620 South Lakewood Avenue, 2002
I spent all of my available time from Friday morning to after midnight on Monday working on a video project for WRI. Much of this was in direct communication with a remote video editing team, but there were sections of time where they were working and I needed to be on call near a computer. So I busied myself with some digital archaeology.
The path to the rabbit hole began with a simple question I had about my old 68K Macs, and I spent a fair bit of downtime on Sunday shuttling machines up and down the stairs to boot up and check out. At some point I’d wiped and formatted two of my legacy machines for looking through legacy files; it’s been so long since then that I forgot what I’d done. So a lot of this was a pleasant surprise. I made a list of all of the legacy machines, their specs, their OS condition, and any notes needed to make repairs or updates to each one.
Then I got to thinking about files. I’ve got CD’s burned with working files that date back to 1997 containing work I did all the way back to 1995. When I organized the drives on the basement server I copied a lot of it to a new disk. But there are things I know I had that I couldn’t find, so I dug deeper. Buried within some of these disks I found more of what I was looking for:
- Old backups of my original website, the first and second versions, which I’d thought were lost to time
- Old pictures of the Scout, which I also thought were lost to time. I remember taking a lot of pictures back then; the number of good ones I have of that truck are strangely few
- Work backups from Back In The Day—my first two pro jobs, to be exact
- An archive of the Mad Puppy work I did with Robby, back in the day, which I thought was lost forever on a scratched CD drive
- Email backups from 2002-2006 (gotta figure out how to save these in a viable format)
- Pictures of my first house, many of which I only had small thumbnail versions of. Gonna find something good to do with those
- Various writing projects, some of which make me cringe rereading them 20 years later; some of which make me feel good. I found something I wrote about driving up to Grandma’s funeral that I thought was lost forever
- Backups of the old IHCDigest from 1998
- Tons of my site archives from System Source, from the Wild West days of web development (I miss that time)
There’s more to sift through but for now I think I’m done.
Waaaay back in 2007 I traded an inoperable Powerbook 100 for a working Powerbook 160, which was a welcome upgrade allowing me to open and view legacy files from my early days of design. The 160 worked for a couple of years and then died around 2013. I did some reading at that point and replaced the PRAM battery, hoping that would fix things, but it had no effect so the unit went back in the box. At some point recently I learned that there are inexpensive power supplies available for early Powerbooks, so I got one on Amazon for $10 and tried it out. Amazingly, I was greeted by the comforting early Macintosh startup chime, and the screen lit up for a brief moment before going dark, and then all of the pixels on the display smushed over to the right side of the screen.
Clearly there’s something amiss with the display, and from what the Interwebs say it’s a pretty common thing for the capacitors on passive-matrix grayscale monitors to fail, leading to these issues. I contacted a guy who streamed a repair live to see what he’d charge to fix it; we’ll see if he gets back to me.
Update: there are several videos on how to disassemble and recap the display online; given that I don’t have a lot of winter projects lined up, this is something I’ll tackle myself. I’d need a sharper soldering iron and the proper solder, but this isn’t anything I’m particularly scared of. The problem is that several of the capacitors aren’t in stock at Mouser or Digikey, so I’ll have to revisit this project in the summertime.
I also think I’ve got an old Powerbook Display Adapter in my antique computer bin somewhere; I’ll have to dig it out today and see if I can hook the unit to a monitor for testing.
I got a little burned out on playing the Division 2 last week, so I pulled the disc out of my Xbox and put Fallout 76 in, for the first time in months. It took a little time to get used to the controls again, and get my bearings for where I was and what I was doing. I looked around the map, did a little exploring, and shot some bad guys. And I was bored. I left the game when I realized my style of gameplay was holding me back and that if I wanted to advance further I’d have to go spend hours searching for stuff to build more powerful weapons and armor, running to and from areas on the map and completing missions I’d already done. Jumping back in, I quickly remembered why I’d stopped and it held even less interest for me now than it did before.
The Fallout series got me through chemo and some cold dark winter months last year, and for that I’m grateful, but I don’t think I need to go back again. It looks like I might be hunting for a new game to play soon.
This morning I drove over the Bay Bridge to meet up with my friend Brian at his new house, and from there we drove to a field behind an abandoned house to look at a short gray schoolbus that’s going to be the focus of much of my September. We crawled in, on top of, and underneath the whole thing, looking at what’s there and talking over what needs to happen in the next couple of weeks.
