History of ardent-tool.com

A long and boring story without ending...

Major Tom in late 2019 (updated 26 Dec 2023):

Well, since you are here you are probably wondering what is different or special about this version of the Ardent Tool? Why does it even exist? Well, let me explain...

The Past

It all started many years ago when I've first discovered Louis Ohland's Ardent Tool of Capitalism, shortly after getting my first PS/2 machine (Model 70 with the Type 3 planar). I can't tell you when exactly this was, but it would have been either late 2010 or somewhere in 2011. Before that, I was more interested in old Compaq machines with their fancy modular design and EISA bus. But then I discovered Big Blue's even more interesting PS/2 line. It wasn't until a few years and PS/2s later when I've created a simple offline copy of the Ardent Tool website and carried it with me on the hard-drive of my laptop. Why would I need to do something like that you ask? Well, you see, the "workshop" where most of my vintage hardware is stored didn't have a proper 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 website on my laptop was more than convenient. Instant access to all the information and files — no internet access needed. Yay!

Louis' index page back in early 2012.

As I kept tinkering with the various PS/2 hardware, I would start doing minor edits to my local copy, fixing small errors here and there, adding my own notes, and so on. Since the pages were stored locally, edits like that were extremely easy and quick to do. All this was nice but it still had a major downside — with no connection to the outer world all external links were "off-limits". And many critical files and documents were external unfortunately. This was especially true for the older versions of the website before Louis started "localizing" at least the most important stuff. So, over time I would add local copies of some other major PS/2-oriented sites. And since all this was on my hard-drive, I'd often merge this additional content with the Ardent Tool pages. This included fixing the hyperlinks, so they would point to the local pages and files...

I kept adding more and more content to my — now somewhat special — copy of Louis' website. 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 old hard-drives, etc. And I didn't stop there, I would also 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 net.

My modified index page in 2016.
The illustration is based on a drawing from IBM's brochure.

This was when I started thinking about giving back to the community. I felt bad for using the pages and visiting the newsgroup, lurking, but never posting my own observations. Sandy would probably call me a "ROM" — Read Only Member. I thought I would simply make my copy available to everyone or send the files to Louis, so he could merge the changes into his primary version. The latter would be preferable over introducing yet another (and yet different) mirror of the website. Since the internet connection situation at my workshop got resolved a long time ago, there was no need to keep this locally on my laptop anymore.

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. But I have done some basic analysis, and after thinking about it for a while, the "scale of the operation" actually didn't look that bad... Either I or Louis could simply diff the entire directory tree and merge in the new and modified files — the pages were just a plain static HTML at this point. 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 isn't going to work.

The problem was that the modified 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 automate the process, or I could go "semi-auto" and use some diff tools, simple scripts with some of that 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. And this last option is what I have decided to go in the end. While a fully automated merge would be really nice, it would also 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 process itself will be somewhat slower... Well, so be it!

It didn't take long and I had the process streamlined 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 relatively quickly. Hurray, we are done! Right?

The same index page one year later (2017).
The art was animated and randomized...

Not quite. You see, since I had to manually "touch" many of the files, I've noticed that there is plenty of space for improvement. Broken links, broken formatting, duplicate pages, and I don't even know what else. (You can probably see where this is going, eh?) Some files were perfectly fine, other were "unacceptable". Before I did anything else I've created a backup copy of the now merged and updated Ardent Tool, and started going through my long TO-DO list. There is no reason to describe all the work that went into this, but it was a lot — some of it fun, some of it quite tedious and not so fun, but after some 2 months (yikes) 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...

The Present

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 pages for about 2 years. I have spent some time tinkering with my PS/2s to quiet down the MAD symptoms, but it was nothing compared to the previous years.

I have finally got back to the MCA world in May 2019 and actually made some additions to my still private (sigh) copy of The Tool. (Well, not exactly private, for some time it was technically available online, 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. Ta-daa! It's time to make this thing public — this time for real. Finally!

The index as it appeared when the website was first published (2019).
I've decided to revert back to the "SynchroStream Engine" illustration.

Well, I think the result of this MAD ride was worth the time I have spent on it. I hope people will agree and find it useful as well.

The Future

The plan is to keep updating the website with new content. You can expect more additions from me, Louis Ohland, David Beem, and many other contributors and sources.

Content created and/or collected by:
Louis F. Ohland, Peter H. Wendt, David L. Beem, William R. Walsh, Tatsuo Sunagawa, Tomáš Slavotínek, Jim Shorney, Tim N. Clarke, Kevin Bowling, and many others.

Ardent Tool of Capitalism is maintained by Tomáš Slavotínek.
Last update: 08 May 2024 - Changelog | About | Legal & Contact