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Comment Aquarius. (Score 1) 857

Let me start by saying that by the time it came out, the Age of Aquarius had already passed. Even the vendor (Mattel) internally called it "the computer of the 70s" even though it came out in 1982.

- Rubber chiclet keys.
- Space was where Left Shift should be. Shift was where CapsLock goes now. Ctl was where Tab should be. There was no Tab, and no spacebar. I suppose they did this to save a row on the keyboard.
- An absolutely execrable thermal printer that printed only to half-width paper, and in pale blue. Printouts would fade to invisibility in a matter of months, and the paper was nearly impossible to get.
- The game controllers were modeled on the Intellivision, only somehow even worse.
- Other than commercial game cartridges and a spreadsheet cartridge, any software had to be typed in from books and saved to cassette. Because nobody around me had one, I could not trade tapes with anyone.

It did have a couple things going for it, in my view at the time:
+ 4K of RAM was actually reasonable, and I had the 16K expansion. It also had a cartridge slot doubler so I could use both the RAM expansion and a program cartridge at the same time.
+ It had sound that was equivalent to (and may have actually been) an AY-3-8910. Three channels of tone, plus one of noise. It was possible to do some decent music on it, and the games also had decent music and sound effects.
+ It was mine, and nobody told me what I could or could not do with it. Of course, since it had no means to communicate with other computers, it was pretty irrelevant to anyone else what I did with it.

Comment Re:Some messes cannot be fixed (Score 1) 478

It was his spare time, and if he had gone trolling other forums instead of ours, nothing would have been done. It's the fact that he forced us to be his audience that made it an abuse of us and our resources. He also got much too personal, and would hijack conversation for hours at a time. Once he argued for hours with me over satellites and whether they were useful for communication with a polar base. He argued they weren't, while I pointed him at links for tundra orbits and Molniya orbits. It wasn't until the next day that he said "Sorry, I had to sober up to read those." Too late bucko, the damage has been done. One evening that could have been used to build our game was spent arguing about a mundane detail like how a facility communicates with the rest of the world. Another night, he chose to argue endlessly over what constitutes proper song lyrics -- despite the fact that none of the music on the project would have any vocals.

Even before I had to fire him, we had named a particularly annoying character (a giant mosquito) after him.

Comment Re:Some messes cannot be fixed (Score 2, Informative) 478

I do think I can mention the straw that broke the camel's back though. This particular guy invited a Serbian Titoist (basically someone who wanted the old communist Yugoslavia back) into our developer chat, to argue politics. Until then, he had managed to hijack the topic for hours at a time all by himself, but that was where I decided the line had been crossed -- when he brought in outside help.

He was a dick, and he was a drunk, and he was a racist. None of those were sufficient cause to fire him. Actively hindering the progress of the project was sufficient cause, especially when we would lose an artist over it. (We eventually lost that artist anyhow, but I did the best I could with the information I had.)

Comment Re:Some messes cannot be fixed (Score 3, Informative) 478

He should put it up to the community to decide -- and if they decide against him, resign -- or say "I did the wrong thing, lesson learned, let's fix it". The one thing he should not do is dig in his heels and refuse to negotiate.

As project lead I had to make a call on a certain repeat offender when his abuse of team resources (our time and our servers, and sometimes our actual team members) became intolerable. I released the logs that led me to do it, and said "if you think I made the wrong call, I will resign and you can have him back." That was a pretty cut-and-dried case though. I had two team members who were going to quit if I didn't fire the one.

Comment Re:Ok. Thx, bye (Score 4, Insightful) 384

And this is how you get hugboxes.

People who hold opinion X see a bias against it. People who hold opinion !X also see a bias against it. Both ends cry foul and drift off to places that are "not biased" (that is, biased like all others, just in a way that is acceptable to them).

If you want to leave, leave. But nobody gives a shit about Yet Another Grand Exit. Have fun in your echo chambers.

Comment Re:Interesting Philosophical Question: What is a P (Score 1) 131

I had a Gnawty with 2 GB and a 16 GB eMMC. GalliumOS ran just fine on it. Windows was extremely painful, even for a Big Guy, but a lightweight Linux distro that Just Worked straight out of the box was quite pleasant. It was easy to forget it wasn't a normal notebook.

An i3 C720 or C740 can even run OS X. The Broadcom network card in the C740 is not reliable in OS X, but it can be swapped for one that is. I'd say those are PCs, at least when running a full OS. Drawing a "PC/Not PC" line based on OS may make sense today, but it is going to be an ever-shifting line in the sand. Hardware form factors change too, but not quite so fast.

