completely badass system in all of its black cubeness. Geek coolness was practically sweating out of those things. A Cube with color, an optical drive, one of the sweetest monitors I had ever seen, and best of all a development environment that is still to this day, an amazing workspace.

    Unfortunately at $10k a pop NeXT could not afford to keep making machines, but they did focus on the important stuff. (The NeXT OS reborn again as OSX and Webobjects which I wish I had spent more time learning). As the successor to NeXTstep I have great hopes for OSX (If you have not seen the development environment of OSX particularly the GUI developing environment of OSX, it is pretty sweet.) Here we have it folks, potentially the pinacle of UNIXdom. Time will tell.......
    • Re:NeXT boxes (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > A Cube with color, an optical drive, one of the sweetest monitors I had ever seen

      The nice monitor was the megapixel (ie: the monochrome one). The color one was ugly (read common).

      And the cube was not a color machine. You had to add a NeXTdimension board into it (and boy, that was slow)

      That beeing said, NeXT cubes were the most beautifull machines I ever came close, from a hardware and software point of view. I developed 6 years with those. NeXTstep 6 (aka Mac OS X) is crap by comparison (but maybe it will improve)


    • by Anonymous Coward
      "In the 90s, we'll probably see only ten real breakthroughs in computers.
      Here are seven of them."
      . . .
      Unfortunately at $10k a pop NeXT

      And there, right there, is the counterpoint and crushing irony. Of the most important breakthrough in computers, the one that mattered and made all the others meaningful was the price. From large offices to small homes, no one was willing to pay the absurd amount of money Jobs seemed to think his machines were worth. And that is still the case. I do not have three or four grand to spend on a computer. There are plenty of breakthroughs, I'm sure, but they are not worth that kind of money. Either Jobs can't do math, or thinks his elitist consumers will just drool to have what he wants, or he's got some hidden coke habit that he supports off the ridiculous overhead. I've opened up a Mac. The components are no different than, and of no higher quality than the ones I find in a PC. What the fuck costs all that money?

    • ...what were the other three?
  • I read this article in a magazine. Or something almost exactly like it. Several of the sentences seem word-for-word. But yeah. It *did* run right when Next discontinued the cube though. So it couldn't have taken him too long to do this.
  • by kypper ( 446750 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @12:54AM (#2134076)
    so you slashdot their homepage.

    How considerate!

  • Anodized (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mr100percent ( 57156 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @12:51AM (#2136714) Homepage Journal
    Was there a disclamer in the box with the cube saying there was a flame risk? Sure, the flame is cool and all, but if only one was made of Celulose.

    Was the Magnesium anodized? Would that impair its flammibility?

    • Re:Anodized (Score:4, Informative)

      by ct ( 85606 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @01:51AM (#2118867) Homepage
      Was the Magnesium anodized?

      from the article...

      "The paint started bubbling, then burned away, leaving the black
      anodized magnesium alloy. ("It's an alloy that is resistent to burning,"
      the voice of the soon-to-be-ex-NeXT-employee came back to me.)"


    • Re:Anodized (Score:4, Informative)

      by dhovis ( 303725 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @01:17AM (#2130366)
      I can answer this as a materials engineer.

      There is no need to mark it as being a flame risk. The possiblity that it would catch on fire is nil. Bulk magnesium is very hard to burn because it is a very good heat conductor. If you have a lot of magnesium, it is very difficult to ignite, because it conducts heat away. and you can never get any part of it hot enough to ignite.

      If you have a small piece (Like a strip that they use for chemistry demos), there is nowhere for the heat to go, so you can heat it up to the ignition point much easier.

      Why do you think they had to go to Lawrence Livermore National Lab? It is not easy to generate that much heat safely.

      • > It is not easy to generate that much heat safely.

        SAFELY! This whole enterprise screams to be done in an open field with a bucket of water for safety equipment.. No wonder if took him two years; safety nuts.. They live forever, but at what cost?

      • How about using the themite reaction to light the case on fire? Would the molten iron melt thru, or ignite the case?

        Imagine the irony too! Burning magnesium ultimately resulting in the imolation of its own kind!

