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 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
- before 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 on the hard-drive of my laptop.Why would I need to do
such a thjing you ask? Well, you see, 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 website on my laptop was more than convenient. Instant access
to all the information and files - no internet access needed. Yay!
As I kept working 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 that were super quick as all of it was 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 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 the
other major PS/2-oriented sites. And since all this was on my hard-drive now,
I'd 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...
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 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 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 (Sandy would probably call me a "ROM" - Read Only Member). 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
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 isn't gonna 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 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?
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. 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 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 my PS/2s to quiet down 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 copy of The Tool. (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 "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 - this time for real. 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 agree and find it useful as well :).
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
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