shell accounts [was RE: strangest systems I've sent email from]

Swift Griggs swiftgriggs at
Fri Apr 22 12:47:37 CDT 2016

On Thu, 21 Apr 2016, Tony Aiuto wrote:
> Actually, I don't get this discussion at all.

Okay, well you are entitled to your view, just like the rest of us, 
obviously. However, a bit less caviler condescension might lubricate the 
discussion more effectively.

> I had a panix account years ago.  About the same time I ran a FULL suite
> of servers in my basement, DNS, STMP, HTTP & mailman.

I don't run a "full suite of servers".  I run an SGI Challenge S that runs 
on minimal power (about 14-30W most of the time, thus sayeth my 
Kill-a-watt meter).  It's the only system in my entire constellation of 
systems that stays on all the time.  At my electricity rates, it costs me 
about four to eight dollars a year.  So, it's not like it requires a full 
rack of mainframes spinning the meter and burning a hole in my pocket.  
It's likely _less_ than I'd pay to get decent hosted + managed version of 
the same service.  I use free dyndns so I don't even pay a NIC. I guess I 
could hook up an old AMD Geode board or use a RPI+ or something and lower 
my costs a bit more.

>  Then I realized that was just because I *could*, rather than I needed to
> or because it served any interesting historical purpose.  I switched it
> all to outsourced services and never looked back.

I don't trust corporations.  Most of them are crooked as a dog's hind leg 
and I have no doubt they'd do _anything_ with my data if it made them a 
dollar (and that despite whatever they'd said or agreed to in the past).  
I _know_ where *my* backups are and when they were last taken. I don't 
have to depend that the low-paid foreigners working for some hosted 
version of the service are actually rotating those tapes out of the silo 
etc...  I've worked for these people all my life (dirty corporations) and 
I know how the sausage is made, unfortunately.

> The bottom line is that what i really care about is the beauty of old
> hardware and the elegance of software that had to run in that limited
> environment.

Cool, but that's definitely just your personal preference based on your 
own style, not some immutable logic which failed to make itself apparent 
to me in the same epiphany you experienced.  If someone else gets a kick 
out of running an old application, what is the harm in that? 

>  The speed/cost/accuracy tradeoff is the essence of software engineering. 

I respectfully disagree.  Creativity and problem solving are the essence 
of all engineering, in my opinion.  The tradeoffs you mention are simple 
considerations that factor into a constellation of variables leading to a 
finished effort.

> If I read information about it with Lynx rather than a modern browser, I
> only penalize myself.

Again, that's your style and your preference. I have vision problems. I 
often read pages in elinks (I dislike lynx) for the purpose of having 
strict control over the fonts without having to create CSS, faster load 
times, exclusion of advertisements, availability over text-only 
connections such as ssh or telnet for testing sites from alternate 
locations, and finally so I can focus on the content to the exclusion of 
any surrounding graphics. That's just a few of many reasons folks use text 

>  I reduce my bandwidth for some abstract notion of "purity".

That's not at all what I'm thinking when I do it (regularly). 

> Look at it this way.  Archeologists care about history, but they are smart
> enough to realize they don't have to write their papers in charcoal on
> cave walls.

If they did write it on a cave wall they might have a prayer of someone 
finding it 10,000 years from now.  They will likely store them on digital 
media that will be worthless in less than 100 years if some corporate 
dirtbag doesn't deign to store them on their $$$-only server.  If it's 
"cloud" storage, then it'd go away as soon as they quit paying.  If it was 
CDROM, Floppy, HDD etc..  it'll degrade.  So, to extend your analogy, 
perhaps the Archaeologist should consider using a medium that might see 
their work survive to be meaningful far into the future.  That might be a 
MOdisc or it might be a clay tablet. One size does not fit all when humans 
are involved since they all have different needs and preferences.  The 
reason we know more about the Babylonians versus some much newer literate 
cultures is that they wrote on stone (clay) tablets.  Laugh all you want 
(privately, please) at the "luddites" but it worked for them, and 
continues to do so.

> Do not conflate the subject matter with the medium to talk about it. 

Frankly, I find your advice condescending and bereft of merit. I disagree 
that is was what we were doing in our discussion.

> I love ancient hardware, and I will use the best tools I have available to
> talk about it.

"Best" != Newest.  I can ssh into my place from anywhere and read my mail 
faster than using webmail (no contest, there are no graphics, and ssh keys 
get me in hyper-fast). What's best for you isn't always going to best for 
me or others and visa-versa.

> Limiting myself to shell accounts and elm as a mail reader misses the
> point.

At best, it misses your point from your perspective.  You seem to be 
completely dismissing and marginalizing folks who have some categorically 
bulletproof reasoning to run older applications that you don't seem to 
have considered at all.  One of those reasons is "some people think it's 
fun" and that's totally valid, too.  Another (more common) reason is that 
it's what they know.  My father-in-law built a reproduction of a clock 
from the 1600's and he used an _ancient_ version of IBM CAD for DOS to 
design various parts since that's what he knew best and he already had an 
interface built between IBM CAD and his milling machine.  It turned out 
wonderful and there wasn't any good reason why I should have stopped 
marveling at the work he did to harangue him to "upgrade" to AutoCAD.  
The _results_ matter far more than the tools, in my opinion.  The 
preferences of the people using the tools, matters, too.

There is also the fact that some folks *like* using tools that might 
actually be slower or less effective. I do woodworking 100% with hand 
tools. It's MUCH slower than using power tools and often the results are 
almost always less precise and sloppier than what a C&C rig could give me. 
I could care less. I do it because it relaxes me and focuses my mind.

>  We *live* in 2016.  We talk about 1970.

Which has little or no bearing on any of your assertions.  It's also 
condescending which is counterproductive to moving a discussion toward a 
meaningful destination.

>  Using technology from 1990 is neither historically accurate, nor useful.

I believe you are wrong, on both points, sir.  It's completely 
historically accurate since they are the exact digital duplicates (or 
originals) running in many cases on the exact hardware.  How is that 
inaccurate in the slightest way besides the fact that it's not 1990 ?  

Your second point that it's not useful leaves me stunned at the factual 
bankruptcy of the statement.  Do you have any idea how much "legacy" tech 
is still out there doing both trivial and critical jobs?  Things that you 
depend on every day like power and water are most likely operated in large 
part on "historical" applications.  I won't bother making a list, since I 
doubt the list-server is going to accept a 100MB email.

Did you know that George RR Martin writes all his books using a DOS 
machine running Wordstar?  Do you think he'd have turned out better work 
fighting the paper clip in MS Word ? Will you eschew his work since he 
used a not "useful" application to create it ?


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