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Eden Lake Part Four

Posted by Matt on February 9, 2012 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (5)

As Trent and I headed along the lake side road to get back to the car, more delapidated buildings just kept showing up. At the side of the smaller of the lifts, there was a big shed like building missing a quarter of it's roof. There was no signage (save for "keep out") and a single padlocked door. The padlock was actually cut open so we went inside, it must have been some kind of machine room because it was filled with high pressure hoses and boilers and all sorts of things.....I remember reading that eden lake used to create their own snow for the hills, so the pressure hoses are probably from that, everything else is a big question mark.
The structure itself was unsound and about ready to give way to the elements. I'd give it two years, tops.

What makes it worse is that the roof caved in - just kind of made any clue as to what this was for end up in the middle of the room in pieces. This is what gets to me the most about these kinds of places. Do something with it! Sell it for scrap! DO SOMETHING with it.

The next building was a medical building, complete with red and white cross on the front (just in case you poke a ski through your lung or something) There wasn't much in it, half the roof was completely gone (plywood is not the ideal construction material) However it did contain two pretty decent looking sleds that would have really come in handy when travelling down the ski hills. Note: Get sleds BEFORE going up the hill next time around.

From outside the first aid building you get a pretty neat look at just how big the chalet building is. It's just at the top of a small but steep cliff/hill.

From this point, the road gets kind of closed in by a patch of trees, and yet you still see ski's or ski boots or busted machinery just laying around.

The above structure actually had a "ski blackcomb" sticker on a door at the top of those reeeeeallly rotting stairs. That's a ski hill in whistler, BC, an entire provice away. Who knows?

I tried to pick one of these boots up, and it disintigrated in my hand....I mean the plastic just crumbled like powder.

Hey, jupiter iron works canada, you left your boxy red thing out here. Don't you want it? It's was probably expensive at one point?


The cabins, from the other side and through some trees.

More stockpiled machinery, rusting away. I know it looks like they are new and ready to work and that someone just put these here a week or so ago.....Trust me, they've been here a while. A closeup of the key in one ignition proves it:

Notice the rust, the materials falling off off and apart.

On the left there was this house, further down a different road and closer to the lake, we didn't know if someone lived here or if this was another abandoned building, but there were people in a truck coming towards us so we didn't explore.

That concludes the day Trent Reznor and I took a trip to Eden Lake, Alberta. It was cold and really tiring and dangerous at times but well worth it in the end to document such an incredible place in the middle of nowhere, rusting and rotting away, hidden in plain sight.

I took 215 pictures that day, and they can ALL be seen without my witty commentary on my photobucket:
http://s3.photobucket.com/albums/y52/theunoticeable/Eden Lake/


Eden Lake Part Four

Posted by Matt on February 9, 2012 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (0)

As Trent and I headed along the lake side road to get back to the car, more delapidated buildings just kept showing up. At the side of the smaller of the lifts, there was a big shed like building missing a quarter of it's roof. There was no signage (save for "keep out") and a single padlocked door. The padlock was actually cut open so we went inside, it must have been some kind of machine room because it was filled with high pressure hoses and boilers and all sorts of things.....I remember reading that eden lake used to create their own snow for the hills, so the pressure hoses are probably from that, everything else is a big question mark.
The structure itself was unsound and about ready to give way to the elements. I'd give it two years, tops.

What makes it worse is that the roof caved in - just kind of made any clue as to what this was for end up in the middle of the room in pieces. This is what gets to me the most about these kinds of places. Do something with it! Sell it for scrap! DO SOMETHING with it.

The next building was a medical building, complete with red and white cross on the front (just in case you poke a ski through your lung or something) There wasn't much in it, half the roof was completely gone (plywood is not the ideal construction material) However it did contain two pretty decent looking sleds that would have really come in handy when travelling down the ski hills. Note: Get sleds BEFORE going up the hill next time around.

From outside the first aid building you get a pretty neat look at just how big the chalet building is. It's just at the top of a small but steep cliff/hill.

From this point, the road gets kind of closed in by a patch of trees, and yet you still see ski's or ski boots or busted machinery just laying around.

The above structure actually had a "ski blackcomb" sticker on a door at the top of those reeeeeallly rotting stairs. That's a ski hill in whistler, BC, an entire provice away. Who knows?

I tried to pick one of these boots up, and it disintigrated in my hand....I mean the plastic just crumbled like powder.

Hey, jupiter iron works canada, you left your boxy red thing out here. Don't you want it? It's was probably expensive at one point?


The cabins, from the other side and through some trees.

More stockpiled machinery, rusting away. I know it looks like they are new and ready to work and that someone just put these here a week or so ago.....Trust me, they've been here a while. A closeup of the key in one ignition proves it:

Notice the rust, the materials falling off off and apart.

