Catastrophe and OLPC

So, Sunday night I had a fairly large catastrophe: upon returning from the week’s tournament, I opened my laptop to find that, well, it couldn’t open quite right. Upon further examination, it turned out that the left hinge’s bottom half– a cast-steel solid part– had sheared, completely, a situation made even worse by the fact that the left side, on this laptop, contains the wires necessary to make the screen work.

Now for me, this would be an extreme problem in the best of times. I bring my laptop (all 17 pounds of it) to every class, to office hours (which were, coincidentally, to start about 2 hours after I found my laptop’s problem), and I had intended to bring it with me to Daytona on Thursday. Obviously, that couldn’t work; the laptop can barely hold itself up, much less go on a 12-day trip across thousands of miles. (And, of course, my usual luck with TSA would lead them to ask all sorts of questions about the exposed wires. Great.)

This situation was made particularly ironic by the fact that I have, for quite some time, been planning to buy either the cute little Asus eee, or the liberal and hilarious-looking OLPC, when either was released– and in fact, was planning to decide and get one the next morning. (A rational person might ask why I need two laptops; the answer is fairly straightforward. I need a powerful workstation, but because I don’t live anywhere for that long, it needs to be movable in fairly short order; hence, a big, powerful laptop would be in order. At the same time, I pick up and go to class, research, office hours, and a host of other places all the time, which tends to contraindicate having a big, heavy laptop. Since I need all of the above, I went with the big one, and settling for being taunted every time I pulled it out– but with the advent of these two extraordinarily good, cheapish (both sell in the US for < $400, compared to the UMPC at $3000+) options, I decided enough was enough.)

However, neither computer could get here before I left for Daytona; a quandry.

My solution, then, has several parts:

  1. Give an old Dell workstation (named Sisyphus, for its unbelievable weight; anyone who's lifted a circa-1996 Dell knows what I mean) to a friend who has a laptop.
  2. Steal her laptop.
  3. Dump everything on her laptop onto Sisyphus. (Luckily, as they both run Ubuntu, this takes only about an hour, and she has every program she's used to.)
  4. Dump my things onto her laptop. (This takes more time-- cleaning up my Vista laptop reveals how bad I can be at system organization, as well as more of Vista's, ahem, "features.")
  5. Take her laptop to Daytona.

This last should be particularly fun at the airport, as my friend, having lived in Qatar for a large part of her childhood, has Arabic stickers all over her laptop. So we’ll see what TSA thinks of this. (My next blog post could be from Guantanamo Bay. Of course, that’s always a likely possibility for me. :-) )

At least Cortana, my new extraordinary server (Athlon 64X2 6000+ @ 3.0GHz, 2GB RAM, and seven hard drives; the file server / VM server of my dreams) came online a couple of days ago, making much of this transition easier (amazing what one can do with a TB of RAID-Z space and dual GigE ports– but more on Cortana’s setup later).

So then: one more midterm, another violin lesson, half a lab section, and I’m off to Daytona Beach! Amusingly, the venue for the tournament is right next to the ocean– amusing, because being Magic players, none of us will go near it.

Time to go study some more– for class, and for judging. No one likes an under-studying judge!