Apprenticeships for the unemployed

The future of Irish unemployment, or for that matter, unemployment anywhere, may involve re-establishing a medieval apprenticeship, where students, or other unemployed IT/Scientific/Technical workers live with those in the same industry who ARE working, and learn the business from them, as MASTERS of the craft.

Apprentice – A Medieval Guild Apprentice was sent to work for a ‘Master’ during his early teens. The Apprenticeship lasted between 5 and 9 years depending on the trade. During this time the apprentice received no wages – just his board, lodging and training. An Apprentice was not allowed to marry until he reached the status of a Journeyman.


While all of these requirements need not be followed, it might alleviate homeless students or other tradesmen.

Geeks and their toys

A couple of weeks ago a friend from work was clearing out their place, I assume that his wife was involved, but in any case my collection of computers grew a bit when he offered to gift them to me. So now I own a Sun SPARCstation 5 and a Sun SparcStation IPX along with other bits and bobs. My wife was thrilled, as you can well imagine. Now as a rule I only take systems that work, and they do, however the passwords have been lost in the annals of time.

So I was left with a marginal SparcStation 5 with a missing CD drive, which booted to Solaris 2.7, but no further. But I’m a geek, and undaunted by this minor setback, I set out looking for a workaround. The googling net is full of solutions for password recovery … if you have a bootable cd (yes CD not DVD), Ok, next does eBay still have Solaris stuff that old … not cheaply, so what next.

While googling, OpenBSD presented itself, and I downloaded and burned some generic ISO’s of version 4.8. and then to solve the other hardware issue, the Sun IPX was delivered with a cartridge loading CD, but the IPX drive was housed in an external SCSI 1 case, and the SS5 was wired with a SCSI II system externally. so I dismantled the CD drive and searched for a CD cartridge carrier which as any self-respecting Geek, I had stashed away for a rainy day. Then armed with the hardware I jumpered the SCSI CD drive into the SS5 chassis, and bingo a complete and bootable SS5.

Now attempting to boot the OpenBSD was no problem, which surprised me to no end. But then I attempted a password recovery on the Solaris disk and no joy. but I did manage to mount it, and more or less destroy it (latter I found a way to fix it) and determined to go ahead and install the full OpenBSD system. Which more or less worked, there were issues with the X-Fonts archive but I found the tarball contained another version, which worked. It now booted on the internal disk, but I had to add and modify the XF86Config file to find the display, mouse and keyboard. My result does not match the examples of this file you might find on the net. So if you are interested, contact me, the Sun GB keyboard was hell to make work. but TADA:


And I even now have a browser in the form of Links

However, while it can compile most anything, there isn’t much left on the 1GB disk to compile TO. So unless I find some pre-compiled SMALL binaries, or a very cheap internal SCSI Disk to upgrade with, I’m stuck.

There may be more coming for this toy but just to make a comparison with modern hardware;

SparcStation 5 Nokia N900 smartphone
Screen 1024 x 768 (9 screens) 800 x 480 (4 screens)
Memory 64 MBytes 256 MBytes
CPU Freq 110 Mhz 600 Mhz
Storage 1 GByte 32 Gbyte
Price (new) 8,000.00$ to 10,000.00$ ~500.00$

UPDATE: I found amongst the archives another external 1.2GB SCSI disk, which fits nicely in the same connector that the CD-Drive was in, so now the SS5 is without the CD-Drive but has a massive 2.2GB of disks, Impressive 🙂

Eircom Speedup

We received a letter in the mail recently informing us that our DSL connection was scheduled to be upgraded to 8Mbits from the current 3Mbs, and without charge. Last weekend it happened, however they are doing it in stages, or else they couldn’t get their equipment to speed up that fast. So we are left with a ‘configured’ speed of 5Mbits (download) / 512Kbits (upload) which in real terms works out to 4.42Mbits down/ 410 up (see below)

But, what the heck, it didn’t cost extra, and it is faster… one can only dream of a vendor who delivers on the promises, reality is another thing.