    • When I was in the Navy we used to have drills on Magnesium fires. The fear was that one it was ignited, it was incredibly hard to put out and could burn through decks before it was put out. I remember a demo drill where they actually lit a large piece up. We watched it go through three simulated decks in a very short time.
      • That drill was the result of a carrier disaster during Vietnam. The day's sorties were canceled after bad weather socked them in. In the process of removing the armament, a magnesium flare ignited, and instead of just droping the damn thing on the deck or into the drink, the tech threw it into a storage locker, filled with more flares. this happened before the Forestall fire but Naval firefighting proceedures weren't changed.
      • Was it the same as thermite?

    • No need. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jcr ( 53032 )
      The cube was painted with a water-soluble paint (not actually black, as it happens: It's a very dark slate gray, so that the logo, which *is* black, stands out.)

      As for flammability, it's not an issue. If you read the article, you'll note that it wasn't at all easy to get it lit.

      BTW, this article appeared in NeXTWORLD magazine back when these events happend (early '90's).

      • Yeah, this article has been up on the web in some form since the Netscape 1.0 days, and also was circulating around usenet.

        Kinda nice to see a piece of early WWW writing show up on Slashdot as news.
  • by mosch ( 204 )
    to the fucks who blather their mouths without reading the article. He burned 2 NeXT cube cases. One was a blank case he obtained solely for that purpose, the other was just the outer shell of a functional case.

    In any case, it was intended to represent NeXT setting the technology world on fire.

    Originally they were going to just burn the blank, but well... READ THE ARTICLE, it's interesting in a "i'm stoned off my ass" sort of way.

  • by Heem ( 448667 )

    Never had trouble setting magnesium on fire....

  • mirror (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Magic5Ball ( 188725 )
    Fscking lameness filter... Mirror: Now WITH pictures :-) http://web.thock.com/cubefire.htm
    • What I wouldn't give to have Mike Judge read that account in his "Beavis" voice! And get all excited when talking about the burn, the BURN!
  • by Lethyos ( 408045 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @01:22AM (#2145392) Journal
    I know NeXT boxen are relics from the past, for all intensive purposes, useless. However, they are antiques from a company that no longer exists. They were, in reality, a milestone in computing technology. Superior to everything else around them, NeXT boxes a testiment to innovation (unlike most of what we see today).

    There's a finite number of this machines left in the world, and it's a shame to see such a silly waste. Instead of burning these classic machines, try donating them to people who appreciate them. You wouldn't burn down Abe Lincoln's cabin would you?
    • For all intensive purposes. I suppose a particularally intensive purpose would be trying to thread a needle by donzerly light....
    • Did you read the date on this story? We're talking 1993. At the time, NeXT had just gone under, and its cubes were already less-than-desired compared to its competitors.

      I definitely agree that preserving the boxes is a great idea, but in the here and now, not eight years ago!
    • Too bad this was done in 1993, back when NeXT cubes were plentiful. There's only a finite amount of anything in this world: including space. If we don't recycle stuff, including doing cool stuff and having funn with it, that's no good either. So sit back, and enjoy the pyrotechnics.
    • by sracer9 ( 126645 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @12:48PM (#2140550)
      You wouldn't burn down Abe Lincoln's cabin would you?

      Dunno. Is that made of magnesium too?
    • Umm... actually, they do still exist. They just got purchased by Apple. NeXTStep/OpenStep is the foundation for Mac OS X. And I swear that the NeXT cube was the inspiration for the Mac cube, but I can't back it up. So... NeXT is now Apple.
    • If you were to actually read the linked article, you'd notice that they didn't burn a computer but actually two empty cases: one obtained especially for the purpose directly from NeXT, and one taken from an otherwise non-working machine.
    • I know NeXT boxen are relics from the past, for all intensive purposes, useless. However, they are antiques from a company that no longer exists. They were, in reality, a milestone in computing technology. Superior to everything else around them, NeXT boxes a testiment to innovation (unlike most of what we see today).

      I am not sure as to how your comment got moderated up? Moderators not reading the article. Whilst your comments would be applicable if such a thing was done TODAY, (2001). I agree that it would be a tradegy and a waste. But this was done back in 1993 with a case that NeXT had given the person (CASE ONLY, no logo, rubber feet, circuit borads &tc). And another case from another machine that was not in 100% working order. But again, everything from the inside was taken out. So there was no loss what so ever, if you look at it with regard to the time of when the burn actually occoured.
    • the expression is "all intents and purposes," not "all intensive purposes."

