Author Topic: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!  (Read 3367 times)

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Offline Hoagiebot

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I wanted to share with all of you some photos of the awesome Sun SPARCstation 2 that was featuring none other than Rainbow Dash that I had setup at last weekend's Vintage Computer Fair Midwest 6.0 (VCF-MW)!

Along with being a Brony I am a vintage computer enthusiast and collector, and last weekend I attended the VCF-MW 6.0 convention in Lombard, Illinois.  I have attended this convention before, however what made this year really special was that this was the first year that I was also an exhibitor and had one of my own vintage computers on display.  I am a huge fan of the former Sun Microsystems, so despite the fact that it took a huge amount of time and scavenged parts from other systems to get it working, I decided to bring the oldest Sun Microsystems workstation that I had to exhibit-- a SPARCstation 2 workstation from 1990.  I ended up frantically working throughout the entire night before the show setting up the machine, and ended up not going to bed until 6AM that morning-- 2 hours before VCF-MW was supposed to start.  The operating system that I placed on the SPARCstation was Solaris 7, which used an old graphical user-interface once common in the commercial UNIX world called the Common Desktop Environment (CDE).  Despite this SPARCstation being the oldest Sun that I had, I was still very worried that just having a SPARCstation 2 running the plain old CDE was still running the risk of being too uninteresting to display at the show.  Many of the other computers that were going to be there were going to be *much* older and rarer, so I really wanted to make a good impression.  I needed to find a quick way to make my SPARCstation 2 look cooler-- at least 20% cooler, and that's when the solution to my problem hit my tired sleep-deprived brain like a sonic rainboom-- the SPARCstation 2 needed some Rainbow Dash!


The above photo is of my first exhibit at VCF-MW, and as you can see, my SPARCstation 2 has been Rainbow Dash enhanced!  I actually chose to use Rainbow Dash instead of one of the other members of the Mane 6 for a reason: Rainbow Dash's rainbow lightning bolt cutie mark reminded me of the little lightning bolt in the SPARCstation's logo.

Here is a closer view of the desktop:

For those of you that have any interest in that sort of thing, the text in the terminal window is the output from the UNIX command "uname -a", and displays information about the system.  The output from the command reads "SunOS holly 5.7 Generic_106541-08 sun4c sparc SUNM,Sun_4_75".  To decipher what that means, "holly" is the hostname of the machine, SunOS 5.7 is another name for the Solaris 7 operating system, 'sun4c" is the platform family that the SPARCstation 2 belonged to (the SPARCstation 1 and 1+ were also sun4c machines), "sparc" is the microprocessor's architecture, and "Sun_4_75" is a reference to the model number of the SPARCStation 2, which was "4/75."

Unlike Microsoft Windows, which has a single desktop, the CDE has four desktops that you can switch between at click of the mouse.  Here are the Rainbow Dash backdrops that I had set for the other three desktops:





At this point I am sure that you are probably wondering, "Big deal!  So what if you placed Rainbow Dash wallpapers on that ugly old computer!  I change the background wallpaper on my PC/Mac all of the time, and it is easy to do and nothing worth writing a forum post about!"  As much as I wish that I could say that changing the CDE backdrops on the SPARCstation 2 took only 10-seconds flat, it actually turned out to be a significant challenge and took two hours of work that involved converting the images to the correct resolution and palette-size to display properly on a Sun TurboGX 8-bit frame buffer, converting the images to the archaic ".pm" (X PictMap) image format so that they could be used with the X Window System and the CDE, setting up a Network File System share on a Linux server that the SPARCStation 2 could mount to so that the image files could be copied over, and then changing the necessary file-permissions and configuration files to make the images appear as the new backdrops for the "vcfmw" user account-- on a machine has 32MB of RAM, 2.1GB of hard drive capacity, and 1MB of video memory.  It was an educational experience to say the least!

As far as how the VCF-MW attendees reacted to my "20% cooler" Sun SPARCstation 2, well, most of them didn't really seem to be particularly effected by it either way, which I suppose should be expected at an event like this.  However, there were at least a few people there who recognized Rainbow Dash and got excited because they were familiar with the show, and one guy took me aside and first asked me if I was a Brony because he was one as well, and then confessed that he was a closet furry that had yet to gather up the courage to attend any of the local furry events.  So I guess I am not the only furry fan around who is also a vintage computer fan!  In any case, since I had actually missed the premier airing of the MLP:FiM episode of "Return to Harmony - Part 2" to attend VCF-MW, I was all charged up on MLP excitement already, and as a result I was more than pleased with myself for having a Rainbow Dash SPARCStation 2 whether it made a big splash with the other attendees or not!   :)

