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SOCS Inside-Out: The Definitive Survival Guide

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LAST UPDATE: Wednesday, 16-Sep-1998 15:04:11 EDT
SOCS Culture::10 Reasons the 3151s Are Better Than the Pentiums
- Jacob Eliosoff

10 Reasons the 3151s Are Better Than the Pentiums

Visibility: After spending a few hours squinting at minuscule, weak-contrast text on the Pentiums' monitors, what a relief it is to sit back and ogle the big, bright, clearly defined, amber-on-black characters of a 3151.

No mouse: Now, mice are great for drawing or playing games or if you're a technophobe who's scared of the keyboard. But for most of what we do at SOCS they're just a big pain in the ass. Nobody doing serious work should have to deal with the analog frustration of moving the pointer back and forth to get it right where you want. By contrast, a keyboard is a reliable digital device: to achieve a certain effect you type a certain combination of keys - the same combination every time, allowing you to stop thinking about it and get on with your work. The degree to which modern computing not only is oriented towards but requires the use of a mouse is a travesty.

Stability: The 3151s, being dumb terminals, let you work directly with the servers rather than enforcing the middle man of a workstation. This has the drawback of not allowing users to offload work onto the local machine, but it has the huge benefits that go with centralized computing. One of these benefits is stability. Once you check the settings on your 3151 and connect, you don't have to worry about what the delete key will do or whether a particular application is installed. A 3151 never freezes up because the name server is down. Hell, even turning it off only clears the screen!

Reliability: Another big benefit of the 3151s resulting from their blissfully minimal role is that they're usually working. With around 100 Pentiums to maintain, each with its own operating system, software, and hardware components, you never know which ones are going to work on a particular day. When you see an empty seat in front of a 3151, you don't think, what's wrong with it? You just grab it as quick as you can.

Speed of login: Rumor has it that computers have sped up in the last couple of decades, but you wouldn't know it from the time it takes to log in. You can check your email on a 3151 in less time than it takes for xclock to come up on a Pentium.

Power saving: Another benefit of keeping the processing on the server side is less energy expended. Ever walked into the lab in the summer with the a/c off? That heat is just a byproduct of the energy needlessly consumed by the Pentiums every day.

No remote logins: When you're home it's nice to be able to rlogin to a machine at school and recompile your kernel every few seconds. But when you're actually at school trying to get work done on the same machine, those home users are like little gremlins running around in the computer pounding the crap out of your processes. The effect is especially frustrating when the lab is full of empty computers, but the guy with the kernel keeps picking yours. With a 3151, you enjoy the security of a fully monogamous relationship.

Usually available: Due to some combination of legitimate GUI needs and mindless subservience to new-is-better dogma, most people take a Pentium if one is available (and working). Learn to love the 3151 and you can get to work while Pentium addicts desperately hunt for a free seat.

Removable keys: Anyone who's fiddled with the 3151 keyboards a bit will have noticed that the keys can be pulled off. It's a fun way to fidget, and harmless if you put them back. Sometimes someone gets confused and puts the keys back in the wrong places, which is great, because then you can write email to your friends while looking at the keyboard and laugh with them later about the bizarre typos you made.

1st years never know how to use them: The really great thing about the 3151s is the role they play as a rite a passage through McGill computer science. People come here with all different backgrounds, and it can be embarrassing when you're in your last year and you find yourself asking some hotshot fresh out of CEGEP for help with your Linux installation. At such moments it's nice to remember that although kids today may be smarter, more knowledgeable, and headed for brighter careers than you, they still look stupid trying to figure out a 3151 prompt for the first time, just like you did.

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Last modified: Wednesday, 16-Sep-1998 15:04:11 EDT

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