Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Wyse Thin Clients Part 2

Once I started receiving the hardware, I had to decide where to start. The easiest part of the project was really going to be setting up DOS. or at least I thought so. By today's standards DOS is an incredibly simplistic and uncomplicated operating system, but that does not mean it is easy to setup, configure and use.

The first thing I tried was FreeDOS, this was kind of a mistake in retrospect. FreeDOS did not like the 128MB flash drive at all and nothing I could do would fix that. When I tried to use expanded memory, the system would crash before it even finished booting, although extended memory seems to work just fine. I gave up on this and hoped I would have better luck with MS DOS.

The tricky part of MS DOS was the floppy install. Mind you I do have a USB floppy drive and a few disks laying around, but the idea of sitting there for half an hour swapping disks did not appeal to me. So just to get started, I booted to a disk I made from AllBookdisk.com and copied the few files that were there into the c:\dos folder. This gave me a limited set of utilities that was really not very useful. The it dawned on me that I had a full install on a virtual disk, so after a quick run back to my main system, I mounted the virtual machines image and copied all the files and folders from the virtual disk to a USB drive. The problem I had with this was MS DOS did not recognize my USB drive as formatted, even though I formatted it as FAT32. I ran fdisk on the USB drive and then formatted it again. I went back to my system and repeated what I did before and tried again, this time the process worked perfectly. I now had a fully functional install of MS DOS.

The next problem was networking, DOS networking was never good, at best it was barely usable. I spent the next 2 hours scouring the internet for drivers, specifically, I needed DOS Packet Drivers. I did find what I was looking for on a pretty sketchy website that hosted old driver packages. Fortunately this particular network chipset was used on a couple of old motherboards. Next I needed sound, so I repeated my driver quest and came with nothing, the oldest Operating System I could find for the sound was Windows XP. So, no sound. I could not even find Windows 3.1 drivers for either the sound or the video.

Next was to find some programs to run. I of course easily found my two favorite text editors of the time Boxer and Freemacs. But I also wanted something a bit closer to a real word processor. MS Word for DOS is available free from Microsoft, you can download it here is you really want it. I also installed DOOM and some other fun things. I also downloaded Arachne, a DOS based web browser. This worked well enough, but I would not suggest it for anything other than very basic browsing.

That was pretty much that. I might try spending a whole day using nothing but this machine, just for the fun of it. My next project is to take the other Thin Client and try to get it to boot Linux off my network.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Wyse Thin Clients

I just discovered that old Wyse Thin Clients are dirt cheap. I am not talking about a couple of hundred dollars cheap, I am talking $12 cheap. Seriously, you can buy an old Wyse Cx0 for $12 on ebay. Mind you these are not old but reasonably powerful computers. They generally have very limited RAM and extremely anemic storage. When I saw some available at this price, tested and working, with power supply, I decided okay, this is something I can use, so I bought 2 of them.

The systems I bought come with 512MB of RAM and 128 MB (yes MB) of flash storage. Before I bought them, I did a bit of research and found I could upgrade the memory to 2GB. The system uses DDR2 SODIMM's, which cost $10 these days. I also found out the systems use a standard laptop IDE interface for the flash storage. Thankfully, there are these little devices called SD2IDE which allows you to mount an SD card on the IDE channel and use it as storage, these devices even allow booting off the SD card. Again, these cost $10 a piece. I already have a small pile of SD cards ranging from 512MB to 32GB laying around not being used. After all was said and done, I am in less than $80 for both machines.

Now of course the question becomes, what do I do with these thin clients. The first thing that popped into my head was install DOS on it and use it to play old DOS games like Doom, Civilization and such. My second thought is to use one as an actual thin client so I can use the resources of my desktop computer in another room of the house. I could also just install Linux on it and make a small unobtrusive, quiet little computer for the bedroom or whatever. Who know what I will ultimately do, but there are at least a few interesting possibilities.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Post No Shave November

So I shaved this morning. It was much easier this year than it was last year. I used electric hair cutter to take off 3 weeks of growth first, then used a regular razor to take the rest off. This worked really well and my face does not feel raw like I washed my face with sand paper like last year.

As I looked at myself in the mirror afterwards, I was thinking to myself that I do not understand why almost everyone I know thinks I look better clean shaven. Admittedly, they gray beard probably made me look older than I really am, but I am 56, does it really matter if I look 60?

I am not a particularly vain person, I do not worry much about how I look or what others think about how I dress or groom myself.Although, being a polite person and a good husband, I try to take my wife's opinion into consideration, which is the primary reason I do shave a couple of times a week. However, I personally think I look better with a beard.