  • was i the only one that used to steal thin, long strips of magnesium from school, slide them into a cigarette and then cheerily offer them around to that person who would *always* pay you back tomorrow?

    bought a whole new meaning to getting blind
  • it would make one wonder..why would it be so hard to burn? shouldnt covering it in gasoline and lighting a match work? =D
  • by V50 ( 248015 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @01:24AM (#2145905) Journal

    Shouldn't it be possible to use and AMD Athlon to do the same thing to PC? Now that would be entertainment!! :-)

    OT: The r and n in 'Burn' merge together on my Mac/iCab and I get the subject 'How to Bum a Magnesium NeXT Cube'...

  • They didnt just grab a cube yesterday and set it on fiere, the burning was done right after next cubes were discontinued, and the cubes were provided by next. In the future, think, wait, and then speak.
  • by bbum ( 28021 )
    One of the engineers at CodeFab picked up 130 NeXT systems in a bid to get our attention and have us hire him. It worked (CodeFab was founded by and has hired a number of old hand NeXT community folk).

    We gave most of the machines to the free hardware foundation (it was a long time ago and I can't even remember who or give a link. Doh! If you are really interested in tracking this down ping me and I'll figure it out.).

    In any case, out of the 130, I kept one configuration for myself... a dream machine. It is a Turbo Cube with 3 NeXTdimension boards connected to 3 21" NeXT monitors. It is frighteningly large but very cool. Works seamlessly.

    My next experiment is to try hooking up the various bits of NTSC video in/outs together and see if I can't cause some nice feedback loops or something.
  • "This is so NeXT," I told Sally. "Everything works great in the tests, then when you try to make it work for real, in the field, nothing works. They build a computer out of magnesium, and it doesn't even burn!"

    I laughed pretty hard on that one :))
  • mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by mosch ( 204 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @01:24AM (#2147086) Homepage
    http://overtone.org/sass/cubefire.html [overtone.org] is a mirror, if you're finding the main site to be slashdotted.
  • by bellings ( 137948 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @01:48AM (#2153612)
    This is kind of old news, even for Slashdot. Simson Garfinkel (who has been mentioned on this site before [slashdot.org]) burnt these things in March of 1993.

    In '93, these things weren't collectors items -- they were neat-o cool, but still falling in value. By '96, you could probably walk into any math department at any university in the world and buy a Cube with a burned out optical drive, a bad hard drive, a faded out black and white monitor, and a broken PostScript printer, all for well under $500. Hell, at some universities you probably still can.
  • by sconeu ( 64226 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @05:49AM (#2153766) Homepage Journal
    And as the flames climbed high into the night
    To light the sacrificial rite
    I saw Satan laughing with delight
    The Day The NeXT Cube Died...
  • When I called Burt back, however, there was some bad news. Livermore's head Fire Safety expert didn't want us burning the cube outdoors: he wanted us to burn it in their "burn cell," a brick-and-steel box that had been built specifically for burning materials that might be hazardous. The burn cell was equipped with a sophisticated ventilation system for filtering the smoke and removing any toxins. The burn cell also had fire safety equipment around the facility in case the fire got out of hand.

    Livermore needed the names, social security numbers, and addresses of everybody who would be inolved with the project.

    An all these years my mother used to take unfocused pictures of us kids using one of those compact cameras with "126" film cartridges, and disposable magnesium flash cubes. The guy should've said he was going to ignite a bunch of flash cubes, and save himself some hassle.

  • Destroying Art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mr100percent ( 57156 ) on Saturday August 11, 2001 @12:46AM (#2153851) Homepage Journal
    The NeXT cube is ART. The circuit boards are wired in an arrangement so perfect it's beautiful technology art.

    God, I sound like Steve Jobs.

    I can think of better things to burn that cost >$6000US. Seen how much they go for on EBay?

