Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A tribute to my PC

Back in 2004, I bought my first Personal Computer. It was assembled by a local seller and had a Gigabyte motherboard with a VIA K8M800 chipset and a Socket 754 for AMD Athlon 64 bit processor. I was very excited and was eagerly awaiting the delivery and this was around the Pooja holidays. One fine night it arrived, the PC and it's accompanies - a Samsung CRT monitor, a Samsung PS/2 Keyboard with multimedia keys and a dedicated sleep/shutdown button, a Logictech PS/2 Optical mouse and an APC UPS. It came with Windows XP which I never intended to use and my plan was to have Linux installed.

That was a time when high speed internet meant 64Kbps (Internet cafes proudly advertised that they had high speed ISDN lines at 64Kbps), Cable broadband meant 128Kbps and the only broadband operator was Sify who wouldn't offer me a connection because they didn't have cables running to my neighborhood. All these meant that download a Linux distro over the internet is nearly impossible. There were other other options though - A well known Linux magazine called "Linux For You" provide a companion CD, usually a bootable live CD with latest distros and other free software, and another option was the Local Linux User group where we used to maintain a directory with an index of all the CDs each member had so that we could borrow and take a copy. I lost count of all the distros that I had tried - Knoppix, Fedora, Debian, Gentoo, and numerous others. My PC made it an interesting proportion to try the various distros since none of them would work out of the box. GUI being the first bottleneck - The S3 Unichrome onboard GPU is not the mostly widely used that many wouldn't even have heard off. Obviously there were no graphics drivers so many would just fallback to the console, the ones that actually booted up to the GUI would use the vesa driver with a reduced resolution and a not so great GUI experience, then there was the multimedia keyboard that I had to figure the scan code and map them to the specific operations in the X keyboard layout configuration, Then there was this APC UPS which had a USB interface so I can hook it up to the PC and monitor the battery charging/draining status. Initially I had to compile the kernel modules to get this to working but sooner many distros started shipping all the necessary components to make it a  breeze.

Then came the "Warty Warthhog" - the first ever version of the Ubuntu. Canonical, the makers of Ubuntu had a nice program where I could order a set of CDs online and they would ship it to me for FREE. They encouraged to order a pack of CDs instead of singles so that I can give it to my friends and spread Linux. This was a totally nice and refreshing experience, where minimalism was the main theme. That was a Gnome based desktop and the whole desktop looked polished and fresh with an unusual brown theme. I loved the CD pouches with the Ubuntu logo. In fact they even shipped a few Ubuntu decals so that I can have them applied on my PC.

(to be continued...)