About me: My name is Solène Rapenne, pronouns she/her. I like learning and sharing knowledge. Hobbies: '(BSD OpenBSD Qubes OS Lisp cmdline gaming security QubesOS internet-stuff). I love percent and lambda characters. OpenBSD developer solene@. No AI is involved in this blog.

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The Old Computer Challenge: day 3

Written by Solène, on 12 July 2021.
Tags: #openbsd #life #oldcomputerchallenge

Comments on Fediverse/Mastodon

Report of the third day of the old computer challenge.

1. Community §

I got a lot of feedback from the community, the IRC channel #oldcomputerchallenge is quite active and it seems we have a small community that may start here. I received help from various question I had in regards to the programs I'm now using.

2. Changes §

2.1. Web is a pity §

The computer I use is using a different processor architecture than we we are used too. Our computers are now amd64 (even the intel one, amd64 is the name of the instruction sets of the processors) or arm64 for most tablets/smartphone or small boards like raspberry PI, my computer is a PowerPC but it disappeared around 2007 from the market. It is important to know that because most language virtual machines (for interpreted languages) requires some architecture specifics instructions to work, and nobody care much about PowerPC in the javascript land (that could be considered wasting time given the user base), so I'm left without a JS capable web browser because they would instantly crash. The person of cwen@ at the OpenBSD project is pushing hard to fix many programs on PowerPC and she is doing an awesome work, she got JS browsers to work through webkit but for some reasons they are broken again so I have to do without those.

w3m works very fine, I learned about using bookmarks in it and it makes w3m a lot more usable for daily stuff, I've been able to log-in on most websites but I faced some buttons not working because they triggered a javascript action. I'm using it with built-in support for images but it makes loading time longer and they are displayed with their real size which can screw up the display, I'm think I'll disable the image support...

2.2. Long live to the smolnet §

What is the smolnet? This is a word that feature what is not on the Web, this includes mostly content from Gopher and Gemini. I like that word because it represents an alternative that I'm contributing too for years and the word carries a lot of meaning.

Gopher and Gemini are way saner to browse, thanks to a standard concept of one item per line and no style, visiting one page feels like all the others and I don't have to look for where the menu is, or even wait for the page to render. I've been recommended the av-98 terminal browser and it has a very lovely feature named "tour", you can accumulate links from pages you visit and add them to the tour, and them visit the next liked accumulated (like a First in-First out queue), this avoids cumbersome tabs or adding bookmarks for later viewing and forgetting about them.

2.3. Working on OpenBSD ports §

I'm working at updating the claws-mail mail client package on OpenBSD, a new major release was done the first day of the challenge, unfortunately working with it is extremely painful on my old computer. Compiling was long, but was done only once, now I need to sort out libraries includes and using the built-in check of the ports tree takes like 15 minutes which is really not fun.

2.4. I hate the old hardware §

While I like this old laptop, I start to hate it too. The touchpad is extremely bad and move by increments of 5px or so which is extremely imprecise especially for copy/pasting text or playing OpenTTD, not mentioning again that it only has a left click button. (update, it has been fixed thanks to anthk_ on IRC using the command xinput set-prop /dev/wsmouse "Device Accel Constant Deceleration" 1.5)

The screen has a very poor contrast, I can deal with a 1024x768 resolution and I love the 4:3 ratio, but the lack of contrast is really painful to deal with.

The mechanical hard drive is slow, I can cope with that, but it's also extremely noisy, I forgot the crispy noises of the old HDD. It's so annoying to my hears... And talking about noise, I'm often limiting the CPU speed of my computer to avoid the temperature rising too high and triggering the super loud small CPU fan. It is really super loud and it doesn't seem quite effective, maybe the thermal paste is old...

A few months ago I wanted to replace the HDD but I looked on iFixit website the HDD replacement procedure for this laptop and there are like 40 steps to follow plus an Apple specific screwdriver, the procedure basically consists at removing all parts of the laptop to access the HDD which seems the piece of hardware in the most remote place in the case. This is insane, I'm used to work on Thinkpad laptop and after removing 4 usual screws you get access to everything, even my T470 internal battery is removable.

All of these annoying facts are not even related to the computer power but simply because modern hardware evolved, they are quality of life because they don't make the computer more or less usable, but more pleasant. Silence, good and larger screens and multiple fingers gestures touchpad bring a more comfortable use of the computer.

2.5. Taking my time §

Because of context switching cost a lot of time, I take my time to read content and appreciate it in one shot instead of bookmarking after reading a few lines and never read the bookmark again. I was quite happy to see I'm able to focus more than 2 minutes on something and I'm a bit relieved in that regards.

2.6. Psychological effect §

I'm quite sad to see an older system forcing me to restriction can improve my focus, this mean I'm lacking self discipline and that I've wasted too much time of my life doing useless context/task switching. I don't want to rely on some sort of limitations to be guards of my sanity, I have to work on this on my own, maybe meditation could be me getting my patience back.

3. End of report of day 3 §

I'm meeting friendly people sharing what I like, I realizing my dependencies over services or my lack of self mental discipline. The challenge is a lot harder than I expected but if it was too easy that wouldn't be a challenge. I already know I'll be happy to get back to my regular laptop but I also think I'll change some habits.