KW1602 – Retro Computing

This week on the podcast Knightwise takes on the topic of retro computing. Whether virtualized or involving the resurrection of old hardware here are some ideas to put some older tech to use for you in 2021.

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KW1601 – Letting the iPad Pro Work for You

Welcome to the first episode of Season 16 of the knightwise.com podcast. Picking up where we left off at the end of Season 15 with a show about the iPad Pro and how KW puts that to work on a regular basis.

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Indiana Online: Digital archeology on the BBS.

Maybe its because i’m getting older but, for some reason I just love to play around with old technology. It might be a sign of age and nostalgia, it might be the direct result that the current digitital landscape is just too damn distracting and high-paced to get anything done. A lot of people go towards Yoga and Mindfullness to “slow things down”. I drag up an old computer or an older piece of tech to get my mind out of the ratrace from time to time.

As a result I’ve been toying around with BBS’s lately (Bulletin Board Systems). Ancient tech from before the internet existed. It was Jason Scotts documentary on the BBS that got me curious about this tech that existed even before I even got my very first computer. It was interesting to watch how people used limited technologies to build communities and create art. Pure nostalgia. Or was it ?

Lately a new BBS documentary has popped up on Youtube explaining the art and the allure of BBS and how they are coming back into fashion. The high paced/low privacy of modern Social Media outlets has reached a level of frustration with bold older users and younger digi-peepz that they turn away from the Facebooks and the Twitters and are going ‘back to the bbs’. The great thing about the new documentary is that it does not talk about “the old days” but instead shows you what BBS’s are still alive today and how to connect to them. I am actively following the documentary and have even managed to “get online” onto one of the BBS’s and have been enjoying reading and replying to messages of total strangers.

Aside from the soothing command-line-only interface there is another allure to the BBS: Anonimity. The freedom of talking to strangers about a variety of topics without knowing anything about them. Opposed to Facebook that takes away the myth of anonimity straight away by exposing your every detail. So it’s an interesting passtime. Just like the first forums, ICQ and IRC, I get to sit behind my “Knightwise” avatar and shout at the world. I’ll keep you apprised of my adventures as I use my monstrously heavy specced gaming machine to connect to a 40 euro Raspberry Pi in order to dail into an obsolete piece of tech. Enjoyment lies in the little things they say.

Links

Jason Scotts documentary: https://youtu.be/Dddbe9OuJLU

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Windows finally gets a decent command line.

terminal

I love spending time in the terminal, but you guys know that by now. The clean ascii interface helps me focus and keeps my jittery mouse-hand away from clicking yet another random site filled with modded transformer toys and loose whatever concentration I have left.

There are multiple command line apps you can find all over the place. The best are found on Linux distro’s, you can find some cool ones on OSX (iTerm2) but on Windows it used to be a little disappointing. Now I know working with command line applications feels like you are going back to the 80’s, but that doesn’t mean your command line interface app should look like that. I mean, type “CMD” in Windows and be Marty McFried back into the time of Windows 95 because that was the last time the Windows command line interface got an upgrade. It looks old, feels old and acts like a geriatric citizen who just had his sleep meds.

If you say “use putty” instead i’ll scream. That app also hasn’t seen the light of modern-day interfaces in 15 years and reminds me you install from some Windows 98 Shareware Cd Rom. Frustrated I have found a worthy alternative in the form of MobaXterm that lets you at least tweak the interface and provide you with handy tools like saving your session keys and doing X-forwarding. Nice!

But I got my hands on the new Windows Terminal Preview. The next iteration of the Windows Terminal command that gives you access to multiple terminals at once. Powershell, classic terminal and a direct link to your WSL installation of Linux that you put on that machine. Each terminal instance to be tweaked with your favorite settings, colors and setups. Love it !

For old farts you can even add some retro effects should you want to but I advise against it. All it lacks is an easy keyboard shortcut (CTRL-ALT T) to open up the terminal window and I’m good to go. So if you are on WIndows and want a stab at the terminal, go right ahead and try your own copy of the Terminal Preview here.

Links.

Find out more HERE.

