Before describing what I’ve spent the greater part of the evening doing, it’s probably worth dispelling a few myths, or preconceptions. I work as a software and web developer in the daytime – because of that you might think that I have some kind of state-of-the-art computer setup at home. And you would be wrong.
I’ve talked about “Trigger’s Broom” before – the computer under the desk that’s made from bits of old failed computers. I’ve also mentioned the first generation Google Chromebook that often gets taken on holiday with us. I may even have mentioned the Netbook in the past – that’s been re-installed with more operating systems than some people have had hot dinners. All of these computers are old, and quite frankly, most of them are a bit shit. But they still work, so I make do.
So. What have I been up to?
With NaNoWriMo approaching fast, I started thinking about using a particular computer as a typewriter of sorts, and the old Netbook looked like a natural fit. It’s not really used for anything else because it’s not really good enough to use for anything other than writing.
Then I had an idea.
What if I could install MS-DOS on it? Maybe with menu when you switched it on, that would either take you into Linux, with all the bells and whistles of Firefox, Dropbox, and so on, but then give you an escape route to DOS, and Microsoft Word for MS-DOS ? (I already knew Microsoft released Word 5.5 many years ago for free – you can download it directly from them).
It took two hours of messing around, but I eventually did it. This is me we’re talking about though, and I wasn’t about to leave it at that. I started wondering about how you could backup writing during NaNoWriMo without using DropBox (because DropBox is a huge resource hog that slows computers down ridiculously).
Then I had another idea.
I’ve been kicking around the idea of using the same version control system that software developers use to manage the written word. It’s called “Git”, and it lets you see in extreme detail what changed between you putting your files away each time (there is terminology for it, but I’m not going to make you fall asleep if you haven’t already).
Ten minutes later I had setup an account at GitHub on the internet, and tested uploading a text file from Linux. Everything worked like I knew it should. Sweet. Even better, I can use DOS for general writing, but then switch over to Linux purely to save things. It’s kind of win-win.
What does this really mean though? It means I’ve managed to find a use for some computer hardware that would otherwise have sat in the bottom of a bag for the next couple of years. If anybody sees what I’m doing with it, they will probably roll their eyes – especially if they know me. You know what though? I don’t really care.