History of The MAD Edition

Well, since you are here you are probably wondering what is different or special about this version of the Ardent Tool of Capitalism ("The Tool")? Why does it even exist? How did it all start? And what's up with the "MAD Edition" subtitle? Well, let me explain...

The Past

It all started many years ago with a simple offline copy of Louis Ohland's Ardent Tool of Capitalism. I can't tell you when exactly this was, but it would have been somewhere around 2010 or later. That's when I delved into the MCA world... Before that, I was more interested in old Compaqs with their fancy modular design and EISA bus. That was before I discovered Big Blue's even more interesting PS/2 line. Err, but why would I need an offline copy of the website anyway? Well, the "workshop" where most of my vintage hardware is stored didn't have a reliable internet connection back then, and with no access to documentation and software, it's hard to work on any machine - especially a PS/2. No refdisk? Missing ADF? You're screwed... So, having a local copy of The Tool on my laptop was more than convenient - instant access to all the information and all files stored locally, so no download needed. Yay!

As I worked on the various PS/2 machines, I would start doing minor edits to my local copy, fixing small errors here and there, adding my own notes, and so on. Edits like this were super quick as it was all stored locally. All this was nice but it still had a major downside - without a proper connection to the outer world all external links were "off-limits". And many critical files and documents were external. This was true especially for the older versions of The Tool before Louis started localizing at least the most important stuff. So, over time I would add local copies of the other major PS/2-oriented sites. And since all this was on my hard-drive now, I would often directly merge the content with my copy of The Tool, which included fixing the hyperlinks, so they would point to the local pages and files - again - for convenience.

I kept adding more and more content to my - now a bit special - copy of The Tool. Among other things, I would throw in all the old sites that could die at any moment, pages, and files that were already dead but could still be recovered via archive.org or some other means, files I have found on some old hard-drives, etc. And I didn't stop there, I would add my own original content too - notes, board outlines, schematics, measurement results, etc. I have also completely reworked certain important pages - like the main index, so I could navigate the content more efficiently (the old index always was one huge maze for me). At this point, I was using my local copy pretty much exclusively, even when I had access to the internet.

This was when I started thinking about giving back to the community, as I felt bad for using the pages and reading the newsgroup but never posting my own observations. So I thought I would simply make my copy available to everyone, or perhaps I could send the files to Louis so he could merge the changes in - which would be preferable over introducing yet another (and yet different) mirror of the website. And since the internet connection situation in my workshop got resolved a long time ago, there was no need to keep this locally on my laptop anyway.

But there was a problem. While I knew that Louis kept adding to his website and I would even merge some of the important additions to my copy, I didn't realize how many changes cumulated there over the years. So I have done some analysis, and after determining the "scale of the operation" it didn't look too bad... Either I or Louis could simply diff the entire directory tree and merge in the new and modified files - the pages are just a plain HTML - no worries! So I have created a fresh snapshot and tried to do the merge. The directory structure was largely still the same, but after randomly checking some of the conflicted HTML files, I have realized that this ain't gonna work.

The problem was that the HTML documents differed greatly, even if there was just one tiny change made on the entire page! This was bad news. I already knew that some WYSIWYG editor was used to create most of the pages, but I didn't know that its code generator was *that* unstable. I'm not gonna dive into this topic here, but if you are interested, you can read my blurb about WYSIWYG editors. Anyway, I had basically three options. I could give up, write a specialized software that would fully or almost fully automate the process, or I could go semi-auto and use some diff tools, scripts, and a little bit of regex magic to update my copy. No way I could simply send the files to Louis and expect him to do all the work manually. That would probably take months. As a programmer, I could get it down to a week or two, with the right tools. I have decided to go with the semi-automatic method. While a fully automated merge would be really nice, it would take quite some time to write such a tool. Already existing tools, simple scripts, and regular expressions can do most of the work, without spending too much time on them, but of course, the merging itself will be somewhat slower... Well, so be it!

It didn't take long and I had the process automated fairly well. And as a bonus, I would review most of the changes and do additional adjustments where needed. It wasn't really as bad as I originally thought, and the merging was done fairly quickly. Hurray, we are done! Right?

No. The thing is, along the way I have noticed that there is plenty of space for improvement. Broken links, broken formatting, duplicate pages and I don't even know what else. So before I did anything else I have created a backup copy of the now merged and updated The Tool, and started going through my long TO-DO list. There is no reason to describe all the work that went into my copy after the local merge but it was a lot - some of it fun, some of it quite tedious and not so fun, but after some 2 months of off and on work I was pretty much done and happy with it. Time for another backup and then upload it all to my web server! This was mid-2017 or there about...

The Present

It's 2019 now and the site still isn't available... so what happened?! Well, life, other hobbies, and "stuff" happened. The timing was simply bad. Long story short, I didn't touch the site for about 2 years. I have spent some time tinkering with PS/2s to quiet down my MAD symptoms, but it was nothing compared to the previous years.

I have finally got back to the MCA world in May 2019 and I have finally made some additions to my still private copy of The Tool website. (Well, not exactly private, for some time it was available online actually, but on a non-standard port and no links were leading to it, so effectively it was invisible). I have spent some time checking the newsgroup and Louis' Tool only to realize that my copy fell behind. A lot. Again... So it was time for a second large merge. As before it took couple weeks, and of course, I couldn't resist throwing in some additional changes of my own and also localize a few more pages. Ta-daa! So, the big tasks are done (for now) and it's time for the few last touches before making this thing public. Finally!

Well, I think the result of this MAD ride was worth the time I have spent on it, and I hope other people will find it useful :).

The Future

The plan is to keep updating the MAD Edition with new content. You can expect more additions from me, merged in changes from Louis' Ardent Tool and possibly from other sources as well.

The Name

Ah yes, I almost forgot to explain the "MAD Edition" part. To start, this version really is mad, isn't it! Err, but if you are reading all this you probably already know what MAD means, and if not, perhaps you have not been around long enough for the symptoms to show up... Well, if that's the case you can read more about the so-called Microchannel Addictive Disorder - or MAD for short - HERE. Just so you know what you are up against :).


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