Monday, October 19, 2020

Pandemic and Venus: March 2020

On March 5, 2020, an emergency was declared in my state of Maryland after COVID-19 was confirmed to have arrived with two people testing positive. By March 12, all schools and University of Maryland campuses had moved to continuing online after spring break. Emergency was escalated with the invocation of Maryland National Guard.  By March 30, the number of cases had reached over 1000 and our governor issued a mandatory stay-at-home order. On the same day, Virginia and Washington DC also went into "lock-down" - a phrase that would eventually cease to surprise but which was terrifying when I first heard it.

Mid-April. Our bustling suburban city of 110,000 is a ghost town. Nothing moving in a deafening silence. A bit after dark. I step out and see a helicopter searchlight behind the trees. A pretty common sight - Medevac or police bird hovering, looking for something. I go back in thinking nothing of it.

Next night, around same time. The helicopter, searchlight on, still hovering at the exact same spot. Hmmm ... interesting, maybe the USAF is doing something at the nearby Andrews Air Force Base. Has happened before.

Night #3. Helicopter with light again. Beginnings of a doubt, but still shrugged it off.

Night #4 - Mental flags go up. A perfectly still helicopter at a geometrically precise location night after night at the same hour on the clock?

I fire up the sky-chart app. The hazy skies of the capital region had cleared so much that for the first time in my 23 years living here, I was looking at the dazzling evening star - Venus. I ran in and grabbed the kids. "Look at that - what do you think that is?"

HP T5740 Thin Client Retrocomputing Experiment: MS DOS 6.22, Windows 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.11 and XP

Supratim Sanyal's Blog: Inside of HP Thin Client T5740 Computer PC Atom N280 Windows XP SSD 2GB RS-232 VGA

"Thin clients" are interesting pieces of hardware. They are perfectly capable little computers in their own right. With decent processors and multitude of graphics and USB connectivity options, they easily match and out-perform full "fat" desktop PCs of Windows XP era. All but the purest of thin clients also come with some form of minimal storage allowing them to boot up locally instead of relying on booting over network.

I recently picked up a HP T5740 thin client. The little computer has an Intel Atom N280 1.66GHz processor, 1GB RAM and a 2GB IDE Flash disk. In addition to the external USB ports, there are two "secure" USB ports inside the case, to one of which I connected a 802.11n wi-fi wireless adapter for wireless network access for Windows XP.  

It came with Windows XP Embedded. I got rid of it, repartitioning the 2 GB IDE Flash disk into a primary 512 MB FAT-16 partition and the remaining 1.5 GB into an extended partition with a NTFS logical drive using all of it for Windows XP. After having a few days of great fun installing ancient operating systems and MS DOS executives, I ended up with MS DOS 6.22, Windows 1.01, Windows 2.03, Windows 3.0a, Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and Windows XP, all selectable from Windows XP and MS DOS boot loaders and boot menus. I also found and installed all the applications I could find for Windows 1.0 and 2.0, and even Microsoft Word for MS DOS, along with a few games for the various environments. Here is a video walkthrough:

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