On the left there was this house, further down a different road and closer to the lake, we didn't know if someone lived here or if this was another abandoned building, but there were people in a truck coming towards us so we didn't explore.

That concludes the day Trent Reznor and I took a trip to Eden Lake, Alberta. It was cold and really tiring and dangerous at times but well worth it in the end to document such an incredible place in the middle of nowhere, rusting and rotting away, hidden in plain sight.

I took 215 pictures that day, and they can ALL be seen without my witty commentary on my photobucket:
http://s3.photobucket.com/albums/y52/theunoticeable/Eden Lake/


Eden Lake Part Three

Posted by Matt on February 8, 2012 at 11:10 PM Comments comments (1)

Leaving the comfort? of enclosed buildings inside, Trent and I braved the mountains and set up to the top of the first hill, or the bunny hill, or the one with the two rope hill. It was a short distance from the rear entrance to the chalet and the "other" building, and a fairly steep incline.
At the top; we found what appears to be the rusty remains of the tow rope machinery, a ticket/operator/something booth, and about ten feet in front of that in the middle of the slope was a sign that read "unload here". About a thousand "unload" jokes and various word puns later......


...Please move quickly as the person behind you will KNOCK YOU DOWN
There wasn't much left to see here, just some old purple poles and a 2x2 shack on top of a small hill. There was nothing in the shack, and the window was smashed in. The machinery had been picked clean of anything I could assume was worthwhile and then picked clean again by vandals. Every single one of those little bushes you see growing everywhere is FULL of little razor sharp needle- like barbs. It was a lot of fun!

We moved on to the second hill, which was just a continuation of the first hill. It was steeper and really not easy to walk up in the snow, especially when you're wearing steel toed boots. I recommend snowshoes if anyone cares to take this trip in the winter.

At the top of hill #2, or the middle hill, or the "ski jump" hill, there's a large rusting metal ramp pointed upwards supported by a giant slab of concrete stuck into the side of the mountain. I realized this wasn't a jump at all when we got there and the ramp pointed directly out over a cliff. Literally a million foot drop to your untimely death if you were to jump off this thing. Turning around suddenly makes you realize it's actually the T-bar lift....that or the giant steel cable dangling T-bars on a giant wheel/pulley thing.

Here's the view from underneath the metal ramp, where there is surprisingly no guard rail (the rotting fence around the edge?) and you could pretty much see to edmonton.


This is what I don't understand. Why was there a giant ramp on the end of the T-bar lift? Did you ride down the ramp? Was it there in case someone got stuck on the T-bar, just to freak them out? I have to say I got about halfway up this thing and it was terrifying, though I guess the entire foundation of it rotting out from under me was probably a factor.
When I was standing on the ramp I took a picture of where it led downward:



If you look closely you can see the steel purple supports for the T-bar cable. Oh, wait, this camera had zoom:

I stood on the edge of that horrible concrete slab and took a picture, and then we went off to the entire reason I came to this place:

We actually stopped at the lower structure, which was another T-bar lift. It too kind of jutted out from the cliff face supported by giant concrete pillars. There was a wierd hole in the middle of the concrete slab, about big enough for....well, I don't know. Trent and I discussed what this hole could possibly have been for.



There's a picture of the hole in all of its glory, and if you look close you can see a knife in the sand below. I actually clammered down the cliff to get it, and yeah, I kept it.


 
We were close enough to take a picture of the giant wooden sign on top of the chairlift hill. You can just make out LAKE and "enjoy coke".
I managed to swear and climb my way up this hill, it was muddy and slippery as all hell, but I made it....only to realize that there was a fairly nice path on the other side to climb up.
Here's what's behind that giant wooden sign:


I was kind of surprised that this was all there was at the end of the chair lift. I thought there would be massive support columns and concrete like the T-bar lifts, but no, this was just some steel structures. And the chairs were never less than 12 feet off the ground.....How did people get off? I can't imagine the snow being that deep, perhaps there was an offloading place somewhere?

The chair on the left side was melted, I'm unsure how that was accomplished, as you can see it's pretty high up with nothing surrounding it, so either it was a flaming lucky shot or someone tossed something on fire up there on purpose. This is facing down the hill, towards the bottom of the chairlift.


I wanted to climb the ladder and get a neato picture, but a few rungs into the first ladder and I noticed that the top ladder was held up by a bungee cord. Not wanting to be the guy that fell off a chairlift tower and died in the middle of nowhere, I decided against it.



That last picture is at the ledge of two hills, where the T-bar and the chairlift hill kind of come together and plateau for a few feet.
At the bottom of the hill was a really craptacular wooden structure, the place where you'd board the chairlift I'm assuming, and it was literally just some plywood tacked onto some 2x4's. I would like to think that this wasn't always like this, that perhaps the owners just did that in a failed attempt to keep the structure together. As you can see, time has not been kind to this particular building....