The first thing that needs to happen is a lot of demolition; the previous owner had done some modifications to the interior that aren’t going to stay—a janky bed frame in the back, a sink and cabinet made from 2×4’s, a set of seats cobbled together from a couple of minivans and the original bus seats, etc. When that’s all out, I’m going to rip up the hastily installed laminate flooring and the rubber bus matting underneath until we get to the marine plywood at the base. When the interior is gutted, we need to build a rack for the roof from box steel to hold a platform for a 4-person tent made by a guy in Colorado who doesn’t return phone calls, install a rooftop A/C unit, mount a portable diesel generator behind the rear wheels, and source and mount three underside storage boxes around the chassis. I have no idea how we’re going to do half of this, but we’re going to have fun making it work.
For a good portion of the day yesterday, this site and my other two were down due to some form of DNS failure at my web host. I don’t know what happened but it all came back up sometime this afternoon. That’s the first hiccup I’ve experienced in the last ten years or so; I wonder what happened.
Here at the Lockardugan Estate, we’ve been getting along through COVID lockdown the best way we can. It’s been a challenge to be around each other all day every day without killing one another, and we’ve each been through the soul-crushing phases of denial and acceptance at least fifteen times. I used to think our house was big, but after having been shut in here like a biodome, I’m aware of just how cozy everything feels. The boom in the housing market makes a lot of sense in retrospect.
Last week, Finley had had enough of being trapped (been though she’s going to school two days a week) and asked if I could take her to the mall. Also monumentally bored, I immediately agreed and we decided to go right after finishing dinner. We got a late start out the door. Walking inside, I could immediately sense something was wrong: the security gates were coming down and people were headed to the exits. Turns out they close at 8 and not 9. So we went to Target so that we could walk around and look at things and just be out.
One of the things I found in a bargain game bin was a copy of The Division 2, a first-person shooter I’d read about last year. I picked that up along with some other small items and we headed home. After waiting a full day for the game files to copy and then update, I tried it for the first time the other night—and was immediately impressed. It’s set in Washington D.C. and the environment is breathtakingly detailed. The first missions were well-balanced and interesting, and I’m getting used to the game mechanics. Hopefully it’s got a lot more content to keep me involved; I see myself playing this one for a while. I’ve been getting tired of Fallout 76 for some time, and this game scratches the itch for action without having to deal with running from place to place or worry about picking up or crafting or fixing stuff.
Jen has been organizing the piles of crap we’ve thrown up into the attic, and one of the things she came upon is an old chair I’ve had since college, something my roommate Pat gave me when he left town: a Scandinavian chair of unknown origin with ratty leather that we had to retire when the cats began tearing it apart and baby Finley was eating the foam. I decided we’d Freecycle it just to get it out of here. In order to find some information on it for the listing, I googled the sticker underneath and found that the brand is Westnofa, a Norwegian manufacturer of midcentury modern designs, usually featuring laminated wood framing with leather upholstery. Apparently this furniture is worth some money in good shape; I’m obviously rethinking my earlier decision to give it away. It’s a very comfortable chair that we both like, but we’d been quoted a lot of money to have it redone before it was retired. I think we need to do a little more digging before we make a decision.
I’ve been playing Fallout 76 for about four months now. After spending roughly 2.5 years playing through Fallout 4 and its various expansion packs, I was bored. When it became clear COVID would shut things down for a while, I found a cheap used copy online and bought an Xbox Live Pass, which it requires in order to run. It’s designed entirely around cooperative play but they do make allowances for solo players like me, and with a series of updates and patches they’ve made the game much better in that regard. Since booting it up for the first time, I’ve been sneaking around the map by myself, hiding from other players, slowly leveling up, and mostly enjoying myself. The few times I’ve encountered other players have been pretty amicable. But early in the game a high-level player jumped into the middle of a fight I was in with multiple enemies and I twitch-shot him once. He turned around and wasted me pretty quickly, which I didn’t think was very nice; it was an honest accident.
Last night I was finishing up in a particular area, eliminating the last couple of enemies. I’d just cornered a final ghoul to finish him off when an online player hopped over a fence and shot me. He paused; I was annoyed but finished off my kill when the guy shot me again, and then a third time. I stood up, aimed my rifle at him and took a few steps forward: knock it off. He was at a level 5 while I’m a level 32; his little popgun wasn’t actually doing much. Before I could call up a quick menu and flash him the “mad” sign, he fucking shot me again. So I blew his head off with a shotgun. Chuckling to myself, I continued on my way.
