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Phoenix Feathers is updated on Tuesday and Friday

We apologise for the two downtimes recently (I never realised how much I depended on the wiki). They are due to our recycling of old computers for our servers. Our web server, until recently, was an old machine of mine named Hex (after the computer in the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, yes. I never claimed originality). He suffered a fan failure on Tuesday evening, and failed altogether on Wednesday despite the installation of a new (ish) fan. Moonshadow thinks the processor was damaged by the heat, but we'll know more after the post-mortem.

Hex was almost my first computer. My first computer was Arnold the Amstrad 6128, which I used to play games and to decorate my desk in my room. Hex was the first computer I seriously used for actual work, and I bought him entirely for email access (although I did end up doing a lot of work on him as well). I spent the first year of university in one of the many first year rooms in College, which was about 2 minutes walk from the computer rooms. I came very low on the ballot in the second year, so got very little choice about my room, which ended up being a tiny room in Second Court that was cursed with noisy, rattling trolleys every morning from about 6:30. I couldn't bear the thought of being so far from the nearest email terminal, so I bought a cheap computer with the help and advice of my Dad, and that was Hex.

He lived up to the stereotype of a cheap computer from a cheap company. The hard drive underwent a terminal failure just two days into term. I brought round a couple of compsci friends to have a look, and they pronounced the machine dead as a doornail. I informed my Dad and he sorted things out with the company and they sent me a new hard drive (a smaller hard drive with nothing on it). Before that, however, Hex spent a week or two in my room on my chair with his cover off, and it was one of those evenings that the Hologram, a friend from another College, dropped in to say hi and brought a friend of his - someone I'd met once before in the previous year's May Week (that's a two week long period in June when Cambridge students celebrate the end of exams, the existence of alcohol and total freedom). The Hologram's friend was also a compsci, and like all compscis, he wanted a look at the broken computer. At the time, I knew nothing of computers and was perfectly happy with the diagnosis already given by my other compsci friends, so I tried my best to fend him off, somewhat unsuccessfully. To my relief, though, he didn't contradict what my other compsci friends had said, and he didn't do any damage either.

When the new hard drive came, for some reason the video driver refused to work properly, only displaying 16 colours. I wasn't impressed by this, but since I was going to get a new, properly-sized hard drive in the holidays, I wasn't too bothered. However, I did ask the Hologram's compsci friend to come over and see if he could do anything. The first time he tried, he got nowhere and nothing frustrates a geek more than a simple problem he (or she) can't solve. He took to dropping over randomly whenever I was in to clobber Hex round the hard drive a little more. I got to know him more over that time, and it was he who introduced me to anime (things didn't stop there but that is an entirely different subject).

I had an entertaining time lugging an entire computer from Cambridge to Sheffield on the train and back again, but at least when I got back Hex had a brand new shiny hard drive. A brand, new, shiny hard drive that still didn't display more than 16 colours. Moonshadow eventually got the video display sorted. I think I probably learned more about computers that term than I did during my DipCompSci year. I certainly got interested around that time, and learnt the incomparably important lesson that it's good to fiddle with computers even when you're not entirely sure what you're doing, since you will learn very quickly (the other thing you learn is that backups are a Good Thing(tm)).

Hex behaved himself fairly well until I moved out of College and into a rented house for the year of my DipCompSci. I decided I wanted a laptop, so Moonshadow bought me one (!) and maybe Hex got jealous. In any case, shortly after my acquiring the laptop, Hex died completely, having deleted every file and folder in the Windows directory in a spectacular crash. He ran a dos version of telnet and ftp for a week or two while I transferred all my files over to the laptop, and then he spent a year as a RedHat Linux box, being used for email checking and the internet.

When I moved into the flat, Hex (now in the biggest tower case I have ever seen) came with me and lurked in the spare room with the other random computers (the Archimedes, the 8086, the Amstrad, the home made ones and so on). Moonshadow appropriated him as a web server and he has served faithfully until Tuesday the 28th January 2003. Whether he is resurrectable or not depends on what exactly died that evening - whether it's the processor or the hard drive. But whatever happens, our webserver will always be called Hex now - the names are hereditary  ^.^

Funnily enough, the current web server is also an old machine of mine - the first laptop we bought. I dropped it on its screen one day in a fit of extreme clumsiness. She's useless as a laptop, since the screen is dead, and the hard drive appears damaged, but she'll function well enough as a temporary web server. I've run out of old machines, though, so the new one will have to come from a different source.

I spent a little while painting this evening and produced this, which I was quite pleased with. Also, the next chapter of The Boy and the Darkness should be up soon (prod us if it's not up by Monday :)

- Sun Kitten, 31st January '03

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