Well, since you are here you are probably wondering what is different or special
about this version of the Ardent Tool of Capitalism ("The Tool")? Why does it even
exist? How did it all start? And what's up with the "MAD Edition" subtitle? Well,
let me explain...
It all started many years ago with a simple offline copy of Louis Ohland's
Ardent Tool of Capitalism. I can't tell you when exactly this was, but it would
have been somewhere around 2010 or later. That's when I delved into the MCA world...
Before that, I was more interested in old Compaqs with their fancy modular design
and EISA bus. That was before I discovered Big Blue's even more interesting PS/2 line.
Err, but why would I need an offline copy of the website anyway? Well, the "workshop"
where most of my vintage hardware is stored didn't have a reliable internet connection
back then, and with no access to documentation and software, it's hard to work on any
machine - especially a PS/2. No refdisk? Missing ADF? You're screwed... So, having a
local copy of The Tool on my laptop was more than convenient - instant access to all
the information and all files stored locally, so no download needed. Yay!
As I worked on the various PS/2 machines, I would start doing minor edits to
my local copy, fixing small errors here and there, adding my own notes, and so on.
Edits like this were super quick as it was all stored locally. All this was nice
but it still had a major downside - without a proper connection to the outer world
all external links were "off-limits". And many critical files and documents were
external. This was true especially for the older versions of The Tool before Louis
started localizing at least the most important stuff. So, over time I would add
local copies of the other major PS/2-oriented sites. And since all this was on my
hard-drive now, I would often directly merge the content with my copy of The Tool,
which included fixing the hyperlinks, so they would point to the local pages and
files - again - for convenience.
I kept adding more and more content to my - now a bit special - copy of The Tool.
Among other things, I would throw in all the old sites that could die at any moment,
pages, and files that were already dead but could still be recovered via archive.org
or some other means, files I have found on some old hard-drives, etc. And I didn't
stop there, I would add my own original content too - notes, board outlines,
schematics, measurement results, etc. I have also completely reworked certain important
pages - like the main index, so I could navigate the content more efficiently (the
old index always was one huge maze for me). At this point, I was using my local copy
pretty much exclusively, even when I had access to the internet.
This was when I started thinking about giving back to the community, as I felt
bad for using the pages and reading the newsgroup but never posting my own observations.
So I thought I would simply make my copy available to everyone,
or perhaps I could send the files to Louis so he could merge the changes in -
which would be preferable over introducing yet another (and yet different)
mirror of the website. And since the internet connection situation in my workshop
got resolved a long time ago, there was no need to keep this locally on my laptop anyway.
But there was a problem. While I knew that Louis kept adding to his website
and I would even merge some of the important additions to my copy, I didn't realize
how many changes cumulated there over the years. So I have done some analysis, and
after determining the "scale of the operation" it didn't look too bad...
Either I or Louis could simply diff the entire directory tree and merge in the
new and modified files - the pages are just a plain HTML - no worries!
So I have created a fresh snapshot and tried to do the merge. The directory
structure was largely still the same, but after randomly checking
some of the conflicted HTML files, I have realized that this ain't gonna work.
The problem was that the HTML documents differed greatly, even if there was just one
tiny change made on the entire page! This was bad news. I already knew that some
WYSIWYG editor was used to create most of the pages, but I didn't know that
its code generator was *that* unstable. I'm not gonna dive into this topic here,
but if you are interested, you can read my blurb about WYSIWYG editors.
Anyway, I had basically three options. I could give up, write a specialized software
that would fully or almost fully automate the process, or I could go semi-auto and
use some diff tools, scripts, and a little bit of regex magic to update
my copy. No way I could simply send the files to Louis and expect him to do all the
work manually. That would probably take months. As a programmer, I could get it
down to a week or two, with the right tools. I have decided to go with the
semi-automatic method. While a fully automated merge would be really nice, it would
take quite some time to write such a tool. Already existing tools, simple scripts,
and regular expressions can do most of the work, without spending too much time on
them, but of course, the merging itself will be somewhat slower... Well, so be it!
It didn't take long and I had the process automated fairly well. And as a bonus,
I would review most of the changes and do additional adjustments where needed. It
wasn't really as bad as I originally thought, and the merging was done fairly quickly.
Hurray, we are done! Right?
No. The thing is, along the way I have noticed that there is plenty of space
for improvement. Broken links, broken formatting, duplicate pages and I don't even
know what else. So before I did anything else I have created a backup copy of the
now merged and updated The Tool, and started going through my long TO-DO list. There is
no reason to describe all the work that went into my copy after the local merge
but it was a lot - some of it fun, some of it quite tedious and not so fun, but
after some 2 months of off and on work I was pretty much done and happy with it.
Time for another backup and then upload it all to my web server! This was mid-2017
or there about...
It's 2019 now and the site still isn't available... so what happened?! Well,
life, other hobbies, and "stuff" happened. The timing was simply bad. Long story
short, I didn't touch the site for about 2 years. I have spent some time tinkering
with PS/2s to quiet down my MAD symptoms, but it was nothing compared to the
I have finally got back to the MCA world in May 2019 and I have finally made
some additions to my still private copy of The Tool website. (Well, not exactly
private, for some time it was available online actually, but on a non-standard
port and no links were leading to it, so effectively it was invisible). I have
spent some time checking the newsgroup and Louis' Tool only to realize that my
copy fell behind. A lot. Again... So it was time for a second large merge. As
before it took couple weeks, and of course, I couldn't resist throwing in some
additional changes of my own and also localize a few more pages. Ta-daa! So, the
big tasks are done (for now) and it's time for the few last touches before making
this thing public. Finally!
Well, I think the result of this MAD ride was worth the time I have spent on it,
and I hope other people will find it useful :).
The plan is to keep updating the MAD Edition with new content. You can expect
more additions from me, Louis Ohland, and many other contributors and sources.
Ah yes, I almost forgot to explain the "MAD Edition" part. To start, this
version really is mad, isn't it! Err, but if you are reading all this you probably
already know what MAD means, and if not, perhaps you have not been around long enough
for the symptoms to show up... Well, if that's the case you can read more about
the so-called Micro Channel Addictive Disorder - or MAD for short -
HERE. Just so you know what you are up against :).