About Me and My Computers


About Me

I’m Brian. I live in Canada and have been fascinated with computers (and playing with them) for ages. I started out in MS-DOS on a dual floppy Compaq system, played with Windows 3.1 and OS/2 (version 3 and Warp), to today where I’m running various Linux distributions. I use a variety of graphical user interfaces, KDE first among them, and am on the command line a lot. I’m a huge fan of the Midnight Commander.

In the 1990s I ran a BBS (bulletin board system) on FidoNet, but shut it down in 1999 when the moon was blasted out of Earth orbit due to Y2K concerns.

Professionally I’ve worked for larger and smaller businesses. I’ve done programming and system operations on mainframes, IBM Series/1 systems, and PC based systems running most every version of Wincdows. I’ve also run Linux networks, primarily CentOS.

These days I’m semi-retired, picking up the odd job or contact as they come along. I always have two or three computer-related projects on the go at any given time, so I have no end of things to keep me occupied.

While I’m interested in other topics such as science and skepticism, science fiction and fantasty, the envrionment and politics, I prefer to discuss those things in person with friends instead of broadcasting them all over the net. I read quite a few on-line discussion boards and am active on more than one, but always under different user names to prevent people from following me around the web.

I’m very much a non-fan of social networking. This is due partly to being an introvert and partly to privacy concerns. So I’m not on Facebook, don’t tweet on Twitter, and I let my Yahoo account expire over a decade ago. I try to have as little as possible to do with Google’s pervasive web presence as I can: I use Duck Duck Go for searching, don’t have a GMail account, and have blocked most Google domains in my /etc/hosts file. I’m probably a touch paranoid about these sites collecting, storing, and possibly leaking private information, but I don’t see a need to hand them all the details of my life on a silver platter. I like to think I’m actually making them work to get that information.

If you want to send me email, click on Brian in the footer at the bottom of the page. Tips, kind words, and compliments (and large bitcoin transfers 😊 ) are welcome; flames will be sent to /dev/null.

About my computers

All through this blog you’ll see references to various computers. Here’s what I’m currently running or have available for testing.

Name Manf Model Format CPU Speed RAM OS
penguin Asus BM6875 Slim desktop Intel Core i7 3400 MHz 16 GB CentOS 7/Xfce
sparrow Dell Inspiron 5758 17” laptop Intel P 3825U 3400 MHz 12 GB Fedora 23/KDE
raven Asus A-320C-M Short tower AMD Ryzen 5 1500 X 2900 MHz 8 GB Proxmox 6/bash
duck Asus F1A75-M LE Short tower AMD A4-3300 APU 1800 MHz 2 GB (testing; varies)
heron HP Pavilion a6602f Short tower AMD Sempron LE-1250 2200 MHz 4 GB Fedora 28/LXDE
auk Acer Aspire 5736Z Short tower Intel Pentium T4500 2300 MHz 2 GB CentOS 7/bash
rpi3 RasPi 3B Credit card ARM Cortex A53 1200 MHz 1 GB Raspbian 9
netvista IBM NetVista X41 All-in-one Intel Pentium 4 1800 MHz 1 GB Fedora 25/Xfce4
oldmary ECS EliteGroup K7SEM Short tower AMD Duron 950 998 MHz 512 MB CentOS 6 32-bit/CLI

Primary Computers


My home server, purchased in 2013. In addition to being the backup for my laptop, it’s running a an Apache httpd server, a Pi-hole ad-blocking server, a local DNS resolver for my LAN, a tftp server for booting systems over the network, a NextCloud deployment, and TT-RSS (a web based RSS feed reader.)


My laptop, purchased in 2016. Current operating system is a quite outdated Fedora 23 with KDE. It can boot into Windows 10 but spends very little time there.


A testing system, purchased in 2017 when I needed a computer for miscellaneous use and bought a mainboard, CPU and RAM on a $500 budget. Although the mainboard has onboard video ports, they expect the video circuitry to be integrated into the CPU. But the 1500X doesn’t have that, so I had to put a video card into the case. Current operating system is Proxmox 6, a Debian-based virtual machine hosting environment. It’s an ideal system for trying out the Linux Flavour of the Month.

Older and slower hardware


The hardware in duck was running my penguin server prior to the one running it now. Because it’s a test system often used for system builds, its operating tends to come and go.


An older Acer desktop system. These days it’s used as a testbed system for QRetail, and as such has an unusual array of attached devices. In addition to on-board serial and parallel ports, I’ve installed both a serial and a parallel card. The on-board serial hosts a barcode reader while the card is used to a connect an ancient and rare Olivetti printer. The on-board paralled port is used for a thermal receipt printer and the card is used for an Eltron lable printer. And if that wasn’t enough, I can also plug in a USB-to-parallel adapter and use that for running a third printer.


An HP system, used for running a computer related to my business.


A Raspberry Pi 3 model B+ used when I want to play around with a small computer or something that’s not X86-based. Physcailly the Pi is attached to the back of a monitor using a card I made that adapts the VESA standard monitor mount to the RasPi’s mounting holes.


A rare IBM NetVista X41 All-in-One computer (IBM model number 6274-16U) from the early 2000s. Has a bespoke keyboard and a CD-ROM drive that drops down under the colour flat panel display, built-in 100 MB/s Ethernet, 6 USB 2 ports, and a parallel port. Currently running Fedora 26, on the rare occasions when I start it. On the High Performance Benchmarks it scores lower than the Raspberry Pi 3!


An older computer from a client of mine named Mary. It’s not Mary who’s old; it’s the computer! 😊 A sticker on the back indicates it was built in January 2003. I use it for testing my software to ensure it performs adequately on something less powerful than the lastest high-end gaming rig purchased last month.

When I compile the High Performance LINPAK benchmarks using the distribution supplied ATLAS libraries, the Pi 3 B+ handily beats oldmary at 478 MFLPOS, compared to 262 on oldmary. And when I compile ALTAS libraries on the Pi so they can take maximum advantage of its capabilities and cache, the Pi’s benchmark jumps 1,775 MFLOPS. In fact, oldmary is just a touch faster then a Raspberry Pi 1, which scored 259 MFLOPS using a locally compiled ATLAS!