East of the Sun, West of the Moon

2005/6/17

Retro computing, part 2

Filed under: Software,Technology — Erwin @ 5:45 pm

At the moment, with the boys at home during summer vaction, I’m the one keeping them on the right track during daytime, given that I work from home while M does not. This was different in the past couple of summers, so this requires some adjusting all around.

One of the things I’ve realized is that with me working from the office in the basement and the boys doing things upstairs (in the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, bedrooms, etc) there is just too much of a delay between them getting side-tracked or into trouble one way or another, and me realizing this and wandering upstairs.

The solution then seems to be for me to (temporarily, during the summer vacation and only daytime) move my place of work upstairs also.

That’s slightly easier said than done, though. The naive approach would be for me to start working a lot more with the laptop, however that little keyboard and mouse are not particularly suitable for that, it would drive me crazy in no time flat.

The next idea was to take the kids’ keyboard/monitor/mouse and, using a (currently spare) KVM switch attach those to the laptop. This too didn’t work out too well, as apparently the laptop-KVM combination was unwilling to send a signal after the first video mode change, so I quickly gave up on that (might try again some other time).

Finally I settled on hooking up a keyboard and mouse to the port replicator and just use the laptop screen as-is. That works ok so far, so I’ll probably stick to this solution unless something brilliant comes along later on. Initially it seemed the mouse didn’t want to work, but switching to hibernation and back again seems to have fixed that.

The practical problem is that this is an old laptop with only 96 MB of RAM and a 300 MHz Pentium processor, so most fancier window managers for Linux are too much for the poor thing. Instead, I’ve installed ye olde fvwm(2), an old friend of mine which seems to have seen some development since I last used it.

In the GUI side of things I’m running only Firefox, for now. I might try to get Thunderbird running also, because at the moment I’m completely disconnected from any email (and IM, but I’m not as concerned about that as I am about the email). I tried to solve that by installing Squirrelmail (a webmail software package) but the way I use email doesn’t fit its approach.

The virtual consoles (using a 80×43 VGA mode) are used for ssh connections to screen sessions, which is where I typically do all the actual work. I’ve added three virtual consoles so I have a total of nine (although I have an old and stubborn habit of not using console #1 where the boot-up messages are, so in practice just eight), which should be enough to survive this summer!

With all of this sorted I hope to be back to my fairly-productive-self soon… soon… 🙂

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