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About This Web Server and the Site
web site you're visiting right now has a long (and storied!) history.
While not as long as some, it's certainly long enough at almost twenty years (as of 2019) and counting.
Like many people, I started out hosting my web pages on space provided
by a long since defunct Internet Service Provider. These were the times
of dial-up for most people, and so it was that running my own server
was almost totally out of the question. I didn't have the benefit of a
dedicated phone line. It was a workable enough arrangement--my web site
was more than small enough to fit within the allocation of space I
had--until the server backing up every customer's web publishing space
crashed. It was never restored to availability.
Just having dial-up access to the Internet that was available as a
local phone call was a miracle. Always-on broadband service couldn't
even be imagined, but it finally did come along and I signed up quite
readily. Around that time I got to thinking how nice it might be to
manage my own
web server. There'd be no one telling me how much storage I could have
and as a result, no web page or other resource too ridiculous or
mundane for publication.
(Okay, not really. I have standards. They're pretty low, but I have them.)
personal web site and server first came into existence in the early 2000s. Back then, the needed dynamic hosting services were
provided by Dynamic DNS Services (DynDNS). DynDNS eventually changed
their business model, making it impractical to continue utilizing their
services. Ultimately, they got out of the free dynamic DNS service
market entirely. This site moved to its present location in the mid
2000s, and its dynamic DNS services are now provided by afraid.org,
on their mooo.com domain. I'd readily recommend their services to
anyone who is in need of a reliable DNS registration provider, for
either dynamic or statically located systems.
Over the years, a number of different computers have provided the
platform upon which this site resides. All but one of them have
succumbed to eventual hardware failure. The one that didn't suffer
hardware failure fell victim to a disaster created by the extremely
negligent behavior of my hometown in maintaining their sewer system.
This page is rather out of date. Prior to writing this new
introduction, and adding the "navigation" bar at the top of the page,
this hadn't been touched since October 10th, 2004 at 1:32 in the
morning. So as you might imagine, there's a fair bit of updating to do!
(I've long since sprinkled the updates into place where they belong.)
one true piece of server-grade hardware used to host this site,
Greyghost was an IBM PC Server 500. If memory serves,
it went online sometime in late 2001 and ran until mid-2002 when a disk
array failure took it offline. Initially, this failure was pretty well
terminal and the machine was shelved. During that time there was no
Greyghost did go under in the flood I've mentioned a few times
throughout this page, but since it was
not plugged in and powered, all that had to be done was to clean out
the yuck from inside and to replace the ruined clock battery. All the
hard disks inside were totally waterlogged and discarded. I had hoped
to bring this computer back into the spotlight and in 2010, I started
to do some of the things needed for this to happen. Continued trouble
with the RAID controller along with the "type II" backplane boards and
the loss of Microchannel hardware support from many contemporary
operating systems conspired against this. (Perhaps NetBSD would still
have support. I never tried it.) Eventually, I just lost interest in
struggling with it. I still have this computer in storage.
The name "Greyghost" comes from a few places. It primarily comes from
watching too many afternoon cartoons in my youth. As I remember it, the
Batman animated series of the 1990s featured one episode with a retired
hero character known as the "Grey Ghost". (It's possible that the
spelling differed.) Somehow, throughout all of the intervening years,
the name stuck in my memory. It seemed fitting to apply the name to this
computer, since it ran pretty quietly and stayed fairly cool in operation.
PS/2 Model 65SX
With Greyghost down for the count and showing no sign of making a
recovery in the limited time I could devote to get it running again I
chose an IBM PS/2 Model 65SX to act as the web server behind this site.
This was done mainly for entertainment value. I didn't expect it to
work all that well, but it did. It was surprisingly stable and
reliable, if slow. I made no secret of the machine's hardware
configuration so that world would know just how useful old computers
remain to this day.
This machine ran from the end of 2002 until May of 2004 when the sewer
outside my home collapsed. This filled my basement with filthy water.
While provisions for the machine to stay out of a few inches had been
made, the 34 inches of water that ended up in my basement covered the
machine anyway. When the water went down, it was discovered that the
Model 65SX was pretty well destroyed. Circuit board traces were burned
off, the power supply was shot, massive corrosion covered all parts of
the machine and both hard disks were waterlogged beyond all hope of
I salvaged what could be saved from the machine and discarded the rest
of it. This was truly an unfortunate ending...the Model 65SX had some
very impressive/rare components and having been owned by an ex-IBM
employee, it also had unique programs and files on it as well.
