I’ve been computer-obsessed for a number of years (a very large number that’s nearly equal to my age). This obsession has lead to my amassing a small battalion of machines. The majority of them, being completely incapable of doing anything, have been carelessly tossed into a closet and forgotten about. Those lucky enough to be worth keeping alive, however, were given places atop my desks and shelves that line my cave (also known as my office (which also happens to function as a bedroom (unless it’s the other way around))).
All of the machines in my cave run either a GNU/Linux distribution or OpenBSD. I don’t often use OpenBSD, but I completely agree with the project’s mission of building a secure system. The two GNU/Linux distributions that I prefer are Debian GNU/Linux and Slackware Linux.
I realize that my Slackware machines are horrendously out of date (Slackware 14.1 was released a few days ago and I’m still running Slackware 13.37 like a pathetic weirdo), but I keep them around because I find them useful for development-related tasks. While Debian is fully capable of replacing Slackware on these boxes, Debian is a mind-numbing system that eases the pain of manually editing text files to configure software packages. Because of the pain and devotion that it takes to get anything to run properly in Slackware, I’ve long thought that anything capable of compiling and running under a Slackware environment deserves to consider itself ‘stable’. This is entirely superstition, however, and I do not base my code-maturity ratings on whether or not said code is capable of being compiled under Slackware. At the same time, I develop things on Slackware because I feel that its KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) attitude is contagious.
Despite the fact that Debian is mind-numbing, I use it on the rest of my boxes (I actually have more Debian boxes now than I do Slackware boxes) because Slackware is hard to work with when deadlines are involved. Spending four hours trying to get an office suite to compile and having a huge English project due the next day (I’m such a horrible procrastinator in this example which I’ll claim is not based on reality) is unreasonably painful.
My actual hardware is a collection of (mostly) recycled, self-refurbished machines. I’ll now go on to list them, along with their functions.
My main desktop is named ‘valerie’. I chose the name because, at the time, my brother was (alright, so he still is) attracted to a girl by the same name. I succeeded in pissing him (and said girl (probably)) off, but I later came to realize that I’d broken my cardinal rule of computer-naming: not to name them after people. However, since I have only spoken to the girl a few times, and because she’s forked my lawn more times than I’ve talked to her, I decided that I would rename her within my own mind (to ‘Morris’ (I always give people (especially girls) names that are as far from my computer-naming scheme as possible)), therefore mitigating the harm done to my naming scheme.
Getting back to the topic, valerie runs Debian GNU/Linux. I use her (boxen are feminine, I won’t back down from this position, especially if someone asks me nicely) as a desktop machine, as well as a network bridge. She provides Internet connectivity to the rest of the boxes in the cave. When I first got her, her BIOS needed to be restored. Sadly, the company that built her (Gateway) never released the data I needed to flash her. I searched for a few hours and discovered that eMachines had released a single model that had the same motherboard as valerie. I downloaded the eMachines ROM and flashed it. Thankfully it worked. Now when she turns on (which rarely happens, she hasn’t been shut down in forty days), she displays an eMachines logo.
The second box on my network is called ‘vixen’. She needs a new name, unfortunately, as animal-related names are reserved for Slackware boxes, and she’s been running Debian since the beginning of this summer. vixen acts as a very hackish NAS (Network Attached Storage). She has a 3TB hard disk attached to her, which I use to store random things, such as pictures, backups, and my humongous tarball collection. She is also responsible for handling my Debian repo, which is my local copy of Debian 7.1.0 x86. vixen is a refurbished machine. The majority of her parts were originally used by my old school district, and I bought them for $1 at a sale. I added the parts from a few other machines I picked up at the same sale, as well as a TV-Out card that I picked up a few months later. Now she uses a TV as a monitor whenever she has need for such a thing.
The third box on my network is called ‘wolf’. This one is a Slackware box, and she is my main test environment. She is my only unmodified box: a Dell Dimension 3000 with a Celeron (ick). While I don’t throw any resource-intensive tasks her way, I do use her to test my Slackware Autoconfiguration Script, host one of my two development webservers (the one that’s configured to support CGI execution), and burn CDs. I’ve only had her for about a year, and she’s one of the few boxes I allow to be shut down regularly.
The fourth box on the network is ‘rose’, a Dell OptiPlex with a Celeron (ick). rose doesn’t really do anything right now, as wolf has basically taken over as the development webserver.
The fifth and final box (outside of laptops) in the cave is ‘allison’. allison has been in the cave longer than any of the other machines. It used to be my desktop machine, and I never moved any of the files from that time to any of my newer machines. Because of that, I rarely fire her up to acquire old files (mostly music that vixen doesn’t handle). She’s more powerful than wolf, but she is one of the few machines left that has irreplaceable data on her. If there were a machine on my network that I’d store secret information on, it would be her because she’s unplugged when not in use.
Anyway, that’s a hopelessly overcomplicated review of my boxes. I’d go further into implementation of their activities by talking about the software that they run, but I doubt a casual reader would care. (if you’re reading this as a casual reader, I urge you to consider whether or not the time you spent reading this article was ‘valuable’. I apologize in advance for wasting your time.)