Thirty years a sailor

It was thirty years ago this morning when I woke up before the crack of dawn and officially entered the United States Navy. My mom and dad drove us through the early morning DC traffic the long way from our house in Great Falls, VA to the Baltimore MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Center), then at Linthicum Heights. It was my dad’s 47th birthday. Coffee hadn’t kicked in so there wasn’t much conversation, I recall.

About the time the sun was rising we arrived, I said goodbye to my parents, and got my first taste of the “hurry up and wait” that the military is famous for. I would be poked and prodded for my medical examination, be drug screened, retake the ASVAB test, select the job I wanted in the Navy, and finally be sworn in: the point of no turning back.

It was a two-day ordeal. The government put us up in a nearby cheap hotel because our travel would begin in earnest early the next morning. I was assigned a roommate; a slight, probably gay, Navy-bound African-American kid named Bernard (pronounced BUH-nard, he took pains to remind me) who was more interested in going out for one last night of partying than sleeping. I chose to sleep (as I usually do) and boarded a plane with Bernard and others at BWI early the next morning, bound for Orlando.

Orders in hand, I stepped off the plane at the Orlando airport and was motioned over to a large group of somewhat nervous-looking young people milling around. The adventure the Navy had promised me was just beginning. It was as life-changing as I thought it would be.

I now remember why I left DOS behind

This is harder to emulate than you think.

Because I apparently haven’t had enough technical challenges to solve, this weekend I decided to return to my little side project of getting my old DOS-based PCBoard BBS running in a virtual machine. For this project I’m using oVirt as the VM host and booting FreeDOS 1.2.

Needless to say, I’m running into some challenges. My first thought is: oh my God what a kludgy mess DOS is! It’s a half-assed solution on top of a half-assed solution on top of a half-assed solution. Device drivers up the wazoo. More than 640K memory? Gotta load EMM drivers. Want to use a CD? Load an ATAPI driver. Want USB? Hah, not available! Want networking? Find a packet driver for your specific network card and ensure you use the right interrupts. Oh, and you’ll still need to load a separate TCP/IP stack! With so many parts to the puzzle it’s a miracle anything ever worked at all!

It took me a little while but I finally did get my DOS VM networked via TCP/IP. Then when I loaded PCBoard it initially seemed to be looking for a (non-existent) modem. Subsequent runs had it complaining about “Cannot run as a child of BASIC” before exiting. I am assuming this is a problem with the way PCBoard was compiled using QuickBASIC and QuickBASIC (QB) might not be playing nicely with FreeDOS. I’ve seen others say QB works fine with FreeDOS but I don’t know if that applies to the compiled programs or not.

So, now I’m on to installing a DOS VM using MS-DOS 6.22. I can’t imagine QuickBASIC not liking MS-DOS.

The project continues. It may or may not be worth the trouble but at the very least it is a reminder of just how far we’ve come with operating systems!

Stand-up kids

Lost dog spurs action

Last night we had an unexpected guest as a dog followed Hallie home from her neighborhood run. It was a pitbull-looking dog named Dexter who turned out to live at a home just down the street.

When we first were presented with Dexter, the excited pup was all over the place, barely sitting still for me to take a photo. His excitement was contagious, it seems. As I scrambled to photograph the dog and then to ask the neighborhood for advice, both Hallie and Travis were excitedly barking out suggestions for what we should do.

I had to ask them to stop so I could think clearly but this morning I began to appreciate how awesome this really was. We were presented with an emergency event – a strange dog needed rescuing – and both kids jumped in right away with ideas for what to do. I’d seen them do this before – that time when Hallie jumped into gear when a classmate had a seizure, for instance – but it was great to see it demonstrated again.

The world won’t change unless there are people willing to change it. I’m super-proud that I’m helping raise two who won’t pass up the opportunity.

The time Santa rescued me

A visit from Santa at sea

Over the holidays, I found myself thinking back to another Christmas of over 25 years ago.

I was serving in the Navy on the USS Elliot (DD-967) and it was yet another Christmas away from home. I was in a funk at the time though now I’m not sure which one of the many possible causes was responsible. I’m pretty sure I was nearing the end of my enlistment. I definitely remember that the deployment was ending and we were bound for San Diego. Maybe it was because I had been butting heads with some of the other guys in my division (we didn’t always get along and when I finally earned some rank I became more comfortable with confronting the slackers and assholes). Maybe it was simply because I didn’t know what I should be doing with my life. Still don’t, actually.

But there I was at sea. It was about 8 AM. I had been working midwatches and had just come off of twelve hours of nighttime duty. I was in my rack, exhausted and feeling depressed. I just wanted to sleep and make the time pass as quickly as I could.
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Hello, 2018

New Years 2018 arrives in Raleigh City Plaza during the First Night Raleigh celebration

It’s New Years Day 2018 and I sit in my comfortable home office, coffee in hand and a pile of technology surrounding me. The weather is a brisk 22 degrees Fahrenheit as we’re in the middle of a brutal cold spell. I’ve been spending the past week and change catching up on home projects, mostly of the indoor variety.

When it was still warm enough to feel one’s limbs outside I worked more on our fence, digging up more than half of our old fenceposts. The ones that are left are anchored by concrete and not as eager to be ripped from the ground. On a future warmer weekend I will pry these out as well. For now, we have a mostly-open yard for the first time in a while.
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AIM taught us how to communicate in real-time online – Houston Chronicle


AOL shut down AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) today. Rest in peace, h0tgrits.

Toward the mid-1990s, America Online (by then going by its nickname, AOL) was the company through which most Americans accessed the Internet. As many as half of the CD-ROMs produced at the time bore the near-ubiquitous AOL logo, offering early computer users the opportunity to surf the Internet for a flat fee – at the time, US$19.99 for unlimited monthly access.

With nearly half of U.S.-based Internet traffic flowing through AOL, the stage was set for a social evolution of sorts that shifted our collective relationship with technology and each other. AOL Instant Messenger, or AIM, was launched in May 1997 as a way for AOL users to chat each other in real time, via text.

The service’s Dec. 15 shutdown was announced, notably, on a new real-time text communication channel, Twitter. That is just one testament to AIM’s lasting effects on how people use technology to connect today.

Source: AIM taught us how to communicate in real-time online – Houston Chronicle

Grandma’s house is for sale again

One of the great things about the way real estate is sold on the Internet is being able to get a virtual tour of the homes you knew and loved. I found out that my grandmother’s former home at 937 Oak Avenue in Panama City, FL is now for sale (MLS# 663442). Poking through the photographs it appears the owners (who bought it from Grandma’s estate) didn’t change it as radically as they could’ve. The most drastic changes are the paint colors. Apparently the electrical system has been upgraded. I don’t recall the renovated rear bathroom but that might have been there at the time Grandma lived there. The kitchen hasn’t changed basically at all, which was good to see.

I created a copy of the Zillow page here, as the house is pending sale and the listing won’t be available much longer. I also have photos from that page that I will add to the blog.

I hope I can take another walk (perhaps my last?) through it when we’re down there for Thanksgiving.