Dell Dimension L550R
after the flood went down, and the power was turned back on, I found
that despite being quite filthy, my cable modem still worked! It was at
this point that I decided to get a server up as quickly
possible and start restoring the contents. I didn't know how I was
going to do this, but my dad bought this Dell PC at a garage sale for
$50. With few other options available, it became the next web server in
While the hard drives from the Model 65SX were ruined, and my
backup tapes had gone underwater as well, one of my brothers had
mirrored nearly everything from the previous server. What an amazing
turn of luck! It was certainly a welcome departure from my usual kind
of luck. Almost all of the materials that had been online previously
were restored to availability. They remain online to this day.
This server started out working in my bedroom and was later moved
to the basement after enough of the flood mess was cleaned up to make
it usable again. This time around, though, it found a place where no
flood will get it, high off the floor.
Unfortunately, disk hardware failure spelled the end of this computer's
time in the limelight. Before restoring the contents of the previous
web server to it, I needed to secure more disk storage. That came in
the form of a Maxtor 6E040L0 drive, before I came to realize what utter
garbage almost every Maxtor hard drive was.
That disk was replaced, the
information restored from backups (apart from a few pages that were
created between backups) and everything was fine until sometime in 2013
when the long serving boot drive (also from Maxtor) began to lose the
plot. Despite my generally low opinion of their products, I have to
give that drive a little credit--it did well for basically nine years
of day in and day out operation before it gave up the ghost. It also
died slowly, with system startup time gradually taking longer and
longer. One day the system locked up and didn't boot again. I set the
system aside and quickly put another in its place. (Notice a theme
This system is still around. I had some plans to place it back into
service after reparing all of the fallen hard drives. Now it is
unlikely that this will happen. Drive bays were always at a premium in
this system and its temporary replacement had quite a few more to
offer. So it was that the devil bit me and I set up a RAID1 disk configuration in the
Optiplex GX400 after the bridge chip in the USB attached Western Digital My Book hard drive gave it up.
Dell Optiplex GX400
the time that I've had this web site, its usage levels and importance
have increased over the years. When the Dimension L550r finally broke
down "for good", I hastily grabbed this system out of storage and set
it up to become my active web server.
I bought this computer and several just like it at a surplus auction
for a few dollars apiece. It's one of those early Pentium 4 computer
systems that features the soon abandoned Socket 423 design and the very
unpopular Rambus RDRAM. Luckily, most of these came with a decent
amount of installed RAM, and with a little shuffling, all of them had
more than enough to get by. A thoroughly unexciting Pentium 4 clocked
at 1.4 GHz is the power plant within this computer. It seems to get the
So far, this system has suffered a failure of one RAM socket that, due
to the serialized layout of RDRAM, seemed like it might be the end of
the line for it. Luckily, moving the continuity RIMMs around such that
one of them was in the troublesome socket seems to have solved the
problem. How long will it last? I don't know. Hopefully it will end up
lasting a good long time.
Other failures to date have included a power supply (amber light of
doom), a video card, and the CPU/case cooling fan. While it seems that
fans Dell once used will steadfastly refuse any lubrication to quiet
their bearings, they appear to be capable of running for ages despite
putting off a terrific racket. And so this one does. I doubt the
furnace standing across from this computer cares very much. This
computer might well want to die, but I refuse to let it. (Actually, it
has gotten a lot quieter in recent years. It has probably stopped
running entirely. I seriously doubt this thing can get hot enough to
really hurt itself.)
What with being able to find almost any number of interesting little "sins" inside a used computer,
this system had lost the air duct that forced the rear case fan to pull
air over the CPU. While it seemed to do just fine without that duct, I
was bored at work one day and came up with a replacement.
If you've ever wondered about the image
that appears on the "404" page,
there is your explanation. Thus far it works and hasn't even caught on
fire yet! (I've only had to reglue it once so far, and only then
because I went about unwisely messing with the magic inside the system.)
I don't know about you, but I consider this system never having caught
on fire to be an excellent selling point. Now that I've said something,
though, it probably will.