You can still see the chairs inside, still attached to the steel cable. Creepy, isn't it?


Across from this, towards the lake, there was a couple sheds - One turned out to be a portapotty, the other was filled with wooden doors. There were a few odds and ends laying around, mainly ice fishing items and some more piles of wood.

Further down the road at the bottom, we came to the machinery at the bottom of the second T-bar lift we passed at the top, this one still had the cables attached and you could see several T-bars still on the lift. Most of the rectractable cables and T's were still attached, but many had been broken or cut off. It was only rope, and I figure it probably took a good two years of rot to destroy them.


Further down the road, the lake had semi-reclaimed the machinery house at the bottom of the first T-bar lift we passed at the top. There was no cables on this lift, actually no cable in sight, which makes me wonder if previous owners had it taken down or if someone somewhere had just made off with it (though it's probably a ten thousand pound steel cable).



You can still kind of see the path that the lift took up the hill, which the purple supprts every hundred feet or so. This is the lift that run up to that giant metal platform and I still don't understand what the purpose of it was.

We kept along the road on our way back, it ran the length of the lake and then back up to the cabins where we had originally come in to the resort. There were some more buildings along the way, and that will be part four.

Part Four - Leaving Eden Lake

Eden Lake Part Two

Posted by Matt on February 6, 2012 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (2)

The Chalet and that "other" building beside it
Author's note: A LOT of this building is pitch black and the pictures supplied are thanks to the flash on my camera. I honestly didn't know what I was taking pictures of half the time, I'd just stick my arm through a doorway and snap a picture.

Viewing from a distance this place seems like any other building, but when you get up close you realize very quickly how disgustingly uncared for it's been for the last...oh, 20 years?
To the left from this perspective is a weird building, with two long corridors heading into a creepy dark and damp basement area. I'm assuming this is where folk would adorn ski boots and such, and there was a barely readable sign on the front claiming something about ski rentals. The upper floors of this building had, again, newly renovated drywalling that had been smashed down by vandals (but it probably didn't matter because this place is abandoned) And the top level appeared to be some kind of apartments, complete with balcony and sliding doors, etc. I have no idea what this building was used for aside from ski euipment rental.
When I saw this building it reminded me of the sphynx in egypt, with the way the two corridors are jutting out from the main building like the paws on the sphynx.

The doorway into the chalet was standing open, fairly inviting to those who'd like to venture in. There were at least 30 or 40 doors sitting againt one part of the building.

Inside was like walking into that TV show "hoarders". There was stuff EVERYWHERE, and little paths through it all. Oh, and bird shit....everywhere. The birds had literally taken this four story building and made it into the largest man made birdhouse in the world.

Immediately to the right there was a large kind of spiral staircase. I was a little hesistant because the entire building seemed like you could just push it over, but after a few test steps I realized that the stairs are completely concrete, and even most of the second floor was complete concrete.
The ceiling above the stairs was vaulted and had the remains of what I can only assume was a pretty cool chandelier.....Well, cool for the 70's or 80's I guess.

Up to the second floor we go!

The top of the stairs, and you can see what I mean on the floor here, too. It's literally caked in bird poop. I'm not one to worry about a lot of respiratory things, but this was sickly on an epic level.


There's at least four fireplaces in the building, at least one per floor. I'm thinking they are all connected to the same chimney. For an Inn (or so called inn) this place didn't seem to have any suites to stay in, just extremely large rooms - banquet halls, dining areas, cafeterias (at least two) and even what looked like a dance floor. There was spray paint and evidence of vandalism everywhere, but it looked pretty juvenile....as if 13 year old kids with spray cans spent a summer in there.

Don't let the "windows" fool you - there's not one pane of glass left in them. This room was completely empty and had a large cone shaped ceiling. There was literal piles of bird poop covering the floor and a lonely table....my thought is someone or a few someone's were going to toss it out the window and gave up when they realized the metal shield prevented that.

There was this creepy mural painted on the wall - original from when the building was still in use. I don't know what it's supposed to symbolize or mean, or why it's there.

This thing was in the middle of a large room, if you follow a hallway from the bathrooms, it leads to this....some kind of weird shower type thing, though it makes no sense to have a see through shower in the middle of a room.....or does it?

This room was pitch black inside and had counters blocking the doors. I'm not too sure where it led to or what the point of blocking it off was, but Trent and I assumed it held back hoardes of zombies and decided to leave it be....Plus clambering over large items of furniture when you're not 15 years old is really difficult.

This was kind of a stage room, it had a large stage area on one side and a smaller squared off stage area on the right. The above photo was taken from "the dance floor". I call it that because it was a wooden floor, slick, with light fixtures surrounding it....just like those old school disco dance floors. This entire room was decorated very 70's.

Through another set of doors, there was a long hallway that got darker and kind of ended with bathrooms, and a small black doorway that was just a staircase going to the bottom floor. There was a table at the landing on the bottom, and though someone probably just tossed it down there, I like to think some kids rode it down in a pre-jackass CKY fashion.

 Now, this building has a floor above the one we were on, but Trent and I couldn't for the life of us find a stairway leading to the mysterious third floor. I'm not sure if we just didn't look hard enough or if it was perhaps behind the creepy blocked doorway. Either way, we headed back down the spiral stairway and roamed past the junk into the main floor area. The first thing you came across was ANOTHER large room filled to the brim with....

...Hundred of broken toilets. The porcelain chunks were so thick on the floor it was like swimming in broken toilet land. There was -what used to be- brand new drywall in pieces everywhere. This is drywall that hasn't been used yet, again leading back to the "renovation in process but abandoned" thing I mentioned in part one. There wasn't a single toilet in here that wasn't in ten thousand little pieces. Kids are jerks.

This room also had a fireplace, but oddly in front of it was a five by five foot hole in the ground, as if a sitting area or pool (but placed directly in front of a fireplace?) I'm left wondering what exactly this hole was for.
The room had arched doorways and windows. Everything was arches. I'm going to call this the arch broken toilet room.

Looking at these pictures now, it's creepy the way the "cafe" style chairs and table were set up as if ready to serve tea and crumpets. The room was pretty brightly lit, even for a cloudy day. It almost looks like this room was meant to be an inside outside kind of style, y'know, european and junk.
There were only two doorways in this room, the one we entered through, and one that was kind of bordered off by a "wall" which was smashed in by vandals (assumingly)
Directly through the "wall", we were met with a giant sign proclaiming that there was a cafeteria downstairs. The problem is, there IS no downstairs, this was the bottom floor. Trent said the sign probably meant that the cafeteria was "through those doors under it" but I still think they should have had a proper sign. Oh, and right beside those doors we found some human vertabrae.....

Ok, so maybe not human bones, but it sure looks human and to this day I have no idea what kind of bones those are. I kicked them around a bit to take a better picture, and yeah, they were real bones.

The cafeteria area was dark, we didn't spend too much time in here because of the lack of windows and eerie atmosphere. I snapped a few pictures before moving on...quickly. One picture shows some knocked down coolers, I didn't realize they were coolers until reviewing the pictures because it was so dark in there.

We got out of the dark into another gigantic open room, this one again decorated in very 70's style. The light fixtures were single 60 watt bulbs surrounded by mirrors....because that's super cool when you're living in 1978 and high on ludes, man.


At the very end of this elongated room is yet another fireplace. According to some forums on the lake eden facebook page, this was a popular place to warm up after skiing.


And if you want to hold an event, they have enough chairs in this place, all stacked into another giant room, enough so that you can't even go into the room without moving chairs.


The chalet - outside!

Eventually we ventured back out into the Alberta winter, suffice to say the outside makes for much better pictures:



Trent and I assumed that the ".....ing lounge" was the large room with the dance floor and "bar" area.


The "other" building:

The only clue to this building is a barely readable sign saying something about ski equipment rentals. Like I previously mentioned, it's really weirdly oriented, two long corridors leading into a creepy basement, and upper floors that resemble office space and apartments. Very strange, again NO idea what this was at one point.


Creepy basement area, the above picture was taken in pitch blackness, I stood in the doorway of one corridor and snapped a picture.

The main floor was the "office space" and the top with the balcony seemed like two apartments across from each other. Very strangely oriented.....Can't figure out the scheme of this place at all, but I suppose time and the elements have taken their toll on what once was.

The nicest of the two apartments, nice balcony/sliding doors, fireplace, etc. Still wondering why/what for. The stairs leading up to these was splattered with red paint, giving it that effective "movie death scene" kind of look.





That's all for tonight, kids. Stay tuned for episode 3: The abandoned ski hills!

Eden Lake Part One

Posted by Matt on February 6, 2012 at 1:30 AM Comments comments (4)

Eden Lake, Alberta is located just west of stony plain via the Trans-Canada highway and a short trip down range road 20. You can actually see the rotting wooden sign (LAKE EDEN - Drink Coke!) from the highway.
When I was a kid my mom lived just a little further down the range road from lake eden. I only visited in the summer and there's not a whole lot left to do out there but walk around and look at stuff, which is exactly what we ended up doing. I remember fairly vividly - chair lifts, a large building and several cabins filled to the brim with what appeared to be perfectly fine ski equipment.

More recently (and since I've moved to Alberta) I'd been thinking a lot about lake eden, and got to wondering if the ski hill was still there. I google-found my answer via google maps and random facebook blogs about the very site. It was still there! Being interested in urban exploration since day one, I conjured up my friend trent reznor and we took the 2 hour road trip to snap some shots of the place before it disappears from existence completely.


This is the large sign at the driveway "into" the "resort". Clearly it hasn't been updated/looked at/cared for in quite some time. Even the phone numbers are minus an area code, which dates it effectively. We could physically drive about twenty feet down a small slope until we were met with this:

No trespassing, a phone number for "information" (which leads me to believe you phone the number and the person on the other end tells you to go home) and a flimsy padlock. There were a few vehicles on the frozen lake, assumingly ice fishing or something of the like. Oddly throughout our entire trip, trent and I did not meet another single soul....Save for when we were at this very gate heading back to the car....A 20-something male and ditzy girl in a pickup truck asked us what we were doing and if we had seen the no trespassing sign. They didn't seem to care too much that we were there, and the guy was pretty upset that the gate was locked and such, so all in all a perfect photo taking day. Let's go around that gate and start the trip!

This is the first thing you are met with about fifty feet past the gate - a trailer. It looked perfectly fine, except upon closer inspection both doors were open and the windows broken. It was filled with a strange assortment of random trash, clothes, washing machines, and other useless junk. I have no idea what the purpose of this thing is, it looks semi-newer than any of the other buildings here, yet still in complete dilapidation. This is a trend that continues throughout eden lake ski resort.

The machinery / construction materials.

Wander down the road a bit further and you see all sorts of stuff you wouldn't expect to see in this kind of place, construction materials and buildings, and machinery...all sitting as if they'd been in the middle of a workday, turned off for lunch and then never returned to. It's almost creepy, but there were no emergencies out here, no end-of-days functions, no reason for this stuff to be left here except owner stupidity. All of the large machinery still had ignition keys left in, all of it looking as though ready to start up work right then and there.
Funny story - One gas generator had a broken key on the side, and absentmindedly I jammed it in the started and turned, and the rusty beast started to turn over. Scared the shit out of me, and trent and I decided to not turn any more machinery keys.
Along with the machinery, there was stacks upon stacks of construction materials - wood piles, insulation, doors, and tools - tons of tools. One construction shack (which was unlocked yet untouched except by the elements) had tools and first aid kits, soaps and all kinds of stuff. A lot of this place looked like it had been renovated, or started to be renovated with new materials and then just left to die out there, like "we ran out of money, oh well. good try."



No idea what those giant tubes are for, but there was nine or so of them. I think this used to be a parking lot of sorts as there was still a light pole or two (you know, those parking lot style ones) sticking out of the machinery here and there. On the very edge of the lot you could see the first sign of skiing, the purple poles (all ski equpiment stuff was purple) with giant pulleys and wheels for what I could only assume was the tow rope bunny hill. To the right in the distance is the chalet, and to the righter right are some cabins we checked out first.

The Cabins:

There's five or six, depending on if you count the one that's kind of smashed in, like someone drove a truck into it and then took off. Again there is construction material EVERYWHERE as well as debris of unknown status. Strangely there were two trailers that looked like they'd just been parked there a day ago, but no tracks in the snow to confirm that theory. The cabins were all unlocked (most didn't have doors) and fairly rotting away but we snuck a peek inside a couple of them.

I'm not sure what the point of these cabins were, They all face the lake with large bay windows, they all have one large room and two off-rooms, but no bathroom. There are two outhouses adjacent to them that fills in that gap, though - it must have sucked to stay in the farthest one away because you'd have to walk through five lots just to get to the can. The outdoor, disgusting can.
The first cabin I trekked into was filled to the door with these TV cabinet "armoire" type things. They were in pristine condition while the cabin housing them was rotting away, even the brass and silver handles on the doors were shiny, like new. I have no idea what the point of this manuever was, but I assume it was temporary storage that turned into permanent when the money ran dry.

The next cabin was made up in some makeshift homeless person kind of way. There were several hotplates and propane stoves, a thousand empty propane bottles, bedding, blankets, a lamp or three, a small oldtimey television and about 20 or so VHS movies, of disney variety. There was a well stocked pantry and the fridge USED to have food in it (pretty gross, but there was mustard in there that looked perfectly fine to eat) In the back room of this particular cabin there was personal stuff like glasses and papers, old bibles and pokemon trading cards (tons of pokemon trading cards) As well as another bed and lamp. I don't know if this was left by the original cabin owner or if this was homeless settlement for someone.

The last cabin I went into had brand new drywall and renovation going on, but it was obviously abandoned due to whatever they abandoned it for. The cabin itself was rotting on the outside, but fixed up and ditched on the inside. Like I said, this is trending throughout the whole place, some more strange than others - Who fixes up one crappy cabin halfway and then decides "screw it"?

