Sep. 5th, 2017

thewayne: (Default)
I've been on a mission of late to purge a storage locker to eliminate (A) a bunch of crap that I don't want or need, and (ii) a monthly debt that we definitely don't need as I'm in my 14th month of being unemployed. To further get rid of clutter, and to get some files off of my wife's ancient Compaq desktop (Windows 98 anyone?), I ordered a Vantec IDE/SATA to USB 3 adapter from NewEgg for $20 with free shipping. That allowed me to check A LOT of hard drives that have been sitting around for files that I might be interested in. Only one, clearly labeled BAD, was not readable. Some had already been wiped. Unfortunately pretty much all of them are unusable: the smallest is an 800 MEGABYTE laptop drive (HUGE amount of space in DOS days), and aside from an old 4 TB drive from my previous iMac, the largest was only 8 gig. So I'll end up opening them up, stripping some of them for their magnets and platters because it's fun, and tossing the rest.

My wife's Compaq posed a different sort of problem. First, let it be proclaimed far and wide, that as a rule I HATE COMPAQ COMPUTERS! HP also falls under this broad proclamation. This goes back to the '80s when I first had to open them up and work in their guts. They're notorious for being fickle in their configuration and requiring that you buy components only from their makers. Well, this one is not much different. It's running Win 98, and I didn't want to try and put it on a network since the concept of trying to find network drivers for such an old OS, not to mention an OS CD!, was pretty much unthinkable. And I had just bought this spiffy Vantec adapter, so I figured I'd just remove the hard drive and suck it in to my iMac and copy the contents on to a USB stick for my wife.

Fat chance. First off, they secured the hard drive with screws on both sides. The motherboard is on the far side, so those screws are inaccessible. So remove the entire hard/flopy drive cage! They even secured THAT with screws on both sides! So without removing the motherboard, I can't get the damn hard drive out. I tried undoing the ribbon cable header and plugging in the Vantec adapter, but for reasons unknown that did not work: I used the Compaq itself to power the drive during that experiment. Now I'm going to grab my Windows 7 box and my router, plug both computers in to the router side-by-side, and get them talking to a local workgroup so I can just suck the files directly to the Win 7 computer. THEN I can copy the files to a USB stick. I couldn't even get the 98 machine to recognize a 256 meg USB stick without it wanting additional drivers!

Hopefully this will work. If not, I have an even older XP machine sitting in the corner that should boot.

But here's the clever bit.

I had an old 15" CRT VGA monitor sitting around, so a monitor for the Compaq was set. I was able to find a PS/2 keyboard in its original box, so that's set. Couldn't find a mouse. Not a big deal, I can navigate old Windows with a keyboard just fine, it's just easier with a mouse. But while cleaning out my storage shed, i found a full box of Belkin mice! I'm talking an actual factory box with something like 10 mice in it, all of them PS/2 or serial! I brought one home and plugged it in!

And it only moved the cursor sideways.

Being the geek that I am, and more than a little handy with a screwdriver, I took it apart.

The vertical sensor axle had popped out of its far side. Simply popped it back in to place, snapped the housing back together, popped the ball back in (yes, pre-optical mice), and it worked just fine. THEN I put the screw back in.

So for the first time in almost 35 years of working with IBM PCs, I fixed a mouse.

Now let's hope my little networking misadventure works. My previous wireless access point had the radio die, but the router side continues to work just fine, so I've kept it in service for that use as my Apple wireless router has only one user ethernet port.

(Tech lesson: the way that the original mice worked when they had the little rubber balls was that they had two sensors, X and Y axes, connected to rods that were in physical contact with the ball and rotated as you moved the mouse. Electronics in the mouse and software translated the rotation of the rods for the computer to move the mouse pointer on the screen correspondingly to the mouse movements. Very clever design. Then they went to optical mice, 'rubber eraser' pointers, and trackpads. Trackballs were just upside-down mice with billiard balls, nothing particularly innovative there. The rubber eraser pointers used strain transducers to sense where the pointer was being bent and how hard it was being pushed to provide mouse pointing information, trackpads use a similar strain transducer tech.)
thewayne: (Default)
Or a computer geek with something to prove!

I succeeded in sucking the files off my wife's computer, though it took some time to configure it. I couldn't do it with a Win 10 computer, so I dug out the OOOOOOLD box -- XP. Only two generations newer than the Compaq. They both spoke the concept of Workgroups, which 10 does not. Once I set up a common workgroup and confirmed they could see each other through the router with a ping, I created a share on my XP box, linked the Compaq to it and had no problem copying stuff to it. I even went and xcopy'd her bookmark*.html to it so if she had anything interesting there, it'll be preserved.

I even found her PhD thesis from 20 years ago in LaTex files!

It was pretty small, only 100 meg. Copied it on to a flash drive, then up to Dropbox.

Mission accomplished. I'm leaving everything set up so she can review the Compaq before I break it down, then we have to figure out what we'll do with the old beastie.

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