Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Really Big Button That Doesn't Do Anything

I thought I had posted it before, but I can't find the post at the moment. One of my favorite site from the early Internet was The Really Big Button That Doesn't Do Anything, though I swear the button itself has changed at some point since I first discovered it back in the 90's. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 21, 2017


I'm watching Hackers for probably about the thousandth time, and realized that this has got to be one of my favorite films ever. It's not a great film, but most people don't realize just how freaking hilarious it is. Also, it's Angelina Jolie's first film, and one of Matthew Lillard's earlier ones. Actually, between this, Thir13en Ghosts, and Scream, Matthew Lillard may just be my favorite actor.

Note: post contains affiliate links

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Skimmer Scanner

Today, Hackaday featured an app called Skimmer Scanner that I wish I'd known about before. Awhile back, I had my debit card skimmed, most likely at a gas pump.

Prior to the proliferation of Bluetooth, in order to skim a card, the crook needed physical access to the card reader to plant the skimmer, and physical access each time they wanted to retrieve data. Now that Bluetooth is common, they only need physical access once to plant the skimmer. As long as no one detects the skimmer, the crook can reap the rewards without any additional risk of getting caught.

This is also good news for consumers, as it allows apps like the above mentioned Skimmer Scanner which looks for a signature used by many skimmers to detect them. I know I'll be using it every time I pull up to a pump or ATM from now on.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

It arrived!

It arrived! My 2nd Tandy 1000SX got here today, but the sound I heard when I took delivery was a bit ominous. It sounded like something rattling around inside. So I got it unpacked and opened it up. First, the case is a bit worse for wear. There is considerable rust on the chassis, and the plastic is a bit scuffed and has a couple of small cracks. Also, two of the slots don't have covers, but there is clearly a modem in the eBay picks. So once the case is open, I discover the Tandy 1200bps modem lying inside, but also some sort of hard card lying loose as well. The hard drive is likely dead after banging around, but it was completely unexpected. Also, one of the ROM chips is a lot higher off the motherboard than in my other 1000SX, so it's likely there is a smartclock in this one, so there's that. Once everything was back together, I hooked up my monitor and keyboard and... 640K appears on screen, the 5.25" floppy seeks, the 3.5" floppy seeks, and "Non system disk or disk error" eventually appears. I put in my Tandy DOS disk and press ENTER, and it seeks the 5.25" drive again, but fails to boot. I am uncertain whether it is the drive or the disk (I suspect the drive, as I believe I previously tested the disk in the other Tandy) but my troubleshooting stopped there, for now.

Some thoughts on this system: despite not getting a DOS prompt yet (and even if I don't), I'm happy with this purchase. It works well enough to make a good backup to the other one, and the RTC and 3.5" floppy can be moved straight over to it for immediate use. It would be awesome if I could get the hard card going, but it's no loss if I can't. If I can get to a DOS prompt, then I'll likely restore this one too, but if not, the parts I'm definitely using are more than worth what I paid. :)

Monday, September 11, 2017

2nd Tandy 1000SX

I picked up a 2nd Tandy 1000SX on eBay last week for about what I paid for shipping on the first one, but with free shipping, and it should be delivered tomorrow. This one also has a modem of some sort and a dual serial card, and I'll investigate those once it gets here. But it also has 3.5" 720K as the second floppy drive. I'll probably move that floppy to my other 1000SX and will make sure it also has the faster modem (if they are both functional). I'll also be looking to see what UARTs are on the serial card and may swap those as well. But I'll leave the 8088 in this one instead of swapping in a NEC V20. I'm debating on doing the other upgrades to this one (XT-IDE and network card) or on just making sure the current one had all the hardware I want in it, and using this one as a backup should the first one fail. Alternatively, I could wait until I pick up a cheap Tandy 1000 keyboard (which are usually only available cheaply if I'm no longer looking for one) and doing some upgrades and selling it back off to fund more projects ;)

Also, a few weeks ago, I picked up a bunch of gear from an old co-worker and good friend of mine. Part of the haul included a DEC Alphastation 500, which I've been drooling over since they came out. I'm flip-flopping on whether or not to install Gentoo Linux or OpenVMS on. I have very limited VMS experience from high school, so that could be interesting. I was also given a couple of 80x86-compatible servers, so I can put Linux on those ;)

There was also an old Compaq DeskPro 386/25 in that haul. There is no network card, modem, or sound card in that machine, and it's a 386SX, not DX (the difference being that the SX had a 16-bit data bus) with the memory maxed out at 16MB. I may take one of the modems and put in it, pick up another Intel EtherExpress, and maybe an early Sound Blaster 16. I'm not a fan of how Compaq put these machines together with special rails for the drives (the CD-ROM drive doesn't have the rails, so just sorta sits and "floats" in its bay) and things like that, but the DeskPro line were solid performers back in the day. I'm happy to have this system as part of my collection, and I'm actually considering loading DESQview onto it and moving the BBS over to it. That could be interesting, especially if I create a dial-up node and use a telnet <-> RS-232 gateway for additional nodes.