The chalet and surrounding area:

The Chalet itself is still standing - and that's about the best summary I can say. All the windows are broken out, and all the doors inside have been removed and placed precariously against the outside of the building for whatever reason. The area just outside is littered with crap - office chairs, banquet style guest chairs, Random objects of no real purpouse and twisted metal and scraps of brand new construction material. It's like a construction company moved everything in and then blew up. Just exploded everywhere. There was an odd trailer just outside, which just happened to be filled with the things you don't expect to see out here in the middle of nowhere: Like boxes upon boxes of photo albums and even baby books - FILLED OUT with names, dates, and thousands of pictures.

Everything was strewn about so carelessly, but one can assume the rampant vandalizm shown throughout was a fairly big cause of it.

Next post: Part 2 - inside the chalet and the "other" building beside it.

Obsolete hardware breathes a little

Posted by Matt on September 22, 2011 at 10:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Everyone has old hardware. It's that laptop you've stuffed onto a bookshelf in the back of the closet, that ipod you replaced with a newer ipod, that PC card you dismissed when PCI-e came around, that cardbud wifi card that you neglect due to the invent of the expresscard interface.

I know you've got something, everyone does, and though it seems like our universe will soon be filled with old macbook laptops and disposeable ipod nano's, FEAR NOT my faithful techies....There's hope afoot.

I happened to stumble across a pristine piece of machinery - and by pristine, I mean a proprietary piece of crap built by dell known as the inspiron 4000:

This bad boy bleeds cutting edge....um...in '98. A dvd-rom drive (that reads dvd's!!), a single nickel metal hydryde battery (switched this out with a newer li-ion battery), an RS-232 serial port (may be functional), parallel port, proprietary power port, 40gb Hard drive and .... are you ready? A single USB 1.1 port. OH YEAH! Because no one would ever need more than one of these universal serial ports and hell, 12mb/s is BLAZING speed. Oh, and the processor is a sturdy single core Pentium III 650Mhz WITH a badass 256MB of RAM.
...Yeah, but back in 1998 this shit was the best of the best. At a whopping $1199 introductory price Dell was just GIVING these away. Nowadays you can probably get one of these for free from the bottom of you local abandoned trash can.

And so, with the given specs, you wonder - What can it run?

Hell....It'll run XP, slowly. And by slowly I mean you'll want to be returning it to that abandoned trashcan with FORCE before it even boots to the coloured XP logo.

So you there - ditch the bloat. You want something free. Something liberating. Something you can dev on without the hassle of slow overpriced software.

So get puppy linux
(
http://puppylinux.org)

Despite the cutesy name and the obligatory "bark bark" when you boot into it, puppy linux is a powerful distro built from the ground up. And it's better than debian for old hardware! (With the latest update, puppy supports i686 a little bit more smoothly, so newer systems will work great too, but that's not what this is about)
Puppy has everything you need right off the bat, and it'll fit quite snugly onto a mini-cdR at about 131mb for the entire system.

Which is precisely what I did. A single Mini-CDR (which I bought online in a pack of 100 for under $10) burns the entire liveCD, which is fantastic for even older hardware without a CD drive....this shit'll run right out of your RAM, a USB drive, disc, or any other media you can slap it on.

LiveCD meaning, of course, no installation necessary. Just pop in the puppy media and boot - it'll do everything you'd expect an OS to do, including asking if you'd like to save your settings when you shut down the computer - this allows you to boot right back up on a liveCD and continue where you left off - just as if you'd installed it locally.

Installation is simple: run the liveCD, when puppy boots into the X windowing system simply click on the "install" icon. This will run you through an extremely simple installation process. You can choose from here to install to your local hard drive, a cd, etc etc. I chose to go with the local Hard drive. Bam. installed.

The next step is making your installation bootable. This SHOULD come up after the installation completes, but it doesn't happen a lot of the time, so you'll need to find and run the bootloader installation. It's under the main MENU somewhere, just find it an click, it will install either GRUB or a text based grub4dos. You can choose either, but GRUB is graphical and nicer.

You have several options for GUI, as well, though the default is JWM, you can choose IceWM, Fluxbox, and Enlightenment. I've seen some KDE variants but they tend to be for newer hardware. Stick with JWM for the older hardware, it's functional and super awesome.

Once you set up your networking (click the "connect" icon) you can install a browser (click "browse" on the desktop). You have a choice of firefox, opera, etc etc.

As you can see everything is labelled out real easy and nice, and there's all sorts of power under the hood. You've got several terminals for command line *nix stuffs, and all sorts of goodies.

And now you've breathed new life into a really crappy computer! WHOO!

Screenshot:


CarPC Part 2 - Installation

Posted by Matt on August 31, 2011 at 11:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Installation:

Four hour job and still not completely done.

Remove the front seat, vacuum, find change and spare car key.

