Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

How did I come to live with such a fine family as the McQueens?

It all started years ago in Sault Ste. Marie. Pastor Jack had won a webcam. Pastor Jack didn't know how to hook it up, and being a computer guy he asked me to help him, with the payment being a dinner with his family. At the time I was living on student loans. For those of you who have ever depended upon Ontario's student loan program, you know how awful the system is. I wasn't always eating all seven days of the week. So the promise of a dinner was an enticing one.

The webcam was a USB webcam. But the McQueens didn't have USB capabilities on their computer. There was no USB connector on the computer. But the motherboard did have an array of pins for a USB connector, but you would have to by the USB connector separately. At the time their were two different standard layouts of pins on a motherboard for USB connection, but this mobo had neither. It had one of its own.

"Sorry, Pastor Jack. At this moment I can't do anything for you. You'll need to get a USB conector. If we can find one for the pins on the motherboard it'll be about $12. If we can't we can always get a USB card for about $40. What's for dinner?"

We searched long and hard to find the right USB connector for the computer. But to no avail. Soon it became apparent he would have to buy the more expensive card. So he got one. I came over for another dinner.

I hooked up the card, plugged in the camera. Nothing. Hmmmm. I wonder what's going on.

Here, it's fair to mention that I used Windows 3.1 until December of 1997. That December I was living in Toronto. I came home at Christmas and asked my brother to upgrade my computer to Windows95....and throw that Linux thing on that he and another friend were telling me was so great. At this time I was working for Air Canada and I had dreams of being a pilot, so I didn't care to get my hands too dirty with Linux installations, etc.

After installing RedHat v5 or some early version he showed me how to use it. He told me what Free Software was all about, how it wasn't just free, as in beer, but free, as in speech. How source code could be modified. He showed me how I wasn't stuck with one desktop environment, but I had many to choose from, and in fact I didn't even need a desktop environment for I could use a virtual terminal. He showed me how the command line was a power horse, something to master, not something to hide and get rid of and pretend doesn't exist (like Microsoft thinks).

I instantly fell in love. At first I didn't know how to really use Linux. All my work was being done in Windows, but I was still booting into Linux every day just to play around. Application by application I started switching from Windows to Linux, and at a certain point I just stopped using Windows. I haven't looked back.

I say all that to say that I sorta missed the whole 95/98/ME/XP/NT/2k architecture. I didn't know a lot of specifics. One of the specifics I didn't know was that 95 didn't handle USB.

"Sorry, Pastor Jack. Windows 95 doesn't deal with USB. You'll need to get Windows 98. What's for dinner?"

So we get a Windows98 installation disk. So I go over to install that, and get another dinner, of course. (At the time, to have this done at a computer shop would have been about a $45 bench charge, plus about $22/hour. Pastor Jack was getting a bargain. Computer work for the cost of a dinner.) But Microsoft does the most annoying thing with their installation disks. The installation disk is not the same as an upgrade disk. I think that has to be one of the stupidest things around.

"Sorry, Pastor Jack. We have the installation disk. That's for if you're doing a clean install. We can do that, but it will mean erasing the harddrive. Do you have backups of everything?"

"We have backups of the programs, but not the user data."

I look around and the user data is scattered all about the drive. Too much stuff would be lost. We decided the upgrade would be better.

"Sorry, Pastor Jack. We'll need to get the upgrade disk. What's for dinner?"

Okay, so we return that disk and get the upgrade disk. I go over and upgrade to Windows 98.

"Good news, Pastor Jack! It works! What's for dinner?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hope dinner was good that night...