About me: My name is Solène Rapenne, pronouns she/her. I like learning and sharing knowledge. Hobbies: '(NixOS BSD OpenBSD Lisp cmdline gaming internet-stuff). I love percent and lambda characters. OpenBSD developer solene@.

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The Old Computer Challenge V2: back to RTC

Written by Solène, on 01 July 2022.
Tags: #life #offline #oldcomputerchallenge

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Introduction §

Hello! Let me start straight into the topic: The Old Computer Challenge, second edition!

Some readings if you don't know about the first Old Computer Challenge

The first edition of the challenge consisted into spending a week (during your non-work time) using an old computer, the recommended machine specifications were 1 core and 512 MB of memory at best, however some people enjoyed doing this challenge with other specifications and requirements, and it's fine, the purpose of the challenge is to have fun.

While experimenting the challenge last year, a small but solid community gathered on IRC, we shared tips and our feelings about the challenge, it was very fun and a good opportunity to meet new people. One year later, the community is still there and over the last months we had regular ideas exchange for renewing the challenge.

I didn't want to do the same challenge again, the fun would be spoiled, and it would have a feeling of déjà vu. I recently shared a new idea and many adopted it, and it was clear this would be the main topic of the new challenge.

The Old Computer Challenge v2 §

This new challenge will embrace the old time of RTC modems with a monthly time budget. Back in these days, in France at least, people had to subscribe to an ISP for a given price, but you would be able to connect only for 10, 20, 30, 40... hours a month depending on your subscription. Any extra hour was very expensive. We used the Internet the most efficiently possible because it was time limited (and very slow, 4 kB/s at best). Little story, phone lines were not available while a modem was connected, and we had to be careful not to forget to manually disconnect the modem after use, otherwise it would stay connected and wasting the precious Internet time! (and making expensive bills)

The new challenge rules are easy: you are allowed to _connect_ your computer to the Internet for a maximum cumulated time of 1h per day, from 10th to 17th July included. This mean you can connect six times for ten minutes, twice for thirty minutes, or once for one hour in the day.

Remember, the challenge is about having fun and helping you to step back on your computer habits, it's also recommended to share your thoughts and feeling a few times over the challenge week on your usual medias. There is nothing to prove to anyone, if you want to cheat or do the challenge with two or six hours a day, please do as you prefer.

The old computer challenge v2 cover

This artwork was created by our community member prahou (thanks!), and is under the license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, you can reuse it as-this. It features a CD because back in the RTC time, ISP were offering CDs to connect to the Internet and subscribe from home, I remember using those as flying discs.

A page gathering the reports from all the participants

Time accounting §

While I don't have any implementation yet, here is an ideas list to help you to accounting your Internet time:

  • simple but effective, use airplane mode for Wi-Fi or unplug Ethernet, and use a chronometer when you connect
  • adding/removing the default route can be easier than playing with the firewall and still allow you to use the local network
  • a script that would try a ping every minute and account success in a file with a timestamp, it becomes easy to get information from this
  • some firewall rules you would trigger after a sleep 3600 command
  • define a time slot in your day for the challenge and use a cron job to manipulate the firewall to allow/block network depending on the current time

prahou's shell script counting time and enabling/disabling Internet, you need to modify NETOFF and NETON to adapt to your operating system

Frequently asked questions §

Does it apply on work time? §

No.

Can I have an exemption? §

If you really need to use the Internet for something, it's up to you. Don't make your life unbearable for a week because of the challenge.

Does it apply to 1h/day per device? §

No, it's 1h cumulated for all your devices, including smartphones.

Where is the community? §

We are reachable on #old-computer-challenge IRC channel on the Libera.chat network

Website of the libera.chat network and instructions how to connect

However, during the challenge I expect the channel to be quiet because people will be limited to 1h a day.