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My Computing Equipment

Well, I'll admit to being a bit of a computer nerd, though not as much as I used to be. What computer equipment others use plus their comments about it interests me, this page was in fact inspired by a similar page written by John Patrick , former vice-president of Internet Technology at IBM. So, if you are like me in this regard, this may interest you.


My work machine is a IBM Thinkpad T41p laptop (see specifications below) supplied by Micromuse, my employer. My private computer is a Dell Dimension 8400.


I'm putting more and more functions onto the server I've set up. I have changed my main system so many times that having so much function and data reside on the server has already saved me lots of work. The server is an older system running Linux. Because of all the functions running on it, I do fear what would happen if it should fail one day.


are therefore very important. Backups are done onto CD-R's. The last full backup I did filled 12 700 MB cd's. I only backup the data and configurations I don't want to lose or rebuild. If I ever do lose the server due to hardware faults, I will most likely rebuild the whole system with the latest versions available at that time, so why bother backing up the OS as well?

Server functions

Email: It is the email server for myself and my extended family. Everybody has an email account within the graabek.com domain. In line with my philosophy of keeping as much as possible on the server, we use IMAP rather than POP3. With IMAP it is a non-issue to try out a new email client or to move from one PC to another, or to access ones email using a webmail client. All emails are always available. To protect us against spam, I use bogofilter. I have used SpamAssasin before.
File and print-server: It is the file and printserver for the whole family. Home directories have been set up storing everyones word, powerpoint or whatever files. We can actually move to any PC in the house and access our own datafiles. Having our datafiles on the server obviously also means they are regularly backed up. In another directory I have saved all the MP3 files I have ripped from my audio CD's. Any PC with speakers attached (nowadays thats all of them) can play any CD we've got. Now, if only I had a network connection on my DVD player...
Web server - Photo album and Knowledgebase:The system also gets used as our intranet web server. The most important function it there fulfills is probably storing our photos. Nowadays we take pictures using our digital cameras exclusively. When they were bought, I did look around alot to find a program that could be used for administrating and viewing our photos. The paper-based photo album made by my grandparents is still viewable, if you choose a photo viewing program that turns out to be discontinued, or relies on storing data in a format that won't last, well, you will have to move all your photos to some other location possibly having to cut-and-paste all information entered about the pictures. I found a webserver-based open-source application for this. Granted, it could also become obsolete, but I'm counting on it being around for a long time. It has the added benefit that I can view our pictures from anywhere in the world, provided it has an internet connection and a web browser. To store data in a knowledgebase format, we use MediaWiki. It takes a little to get used to, but once you understand it, it is great!

Here's a list of the functionality provided by the server, and the program(s) providing it:
Email server Postfix and Dovecot (IMAP only)
Spam filtering
File and printserver
Samba and CUPS
Photo administration
Knowledge base
MediaWiki (same software as used by Wikipedia)
Internet caching
Online bookmarks Sitebar


Fast Ethernet: In 2001 we had the 1'st floor of our house completely rebuilt, and while we were at it, I had the electrician pull Cat-5 cable to every room as well as drilling through and putting network points downstairs as well. A Dell PowerConnect 2716 Gigabit Ethernet switch now connects all systems and I can easily link up in more or less any room. Each room as at least two network points. I also purchased a small ISDN PBX from AVM. It allows me to connect up to 4 analogue phones. Phone calls can be moved to any of the connected phones, and a phone can be connected in any room with the biggest effort lying in figuring out which room is connection 103 in the wardrobe where all connections originate.
Wi-fi: Despite having network points in all rooms wi-fi is an added convenience. I could have made do with "just" a wi-fi access point, but I bought a Linksys WRT54G wi-fi router/access point.
The Linksys runs Linux internally. As it runs GPL'ed code several people have found ways to modify the standard firmware and add functions to the router. Nerd that I am, I have also added third-party firmware. When setting up my parents system, I got them the same kind of router. Highly recommended...


As time goes, the technology I've been using for internet access has been changing as well. Originally I accessed the internet via a modem, an x2 upgraded USRobotics (now 3Com) V.Everything modem. I used to get connections between 44 - 48 Kbit/s with the x2 modem, and that was considered blisteringly fast. May 1998 I had ISDN installed in my home. My access to the internet was through a Netgear RT328 ISDN router (actually an OEM'ed Zyxel Prestige 100) connected to an Ethernet hub or switch. I still have ISDN, but it is now only used for voice. For data I now have a 2048/512 kbit ADSL connection from TDC. I started out with a 512 kbit upstream connection. This was upgraded to a 1 Mbit connection. I could "feel" the difference when I switched. Web surfing was noticably faster. Later again I switched to the 2 Mbit connection that I have today. That switch I could not "feel" when doing ordinary web browsing, but obviously downloads are twice as fast. I have also watched movies over the internet at qualities only made possible by the higher speed, so 2 Mbit is of use, it just isn't felt in "normal" internet usage.


In 2005 I acquired a D-Link DSM-320 mediaplayer. It is connected to my TV and Stereo, and via the network it can access all my mp3 files, photos and MPEG movies on the server. On the server is installed TwonkyMedia to serve the mediaplayer.


