sakhalin turns 10

July 25th, 2009 by k8gu Leave a reply »


We moved recently, hence the lack of posting to the site (the pending completion of my degree and preparations for employment have contributed to that, as well).  Among the moving dust, I discovered the invoice for the desktop computer that I bought when I started college.  It was dated 7/20/1999, ten years ago this past Monday.  The price was $2,283.29.

What did that princely sum include?

  • 17-inch CRT monitor
  • Pentium-III 500 MHz CPU (1)
  • Dual-CPU capable motherboard
  • 256 MB of PC100 SDRAM
  • Western Digital 20.4-gB hard drive
  • ATI Rage Xpert 128 16 MB video card
  • Adaptec 2940U2W Ultra-Wide SCSI card
  • Iomega Zip drive
  • 3Com 3C900 Ethernet card
  • Microsoft Windows NT 4.0
  • Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business

If I was going to spend that much again, I would have done it slightly differently, ditching the expensive SCSI hardware that I never ended up exploiting and buying the second CPU right away.  But, this was a great machine—I was probably the first student with 256 MB of RAM, certainly no one else on my dorm floor had it.

Windows NT never quite worked right with everything.  But, then again, neither did Linux.  The ATI Rage Xpert 128 was not supported in X for at least six months after I bought the system.  Linux was less of a pain than Windows and so, I operated from the console for my first two quarters of undergrad.  People often ask how I learned Linux.  You learn fast when you have no option but the command line.

This computer was the beginning of a tradition: naming computers after islands.  I named it ‘sakhalin.’  I asked for a static IP address and received the DNS entry (which at the time pointed to  This was the first of many islands: (the Radio Free Maglott/Radio Free Roberts server), (a 486 that I ran FreeBSD on for kicks), (another 486 that ran Linux), (the special projects machine), (my iBook).  Those machines have all since past.  Although, I still have crete (my secondary web server), vieques (my MacBook), formosa (home Linux machine), and of course, sakhalin.

Over the years, I upgraded sakhalin to two Pentium-III 500 MHz CPUs.  (I actually bought the CPU via an eBay auction using Lynx—a fun piece of trivia.) The power supply needed an upgrade at this time, too.  I also added 512 MB of RAM and a SCSI CD-RW drive.  The Ethernet card is now an Intel EEPro 100Mbit/s card and the video card is an ATI Radeon with 64 MB of RAM.  I replaced the monitor with a 19-inch Dell Trinitron, which is beautiful.

And then, there is software.  sakhalin has run every GNU/Linux major kernel version since 2.0.36: 2.0.x, 2.2.x, 2.4.x, and 2.6.x.  It has run at least four different distributions:  RedHat, SuSE, Gentoo, and Xubuntu.  It has also run Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, and it is currently running Windows XP.

sakhalin has been a good and reliable performer, although I get the occasional unknown error message.  It has recently moved to replace the Pentium 166 that I had been using to manage my contest station.  I’m looking forward to many more years of faithful service…