warm house caffeine buzz
Thursday, April 1 2004
April began this year with the attribute featured most prominently by the archetypal April in my brain: cold rain. It continued raining all day, making this one yet another best spent indoors.
Since Annie drinks coffee, I made a pot this morning and couldn't resist drinking some (despite the fact that this was supposed to be a day of caffeine abstinence). Since I don't drink coffee very often, it gave me a feeling of groundless elation, a feeling intensified by the unusually comfortable household climate. (For the first time in months, Gretchen had cranked up the heat in the basement so Annie would be comfortable down in the main guest room.)
There's an ecommerce site affiliated with Slashdot.org called ThinkGeek.com; it's a sort of Sharper Image for the technically advanced. Today it featured a whole page of joke products, including a toaster oven that fits into a 5.25 inch computer drive bay. Inspired by one of their non-joke products, I thought about making some sort of computerized visual sculpture that could change its appearance based on various underlying numerical parameters (for example, the presence of a large-point headline on the NewYorkTimes.com homepage).
This inevitably lead me back to one of the two disassembled non-functional laptops in my laboratory. I like laptops because they use so little electricity that they can be left on all the time. If I could incorporate one into a sculpture, its display could present all kinds of information. I started tinkering with an old ThinkPad that I'd abandoned as hopeless months ago. Somehow I got it working again, but it still had something terribly wrong with it. I could get the BIOS setup to work, but it wouldn't boot Windows 98 no matter what. It would beep twice and turn itself off, and then need to be unplugged before it could be turned on again. After much experimentation with different floppy disk based operating systems, I got it to boot Coyote Linux, a stripped-down OS designed to serve only as a firewall.
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