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Pencil drawing of Don Quixote

There is so much news on the internet and social media and its all packed with fear. I don’t even know what I need to be worried about first’

— Years and Years —

‘There is so much news on the internet and social media and its all packed with fear. I don’t even know what I need to be worried about first’. It’s a line from the first episode of the TV show “ Years and Years”. The show depicts a UK family as they progress through the decades starting in 2020 and how technology and world events impacts their lives. The quote rang true, especially one year into the current pandemic. A little more then a year ago we were “sent to work from home” and the world changed. I had high hopes of this “new world” where hours of senseless commuting would be replaced by geeky activities, learning, sports and so on. To be honest .. it hasn’t quite turned out that way. Today I sometimes feel we live in a world filled with a plethora of data sources competing for our attention and trying to influence us to read, click, hunker down and consume. Facts no longer matter and rumors are just as good as long as they sell. Social media and media outlets are filled with misinformation, sensationalism and fear. The screens that I live behind seem to be saturated by two things: Work and Angst.

As a response I flee into the disconnected world of my Kindle and have read quite a few books over the last year. Not as much non-fiction and self-improvement as I would like, but at the end of a 10+ hour day my brain is just cooked and looking for an escape: Neuromancer, Game of Thrones, Dune, the Expanse, Seveneves … My mind has tried to escape the escape velocity of reality many a time only to achieve a temporal orbit around a myriad of realities.

Upgrading my mind, increasing my knowledge, working out, meditating.. Whenever I do find the time I find my personal battery dangerously depleted and fall into a unruly slumber before I can complete couting back from 10.

Diving into cyberspace I try to escape those gruesome mainstream media outlets (and even the major tech sites) because of their constant one-up manship on preaching doom, gloom and the fact that the internet is turning into a totalitarian societies favorite monkeywrech. I peruse youtube video’s on how to connect to BBS Sites. Find sites where you can download 20 year old Mac games and hunt for blogs and podcasts of likeminded geeks who just talk about what they are tinkering with. Much like I used to do back in the day that I still had time and energy left at the end of the day.

I feel guilty because of that. Because all those hours of “extra time” that I have in the day somehow did not go into creating content, doing podcasts, geeking out. I have come to see that a lot of what I do for Knightwise.com is not only for the community, but is also self care. Alternating a busy day with being creative, making content and connecting with others is a way to “recharge” for me. So I will do my best to do so again, to find that balance between real and cyberspace where I have thrived of the last years. To fight the fudd and geek out.

So bear with me as I turn ‘Knightwise.com’ back into something it used to be so many years ago. A combination of a tech blog, an online diary and a place where likeminded people can come learn, connect and relate. A place where you can follow along how I let technology work for me and an inspiration (or a warning) on how to do all things tech (or how not to).

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The return of the penguin.

Working from home used to be a novelty: Something new, something different. Gone were the commutes or waiting for paint to dry while stuck in traffic, we could rule the world from our home office. It was all still just temporary .. right ? Fast forward a couple of months and in month number 9 of the telework-marathon, things started to sink in: Our home office is no longer a temporary office, its going to be our ‘primary’ office.

And that “primary office” also houses a “primary workstation”. That one workhorse that you use 8+ hours a day to get your own geek on or to connect to the cloud services of the client. What I started to notice was that that machine no longer HAD to run Windows. We all know that by now our “Browser” is an operating system, so it doesn’t really matter WHAT you run under the hood, or do you?

Linux does have some perks Windows just doesn’t have

Turns out it does, aside from running 10+ tabs in 2 different browsers, I do wanted my machine to do something extra. Chat a little on IRC, mount and ssh share on a remote server, do some Rsync. Something Linux could do in a jiffy, Windows could … not.

So for fun (and to mix things up a little in this very boring lockdown) I treated challenged myself to “run the show” from a Linux machine for a day .. and it actually worked out pretty fine.

Aside from never having to wear pants, we can also run any OS we want.

The combination of working remotely for the client (99% cloud based systems) and having my own company’s systems being cross-platform friendly means that a 2009 iMac with an SSD drive running Ubuntu can be my daily driver should I want to. So aside from the fact we never have to wear pants to work again, we can now also run just about any OS we want.

9+ year old Mac Mini ? Shove in an SSD, some extra Ram, Boot some Linux on it and take it to work

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Messing with Macs.

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to pick up a couple of old Macs from a friend. I’ve been collecting some retro machines over the last couple of months, tinkering with them to relax from the long days of lockdown home working. One of the items on wish list was a a bondi-blue G3 Powermac. The iconic tower with the milky semi-transparent casing and pretty blue/green front. Except for misplaced nostalgia, there was no real good reason to preserve it as a working machine (I have a couple of G4”s running OS9 and OSX) so I did the unspeakable: I gutted it.

Hoist is pretty impressed with his cleanup of the whole rig.

A screwdriver, a couple of pliers and some pent-up frustration from the workweek was all I needed to turn rip out the insides of the machine, until I had but an empty shell left. Some more tinkering and I had even removed the plastic handles and sidepanels that I unceremoniously dumped into the dishwasher for a good clean. A couple of hours later I had a beautiful (empty) G3 tower.

