Josh (the blog)

Hey there. I’m Josh, a SydneyCanberra-based maker of Internets. I don’t update this very often.


@joahua

Too much nostalgia for a computer

What follows is written far less well than it deserves, but — ironically — I’m drowning in other work at present. This needed writing sooner than other things did.

Michael‘s pulling the plug on the server that this website has run on since 2003.

The ‘server’ has changed dramatically in constitution since it all began way back when, but… wow. An astonishingly large part of my teenage years. For the longest time, it seemed as though the Internet had altogether ceased to exist everytime Dale’s connection went out. In the early days, we were all running servers on port 1200 to circumvent ISP restrictions on port 80. phpBB was the order of the day, running Apache — on a pirated copy of Windows 2000 (those were the days in which “legitmate software” constituted an oxymoron). Operating on an early ADSL link with 64kbps upload, forum emoticons were hosted on free web space provided by iiNet in order to conserve bandwidth. You laugh now, but the speed boost was incredible. Every time iiNet dropped out (to future readers: that’s what happens when the internet goes out for a couple of hours, none of this occasional connection time-out rubbish), an irate explanatory post from mwdmeyer would emerge and life would continue as normal. Until parents discovered the server running and turned it off again, which would spark an effort to conceal yet another computer in a room crowded full of equipment. About halfway through 2004, they gave up searching.

These were the days (for me) of NE2000 clones powering Smoothwall/m0n0wall routers, recycling hardware, a subscription to Atomic before all the other kids (I bought more geeky magazines than anyone I know–I think it was that strange meeting place of compters, creativity, and cant that I later became comfortable with), when GeForce 2′s and Pentium 4′s (the first ones with RDRAM that everyone despised) and DDR-supporting Athlons were still zippy. When frame-based redirects passed for domain names — .tk, anyone?

Mostly, it was about the forums… but as for personal publishing, this was no small resource. My first dynamic website was a blog hosted on that server — I don’t think it yet had a name — we all rolled our own web software in those days (it’s not that long ago). Some of us still do. The first domain name acquired was Dale’s, in March 2004, co-inciding (more or less) with the forums’ first birthday. Twelve US dollars later (Joker.com’s prices still haven’t changed), we were all still using frame-based redirects — static IPs were the stuff of pipe-dreams, and Dynamic DNS, though around, was outside of the experience of most of us. Steve ran a notoriously-flaky IIS server with real domains and Exchange, but paid about $150 a month for the privilege: static IPs being available only on business grade internet connections.

These are mere details. The forums themselves constitute an amazing chronicle of the lives of mwdmeyer, ucosty, Sammy, i_am_a_n00bie, Smile:), smKz, n cktangents, angelicdeity, baibai, Sphinx^, ludvikas, and a handful of others over a fairly tumultuous time. There is so much not recorded explicitly that surrounds the nearly 16,000 messages from these eleven users alone. Some has been suppressed, other parts forgotten, but all of it inextricably linked together in the momentum of time. There are some things about that time which will never be shared with those who weren’t around.

The forums didn’t survive post-school. This shouldn’t be surprising, given the amount of research that says this will be the case for any given relationships faced with that manner of transition, but it was still bizarre witnessing what would have been several months of time spent on a single website evaporate into (not much). The server moved from Balmain to Marian Street, eventually finding its way into a rack there. This is where things get hazy for me. I think the last time I saw Michael might’ve been New Years’ Eve 2005/2006… I feel some sense of guilt about that, but recognise mutual busy-ness had a role such that neither of us should be blamed alone. I don’t believe that a blameless “but things changed” is ever sufficient when talking about close relationships. I’m fairly certain my closest friend for about two years at school is someone that I no longer have anything to do with, but can’t explain why. And I know that I can’t in any way blame him, because I’m so guilty of failing to keep working on relationships myself.

I suppose the point of all this is that the computer formally known as ‘Metro’, now ‘Loki’ (I don’t know how it got that name — Loki to me is an amazing contributor to Linux-based gaming, 2000-2002 RIP, but it could just as easily have been named after the Norse trickster and Odin’s wily accomplice!) isn’t just the latest in a series of bits of electronic gear that some markup and pixels have been piped off for a couple of years. This is just one step closer to a complete closure of a very large chapter of my life… and, yeah, that’s incredibly sad.

Please don’t for a minute consider this to be my arguing that Loki should stay switched on — it’s about something far greater and more personal than a startlingly reliable FreeBSD web server that just happened to host a website for free for a long time.

There aren’t too many people you can make sit in the back of a car on their 18th birthday, much less who will laugh along with as it happens.

This isn’t an obituary, just a poor expression of remorse at the (human) disconnection and ‘drifted’ relationships of that era. Michael, once all this stupid uni crap gets out of the way (maybe after you move again?), I owe you a fairly large drink.

Thankyou.