idle musing about technology 

Alright, so I'm looking for a new fun time project and I want to find something that I can do related to computers that will provide a net positive to my mental health and well being.

That is to say: Slow Computing. Asynchronous communication. Purposeful computing.

Right now I'm just thinking about what that means, and what I want to do about it. I will update this thread with thoughts throughout the day. It may or may not develop in to anything.

idle musing about technology 

The first thing that I'm thinking about is, again, what I need my computer to do.

I wrote about some of this here:

but this a topic I think about all the time and my thoughts tend to evolve.

In that post, I posited this workload:

read and respond to emails
read and respond to fediverse posts
read RSS feeds
write blog posts
consult reference sources
request data to be collected

idle musing about technology 

I want to add to that workload:

publish to the internet more generally
Read books
Listen to Music
Play Games
Play Games with other people
Querying datasets and producing graphs, charts, and information

But ... Computers are a multifaceted thing. I will also want to do other things that I have not thought of, so a key is flexibility.

idle musing about technology 

I want to add some more stuff to my requirements:

Simple is better than complicated

Repairable is better than disposable

I need to be able to edit images, and do document layout, probably.

I'd like it to work in a way that is noticeably different from my work machine.

Multitasking not required.

Interfacing with a printer is good and important

That sounds like the gist.

Let me compile that in to a single list.

idle musing about technology 

Things I want to do with a computer:

- write
- code
- send/receive emails
- read and respond to fediverse
- read RSS feeds
- write blog posts
- consult references
- request data to be collected
- publish to the internet
- Read books
- Listen to Music
- Play Games
- Play Games with other people
- Math
- Query datasets and produce graphs, charts, and information
- Edit images, and do document layout, probably.
- Print

idle musing about technology 

Things I want that computer to be:

- Simple
- Repairable
- Able to run for extended periods of time without being plugged in
- Standard batteries are a plus
- Different from my work machines in form and function
- Capable of supporting the majority of my workloads

idle musing about technology 

The whole point of this exercise is to put together a computer, or a group of devices that I can shove in my Go bag and Go, and be reasonably confident that I'll be able to get by in essentially any situation.

That means that, if I go with something like my Omnibook as a key component of this system (and I will), I need to have a backup plan or a concession in place for those times when I absolutely need to update some graphics or use a USB printer.

idle musing about technology 

So this is the gear I'm looking at:

- Omnibook 425 or other AA powered, older computer
- Raspberry Pi or other SBC
- Android tablet or portable monitor for use with raspberry pi
- Hisense A5
- Walkman or other Portable Music Player
- Palm t2?
- A couple of adapters and gizmos to make sure that I can get data between devices
- ESP8266 based serial <-> Wifi adapter
- AA battery powerbank?
- Regular powerbank
- Chargers

That's a lot of gear... I'll justify it

idle musing about technology 

- Omnibook 425

The omnibook is simple, reasonably repairable, and enables me to (with the right software that I'll get to later) write, code, email, fediverse, rss, blog, wikipedia, search the web, publish to the internet, play some games, do math and some data work, do document layout, print.

That's more than 3/4 of my list.

It runs for weeks on 4 rechargeable AAs. It needs some support to do some of the networking stuff, but ... it's close.

idle musing about technology 

- Raspberry Pi or other SBC

Some of the stuff I want the omnibook to be able to do on it's own (such as browse the web or send emails) it ... it can do them, but it does them in a slow or unsafe way.

I can use a raspberry pi as an occasional supplement to the omnibook to work around the limitations it has.

I've been meaning to do this for a while. I need to just do it.

idle musing about technology 

- Android tablet or portable monitor for use with raspberry pi

The omnibook leaves me two big gaps:

- It has a black and white, low resolution screen.
- It can't play music well.

The raspberry pi can use a color screen. I could control it from VNC from the omnibook (I think?), or I could keep a portable mouse and keyboard around.

Or I could forgo the portable monitor and go for an android tablet (which I would still use to VNC to the raspberry pi to use Glimpse.)

idle musing about technology 

The monitor/tablet is the bit that I'm the least sure about.

I could, technically, do graphics editing without color. At that point, I could run Glimpse on the pi and control it from/display it on the omnibook, and that'd be fine.

I could also ... Guess about color, and that'd probably be okay.

Having a way to check, though, seems good.

idle musing about technology 

- Walkman or other Portable Music Player

This one explains itself. A music player that runs on AA batteries (either a walkman or an older SD card based clip seems most likely) will remove the burden of playing music from the omnibook, and extend the battery life of whatever other device would otherwise be pulling double duty as a music player.