    • parent not troll (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 2ms ( 232331 )
      How the hell is that a troll? So anyone who can appreciate a beautiful machine, and doesn't react positively to hearing about how a real life Beavis thinks its cool to burn one, is trolling?
    • They go for about $300

      http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewIte m& item=1256262930
    • Re:Destroying Art (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SClitheroe ( 132403 )
      Agreed...Not just art, but vision. The NeXT was a harbinger of things to come (that never did..alas), a bold vision of the future. I remember when there was a NeXT dealer in downtown Toronto. Us developers would go down on a hot, lazy, afternoon and gawk at the absolute beauty and precision of those machines. We were developing on generic 386's, running OS/2 1.3, using Smalltalk. Win95, NT, OS/2, and Linux were blips on the horizon, but there they were..black, powerful, and pure geek lust. They were the most futuristic looking, and most futuristically capable machines out there. They made all the high end offerings (like the RS/6000) look primitive, and made our 386's look just plain pathetic.

      Now, everybody has machines 20x or more powerful, minus the grace and elegance (the iMac cube came close, but cutesy can't hold a candle to how the NeXT Cubes looked back then), and we still haven't achieved the panache, both visual and hands-on, that these things achieved.

      Fortunately, here in Calgary, there is a certain oil company that still runs NextStep, although it is being phased out. Talking to the developers, to a person they nearly cry lamenting their phasing out.

      Truly the passing of a legend. I'm not sure whether to be outraged that the folks in the article burnt one, or to be proud watching a Viking warrior go out in a burning effigy...

      Which would the boxes themselves have wanted? I hope the latter...

      • by Pope ( 17780 )
        I guess they could all go over to Cocoa on OS X if they wanted to keep up their Obj-C skillz. Or just go over to OpenStep 4.2 on Intel hardware, though some weirdness may abound in the code.

        The only NeXT I ever saw running in person was at York U in some back room lab. My friend was developing a bunch of programs in HyperCard on the Macs and used the TurboColor as a CD player! Bloody gorgeous machine.

        My biggest claim to geek fame these days is running OpenStep 4.2 in VirtualPC under OS X. :)

        • Can you get the two OSs to speak NetInfo to each other?
        • 640x480 with 256 grays, no sound or ethernet ;)

          But it does run.
        • York U NeXT's (Score:2, Interesting)

          by konmaskisin ( 213498 )
          York University bought a truck load of them for financial systems software etc. At one point they even sold them at the University computer store in the late 80s early 90s. I remember watching someone quickly develop a GUI database browsing and query application in about 5 minutes using IB *on the store demo machine*. Compared to the cutting edge technology of Windows and Mac (hypercard was useful I guess) NeXT's were out of this world. The technology excellence and Jobs' megalomania both contributed to NeXT pricing the product out of existence. In those days a single workstation might cost 5-10 times a PC. ... sigh

          Later after the York U administration began switching people over to the advanced Windows for Worksgroups 3.11 environment (hehe) they'd show up in Lab in labs here and there - but unless you were like a comp. sci. grad student it was hard to get an account on one.

          York never did have a firesale on NeXT boxen while I was there. I heard of people getting cubes (with the monitor) for 100$ at other institutions but I never heard what happened at York U.
        • Re:OS X (Score:1, Offtopic)

          by ncc74656 ( 45571 )
          My first run-in with a NeXTcube was, if I recall the hostname correctly, mrcnext.cso.uiuc.edu (IP address reported as, but it isn't currently responding to ping...don't know if it's just shut off or if it's been decommissioned) back in 1989 or '90. In addition to the usual NeXT coolness, you could telnet into it and do the usual shell stuff with no time limits. uxa, the main student machine, had a 7-hour-per-week limit which I (and many of the people I knew) usually ran up against on Thursday or Friday (if not earlier). Having unlimited access (in terms of time...they didn't give us root) to mrcnext fixed that problem. (You could also stay logged into uxa past the seven-hour limit, but you were screwed if line noise killed your connection to the terminal server.)

          Of course, getting in lots of time on the computers was probably the main reason my spring-semester grades weren't so hot...:-|

          • Ahhh...good lord the horrible memories...
            I still recall when ux4 was so horribly overloaded with idiots on IRC that trying to do any work was next to useless.
            Then I discovered how easy it was to crash the whole damn system with a malloc and a fork, then jump back on as soon as it rebooted and start my jobs....
            Gotta love UIUC, I cried the day O'Malleys went under....
      • "Which would the boxes themselves have wanted?"

        Information wants to be free, hardware wants to be immolated?

        Oh well, at least I get to use the word "anthropomorphism" in a post.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard