Originally Published: Monday, 30 October 2000 Author: Brian Richardson
Published to: enhance_articles_hardware/Hardware Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Tux Noir & The Mysterious Tower

Tux Noir returns! Brian Richardson chronicles the adventures of our favorite penguin in the big city in Tux Noir & The Mysterious Tower. Read on!

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The city. A rough place to be when you're a penguin. An even rougher place to be when you're a penguin with Linux problems. And every day I try to find the answers to those problems. My name is Noir ... Tux Noir.

It was another day in the city. Not a great day, not a bad day ... just a day. The day before Halloween, actually. Halloween is always an interesting day when you're a private detective. Chasing ghosts, exploring haunted mansions, looking for razor blades in the candy dish ... all sorts of exciting stuff happens to a private eye on Halloween. But the day before Halloween is usually pretty dull.

So I was a bit surprised by the phone call I got late that morning. I was in the middle of a great daydream when the phone rang. The caller sounded desperate, going on and on about his "haunted computer". I quoted him my "desperate man" fee, which is a few bucks more than my "desperate woman in a low-cut dress" rate, and waddled on over to his place.

This guy's place looked like something out of a low-budget horror movie. I stood in front of a giant gothic mansion, sitting on the top of a hill away from the city. It might have been scarier in the dark, but that giant neon "Haunted Mansion" sign ruined the mood. I waddled to the top of the stairs and slapped the doorbell with my flipper.

The door s-l-o-w-l-y creaked open, revealing a lobby mustier than my month-old workout shorts. A wiry little penguin greeted me at the door. Not very tall, he had these bulging eyes that almost fell out their sockets. His face was ... well, familiar somehow ... nah, it couldn't be him. While I tried to remember where I has seen him before, he asked me to come in.

"Ah, Mr. Noir. My name is ... Philip. We spoke on the phone. Would you ... like to come in?"

He put my fedora and trenchcoat on the coat rack after I entered. It was a grand estate, with an even grander set of cobwebs. It was huge, empty and old. This place looked like Microsoft Bob Fan Club headquarters.

"This way, Mr. Noir." Philip motioned me towards an office at the end of an unusually long hallway. There was a dusty, old wooden desk in the office. The desk had a small monitor and a huge tower computer case, both covered in several strata of dust. Philip cringed as he pointed to the desk.

"This is it, Mr. Noir. This is my father's ... mysterious tower."

After he spoke, I heard thunder outside ... which was odd for a clear day. I shrugged it off and took a look at the computer. It wasn't anything special ... beige case with beige monitor and a beige keyboard. Man, do I hate beige.

"So Phillip, what's the problem? Lost some files? Can't get onto the network? Wondering why Gnome has that damn foot all over their desktop?"

"No, Mr. Noir. This computer ... this mysterious tower ... was my father's Linux computer. I know nothing about what lies inside. I fear to open it, I fear to peer inside. I don't know what resources the hardware uses. I have no idea what type of CPU is in it. It is ... it is a mystery to me, Mr. Noir."

So, this was his problem. Philip was too paranoid to open his computer to find out what kind of hardware had been installed. It's pretty common for folks to be afraid of their hardware, especially Linux newbies. But this was no problem.

I reassured Philip everything was fine, and started to show him how to get the information he required. Everything Philip needed was in the /proc directory. Linux keeps simple text files describing system hardware in the /proc directory. By using the cat command or a text editor, users can read these files to learn how Linux has configured the system.

I opened up a console and typed "cat /proc/cpuinfo," which showed me the central processor configuration. The speed, CPU family, CPUID and other information were displayed. This is handy if you're running a multi-processor kernel ... there is one entry for each CPU installed.

Typing "cat /proc/meminfo" showed me the system memory configuration, both physical memory and swap space. I showed Philip the interrupt configuration using "cat /proc/interrupts." DMA and I/O port information is stored in /proc/dma and /proc/ioports.

Since Philip's machine used an Intel Pentium 60, it had to have a PCI bus. I typed "cat /proc/pci" at the console, which showed me all of the PCI bus devices. This showed me a lot of information about Phillip's system, like the motherboard chipset and PCI video card.

Philip was a lot more relaxed now that the mystery of his computer had been solved. There was a lot of other information I could have shown Philip, but I had to leave. As good as the money was for the job, this bird was starting to creep me out. It wasn't the house, or the car-sized cobwebs ... this guy was creepy.

As Philip showed me to the door, I had a hunch. I was sure I had met Philip before.

"Hey," I said, "I'm sure we have met before."

"No, Mr. Noir. I have never met you before. Perhaps you are thinking of my twin brother, Peter. He works for this bird across town who has a thing for hand-carved statues of humans."

Yes, that was it ... the fat bird. That was the bird who sent me looking for that statue, 'The Maltese Man'. But that was another mystery, from another day. It was just one of the many mysteries in the files of Tux Noir, Linux Detective.

Brian Richardson is still trying to download that Mandrake 7.2 ISO. Why are there only two mirror sites in the US?

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