If it doesn't use AA batteries, I'm wasting my time.

I've done this with a walkman in the past, and that works fine.

idle musing about technology 

- Hisense A5
- Palm t2?

Both of these devices have Great battery life, small pocketable screens, and make perfect little Readers that I can shove full of reference material.

I could reasonably get a keyboard to work with either of them, but I dunno why I would.

They can both play music, and if I get an AA powerbank to charge them, I could remove a device from the lineup, I guess.

I'll keep one of these, not both. I don't know which one yet, but probably the a5.

idle musing about technology 

- A couple of adapters and gizmos to make sure that I can get data between devices

Having a CF card for storage on the omnibook means I need a CF card reader for the Pi.

Some other adapters are probably not a bad idea too (my wifi adapter has a microSD card slot, so a MicroSD card reader or a MicroSD to full SD adapter and a full SD card reader seems like a good idea? A couple of USB sticks and OTG/USB-C->A cables seem like a good idea.)

idle musing about technology 

- ESP8266 based serial <-> Wifi adapter

Not having to make a wired connection to the pi is good, especially if I can have the pi broadcasting a wifi network with WPA2 encryption, and then have the pi Connect to a different Wifi network so it's doing wifi bridging.

- AA battery powerbank?

I dunno if these exist, but it'd be cool to be able to charge the stuff that doesn't use AAs from AAs. Probably not a good idea, though.

idle musing about technology 

- Regular powerbank

The pi needs power. It's probably the most power hungry device I'm planning for this setup.

I don't want to be dependent on finding a power outlet to do the pi stuff.

The hisense or my t2 will need to be charged every few days, too.

- Chargers

I use rechargeable AAs. They gotta get charged sometime. When I have access to power, I should top off.

idle musing about technology 


The omnibook is running notepad, word, excel, and publisher.

I'll stick an email client, an RSS reader, a better terminal emulator, and an HTML file viewer on it. I have these already, I just need to test them.

That covers almost everything I need it to do.

idle musing about technology 

I still need:
- software to convert from Word 2 for windows and publisher for windows 3.1 to modern PDF. (antiword or pandoc?)

- a VNC viewer for the omnibook or another way to get a graphical connection to the pi

- some shell scripts and cron jobs to process files off the omnibook on the pi and act on them (this can be reasonably insecure, I think, because it will require physical access to the machine to trigger.)

- an imap to qwk system

I think that's it?

idle musing about technology 

Oh, and a way to interact with the fediverse, because brutaldon only barely works on the omnibook directly.

I just need to roll my own QWK <-> Fediverse bridge, I think. That'll probably take some time.


idle musing about technology 

One thing that really frustrates me about this conversation is that it's basically the same one I have been having with myself for weeks/months.

So I need to add a couple of additional things:

- Printing. I print directly from my from time to time, but mostly I prep documents in word on the zinestation and then transfer them to my windows 98 machine to print, or a prep them in markdown, then write CSS and print them from my main PC.

This can improve

idle musing about technology 

- gopher/gemini

I've been exploring gemini. I'd love to be able to gemini from an old computer, or set up a gemini to HTTP proxy that runs on the pi that the omnibook can make use of.

I need to build an HTTPS stripping proxy in general. Lots of people have been using one that renders webpages to images?

I don't like that. In fact, I hate the idea. The web is text, it should be text first.

So I need to find or build an HTTPS -> HTTP proxy that strips JS and images.

idle musing about technology 

Alright. That's enough talking. Time for some doing.

idle musing about technology 

Here's a VNC viewer for DOS. I haven't tried it, but I'll try and get it working this weekend:

idle musing about technology 

@ajroach42 Were you successful?

idle musing about technology 

@freakazoid I only got to fiddle with it for a few minutes, unfortunately. I apparently don't have a working packet driver on this machine, so I need to spend some time getting that going before I can test the VNC viewer.

I'll continue fiddling with it in a few days.

idle musing about technology 

@ajroach42 more detail here: miniwebproxy ?

idle musing about technology 

@shapr asking the duck about miniwebproxy gives me a couple of promising looking links that I'll spend some time digging through. Thanks.

idle musing about technology 

@ajroach42 It should be pretty simple to make a performant low-memory-usage HTTPS-stripping proxy using Go and a toolkit like
It'd be easy to cross-compile for Pi too.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
R E T R O  S O C I A L

A social network for the 19A0s.