Remove deck! Whoooo!

The deck had to come out to allow the hookup of the audio cable. My deck has several inputs (audio/video/etc).

Routing wires took the longest time:

That's the audio cable, going to run underneath the center console, and up and through to the deck input. The duct tape is going to provide a sticky padding under the carputer to keep it from sliding around (I just double taped a foam pad underneath the computer)

A USB cable will accompany the audio cable under the center console as well. Power cable will be on the drivers side, under the molding (just snaps up and off, and on just as easily)

Once everything is wired up, I had to check the clearance under the seat to make absolutely sure it fit. (I probably should have done this before wiring, but I didn't think of it until after. duh)

Luckily for me, It fit:

Quite snugly!

The GPS is mounted on the drivers side top windshield. It's got a clear view of the sky and doesn't block my view either. The USB cable you see hanging is routed underneath that piece of molding holding it up as well.

Screen Placement! :

That's right, right there in the most hardest place to ever put a screen. I used two screws (minimal damage to my dash) and marked it super carefully before permanently attaching it.

I positioned it just enough outward so that I could fold the screen flat if need be. I figure it's a slider screen, so why take away the cool slidey functionality? Damn right.

She boots! USB cable turned out OK, may have to re-think the USB hub somehow. Not sure, but for now it booooots!

And of course I opened up media engine to see what she'd look like:

And there it is! Looks great, touchscreen is AWESOME. So all that's left is a few minor wire routing and putting away and cleaning up thingies, but we'll take care of that another night.
Ultimate entertainment in my car? I think so!


PCLinuxOS and the big HP FAIL

Posted by Matt on August 22, 2011 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

So I've managed to snag another laptop, This time an HP "dv6000-esque" Multimedia Laptop.

It's all shiny and perdy and glows blue LED's. It's got a sinister dual core processor and 4gb of RAM, a less than average but still worthy 120gb Hard drive, and all the multiple bells and whistles you'd have with any other PC you'd purchase these days.
The problem? HP somehow put more effort into making it look pretty rather than actually testing out or benchmarking the device to make sure it, you know, works. Thousands of lawsuits across the america's have proved this point right - even if it looks really cool, people aren't going to like paying $800 for a neat looking coffee table centerpiece.
The issue lies not in the hardware itself, but on the single fact that you can't cram a dual core super duper machine into a small space without proper ventilation.....It just won't work. Well, it will, but not for a long time. And that's exactly what people were getting - machines that worked for a month or two, maybe even a year.....but eventually the thing would just refuse to turn on, or BSOD so much that it made it impossible to use. What's happening here is that the CPU and GPU are rediculously close together, for no other reason than to share a heatsink, on top of which rides a single teeeeeny-tiny fan. This fan is supposed to cool not only one, but TWO processing units that collectively put out more heat than a coal fire in centralia.
This could have been fixed. All it takes is a better fan and some copper heatsinks. But HP decided to blatantly ignore this fact (along with a handful of competitors who made the same mistake) and blindly give people refunds instead of, y'know, fixing the design.
Maybe it's better that HP has decided to opt-out of the computer business altogether. Maybe they've taken the last hit for a shoddy compaq computer for the umpteenth time. Who knows?

I digress
There's no way in hell I'm going to run windows on the thing. As far as an OS goes, it's bulky, bloated, and slows down with every passing moment. I knew I wanted linux from the getgo, but which distro would suit me the best?
I've done the ubuntu thing, but since the 11.04 update and that awful, awful "netbooky" "optimization" look.....Well, it's really soured my experience with ubuntu.
Mandriva is too commercial (for a linux distro), and slax/debian/redhat all seem so....outdated.
So I found PCLinuxOS on LiLi and made a boot USB. Give'r a go, May as well.
The OS itself is visually appealing, with all the sh-bang of a big box distro and the curves of a sexy woman. Package managing is simple in synaptic, and it's even got emulators built right into the bloody system.
I can't stress enough how important emulators are.
I've found a lot of likes and dislikes, more of the former than the latter....If there was something I couldn't find, I'd just rebuild an old .deb package as an .rpm and it would work...mostly. The one thing that I still can't figure out is how ubuntu would auto-detect my android phone and begin using the data plan for internet on the laptop (right when I plugged it in) and when I plug it in on PCLinuxOS, nothing happens. I though maybe a program or package or some kind of dependancy maybe is missing, but I can't find it for the life of me.
Of course command line ADB works fine for android phones, and mine is no exception.

Speaking of which, The command lines here are wonderful. Easy to use, easy to read, Hell...Even permissions can be set so that you only have to root it one time and you can save that permission for the entire session - until you physically log out or click on the "permissions" notifier in task bar.

Highly recommend PCLinuxOS to anyone looking for easy peasy programming and awesome user-ability.

