And they’ll probably be the death of me, too.

As unbelievable as it might seem, I’ve been fiddling with a PC recently. I inherited an on-the-fritz Compaq Presario 5461 from our nextdoor neighbors, and I’ve been trying to get it going so that I can erase Windows 98 from the hard drive and install Red Hat Linux 7.1. Since the system returns a “Can’t find system disk” or some such error immediately upon start-up, it’s either a bad hard drive or a bad motherboard. If it’s the former, I’ll just buy a cheap IDE replacement drive and keep on trucking. If it’s the latter, then I’ll send the beast straight to recycling after I pull the CD-RW drive.

Now I don’t really need a Linux box, this is true. But it seems like it would be something fun to play with, and who knows? Maybe I can use it as an MP3 server or something. I have the 802.11b wireless card for it already.

I have that card because we took a family trip up to Fry’s in Wilsonville today. I had to stop there to return a different wireless card (D-Link, in case you’re wondering) that the braindead Fry’s clerk repeatedly assured me would work with my Mac. I should have stopped listening to him after he told me that 802.11g cards were incompatible with 802.11b networks. That’s just wrong, and I knew it was wrong, but I trusted him on which card to buy anyway. Bad move.

We returned the D-Link card (and lunched at Burgerville) and picked up a wireless card that would work in Zephyr, my souped-up Power Mac 7600. Here’s the thing for those of you who might have an older, non-Airport-ready desktop Macintosh: If you get a wireless PCI card that uses the Broadcom chipset, Apple’s Airport software will recognize it automatically and you’ll be in business in no time. Which cards have the Broadcom chipset? It took a bit of research, but here is the answer: The 802.11g cards from Belkin (F5D7000), Buffalo (WLI-PCI-G54), Linksys (WMP54G), Microsoft (MN-730), and Motorola (WPCI810G). I bought the Belkin for $50 (after $10 mail-in rebate), which was the cheapest of the lot.

So I’ve now got Zephyr running 10.2.8. Erin has to go into Classic for Integrade, her grading program, and I have to boot Mac OS 9 to run my music software (at least until I upgrade to Digital Performer 4), but otherwise it’s a complete Mac OS X machine. That’s a nice feeling.

I’ve started doing a little playing with Rendevous, Apple’s auto-detect/auto-configure protocol. It’s works for iChat, iTunes, iPhoto and more. Since both machines are typically in the same room it’s not terribly useful at the moment, but some day they’ll be in different places and it’ll be cool. Also nifty is Apple’s iSync software. I’ve got identical Safari bookmarks, iCal calendars, and Address Book contacts on both machines. Very handy, and, if you’ve got two (or more) Macs, not a bad reason to spend the $99 a year for Apple’s .Mac service.