As a side note, if anyone is wondering why there are stuffed animals on the table next to the SPARCstation 2, they were actually part of my exhibit.  They were promotional stuffed animals given out by Sun Microsystems at different events.  The first one is a plush of "Network the Dog," which was a real Greater Swiss Mountain Dog that was a mascot for Sun Microsystems from the mid-1990's into the 2000's, and the pet of Sun co-founder and then CEO Scott McNealy.  The cheetah plush was handed out at a Sun event sometime around the late 1990's or very early 2000's to promote the Sun UltraSPARC III microprocessor, which had the development codename of "cheetah."  The blue mat that the two plushies are sitting on is actually a Sun Microsystems Field Service Kit that I own.  The second Sun SPARCstation that you can partially see in the far right of the photos is an even older Sun SPARCstation 1 from 1989.  I didn't bring the SPARCstation 1 there-- it was brought by another VCF-MW attendee who placed it onto the "free pile" for anyone to take.  I quickly swooped it up and made it my own, and I since it is currently malfunctioning I plan to fix it up and get it into working order-- possibly so that it can be displayed at next year's show.  Last but not least, while you can't see it in the photos, I also had a Sun JavaStation-NC as part of my display that was on loan from another collector.

For anyone who is interested, here are the specifications for the Sun SPARCstation 2 that is sporting Rainbow Dash in the photos above:

Model: Sun Microsystems SPARCstation 2 (4/75)
Codename: Calvin
Release Year: 1990
Original List Price: $14,995
Platform Family: sun4c
Microprocessor: LSI Logic SPARC IU L64811GC-40S, 40MHz, unified 64KB L1 cache, SPARCv7 architecture
RAM: 32MB
Graphics: Sun Microsystems TurboGX 8-bit Frambuffer, 1MB of dedicated video RAM
Hard Disk: Seagate ST32430N Hawk, 5400RPM, Fast SCSI-2, 2.1GB capacity
Operating System: Sun Solaris 7 Entire Software Group

I sincerely hope that some of you here find this post interesting, as I spent a lot of time putting together what is probably the oldest computer to be made 20% cooler by the likes of Rainbow Dash!
« Last Edit: October 04, 2011, 12:56:27 am by Hoagiebot »

Offline Kay Alett

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Re: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2011, 08:27:59 am »
You should totally tell Sethisto at EQD about this. I bet there's lots of computer folks out there who'd love to hear about this.
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Offline Foxpup

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Re: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2011, 04:33:24 pm »
Nice. But who says the X PixMap format is archaic? It's still the standard image format of X11. And NFS seems like an awful lot of trouble just for a few image files. Wouldn't FTP be easier? (Relatively speaking, of course. I'm fully aware that even with modern systems, there is still no easy solution for transfering files over a network.)
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Offline Hoagiebot

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Re: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2011, 12:12:09 am »
Nice. But who says the X PixMap format is archaic? It's still the standard image format of X11.

Perhaps it wasn't the best choice of words, but I called the X PixMap format archaic because on today's modern Linux and Solaris desktops like Gnome, KDE, etc. you can use more far more prevalent image formats (like jpegs for example) for your desktop backgrounds, just like you can with Microsoft Windows and Mac OSX.  When I was converting those Rainbow Dash wallpaper images from jpegs to X PixMaps I had to download GIMP 2 just to do it because the art programs that I normally use, Jasc Paintshop Pro 7 and Adobe Photoshop CS4, both didn't support the X PixMap format.  So I would argue that at least for desktop backgrounds at least X PixMaps have been largely supplanted by other more common image formats, and I think that you can even use a lot of other image formats for icons (.png, .svg) on many Linux desktops nowadays too.  To be honest, before I had started working with these much older UNIX machines that used the CDE desktop I had never even heard of the X PixMap image format because none of my Linux machines ever forced me to have to notice them or work with them.

And NFS seems like an awful lot of trouble just for a few image files. Wouldn't FTP be easier? (Relatively speaking, of course. I'm fully aware that even with modern systems, there is still no easy solution for transfering files over a network.)

The Linux server that I used was already configured as an NFS server because I had mounted a SGI Indy to a share on it about a year and a half ago for another project.  As a result, it didn't take much work (only a few clicks of a mouse and some typing in RHEL's Gnome NFS setup utility) to setup another share for the SPARCstation 2 to mount to.

You should totally tell Sethisto at EQD about this. I bet there's lots of computer folks out there who'd love to hear about this.

