old scsi adapters and the benefits of open source [was: Anthony's
issues [Slightly OT]]
peter at circlesquared.com
Tue Mar 22 08:12:21 PST 2005
On Tue, 2005-03-22 at 08:55 -0600, Duo wrote:
> Honestly, the whole disk thing reminds me of an experience with FreeBSD
> and an old gateway solo laptop.
I acquired an old Initio SCSI card (9100) around the time of FreeBSD
4.5. A driver was available from the manufacturer's website for FreeBSD
4.x, so I downloaded this, edited the kernel sources, popped the right
bits into the right places in the source tree and it compiled. Great.
But of course this was an unmaintained driver. As new releases of
FreeBSD 4.x came out, naturally it stopped compiling. However, I was
able to hack the kernel sources to get it to build all the way up to
somewhere around 4.8 or 4.9. This was great, because it gave me a couple
of years of extra life for a very old component.
And of course, in the binary-only world of closed-source software this
wasn't an option at all and compatibility was not available with new
Windows versions. To quote from the Initio website:
...discontinued products which do not have Windows 2000 or WinXP
support. This includes the INI-6100/6102, INI-9100, and INI-9100W
So this card simply could not be used with up to date versions of
In the end, the hacking became more and more elaborate and therefore too
much trouble, and I just relegated the card to the pile of
no-longer-compatible hardware all computer engineers have in their
attic. All hardware has an end-of-life, and this has reached it for me.
But I _could_ have kept on going and could still be using it in the
latest releases. It's up to me, and that's a fantastic freedom that only
exists with open source software.
By contrast, I maintain a networked Windows machine that controls plasma
cutting systems for a manufacturing business. It uses a serial port
connection to send cutting patterns to the plasma controller. The serial
port communications software was custom-written and runs only on
versions of DOS that shipped with Windows up to and including 98. It is
specifically incompatible with Win ME and all the NT family including XP
and 2000/2003. I don't have access to the source code either of the
custom application or any currently maintained version of Windows (of
course), so no hacked upgrades are possible and we have to run Win 98 -
which is desperately horrible and insecure in a networked environment.
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