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 7

Written by Solène, on 16 July 2021.
Tags: #openbsd #life #oldcomputerchallenge

Comments on Fediverse/Mastodon

Report of the last day of the old computer challenge.

1. A journey §

I'm writing this text while in the last hours of the challenge, I may repeat some thoughts and observations already reported in the earlier posts but never mind, this is the end of the journey.

2. Technical §

Let's speak about Tech! My computer is 16 years old but I've been able to accomplish most of what I enjoy on a computer: IRC, reading my mails, hacking on code and reading some interesting content on the internet. So far, I've been quite happy about my computer, it worked without any trouble.

On the other hand, there were many tasks that didn't work at all:

  • Browsing the internet to use "modern" website relying on javascript: this is because Javascript capable browsers are not working on my combination of operating system/CPU architecture, I'm quite sure the challenge would have been easier with an old amd64 computer even with low memory.
  • Watching videos: for some reasons, mplayer in full screen was producing a weird issue, computer stopped working but cursor was still moving but nothing more was possible. However it worked correctly for most videos.
  • Listening to my big FLAC music files, if doing so I wasn't able to do anything else because of the CPU usage and sitting on my desk to listen to music was not an interesting option.
  • Using Go, Rust and Node programs because there are no implementation of these languages on OpenBSD PowerPC 32bits.

On the hardware side, here is what I noticed:

  • 512MB are quite enough as long as you stay focused on one task, I rarely required to use swap even with multiple programs opened.
  • I don't really miss spinning hard drive, in term of speed and noise, I'm happy they are gone in my newer computers.
  • Using an external pointing device (mouse/trackball) is so much better than the bad touchpad.
  • Modern screens are so much better in term of resolution, colours and contrast!
  • They keyboard is pleasant but lack a "Super" modifier key which lead to issues with key binding overlapping between the window manager and programs.
  • Suspend and resume doesn't work on OpenBSD, so I had to boot the computer and it takes a few minutes to do so and require manual step to unlock /home which add delay for boot sequence.

Despite everything the computer was solid but modern hardware is such more pleasant to use in many ways, not only in term of raw speed. When you buy a laptop especially, you should take care about the other specs than the CPU/memory like the case, the keyboard, the touchpad and the screen, if you use a lot your laptop they are as much important as the CPU itself in my opinion.

Thanks to the programs w3m, catgirl, luakit, links, neomutt, claws-mail, ls, make, sbcl, git, rednotebook, keepassxc, gimp, sxiv, feh, windowmaker, fvwm, ratpoison, ksh, fish, mplayer, openttd, mednafen, rsync, pngquant, ncdu, nethack, goffice, gnumeric, scrot, sct, lxappearence, tootstream, toot, OpenBSD and all the other programs I used for this challenge.

3. Human §

Because I always felt this challenge was a journey to understand my use of computer, I'm happy of the journey.

To make things simple, here is a bullet list of what I noticed

  • Going to sleep earlier instead of waiting for something to happen.
  • I've spent a lot less time on my computer but at the same time I don't notice it much in term of what I've done with it, this mean I was more "productive" (writing blog, reading content, hacking) and not idling.
  • I didn't participate into web forums of my communities :(
  • I cleared things in my todo list on my server (such as replacing Spamassassin by rspamd and writing about it).
  • I've read more blogs and interesting texts than usual, and I did it without switching to another task.
  • Javascript is not ecological because it prevent older hardware to be usable. If I didn't needed javascript I guess I could continue using this laptop.
  • I got time to discover and practice meditation.
  • Less open source contribution because compiling was too slow.

I'm sad and disappointed to notice I need to work on my self discipline (that's why I started to learn about meditation) to waste less time on my computer. I will really work on it, I see I can still do the same tasks but spend less time doing nothing/idling/switching tasks.

I will take care of supporting old systems by my contributions, like my blog working perfectly fine in console web browsers but also trying to educate people about this.

I've met lot of interesting people on the IRC channel and for this sole reason I'm happy I made the challenge.

4. Conclusion §

Good hardware is good but is not always necessary, it's up to the developers to make good use of the hardware. While some requirements can evolve over time like cryptography or video codecs, programs shouldn't become more and more resources hungry for the reason that we have more and more available. We have to learn how todo MORE with LESS with computers and it was something I wanted to highlight with this challenge.