Do you really think so?  I am only a very recent member to "the herd," and as a result I have never done much more than a quick visit to EQD up until now, and those visits were mostly caused by me following links to the site that were posted here in the Furtopia forums.  It never occurred to me that they might take some interest in this.  I will have to give the EQD site a much closer look and see what it takes to make a submission to them.  Thank you for the suggestion-- I would have never have thought about doing it otherwise.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2011, 12:26:10 am by Hoagiebot »

Offline Old Rabbit

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Re: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2011, 08:35:11 am »
Very interesting post, and  the displays look great.  :orbunny:
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Offline Hoagiebot

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Re: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2011, 08:06:54 am »
Very interesting post, and  the displays look great.  :orbunny:

Thank you very much for the kind words, Old Rabbit-- I very much appreciate it!  My exhibit, which only took one table, was one of the smallest at the show if not the smallest at the show.  Some of the other people's exhibits were so large they easily filled a third of some of the convention center rooms.  With that said, since this year was the first year that I actually had any kind of exhibit instead of just being a spectator, I intentionally started off small.  I can always expand my exhibit in future years once I get better at setting these kinds of displays up and I acquire better things to show.

Since most of the computers that I have in my collection are not considered very old or uncommon as far as the serious vintage computer collectors are concerned, I am put under pressure by the event's organizer to try to make up for that by trying to make my equipment actually operate and do something interesting.  For example, both this year and last year I tried to get an old United States Army CAD program (that was originally run on SPARCstations back in the early 90's) to compile on my SPARCstation 2 with the idea that I could then have it render a collection of military vehicles and buildings throughout the day.  Unfortunately for the life of me I still have not figured out how to get that ancient software to compile from source on that old machine without the compiler bombing-out part way through with some error or another.  Because of this, when the day before VCF-MW arrived I still had no working software demo on the SPARCstation to speak of.  Since I didn't want to have nothing to display VCF-MW for a second year in a row I decided in haste to spruce up my SPARCstation 2's CDE desktop with those very sharp Rainbow Dash backdrops and I brought it in anyway.

Luckily, there were a few people at VCF-MW who still appreciated the SPARCstation, despite the fact that it wasn't doing something cool like repeatedly rendering 3D CAD models of U.S. Army M35 2.5-ton cargo trucks.  Besides, I did have a special user account setup for the attendees, so they were free to remotely connect to the system through Telnet or XDMCP over VCF-MW's wireless Ethernet network, and they could actually sit down at the computer to play around with it if they wanted to.  A few people did and enjoyed the nostalgia trip that they got from it, and that's all that matters.  There is always next year to try and get my SPARCstation to render a M35 2.5-ton truck!   :D


Also, to provide a quick update to something that Kaloyan suggested that I do earlier, this morning I submitted my photos of my SPARCstation to Equestria Daily.  Now we will have to wait and see if they find my SPARCstation interesting enough to post onto their website or not.  *crosses fingers*

Offline Old Rabbit

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Re: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2011, 09:45:57 am »
Army trucks are cool.. But I thought using Rainbow Dash was a fine Idea.
Hope they accept your post to Equestria Daily.

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Offline Kay Alett

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Offline Alerhys

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Re: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2011, 02:36:15 pm »
Congrats, Hoagiebot!

Offline Ziel

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Re: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2011, 03:03:33 pm »
I just saw it, too. Was sad I wasn't the first one to be able to report it back here :/

Oh well. There's a lot of good responses about it, too. Hoagiebot should stop by and drop in a comment :P

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Re: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2011, 07:15:59 pm »
Looks like an overwhelmingly positive response in the comments.  Good work on the computer, and congrats on the post to EqD!
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Offline Hoagiebot

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Re: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2011, 12:07:13 am »
Thank you for the congratulations everybody!  I was extremely excited when Phoe from Equestria Daily sent me an e-mail this morning and let me know that she was going to be running my story today!  I was actually away from my computer when the story first hit the site, and I didn't get to see it on EQD for myself until about 7-hours later, so I was completely shocked and amazed once I saw how many comments that it got!  I don't think that anything that I have ever done has ever gotten such a large response on the web!  I just got my Google account working with their comment system and posted a couple of replies there myself a few moments ago.  Phoe did such a good job summarizing my own long-winded commentary about my system for EQD that she actually seems to have gotten all of the bronies there interested in it, so hopefully the couple of comments that I posted on the site aren't too wordy or boring to screw that up!  You guys all know that I sometimes can't help but post large walls of text when I am writing about something that I find to be really fascinating-- I'm sorry about that!  I don't really do it on purpose-- it is just my enthusiasm coming out in word form!  :D

Lastly, I would like to personally thank Kaloyan Alett for giving me the idea to submit my SPARCstation 2 story to Equestria Daily in the first place-- if he hadn't given me that suggestion I doubt that I would have ever thought of doing it!  Thanks again!

Offline Kay Alett

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Re: Rainbow Dash at the Vintage Computer Fair Midwest (with photos)!
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2011, 03:56:21 am »
You're welcome. I'm glad you did it. It was really cool to see something from here get featured on that site. Congrats Hoagiebot.
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