[aprssig] Interesting setup ... but will it work?

Alex Carver kf4lvz at yahoo.com
Sat Nov 29 11:42:04 EST 2008

> Date: Fri, 28 Nov 2008 15:15:12 -0800
> From: "Stephen H. Smith" 
> Subject: Re: [aprssig] Interesting setup ... but will it
> work?
> Arte Booten wrote:
> > Hi all,
> >
> >      I have the following two interesting pieces of
> hardware, which I bought
> > specifically to set up a computer dedicated to APRS. 
> The first is an A.E.A.
> > PCB-88 TNC (the equivalent of a PK-88, with a twist). 
> The other is from HAL
> > Communications, a P-38 HF modem (precursor to their
> DXP-38).
> >
> >      The twist with both of them is that they're
> each full-length ISA cards,
> > taking their own com ports and IRQ's. 
> >
> >   
> The biggest problem is that no machine has had ISA slots
> for the last 7 
> years or so.   You are going to most likelhy have to
> scrounge an 
> ancient  Pentium I or '486 machine to find one with ISA
> slots.   I 
> happen to have one of the (very) few P-III machines with a
> single ISA 
> slot alongside 4 PCI slots -- a 500 MHz Compaq Prosignia.  
> You will then discover that such an ancient machine
> can't be expanded to 
> enough memory to usably run Win2K or similar current OS. 
> Remember that  
> Win95 was just getting off the ground in this era and
> required the 
> then-staggering 16 or 32 MB of RAM.  Machines of the era
> typically maxed 
> out at 64MB -- impossibly small for Win2K or similar.  If
> it can be 
> expanded, it will most likely require high-priced obsolete
> RAM modules. 
>   You could buy an entire new machine with 2 GHz dual-core
> CPU, 1GB of 
> RAM, DVD-RW drive, 150-200 GB hard disk,etc for what you
> will pay to 
> upgrade the RAM in an old machine (although it won't
> have ISA slots.). 
> If this machine is going to be exposed to the Internet and
> run Windows, 
> you simply must run proper security software (anti-virus
> and 
> firewall/anti-malware).  Current security products consume
> so much RAM 
> and so much CPU "horsepower" that such an older
> machine will become 
> impossibly sluggish and essentially unusable  for anything
> once it is 
> secured.   [Most current security products won't run on
> 9x Windows or 
> earlier -- you must have Win2K, XP or Vista.]
> Essentially, if a machine is old enough to have ISA slots,
> it probably 
> can't safely be used on the Internet since you
> can't run  modern OS'es 
> or security on it. 

That's not at all true.  First, I've had plenty of Win 95 era machines that had max memory configurations past 64 MB.  My old 486 had 128 MB in it.  My Pentium II is currently enjoying 384 MB.  And there's plenty of leftover SIMM sticks available on eBay and Craigslist from people trying to dump off the hardware.

Second, if he's setting up an Igate or at worst a limited access machine that will only visit the Internet for a few things, he does not need any security products on the machine itself.  Instead, you push the firewall off onto an inexpensive router (which is really the smarter thing for anyone to do whether they have a high performance machine or not).  Port forward the router with the needed from the outside world, dump the rest of them into oblivion and the machine is completely safe.  I've got five Windows machines of varying versions (3.11, 95, and XP) hiding behind a single, dedicated router.  None of them have firewalls installed (or enabled in the case of XP's built-in firewall) and none of them have anti-virus programs installed.  All of them are still virus free and nearly immune from network attacks since almost every port is closed except the ones I need exposed to the outside.  It's very simple, easy to maintain, and there are almost no
 software updates to deal with like there are with anti-virus and firewalls.  In many cases, those updates require the machine to reboot which is annoying at best or potentially will require a visit to the Igate if the reboot doesn't finish.  Plus, if the computer ever gets upgraded or a second one is installed, you don't have to remember to install new copies of the anti-virus and firewall software, just plug it in and go.

Also, there are plenty of machines with ISA slots that can run "modern OS'es" on them.  My Pentium II in the living room used to run XP just fine with 384 MB of RAM before I upgraded it and now runs Debian Etch with no difficulty.  It's got four ISA slots in it and three PCI.  At my lab we picked up a Pentium 4 board that has two slots because we have some custom cards that aren't available in PCI format.  This wasn't a cheap board like the kind you can get down at the electronics store but the option is still available.  There's a lot of ISA hardware out in the world that can't be upgraded yet for whatever reason so it's still being supported.


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