CarPC

Posted by Matt on August 19, 2011 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)

This one's been years in the making. I finally have all the parts and pieces I need to put this together!

Project: Carputer

Why a car computer? The answer is simple: Ultimate mutimedia that no amount of built in slidey screen single DIN decks can provide. I've been through several car DVD decks, several "mp3 bla bla bla" decks, and I'm tired of having the GPS stuck to my windshield. I've got an old ipod wired into the "audio in" jack and the 3.4 inch dvd screen on my current deck just doesn't cut it.

So you can see why - A single screen, attached to the dash - to provide Navigation, Media and other little awesomeness(es) is the best thing to do.

SO, we begin with two main components: The PC, and the screen:

The Computer ($599 - MDG) component is hosted by the MDG "flip" netbook. It's got a touchscreen, 2gb of RAM, Windows 7 Ultimate, and a 60gb 1.8" ZIF/PATA hard disk. Not much space, But I'll come back to that issue later in this text. The flip served me well for a year or so now, But I've upgraded to a man-sized laptop, and this little ditty actually swivels 180 degrees so that the screen lays flat on the keyboard, making it perfect to mount under the seat in the car.
The Screen ($230 - robotshop.ca) is a wonderful little device from the good folk at MIMO. The MIMO slider model is powered by a single mini-USB cable and provides a gorgeous touch screen that is absolutely perfect for CarPC applications.

Next: A few accessories:

1) Powered 4-port USB hub
2) Bluetooth keyboard
3) IR remote control with mouse capability
All definetely unnecessary, but adds to the experience. Technically the computer and the screen would work without these, But the USB hub provides extra ports for the external GPS module that will be controlling the navigation aspects, and the keyboard can be used with chat/programming/playlists, etc. The remote is just for fun, it allows you to use the mouse through the remote and can shut down the pc as well as controls media programs and such.

As for software, I've installed the following:

1) Media Engine. I went through centrafuse, roadrunner, xbmc and a host of other carpc media programs....only to find that Media engine is the most customizeable and looks the best on my MIMO monitor. Media Engine provides super easy access to local music, video, and other utilities. It allows you to configure outside applications from within the program, so that when I click on the "GPS" option - It opens up into ....

2) Microsoft Streets and trips 2009. I bought this on amazon for about $20. It came with the USB dongle as a little bonus. The program runs fairly smoothly, and navigation is a breeze. Of course I can always change the navigation program as there is a multitude of programs out there for the USB dongles.

Installation:

Not exactly for th faint of heart. It's going to involve relentless routing of wiring and strategic screen placing on my already cluttered dash. The PC will sit under the front seat with foamies underneath to absorb shocks, zip tied into place to keep it safe and sound. The power button will be accessible from the drivers side. Because the laptop has a battery, turning off the ignition will not turn off the carpc, so I've rigged the windows power settings to hibernate after a few minutes of battery power.

There is a small power inverter to power the USB hub, and the laptop itself runs on 12VDC (fantastic as a car runs 12vdc!) and about 4amps, so a simple 5amp fuse will connect the sucker directly into the car electrical system.

One USB cable leading to the USB hub (which will be located near the fuse box, under the dash and out of the way).

One 3.5mm Audio cable will lead from the PC's audio out (which disconnects sound from the main PC of course) and into the audio in on the reverse of my deck (hidden and out of the way)

So all in all, three cables, tucked neatly under the plastic molding on the drivers side door panel.

I'll toss some pictures up when it's done!

Spring has Sprung

Posted by Matt on April 27, 2011 at 3:44 PM Comments comments (0)

And with it comes fresh ideas and new consequences. Or should I say...
Super Awesome Mods or SAM.

Ok, I know you were reading about the dreamcast laptop and just salivating for more. To be honest, life got in the way and I had to shelf it for a while. It's hard to work on things when your workspace is in an unheated garage and the winter temperature around here dips into the -40's. BUT, Since the big thaw is on I've got time to motivate my space and dig through the abundant collection of raw shit I've compiled over the past six months.

The Dreamcast laptop is not a dead idea. I've got the original parts in my backseat, and managed to get my hands on a brand spanking new (used) dreamcast for donor operations. So expect to see that little ditty by midsummer!

I've also got a second satellite dish (thanks to all those folk who tossed their precious satellite junk when they realized they could no longer steal US satellite signals) and several FTA operating satellite receiver boxes (same reason), I was considering either A) building a sweet-as-sheet FTA receiver or B) expanding project freenet with a second router, larger antennae, and a massive coverage area. I've got enough materials to do one of the former, so I have to decide by mid-summer.

Though it's only the beginning of the season I'd like to remind you that I've got a garage brimming with everything you could possibly imagine.

Ok. That's enough for now, BUT THIS IS THE SUMMER OF YOUR DISCONTENT


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