Sunday, November 23, 2008


Deep Blue too

Four years ago, five thousand miles away, I built my own computer and dubbed it "Deep Blue." This endeavour was not without its annoyances, as you can see on the original post, son!

In leaving Japan, I had to abandon my trusty machine. I dumped the monitor and mouse on Eamonn who was making do with WWII surplus in that respect, pocketed the hard drive for a rainy day and said a fond farewell.

Getting home, the mum was all about getting me set up with a new computer.

MUM: Just choose any computer you want, and I'll pay for it.

DAN (dubiously): That's very generous, Mum...

MUM (nettled): Well, the money's no problem- I can get anything at the moment. I mean, even the cats have got new bowls.

She makes a persuasive case, if you're prepared to overlook the terrific disparity in expense between a computer and a couple of plastic bowls from Pet City. I am prepared to concede that the cats do seem very happy with their new bowls.

The point, I make, is this: while I'm very good with other people's computers, I do like to mess around with my own. Open it up, stick some stuff in, take some stuff out, break it, fix it, break it again, spend weeks on end ignoring it, then have a fit of energy and fix it again.

I don't think that my mum's money would be very well spent, in other words.

The mum has a moment of inspiration: she buys herself a new computer: a spanking new Toshiba laptop with Windows Vista and its own air freshener. I get her old laptop (Toshiba, Windows XP.)

Immediately, I determine that Deep Blue 2 will have the Fedora operating system, like its illustrious predecessor.

Advantages of Linux:
OS and software are either cheap or free.
More stable than Windows.
I'm a sucker for gimmicks, basically.

I send off for a Linux manual as fat as Bill Gates's bank book with Fedora installation DVDs thrown in.

They won't install, due to a flaw in the DVD.

I am left with a laptop-sized doorstop, having formatted the hard drive.

I download further installations of Fedora and various other Linux distributions, which simply tell me "no bootable disc present" when I try to boot from them.

Further booting techniques suggest themselves, not least booting the wretched machine into the middle of a busy junction and videoing the consequent mess.

Weeks pass. The mum is not exactly twitchy about letting me on her other computers, but she can't help dropping the occasional weighted comment, which is most unfair. I have, after all, come up with the answers to all of her technical difficulties to date, even when I had no idea what they were.

I speak to a friend, who advises me just to stick XP back on the wretched thing- even lends me a disc. "You'll need a product key- that's printed on a label on the bottom of your laptop."

I try it. Invalid product key states the computer.

I am through rage, out into the strangely calm space of uber-fury. I go back on the internet and try to track down some explanation. Windows service pack 1 product key won't work with SP2 disc.

Renouncing Windows for the nth time in my life, I go back to the "no bootable disc" problem I was experiencing with Linux.

A quick trawl across internet forums alerts me to the fact that, rather than copying downloaded files straight onto CDs, one has to unpack them onto the CDs. Instructions, that even an octogenarian could follow, follow.

I have a go.

The desktop on my laptop

Deep Blue 2 is now a laptop, no longer a doorstop. It's running on Ubuntu 8-point-something.

Meanwhile, the mum swears and tuts frequently at Windows Vista. My efforts are amply repaid.

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Ubuntu is awesome, dude. I've been running it on my nearly 4-year-old toshiba laptop since the original hard drive died last december and I took the opportunity to be through with Windows altogether.

New Hard Drive $60
New OS $0
Being free to do whatever I want on the internet without fear of viruses or other mal-ware...priceless
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