That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die.

First published: 11th March 2011

As a proponent of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of engineering, I sometime realise I'm using technology not just after its "sell-by" date, "Extended Support" date or "retire" date, but beyond the point when its developer has buried it beneath the crossroads with a stake through its heart, or even when the developer has been buried beneath the stock market with a bankruptcy through its balance sheet. Here I will describe some of the more notable examples.

You were expecting something else? Perhaps something to do with Things That Men Were Not Meant To Know? It's not, sorry.

In reality, this page is a geek boast, a combination of, "I was doing that before you found out what rm -r / does" and "grovel at my feet, you unworthies who know not how to route streaming video across a damp piece of string". Sad, isn't it?

Updated: 23rd November 2009

Netware 5.0

Netware was the core of the network I administered from 1993 to 2009, initially that was Netware 2.2, later 3.12, and, finally, 5.0. During that time, the disc went from 80MB to a 18GB RAID 5 array.

Netware was always ahead of Windows when it came to user and access control management, and NDS for NT made the management of Windows workstations convenient. Unfortunately, Windows upgrades caused problems for NDS for NT, and Novell abandoned the product.

Netware 5.0 continued to perform reliably, with time between reboots approaching 2 years, but a replacement would eventually be needed. Novell had already moved NDS to SuSE Linux but Novell was clearly in decline. I decided to keep control and move to Samba on Debian. The final impetus was provided by another disc failure in the RAID array, and the price of replacement SCSI discs. Software RAID 1 on Linux using cheap SATA drives seemed the way forwards.

The access control strategy under Netware was primarily by inheritance. Under Samba/Linux, access control is a combination of Linux and Windows file permissions. There are also POSIX ACLs, not enabled by default in Debian.

Updated: 26th June 2010

MS-DOS 6.2, 386SX33

MS-DOS 6.2 was released in 1993, I stopped using it 26th June 2010. I was using it on an Intel 386SX33 that was, for quite a few years, my main internet router. I was using quite a nice little routing program called iproute, which depended on Crynwr packet drivers for DOS.

It might sound a little risky to rely on this for the connection to the world, but it was very stable (at least, it was once I'd replaced the old 286 PC). What about speed, it could only use 10Mbps ethernet adapters? Well, when first used, the connection was a 19200bps modem. Later, that was replaced by a 256kbps leased line, then 6Mbps ADSL. The router was able to keep up with the line speed.

The system was retired when I needed to handle two external lines (6Mbps and 10Mbps), a more complicated internal network and a VPN endpoint. The replacement system runs Linux.

Updated: 30th April 2012

Adobe Acrobat 4.0

Acrobat 4.0 was released in 1999. It was used to produce PDF files, notably the monthly company newsletter, from 2000 to April 2012. It worked well enough, albeit with a tendency to put rectangles around hyperlinks (this could be switched off, but finding the option was difficult), so replacement was not considered. Experience with more and more versions of Adobe's free Acrobat Viewer also discouraged upgrade: Adobe had succumbed to the temptation of software bloat. Software developers try to encourage upgrade by stuffing new versions with new features, and the software gets slower and more unreliable. All I wanted was to generate a PDF once a month, with no fuss.

A consequence of using Acrobat 4.0 was the continued use of Windows NT 4.0, because Acrobat 4.0 does not run on Windows 2000 or later versions.

Acrobat 4.0 was retired in April 2012 when I started using Open Office's 'Export to PDF' function, quicker, simpler and, above all, no fuss.

Windows NT 4.0 Pan-Chinese

I stopped using Windows NT 4.0 in April 2012, when I stopped using Adobe Acrobat 4.0, if you can call once a month 'using' (see above). Released by Microsoft in 1996, it became my main desktop operating system until Windows 2000 replaced it. It competed for a time with OS/2 Warp, but won mainly because of application compatibility - when everyone is expecting a Word document, sending an RTF or Wordperfect document just confuses them.

The Pan-Chinese variant was advertised as supporting both Simplified (Mainland China, GB2312) and Traditional (Taiwan, Big5) Chinese, very useful in Hong Kong where locally-produced documents are mostly Traditional Chinese, and documents often arrive from elsewhere. The reality was slightly different. The system font was either GB2312 or Big5, and switching between them meant a reboot. Use Chinese characters in a filename, and the filename is unreadable after the character set change. Also, the user interface language was always English, but most software installers looked at the system character set to decide which language to use for the installation, causing pain for me, as I don't understand Chinese, and pain for Chinese readers if they switch character sets after installation... all the menus come up in the wrong character set, and are therefore unreadable. So, each time software is installed, you need to:

  1. Change character set to English
  2. Reboot
  3. Install software
    • Reboot, if required by the software installation
  4. Change character set to Big5 or GB2312, as preferred
  5. Reboot

Of course, receiving anything from Europe, with European accented characters, caused additional pain. Everything should be in Unicode, and developers should stop using the character set to guess which language the person installing the software understands!

Updated: 31st July 2015

Windows 2000 and Office 2000

The last copy of Windows 2000 in my office was overwritten on 30 July 2015, making 2015 "The Year of the Linux Desktop". With it went Office 2000. Windows 2000 was released 17 February 2000, and I started using it soon afterwards. Although similar to NT 4.0 in most respects, it gradually became apparent that USB support was a key advantage. In 2000, USB was relatively new. RS232 serial still ruled for mice, and parallel connections were the norm for printers. Gradually, this changed and USB flash drives were everywhere. Microsoft never upgraded NT 4.0 with USB support, so a quick file copy became an awkward exercise.

Microsoft stopped releasing security updates on 13 July, 2010.

In 2012, another Windows 2000 limitation became apparent when we moved to Kerberos authentication on the Linux servers. Windows 2000 always supported Kerberos, but it is a Microsoft variant of Kerberos, tailored for Active Directory authentication. Samba 3 can support Kerberos authentication, and Linux clients could successfully connect using smbclient, but Windows 2000 failed. Windows clients were unable to benefit from the Single Sign On to file server, mail server and other services. We also had to maintain NTpassword on OpenLDAP and keytab on Kerberos authentication backends, and ensure password synchronisation between them.

Updated: 28th August 2017

Intel Celeron 633

The Celeron 633 was released in June 2000, and we got a batch of 6 desktops using them either later that year, or early 2001. Initially, they were running Windows 2000. When they were replaced on the desktop by more powerful machines, some of them were re-purposed as Linux systems, including as VPN endpoints. They could achieve a throughput of about 14Mb/s on an openvpn tunnel, which was sufficient when the broadband connection was about 10Mb/s. However, speeds increase and the Celeron does not provide much processing power per Watt. Our last VPN endpoint using a Celeron 633 has now been replaced by an ARM-based device using about 1/10th the power.


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