In February 1998 I bought a 3Com PalmPilot Pro (just 2 weeks before they released the Palm III). I used to have one of the very first Psion Series 3 PDA's (bought in 1991), and I needed a replacement. I was quite happy with the Pilot. I used Intellisync from Puma Technologies to synchronise my data with Outlook 2000. But it became a nuisance constantly getting the synchronisation set up. Whenever I moved jobs or got another laptop, the whole thing had to be set up again. Now the Palmpilot is languishing somewhere in my office.

My printer, shared via the network (connected to the Linux system), is an HP Deskjet 990cxi.


Used as

Operating System




Other information

Dell PowerEdge 830 Server
Linux, CentOS 4.2 x86_64
3 GHz Dual-core Pentium 4
1 GB
2 * 300 GB SATA
Runs all sorts of server functions
Dell Dimension 4400
Michelle's desktop
Windows XP Home
1.7 GHz Pentium 4
256 MB
nVidia Geforce 3 Ti-200 w. 32 MB video RAM.

Dell Dimension 8400

Kimberley's desktop

Windows XP Home Professional

3 GHz Pentium 4 HT

1 GB


Dimension 8400

My desktop

Dual-booting between Windows XP and Fedora Core

3 GHz Pentium 4 HT

1 GB


IBM Thinkpad T41p

system supplied by my employer

Windows XP (VMWare allows me to run other OS' simultaneously)

1.7 GHz Pentium M

1 GB



The application suite I use on my work-supplied system is Microsoft Office. All other machines in this household use OpenOffice though.

I used to do Internet browsing with Netscape Communicator. I then switched to Internet Explorer. It was the frequent house calls from Dr. Watson (Dr. Watson is the name of the program that pops up in Windows NT when a program has been naughty) that made me switch when Microsoft's Internet Explorer v5 was released. Despite the crashes with Netscape, the previous Microsoft browsers were too slow compared to Netscape. Internet Explorer was my preferred browser for some time, but since v0.7 of Firefox, I have used that instead.

"Other" software I use is primarily Intuit's Quicken for looking after my finances. When it comes to games, Microsoft's Flight Simulator is my preferred time waster. I've been playing with Flight Simulator since v2 and I'm now at Flight Simulator 2004. I also use software for genealogical research , to look after my ancestors. I've tried various genealogy programs until I settled Personal Ancestral File (PAF), the grandfather of all genealogy programs. It is a free-of-charge download from FamilySearch. There is also the data issue I commented on when discussing the software I use for photo administration. Data formats change all the time, so it is preferable to use programs that use dataformats that are likely to be around for a long time. I think PAF is such a program.

Various Tips and Tricks

Booting Multiple Operating Systems

The information in the next paragraph is probably obsolete, at least I no longer do things this way. On my own PC's with multiple OS' I first install Windows without letting it have the whole harddisk. I then install Linux and let it have the rest. Grub is then used as the bootloader. On my work PC I've got VMWare installed. Provided you've got enough RAM it is definitely the way to use multiple OS'.

The usual way to have Windows 9x and NT co-exist on a PC is to first install Windows 9x on a FAT partition, and then install Windows NT, either on the same FAT partition or on an NTFS partition. If you choose the first option, both 9x and NT share the same C: drive, which can be problematic. Should you choose the other option, 9x will be drive on drive C:, NT will boot from drive C:, but will mostly exist on drive D:. Either way is messy, the only benefit is to be presented with a boot manager where you choose which OS to run.
Well, I want NT on an NTFS partition only, and I want it presented as being on drive C:. I want Windows 98 on a FAT32 partition, and I want it presented as being on drive C:. I also want to be able to boot Linux. The secret is a cool little program called BootPart . What I did on my system was first to install Windows NT. I then ran FDISK and created a new primary partition and made it active. On this I installed Windows 98. Next step was to install Linux, but I did not allow LILO to sit in the boot sector, I wanted to use Windows NT's boot manager. So the Red Hat Linux installation routine was told to place LILO in the first sector of the Linux partition. FDISK was run again and the NTFS partition was made active, this made it possible for NT to boot again. I now ran BootPart and got it to create a small 512 byte file for each of the other OS', and it modified BOOT.INI, it now looks like this:

[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="Windows NT Workstation Version 4.00"
C:\win98.bin="Windows 98"

And whenever the PC starts up, I have the choice to boot whichever OS I want with each OS having a "proper" default drive.

Using Briefcase to synchronise files between a laptop and a desktop

I want to have access to the same documents, datafiles, emails etc. when I'm on the road as well as when I'm at home. What I have done is to create a new Briefcase on the laptop, not on the desktop as the default, but as a "sub-directory" of C:. I then (via the network) dragged the sub-directories containing my various datafiles into this briefcase. Before I go on a business trip, I make sure to synchronise the briefcase. If I make any modifications to files on the laptop, I have to make sure I synchronise as one of the first things when I get back home, before I use the desktop system.

Originally created February 1997, Last modified: June 2005