15 Feb 2022 - faintshadows
Oh, oops, it’s been a few months since I last made a post, my bad.
I haven’t touched a proper vintage computer in a while, and it’s the result of a much bigger thought process that I’ve had for a long while, and it’s about time I wrote it down in a more concise form.
I’ve had a focus shift after getting the Sun Ray 150 going. I got into VR, and I started checking out the Haiku operating system more, among other things.
I am not a gamer, I don’t really play games like I used to. With very few exceptions (VR), of course. But even then it’s socially playing games, I mostly play NeosVR, a social VR space, or to put it how techbros like it, a “metaverse” (yuck). It’s good fun and all the time I would have spent futzing about with old obsolete computers has been replaced with VR. For better or worse.
Something I’ve noticed about the vintage tech hobby, is at least in terms of your x86 PCs, the primary focus is games. All the old games you can’t run on modern systems. Not nearly as many people care about the other kinds of software. I don’t know what the Mac people do, it’s not like those ever did games well ;P
I tried to combat this by trying to find and explore the other side of these old computers; when you weren’t playing games what were you doing? But you can only look at Office 97 so much before it gets boring. It came very apparent that the wintel shitbox wasn’t interesting to me anymore. Old macs were (and still are), but they exist in their own isolated space for the most part.
Naturally, this lead me to non Windows operating systems, and I started to build a collection of old Linux CDs, my oldest being Slackware 3.0 that I have from a book circa 1995. This was much more interesting in that given I use Linux on the daily, I could see the history behind it all. Use the early versions of still existing distributions (Debian, Slackware, Ubuntu, etc).
Most of my experiences with that were from before I set up the blog, and as such do not have posts for me to refer to. Or I just didn’t deem it blog-worthy, which happens a lot. As such there’s a lot of things I did that are just lost to time, only existing as ramblings in DMs or group chats.
I got my SPARC boxes to explore the non x86/PowerPC world of computing, and while it was very cool at first, Solaris is, not great. Linux support on SPARC is equally not great, god forbid I use a BSD. This is where I think the burnout started. Old computers were either x86 wintel boxes that existed mostly to play games, or old Unix workstations that were left when the world decided that x86/x86_64 was The Only Way. And I appreciate the effort of the people much smarter than me to keep these old unused architectures alive, but they can only do it for so long and it shows.
What I had thought I could do was learn how to program, and create new programs targeted specifically for these older systems, give them new life. But I was faced with two major issues. Either people would just use what was available already for that system, or what I wanted to do was way over my head for a first time programming project. Think Telegram client. It was extremely difficult to find and maintain motivation like this. It was possible, but not at my level, and the work to get to that level didn’t seem worth it.
As such, I sort of feel like I did just about everything I could in this hobby, I had my fun. Things like the Fujitsu laptop I got with the Transmeta Crusoe just served to show me that I’m just wasting my time trying to make something clearly very old do things it’s not supposed to. ~Though that thing couldn’t~ ~even do the things it WAS supposed to.~
Then something came out of left field, Haiku. I had looked at it ages ago but didn’t get anywhere with it, just looked neat and I moved on. But a friend had shown it to me again more recently and that project is very close to daily driver territory I think. It’s just missing a small handful of things. It partially reignited the spark in my mind for old tech, having found an archive of BeOS (which Haiku is a reimplementation of), and throwing that on my Dell Precision 610, a dual Pentium III Xeon system. However it didn’t last long, though something new found its way into my mind.
Haiku is a wonderful little project. (It really is go check it out!!) I thought, well hey this is a system that needs applications to make it usable as a daily driver. So I looked around, and I noticed something I personally consider a necessity was absent, a music player with library support. Sure, Haiku includes a media player but it only deals in single files. A Winamp styled program was introduced for the BeOS, but to the best of my knowledge, was never brought over to Haiku. If I had to guess, everyone was just fine using Clementine or its fork Strawberry, ported over from Linux. But there were no signs of a native Haiku media player.
The idea is there, it’s solid, and it’s doable. But the past consistent issues with motivation haven’t left me, and I reached the same road block I always did. I’d learn the language, figure out the syntax, in this case C++, write out the example code, run it, modify it, all good. But when it came to doing my own thing, starting fresh with a blank source file, I froze. None of the tutorials showed how to use the sound stack in Haiku. I hadn’t really learned anything! I just learned how to copy code from a tutorial!
It occured to me that I have bigger issues than just not having a unique enough, or doable enough idea. The way I “learn” things is fundamentally flawed, and it was really starting to affect me. People always tell me I’m smart but really I just know how to copy others really well and adjust it enough to make it look like my work. I blame the school system for that one, it made that way too easy.
As I sit now, I’m in a bad place. I’ve got all these old computers collecting dust, and I don’t have any big projects or really anything that I created to show for all the time I spend sitting around. So I’m putting up all the old computers, they’re going to long term storage. I’ll try to sell off the ones I use the least (feel free to contact me if there’s something you want). I need to move on, this hobby just isn’t for me right now. Not to mention the absolutely insane prices these hunks of metal cost thanks to eBay sellers.
Priced out and burnt out, a great combination.
To anyone who’s read my posts, thank you. Really. I don’t expect much from this blog, but in the event that I actually have helped you with something, like my Setting Up Solaris 8 post, or the Sun Ray 150 post. Or that you had a good laugh at my expense with the Crusoe Saga. Or The Dial-up Experience. Do let me know, if you don’t mind. I mostly make these for myself, to have a reference of the things I did previously and that felt notable.
As for the future, I don’t know. I am not giving up on the blog, even if it may have seemed that way with the months between this post and the last. Hopefully, I do something interesting again and I’ll sneak another post in. Time will tell.