Friday, August 20, 2010

Goodbye to a beloved old friend...?

I know it's just a piece of code, a little DOS-based text-editing program, but I've been using QEdit for more than 20 years.

Until now.

Every computer I've ever had 'till now would run QEdit, from the elderly-but-still-cool 8088 PC I was running until 1998 (green mono monitor, DOS 5.0, a 2400 baud modem) to the 386 with Windows 3.1 that replaced it to the 486 that followed to a little Pentium II with Windows 98 to the asshole Sempron and Windows XP that deviled my every waking moment from 1995 until the last days of June.

A friend knew a guy selling an evil black box with all this in it:
Windows 7 64 bit
Athlon x2 dual core 2.9ghz - new
3 gig of ddr2 667 ram
160 gig sata hard drive
Dvd/rw disk drive - new
Hd3850 video card ati (over clockable) 512 ram msi
5 cooling fans
500 watt power supply
Brand new motherboard

Three hundred bucks. *droooool* I'm not wild about some of the features--screamingly bright blue LED's in a couple of the fans, more blue LED's on the motherboard that flash like beacons when the CPU is thinking, and even more blue LED's on the front panel that look like blue neon on a jukebox. I don't like a lot of light in my room when I'm trying to sleep, so I disconnected what would disconnect and cover the thing with a towel to keep the motherboard beacons from FLASH!! waking me FLASH!! up in the FLASH!! middle of the FLASH!! night during FLASH!! overnight downFLASH!!!loads.

Something to really like about it: the fans and hard drive are all whisper quiet.

This was a few weeks before my aortic meltdown, and I was all over the opportunity to be rid of the worst computer I've ever had--the one that shat itself several times over 5 years and took a hard drive or two with it each time, losing all my data and making my blood pressure skyrocket to computercidal levels.

So far, the Black Box hasn't killed my data. It's got some maddening habits to amuse itself with, though. A few weeks ago, right in the middle of a Blog post, the screen went black--just a little hyphen in the upper left corner--and attempts to reboot got me nothing but "Disk read error. Press CTRL-ALT-DEL to reboot." Turns out the SATA cable had worked itself loose.

Before that, the thing would randomly start up without the keyboard or mouse (one or the other). I don't know HOW it has anything to do with it, but jiggling the connectors to the front panel (power & reset switches, status LED's) fixes the problem. [UPDATE--It was caused by a couple of extra standoff screws between the motherboard and case. They shorted something at random and kept the system from recognizing USB and keyboard.]

But this wonder of technology, this marvel of silicon and copper and lead won't natively run QEdit. I used that program for EVERYTHING from writing my [as yet never published] book to coding to putting together MP3 and other index entries. All the keyboard shortcuts can be assigned where you want them, there are some very useful text-management functions that make stripping a standard DOS-style directory listing down to just the parts I need. Sure, I can do it in Word, but in more time and with more cleanup. I just like QEdit.

But wait. There's hope: DOSBox!! I'm saved! The Mighty Q is back, and working more smoothly than it did with WinXP's clunky DOS emulation (up through Win98, we had a proper pure-DOS environment; with XP, you got a weaker simulated DOS shell).

I never thought about my old "Star Wars: Dark Forces" game not running on the Black Box. Might be time to try running it, too.

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