But to use it only for decorative purposes would be a waste of space. I looked at the corner of my desk where a switch and a couple of raspberry Pi’s had been forming a tangle of cables that looked like a pool of barf from the flying spaghetti monster. So, I arranged everything nicely into the old case and closed it up.

Grapple is far from impressed with Hoist’s shoddy work.

The end result of my “trojan horse” is a happy spouse (no more clutter) + a decorative machine that now houses about 5 times the processing power (even more I think) then it used to by the addition of a couple of pi’s. Whenever I add another one of my favourite single board computers to my collection, it too will find a home inside this classic enclosure.

Re-use, Re-Cycle, Re-Vive.

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The golden forest: Testing out the Drone.

As kind of a geek-midlife-crisis gift I decided to buy myself a DJI Mavic Mini II for the holidays to reboot my creative exploits and get out of the house a little more. After some shaky backyard tryouts I decided to give the little flying bugger a decent maiden flight. I hiked out into the morning dawn to the nearby forest called “Het Wijngaerdbos”. Situated on the sloping hills at the edge of the town the forest got its name from the vineyards (Wijngaarden) that it housed back in the 18th century. As most places near where I live, it has a rich and mysterious history. Enjoy as I spin up the props and take you on a 2 minute tour.

https://youtu.be/CD1Hu9xbuUI

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A bit like Bullock: How life is a little like the movie “The Net”.

Computer that asks if you want to online.

You might be a middle-aged digital dinosaur if you still remember this movie but, back in 1995 “The Net” (Starring Sandra Bullock) was a bit of a hit movie depicting a digital recluse coder who gets her identity stolen and actually has to go outside … to get it back.

The movie raised a lot of chuckles in the theatre as it depicted the daily life of Angela Bennet. Working from home fulltime she hardly leaves the house and orders everything online. From pizza to groceries and from software to styling products (just check out that hair). She communicates online with her clients who have never met her in real life and don’t know what she looks like. It was an exaggerated depiction of a lifestyle that would, despite the modern day possibilities of the internet, never become mainstream .. right ?

Flash forward a quarter of a century.

Flash forward a quarter of a century and look around. After day 300 of “working from home” I finish up my umpteenth videoconference with a team that I have never ever met in person. Unlike in “The Net” I do know what they look like but only as far down as their bellybuttons. The chime of my video doorbell rings and delivery guy number 3 of the day drops off another package. Via the Ring app on my phone I instruct him to just leave it on the doorstep. I wait to open the door until he drives off. I have truly mastered the art of consumption-without-human-contact.

Most of the conversations I have (aside from those with my dog and my spouse) are also with computers. I ask Google for the weather, tell Siri to play Retrowave music in the bathroom and try to convince Alexa to disclose the the actual age of Jennifer Connelly. The Netflix computer algorithm suggests I should watch some Spanish sitcom tonight and at about 10pm my Smartwatch tells me I should go to bed if I want to be rested tomorrow morning.

I’m worse than Bullock.

Looking back at my day, I’m not “like” Bullock in the net .. I’m even worse. The combination of the technology at hand and the current Covid Crisis has decreased the “face to face” human interactions significantly. We mail-order everything online, communicate digitally instead of face to face and are (almost) perfectly happy with the convenience. Sure, right now its because pandemic is sweeping the globe, and sneezing within a five yard radius from other people is considered extremely rude .. But still… Will things ever go back to “normal”?

This probably isn’t normal.

The answer is: Probably not. Even the biggest internet-hater has now tasted the sweet nectar of home delivery and thanks to working from home, none of us will ever need to wear pants again (maybe thats a bit strong). But I hope we don’t forget the value of human interaction. Buying something else because they are “out of stock” at the store helps you discover new products. Waiting in line at the restaurant gives you the opportunity to meet new people. Convenience is one thing, but I hope we all are social animals at some point. So when all of this covid stuff is over I thrive to go outside, shop “realtime”, meet people face to face and do all the inefficient “analogue” stuff that doesn’t take place behind a screen. If only so nobody can steal my identity 🙂

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KW1507 Tablets through time.

After ten years have past since the launch of the famous iPad tablet we take a look back through history and ask ourselves: Is the tablet ready to serve as a replacement for our desktop? We rant about the pro’s and cons of android vs IOS and how Microsoft came close to the holy grail. Topped of with some fancy tunes from ScannTec its another show from the Knightwise.com bunker.

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