The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Saturday, February 03, 2001

Hanging with Borg Collective Refugees

Woo hoo! The 41ST Tropical Hamboree is today! After work, I'm calling up the gang (I know they won't like getting up this early) and we're headed down to Miami and hang out with grown men looking like refugees from a Borg Collective and oogle cheap computer equipment.

Just like we do every year.

Phone Calls I






“Hey Kelly!” I said. It's 8:13 am. HAM fest time. “Going to the HAM fest?”

“Yuah. Kabaklader.”

“Okay, I'll call you about 9:30, 10?”

“Yuah, fine.”

Looks like I'm gonna have to kickstart all my friends.

Phone Calls II






“Hello. This is Mark. I'm at home right now, but if you leave your name and message, I'll get back to you as soon as I leave the house. Thanks.” Beep.

“Hey Mark, this is Sean. HAM fest time. Well, looks like you're still sleeping so I'll give you a call back in a few minutes. Bye.”

Phone Calls III






“Hey Jeff. Sean.”


“HAM fest?”

“Sure. Are Kelly and Mark going?”

“Yup. Figured we could meet here at my house and carpool down there.”

“Okay. Let me get up and shower. I'll call back later.”

Phone Calls IV



“Did you just call me?”

“Yup. HAM fest?”

“Uh, what time is it?”

“10:00 am. Figured I give you a chance to sleep.”

“Ugh. Did you call Kelly?”

“He's still sleeping.”

“Call me back when you wake him up.”

Phone Calls V






“Hey Kelly. HAM fest?”

“Um, sure. Is Mark going?

“Yea. He said to wake him up when you wake up.”

“Call me back when he wakes up.”


My roommate Rob was watching me make all these calls with amusement. Since we're all computer geeks we usually tend not to keep such early hours but I figure that since this is a once-a-year event, it's not that bad.

We finally got the plans worked out. Kelly would drive down with his Dad, and Mark, JeffK, Rob and I would meet at my house and we'd drive down.

Around 11:00 am Mark and JeffK arrive. We pile into my car (it being both te cleanest and the largest) and after a short stop by an ATM and gas station, we start the hourish long drive to west Miami.

We got off at the wrong exit, getting off at 41ST St. instead of U.S. 41, but we were only detoured for less than a minute. And as it turned out, we were only a few blocks north of our intended exit anyway. As we neared the fair grounds, Kelly called, saying there were good parking spots in the second row.

We pulled in, found a close parking spot and met Kelly and his Dad just outside the fairgrounds. There was some confusion at the ticket stand as a rumor spread that the booth had run out of dollar bills so we were trying to figure out a way to pay for all our tickets with a exact change. But it turned out that the rumor was just that—a rumor. We all got in with change and proceeded inside.


Once inside, we started past the primary exhibit area, like we do every year, and headed towards the back of the hall where they house the swap meet. We pass the obligatory food stalls and walk into a nearly empty back hall.

We looked around.


No swap meet.

Slow panic starts to build as we search around and find one of the side loading dock doors to the hall open and people milling in and out. Through the door we could see another building that people were entering and leaving and it looked like they had moved the swap meet to a separate building this year. Odd, but perhaps they had more people and needed the space to house them.

We worked our way over there, picked a random starting direction (right) and started to work the rows.

This year was a very disappointing year.

It turned out there were fewer exhibitors this year and possibly the reason for the change of location was to mask that. Usually there are three huge areas in the back of the main exhibit hall for the swap meet, but the building they held the swap meet in this year was about half the size usually set aside for this.

It also turned out there was less interesting equipment. For the first year no one ended up buying a computer, although there was a very interesting military spec 486 PC (which turned out to be the only interesting computer this year, unlike last year (of which I didn't write about sadly) were someone hacked up a GRiD pentop computer to run Linux but the price was too high). It was a portable (read: luggable) in an Army Green metal case, removable harddrive, detatchable keyboard that fastened to the front to form a lid and came with I think 8M RAM. was a fairly standard PC inside even though at first I thought it was a piece of test equipment. The asking price was a bit high, and upon investigation, the power transformer was too hot to keep it running although it was very tempting. I wanted to buy it for use as area51 the firewall/NAT server I want to reset up.

We did however, come across more IBM PS/2 keyboards (which are the keyboard to have—everything else is crap) at one table. Not only IBM PS/2, but black IBM PS/2 with the pencil eraser mouse between the G and H keys. Between the five of us, we bought all the black IBM PS/2 keyboards. You can never have enough of them. They're indestructable, feel wonderful and you can bludgeon lusers with them. Perfect for the BOFH in your life.

The only other interesting thing was a huge UPS (on the order of 900W) that Mark scored for only $25, still in working condition.

Other than that, nothing.

All in all, a very dissapointing HAM fest this year.


Home. Much needed sleep.

Then work.


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