You can't say "eMMC soldered on = appliance, not PC" because the Macbook Pro would be "not a PC" by that definition even though it can run Windows just fine.

Comment Re:Crouton is fragile (Score 1) 131

Yes and no. Distros that require NVRAM still don't work without modification because the UEFI implementation still doesn't have any. (I talk to the guys doing the firmware on pretty much a daily basis.) But Windows runs now on machines you wouldn't have expected. I had a CB3-111 "Gnawty" and was one of the first to attempt to run Windows 10 on it. It didn't so much run, as walk with a limp. It was a very unpleasant experience. Nine months later, they've got all that sorted out and it runs fine (up to the limits of a 16GB eMMC), but I already sold the Gnawty and bought a Peppy (C720), which was well-supported even then, including OS X on the i3 model. since the lead developer of the Chromebook coreboot project said "get a C720, they just work", then I figured just maybe I should get a C720 rather than fighting with "free" hardware. I have no regrets, except that the Peppy is not fanless like the Gnawty. It rarely makes enough noise to matter, though.

Here's one of the places they hang out.

Comment Re: Not a dumb terminal - Linux with locked down U (Score 1) 131

You do have to track down firmware to flash onto it, and open it to remove the write protect screw, but neither is that big a deal -- except some Braswell Chromebooks can only be flashed once and will refuse to flash themselves again. You can still flash them with an RPi and an SOIC clip, the same procedure as used for un-bricking them when a flash goes wrong.

There was some time when Chromebooks were PCs in every sense. They just came with a little different keyboard layout, or in some cases just different keytops on an ordinary layout. The Acer C710 was a laptop in every sense, with a full SATA drive bay and SODIMM slots. The C720 did away with the SODIMM slots and moved to an M.2 slot instead of a drive bay, and got slimmer as a consequence. The C740 had a similar setup. Unfortunately, later ones have gone to soldered storage too. Even the pricy Pixel 2 has a soldered-on 64GB eMMC. This doesn't mean it's not a laptop, and 64GB is actually adequate for Windows 10 and a Linux distro to coexist on their own partitions, but it does limit the usefulness as a non-ChromeOS computer. The latest releases have been uniformly soldered storage, usually 16GB and occasionally 32. You can shoehorn Windows 10 onto a 16GB drive, but expect to store everything else on flash drives and SD cards.

I like my C720, running Windows 10 and GalliumOS, but the golden age of Chromebook hacking was unfortunately quite brief and that ship has pretty much sailed.

Comment Re:My list? (Score 1) 467

1. Instant on. Turn on the switch ad the computer's booted. On some machines, you might have to wait for your DOS to load, but it was typically quick. No more waiting minutes (or sometimes hours in the case of Windows XP) to boot up.

Booting DOS from a floppy disk took about as long then as booting my laptop into Windows 10 does now -- fifteen seconds or so. Actually loading something useful after that takes about the same amount of time as it did then, or less. Lotus 1-2-3 did not load in 1.5 seconds like Excel does for me.

3. Games. The games were fun and didn't require investing a part of your soul and all of your spare time to play them. I still play some of them in emulation when I have some time to kill. they were unique, and there is nothing like them today.

Except there is something like them today -- them. I won't argue about the quality, as there's obviously a reason emulators exist to run them, but it's not like they just went away. If you're saying you want new games like that, you'll have to go digging. They're being made, but the market for them is small so they don't get promoted.

4. Modems. Yeah, they were slow, but you had to love that handshake/connect sound!! It's amazing how much juice they managed to get out of them near the end. There is something very primal about connecting a computer via phone line. I miss it. I read recently that modems don't really work on VOIP lines, which is what most remaining land lines consist of. That's a big bummer...

I don't miss modems at all. Only being connected to one resource at a time, and having a time limit there, and having to disconnect to check somewhere else (and quite possibly getting a busy signal) -- that all sucked. So did being bumped off by Call Waiting.

7. The simplicity and closeness to hardware. You can't manipulate hardware nowadays like you used to. Everything was easy to get to via software. The software itself was simple and straightforward. You don't get that today.

Sure you do, if you want to work on hardware of that level. It's still produced, and it's still in service. If you want to write for embedded systems, go right ahead. There's a need for it.

The things I don't miss... 4. Single tasking. We are spoiled nowadays with our ability to run multiple programs at the same time. Back then, on some computers, just loading up a DOS file directory would cause you to lose all your work. Thanks to multitasking, we can emulate our beloved old computers at the same time we can do something else.

And yet I still need two computers.

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