Wednesday 19 December 2012

More fun with pies, and other hardware

Mr Postman brought a load of goodies for me today.

The first thing was a replacement ROM for the Hagstrom board. This is a board that is supposed to let you use a vintage IBM PC keyboard  (mine was made on September 30, 1983, so its 29 years old) to a modern computer. I won't go into why you can't just plug it in - it's got a completely different protocol. But when I saw the Hagstrom unit, I was keen to get it.


Because IBM made the best keyboards ever for their PC. I have a few of their IBM AT-style keyboards, and those are nice, but nothing is as perfect as the IBM PC keyboard. It's the feel of it, the solidity of it, and the clickyness of the keys. I just love it.

So when the Hagstrom arrived, and didn't do what it was supposed to, I was very disappointed, especially as it cost me for the unit, then more to get it out of UK Customs, and an extra cost for the delivery. And I contacted Hagstrom, who had actually said that it would work with an IBM PC, and told them. They asked me to test the keyboard, to make sure that worked, which is a reasonable request, so I dug out Dobbin, an ancient 8088 computer that I still have, and which still works, and was able to see that the IBM PC keyboard worked perfectly on that. And so, by the way, did a Hardcard, which is a 10 mb (yes, ten megabytes) hard drive on a card. So I told Hagstrom, and told them the exact details of the IBM PC keyboard (model number etc), and they said they'd look into it. I was sceptical, and I had already written the cost off as a loss.

Today, a replacement ROM arrived from Hagstrom, with a chip puller. I pulled the old chip out (it's a very long time since I've done that sort of thing), put the new one in, and ... it worked! Perfectly. I'm typing this very blog on a 29 year old IBM PC keyboard that is a dream to type on.

The next thing that arrived, was a USB-ethernet adaptor. I haven't tried that yet - now that I've got the Pix 515 operational, the need for a firewall has diminished. I've also bid on Ebay for a pair of Pix 515s, which must have cost a couple of thousand when new, but I've bid a maximum of £5 and have every hope of getting them, because no corporate would buy a second hand Pix (with the password missing, but I know how to deal with that) and home users don't use Pixes. I've also bid for a Pix 501, the bottom end Pix, and also ridiculously cheap now. Cisco don't sell the Pix any more, so it's an obsolete box, another reason why no corporate would want one. But I've loved using them, and they work, they just work.

Another arrival was a HDMI-VGA converter. Only one of my monitors had HDMI (DVI actually, but that's almost the same thing) and I want to be able to plug the Pies into a monitor without having to take it upstairs to where that monitor is. But, it didn't work. Well, it did work, sort of, but I think the problem is, the converter takes too much power from the Pi, which has hardly any to spare. I should have thought of that. So I've ordered a powered converter instead.

And the fourth arrival, was a cable that interfaces SATA or PATA IDE to USB. Modern hard drives are pretty much all SATA, although I (of course) have a pile of PATA hard drives that were retired while still working because they're so small in capacity compared to modern SATA drives; 300 gb compared to 3000 gb. I thought that making that work would be a big job, but no. I connect the hard drive to power, a Sata cable from the hard drive to the gizmo, and the USB cable from the gizmo to the Pi. That was easy. But what about installing software, and drivers, and configuring, and things like that?

No need. As soon as it was plugged in, it was drive sda, and I just formatted it with the usual commands, and it's now sitting connected to the Pi with 400 gb of empty space waiting to be filled. So I've ordered a dozen more of them. At £3 each.

Update ... I'm getting 4mb/second copying files off one hard drive, across the network, and onto this USB drive. I'm very happy with that speed.

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