About five minutes later, he showed up again in my general area, and I was invited to join a party with he and another player. I thought about it for a minute. He was a level 5, the other a 7. These were two guys who probably know less about team playing than I do; why the hell not?
The controls in Fallout 76 are still somewhat confusing. I’m still half used to two years’ muscle memory from Fallout 4 but they’ve added a ton of other features so it takes a while to understand where they’ve moved things. The first join request timed out, but they sent a second request and I was able to sort out the issue.
At this point it’s helpful to understand how teams work (as I understand them): We’re supposed to be able to chat with one another within a team, while you can’t just talk to randos you meet out in the world. Thus, I couldn’t tell the guy to quit shooting at me. I ran to get my headphones and plugged them in; if anyone was going to talk I’d be able to reply. But I didn’t hear anything. We spent some time standing around. I waited for them to do something, got bored, continued on my original path and they tagged along behind me. I used the in-game gestures to tell them to follow me into a structure I’d already been to, and we cleaned it out pretty quickly. When we were done, I got an alert that one of the players had sent me an audio message through the Xbox. It took me a few moments to figure out how to access it. A voice no older than Finley’s asked me, “Do you have any fusion cells to trade? I need one for my laser pistol.”
Laughing, I gave up on trying to figure out how to trade—it’s even more confusing than the Join mechanics—and continued on my way. They followed me for a while and then one player dropped out. A little while later, my would-be assassin’s player froze in place in a basement. He probably had to go take out the garbage. By that time it was 11:30 so I dropped out of the game and went to bed.
There are several tomatoes coloring in the greenhouse, and I am READY for them. The cherry plants are still producing fruit randomly; every week I go out and bring a handful in for the girls. I’m going to have to go out and consolidate a bunch of stuff this weekend and finally put the panel in the back wall to keep things warm overnight. Winter is coming…
Here in the office I finally took the time to go through some drawers and bins and boxes full of old computer gear and set aside a bunch of crap to get rid of: ancient CD-RW drives I scavenged from old towers, a pair of AirPort Base Stations that date back 15 years, miles of old Cat-5 network cabling, first-gen iPod FireWire wall warts, old manuals…there’s certainly more to get rid of, but I’ve found that if I’m going to keep old machinery it’s critical to have the gear to support it. So I’ll still hang on to the AirPort Express that will talk to the G3 Powerbooks that will still run OS9 so that I can access design files from 1997…
One of the things I dug out of the archives is a Sony Watchman MD-10, something that came out of the unclaimed personal property of a repo when I was in college. I took it back with me junior year and it allowed us all to stay current on Seinfeld episodes when we were on break during late night classes. For its time it was an amazing little device, and I wish it had DC input, because as I recall it ate AA batteries pretty fast. It’s useless these days with the advent of digital broadcasting; I could theoretically hook a digital antenna up to an RF modulator and broadcast local analog signal to it, but it’s really not worth the trouble. Interestingly, Gizmodo just did an article on this very model a few months ago; I share the author’s hesitation to get rid of his.
In November of last year I bought a set of wireless earbuds for my commute and quickly fell in love with them—so much so that I gave up almost entirely on wired headphones. The Anker Soundcore Life P2’s I bought were inexpensive and did 90% of what AirPods do at 1/4 the price tag. The only gripe I had with them was that using them to make calls was useless—they cancelled noise but didn’t allow me to hear myself talking, so I had the strange impression that I was shouting with my hands over my ears. Jen says I talk loud on the phone on a normal day, so this wasn’t an optimal solution. But 10 days of solid use between charges, dependable connectivity with my phone, and quality sound reproduction made up for that, and I was extremely happy with them.
A week ago I took Hazel for her morning walk and Jen came out to join me after we’d crossed the street. I took my earbuds out and stuffed them in my pocket so we could talk—but one must not have made it, because I returned home without it. Disappointed, I started looking at replacements, and I was sorely tempted by a new set of AirPods—especially the Pros, which feature Transparency Mode and make phone calls sound amazing. But realizing I hadn’t owned the Ankers for more than a year (I could have sworn it was longer) before one went missing, and given how much I use them, I weighed the cost of losing a $200 AirPod vs. a $70 Anker and went with the cheaper option. This time I got a pair of Soundcore Liberty Airs, which are supposed to be better for making calls, feature touchpads instead of physical buttons, and have a larger set of control options. They’re currently charging in the other room, and I can’t wait to try them out.