Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Geeking out on my holiday vacation

I spent last week in Johnstown, PA, where I could have been blogging, but I chose to relax and spend time with my family instead. (I hope they appreciate the sacrifice on my part.) I had the opportunity to hang out with my mom and my brother and talk about music, computers, cooking, and coffee, among other things. We couldn't make coffee in the morning without discussing whether to use the electric coffeemaker or the French press, or which of the estimated 20 varieties of coffee beans to try that day. I come from a family of coffee addicts, and I admit that I feed my mother's coffee-collecting habit. In fact, her present this year was a gift box of three different varieties of beans from Gorilla Coffee in Brooklyn, my new favorite coffeehouse. On our last day in Johnstown, we did a direct taste-test with the same coffee made in the electric coffeemaker and in the French press. Both were drinkable without milk or sugar, but I thought the French press version had more "notes" to it. There was a extra flavor to the press coffee that the electric seemed to have filtered out. But I don't plan to use my French press more often. My four-cup Mr. Coffee is still more convenient.

My brother and I also managed to break my mom's computer while we were there. We were trying to hook up a spare hard drive internally when the power supply died. Since we couldn't resurrect that computer right away, we hooked up her old Pentium III/Windows 98 PC from 2001 and ran Damn Small Linux on it for a day. Michael called Dell tech support and to our surprise they sent replacement parts and a technician to our house on Christmas Eve to replace the power supply. So we only suffered for a few hours with less than two functioning computers in the house. We never did get the hard drive installed internally; we bought an external HD enclosure and used that instead.

We didn't get to our other long-term back-burner project of getting old files from our childhood Commodore 64 onto modern media. I did some Google searching yesterday on the best way to interface an old Commodore 1541 floppy disk drive to a Windows PC. (Mac would appear to be out of the question entirely.) It would take a hacked-up serial-parallel cable, some special software, and we would have to hope that the 5.25" floppy disks and the 1541 drive still work after 18 years in a hot attic. Given the magnitude of the project, I think that if we ever get around to doing it, we'll have to ship all the old equipment to my dad's house and let him hack away at it. It sound like his kind of project, especially since he's the one who keeps suggesting it. I'm interested in what we have on those old floppies (mostly papers and short stories we wrote as kids) but I think I could live with myself if I never got that data back.

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