This site has been a purveyor of the hard to find and a place to
publish technical articles and resources both public and personal for
many years now. It has grown exponentially over time and caters to a
wide audience of technically inclined people. One of the most popular
resources (at least judging by the amount of spam I get concerning it)
is the Sci.Electronics.Repair FAQ mirror. Another popular resource is
the IBM PCCBBS mirror. You'll find a lot of links pointing to these and
other parts of this site in the online world, particularly in the
vintage computing and electronics hobbyist circles.
It's been said that everyone gets their fifteen minutes of fame, and
this site was no different. In 2011, the United States Goverment
illegally (possibly even unconstitutionally) took down this and 84,000
other innocent web sites in a severely misguided effort to rid the web
of child pornography. My first impression was that this might be
someone's idea of a sick joke. In time I realized that it was not. I
made an anger-filled posting to a now defunct blog, basically telling
off the people who had tried to sully my (and 84,000 others) good
names. This made the rounds very quickly in IT news circles and
garnered quite a lot of coverage. (More coverage here, and here.)
While I'm relieved beyond belief that all of this has blown over with seemingly
little damage to anyone's reputation, I have been left disappointed in
such organizations as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Initially
contacted by a member of their counsel, I heard nothing after that
intial contact and can only presume that they were either unable to
follow this matter up or unwilling to do so.
Advertising is not accepted nor
run on this site, nor will it ever be. This site and its resources are
provided strictly as a community service. (A side effect is that
browsing to this site from almost any device is refreshingly fast and
free of "cognitive toxins".) If you see advertising during your visit
here, it'd be a good idea to check your computer for malware or viruses.
You're Not Alone!
I've been told by a great many people (from my brothers to random
people on the Internet) that they read articles on this server during
periods of free time or boredom in schools, at work, and so on. You're
not alone! (Although it should probably be mentioned that your boss, teacher or other supervisory figure
likely knows you're reading articles here. So you're probably about
to get fired, censured or placed in detention.)
Design Philosophy (insofar as there is one)
You've probably noticed how quickly pages on this site come up when you
request them. Nothing here makes use of any scripting, plug-ins, or
other bloat that only serves to contribute to your World Wide Wait. I
think you'll agree that this is a welcome break from what the web has
become. It's all fast-loading, simple, static HTML with illustrations
and pictures stuck in where they seemed relevant. If you come to the
web with a dial-up modem -- and a lot of people still do -- at least
one person hasn't forgotten you.
What you do here is your business. Beyond a standard set of server logs
that are periodically checked to make sure nothing's catching on fire
unnoticed, I make no effort to identify or profile visitors to this
site. I have no interest whatsoever in doing things like that. Nothing
on this server will even so much as attempt to place a "cookie" on your
For as long as I've got any say in the matter, I plan to keep this web
site, the server and everything hosted here online. I haven't yet
managed to build or house any of these systems in a proper commercial
data center environment. Each one lives off of my home-grade Internet
connection and that's been the case for all of the years that this site
has been online. It's quite possible that at some point I might have to
locate a new dynamic DNS provider, so this site's name might change.
Maybe one of these days I'll register a proper, top level domain name
Communications with this site are presently and likely to remain in
plain text (rather than secured HTTP). This is primarily because I see
no real need for it and secondarily because it seems like everything to
do with SSL is a humongous pain.
Please don't mirror anything large from this site without first asking!
(This means, but is not limited to, the PCCBBS mirror.) Such activities
are likely to unfairly capitalize on the bandwidth I have got, and
cause me to become annoyed. Likewise, don't link to this site from any
sort of high volume site like Slashdot. If you ignore this warning, you
are taking the very real chance of having your access to this system
rather severely curtailed. So don't do that.
If I ever do find myself with the use of a proper data center and
actual bandwidth, the hosting environment will undoubtedly become a lot
Those of you in the viewing audience who have read down this far might
be planning to ask why I haven't considered building a proper server to
host this site. Well, old hardware is cheap, easy to come by and suits
my needs pretty much perfectly. I'm a big believer in doing what works
and is paid for, rather than rushing out to spend money I don't
necessarily have on the newest and greatest. Maybe if and when whatever
computer is currently being pressed into service pops its clogs and I
have to replace it, I'll give some thought to building something around
a low power usage motherboard. Intel's Atom processors were for a time
enormously popular and came to be much better than they were when they first hit
the market. If I'm feeling really adventurous, I might even try something
like a Raspberry Pi board.
It's hard to tell just where things might end up.