Saturday, June 21st, 2020
Quest for the Holy Grail
There are for sure many computers, that I'd like to sit behind and
work with them. There are even many computers, that I'd like to add
permanently to my collection - Sinclair QL, PowerMac 6100, NeXTStation
- just to name few. But there is only one computer, that I need to
have no matter what and I won't stop with trying to get it even if it
should take the rest of my life. And as a matter of fact it's just
a generic, boring, ordinary, uninteresting PC: the Asus P/I-P65UP5.
I bought this motherboard in 2003, when I was going to college, moving
to dorm and our only family PC has to stay at parent's house. It
didn't cost more than 10-15 USD and I've got a complete unused Amstrad
CPC 6128 set with it as well. Both machines were seen as an obsolete
crap by the hardware shop owner and he was actually happy, that he
could sell them to some poor student.
First couple of weeks I had just one 200MHz Pentium MMX in the board,
so I sticked with Windows 98. As I always hated the system, I've got
another CPU and then installed Debian Linux. I was fiddling with Linux
since the release of RedHat 6.1 in 1999, but never used it as my
primary operating system. This machine changed that.
This was the machine, on which I configured and built the Linux kernel
from sources for the first time to get SMP support. This was the
machine, on which I abandoned the obvious newbie choice of KDE for the
first time and started to use the more lightweight WindowMaker.
Then I bought newer computer for my dorm at some point around 2004 and
this one was moved to my parent's house. At that time there was
a little WiFi revolution going on here in Czech Republic: small local
companies and nonprofit organisations were providing low-cost wireless
internet connection as an alternative to the dial-up and ISDN, which
were quite expensive even after demonopolisation. Our monthly bill
decreased from more than a 100 USD for dial-up to about 20 USD for the
WiFi connection and as a bonus we've got public static IPv4 address.
So this was the machine, on which I learnt how to make the WiFi work,
how to configure firewall (IPtables), WWW server (Apache) as well
as FTP and SSH servers. Several of my friends had SSH accounts
there and were logged in almost 24/7 as did I. And when the duo of
mighty Pentium MMX cores had nothing better to do, it crunched
SETI@home with the blazing speed of 143.12 MIPS and 86.91 MFLOPS.
The machine went permanently offline in 2007, when the local WiFi
provider went bankrupt and parents started to use ASDL internet
connection. When I tried to power it on after five years (2012) it
bursted in flames. As I had no experience with soldering and repairing
back then, I simply put the motherboard in electronic waste and kept
just the dual-CPU module. I was probably a mistake, just simple recap
would make the motherboard work again, but I will never know.
Since then I'm trying to get the board again. I spent countless days
on Google, trying to find someone selling it. I'm going through eBay
and local auction portals on regular basis in hope it will appear
there one day. I sent dozens of e-mails to anyone I found in old
discussion forum threads, mailing lists, etc. And then last week I
found it. Someone was selling an old server and just one look on the
photos was enough to recognise the board. I was bidding on it to the
last second and even with my 300USD maximum I failed to win. In fact I
even wasn't second after the winner. But I will never give up. I just
have to have it - so as I stated before - the rest of my life starts