Tandy 102 Web Server

When I decided to start adamslab.io one of the first things I started to work on was hosting for the domain, since I was on a limited budget for the project I decided to host the domain myself rather then pay for hosting. The only thing I needed was a computer that I could use as a web server. Normally, getting my hands on a computer wouldn’t be a problem as I generally have at least one old system lying around. However, at the time my surplus of spare computers was limited; I had a couple of computers that I could have used but they were all dedicated to other tasks and I needed a dedicated system for the web server.

When cleaning out my garage I came across an old Tandy 102 Portable Computer. It didn’t occur to me at first, but later I wondered if somehow I could use the Tandy 102 as my web server. I started to take a look at the system and realized that being manufactured in 1987 it was never conceived that someone might want to use the Tandy 102 as a web server for their blog.

There were some definite problems that had to be overcome:

  • Very limited memory – 32K
  • Very limited storage – but it has an interface for a tape drive
  • No Ethernet port – but it has a modem

Through some trial and error I was able to interface a standard 80GB IDE hard drive with the tape drive port on the Tandy 102, I thought about using a flash drive which may have been easier to interface but I wouldn’t have gotten the storage I need. Getting the phone port (modem) interfaced with an Ethernet port was a bit more complicated but I was able to do it eventually. To get passed the memory constraints of the Tandy 102 I interfaced a 1GB USB flash drive to supplement its 32K. I decided early on in the project to use Ubuntu as the Linux distro, this made setting up the LAMP server easy as Ubuntu has a server distribution that has an automatic LAMP install. It took some doing but eventually I was able to get Ubuntu installed on the hard drive and get the Tandy 102 to boot form the hard drive.

After some configuration of the LAMP server I installed WordPress, configured the DNS settings for the domain to point to my home’s public IP address and the server was live. Overall I’m quite pleased with its performance at only 2Mhz it serves the site pretty well. It also has low power consumption and can run off 4 AA batteries for hours – built in UPS!

photo goodness: (click on image for full size)

Industrial Picture Frame

Industrial Picture Frame

This is an easy and cheap industrialish picture/poster frame I came up with a while back – it uses 1/8″ thick 3/4″ wide flat aluminum stock and some little alligator spring clamps; all of which you can pick up at Home Depot and the like. I’ve used this on larger (20″x30″) pictures but here I’m showing some smaller prints, whatever the size the method is the same.


Zero Point Shelf

Zero Point Shelf - SketchUp

If putting holes in the wall was a game this shelf wouldn’t net you any points. The image above is a very rough SketchUp drawing of a shelf I am going to start building over the next couple of weeks. The concept of “clamping” shelving between the ceiling and floor isn’t original to me, in fact I’ve see several variations of the idea; this is just my variation. The point of this method of mounting shelves is – you get the shelf without the holes in your wall, the concept also lends itself to being placed where there is no wall (stud) support.


Steal This Wi-Fi (the safe way)

In his Wired article “Steal This Wi-Fi” Bruce Schneier gives some good reasons to leave your wireless network open, being neighborly for starters. While being neighborly is nice, advising people to open their wireless network without providing some advice on how to do it securely is irresponsible and one would have expected more from a renowned security expert…

My blanket advice – close your wireless network. If you don’t know how, find someone who can help you.

On the other hand – if you know how to run an open wireless network securely then do it! It may be a geek thing, but I find it cool (and neighborly) to be able to run an open wireless network and provide passersby with free internet access.

Here is how I do it:


White Elephant Gift

Going to a Christmas party tonight and there is a white elephant gift exchange – someone is going to get 6 8GB IBM SCSI hard drives with their covers removed. Interestingly all the hard drives (same model) have an X mark (looks to be sharpie) on the top plater. The only information I could find in my (brief) research as to why, was this Ask MetaFilter thread.

Is it me or would it look cool to mount the drives to a backing board like they are shown in the picture and hang them on the wall?

DIY Plinko Game

Below are some pictures of a plinko game that my uncle and I built for a Halloween fair. Construction consisted of a “scrap” 4×8 sheet of plywood that was covered with a sheet of hardboard/tile board to give the puck (we used an actual hockey puck) a smooth surface to slide on. We used 12 volt halogen lights in the bottom pockets that lit that pocket if the puck landed in it. My uncle devised a circuit to control the lights using the venerable 555 timer and a decade counter and MOSFETs to turn the lights on/off. We had to add a cooling fan to keep the MOSFETs cool. I don’t have a lot more information on this project since we were in a rush doing it but wanted to share it here since it’s just a good memory of time spent with my uncle making something.

DIY Plinko Game

DIY Plinko Game

Kee Klamp Shelf (not on the cheap)

This is a shelf I built using Kee Klamps and 1-3/8″ top rail fence post.

I purchased the Kee Klamps from Simplified Building Concepts, you can also get them from Grainger and McMaster-CARR prices are about the same anywhere you go (read: expensive) but Simplified Building seemed to have a better selection. The Kee Klamps are awesome and I could come up with a ton of things to build with them, but there a bit cost prohibitive to build with. All in all though they work quite well. I couldn’t find the weight bearing specifications of the Kee Klamps but I was able to stand on the middle shelf (~160lbs) without failure. This was an expensive project mostly due to the use of the Kee Klamps, but they sure are cool.