Monday, February 18, 2013

Computer Dilemma

My old Ubuntu Linux computer seems truly dead, and believe me, it's too old to bother repairing. This may take a while to resolve. I could...
  1. download a new image, probably Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, install it on another retired computer from my garage, and start from scratch,
  2. switch to Windows (ugh), buy a cheap machine and again start from scratch, or
  3. buy a nice Ubuntu laptop at a tidy price (there are some nice ones out there, aimed at developers), and again start from scratch.
I'll probably live with this decision the rest of my life, so I want to get it right. If I buy a new machine, it will have to be online. If I take an old box from the garage and install Linux in place of Windows, it will cost me the price of a blank DVD at the local pharmacy (I'm out at the moment) and a bit of time. I do hope to continue posting on Stella's computer in the meanwhile, but with my rehab sessions starting tomorrow, I may not have a lot of time to search for topics for the blog. (Based on recent comment frequency, that won't be a big deal.)

The one thing in common among all approaches is the "start from scratch" part. Some things are recently backed up, but not everything... major medical woes involving many weeks in hospital tend to impinge on one's best habits and replace them with neglectful ones. Time will tell what is here and what is gone. Patience, readers; patience...


  1. This is one reason why I have two computers, one sits in my office and happily accepts backups from my laptop, which is my main computer, which automatically initiates a backup at 12am to the backup computer. If my laptop fails, I just move to the backup computer. If the backup computer fails, I'm still okay until I get it fixed, because my main computer is still running.

    If you need some high end components for a good quality desktop computer, let me know at my email address (in my Blogger profile), I have a number of goodies that are previous-generation (thus replaced with current generation) but still way faster than anything in your garage. All guaranteed Ubuntu compatible. Uhm, yeah, I'm sorta a geek :).

    1. 'tux, when I was working regularly, I did the same thing. Two machines, typically a desktop and a laptop, both work-suitable, kept pretty much in sync, sources checked into the appropriate part of my current client's source control, weekly backups to a large (for its time) external HD, monthly backups to CD/DVD/whatever (the cloud wasn't yet suitable for backup).

      At some point, medical care began taking all my time and much of my money. If it weren't for Stella's insurance (her current employer covers DP's), I'd be dead right now. The bottom dropped out of my business after the last contract I started before the Great Recession, and even if one has savings... I did... one stops routinely upgrading the shop pretty quickly as an economy measure. It wasn't how I planned to retire; I liked my work. But things didn't turn out the way I hoped. So I have a garage full of older computers... and speed is no issue anymore.

      I've managed to download Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS, the ISO, from and make a DVD which I will try to install when I have time (and help) rearranging things so boxes will fit and cables will reach. (Disability has its frustrations you'd never think of 'til it happens.) Tomorrow I start rehab. With luck, the next day, I'll be back to the task of refitting one of the newer old boxes. All I really need now is something to blog from and pay bills from. Thanks for the offer of info; I wish I were in good enough condition to make use of it.

  2. Major bummer, Steve. When lightning ate my XP box though induction on the cat 5 Ethernet cable I got a $250 Toshiba laptop that was on special. That is now my backup if the big machine dies.

    My old HP laptop was on it's last legs, and when I could no longer update Linux on it, I put it down.

    I spent a long time looking and pricing before I bought the parts for the new box, but it should last a while. My other old boxes are too antique to accept a new operating system, hell, my Mother still uses MS-DOS 6.

    I spent too many years on the 'bleeding edge' in California, so I backed off a lot. Things have gotten a lot cheaper, and they should be in the down cycle this quarter, so if you were going to buy, this is the time.

    It might pay you to look at local ads for someone getting rid of their old box to upgrade. You don't care what the current OS is because you are going to load Linux anyway. There are enough universities in Houston to support a decent used machine market.

    1. Bryan, I had to laugh a bit... today my phone line quit. Not the DSL; that seems still to work; no, I mean the one I plug the telephone into... it worked at 10am, but it was dead when I came home from rehab at about 2pm. AT&T's fully automated help line (no humans were employed in the making of this application) tells me I'll have a working phone by 8pm tomorrow evening. Meanwhile, I'm looking up stuff on Stella's machine while she sleeps. (Reminder: we have completely separate machines, networks, phones and AT&T accounts, because I used my system primarily for work when we moved in.) I anticipate the 5-year-old Yamaha P-80 digital piano (a gig-suitable instrument; I learned long ago not to buy cheap instruments) will be the next to go. Somehow, the goddess of electronics has it in for me this month!

      The one piece of equipment I must buy is a new UPS. These are too old to bother replacing batteries on, and it's not a major investment to buy new. You'd think I'd have learned by now, but I'm not sure even a new UPS would have protected equipment from the kind of surges we get in an old house like this one.

      Then if I can just talk Stella into moving the contents of one bookcase, part of the deliberately porous office partition that separates her half from mine, maybe I can see the backs of two machines well enough to switch out a new old machine for the old old machine...

  3. "my Mother still uses MS-DOS 6." OMG, that's funny. So did mine! I gave her the system, when my programing class voted me 'the endless loop of the year.' God did I hate DOS! Thanks for the laugh Bryan.

    1. karmanot, our parents who used computers at all came up in a command-oriented generation, and MS‑DOS is a command shell, if a primitive one. My dad's one and only computer before he stepped on the rainbow ran PC-Write word processor on MS-DOS, and he was happy with it.

      Don't take your classmates' remarks too seriously. Early in my programming career I developed a reputation for adapting known solutions to new purposes. My coding was about average for my day and the tools available, but I had a gift for fitting concepts I'd seen or heard of to mundane applications in the real world (carefully avoiding copyright and patent violations to the extent possible). E.g., I reinvented a circle-drawing algorithm that turns out to be standard in "serious" graphical apps mainly because I needed such a thing, and I used a doubly linked list in a disk block allocation scheme that was much like that used in some versions of MS-DOS, again because I needed that functionality for completely different purposes. If you can't invent, you can at least adapt!



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