Tastes like Chicken

Several weeks ago, I got my hands on some old computer hardware at firesale prices, taking home a 400MHz G4 tower and huge 20-inch Apple CRT display (yes it weighs a ton) for $75.

I lugged it home and hooked it up to my external LaCie 250GB Firewire drive. With some Bluetooth capability added via USB, I added a keyboard and mouse. And for the final coup de grace, I connected it to my home network with a 50 foot Ethernet cable that runs out-of-sight near the ceiling.

The G4 (which I dubbed “Enkidu,” as the companion of my primary computer, an iBook called “Gilgamesh”) and its companion external drive (“Humbaba,” the giant in the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh) were to become my home media center and server. I connected the tower to my stereo speakers and behold—my new digital center had been infused with life. I could now watch movies on something other than my 14-inch iBook screen.

I immediately configured Humbaba’s music directory to act as the primary repository for my iTunes library, instantly liberating close to 30GB on my iBook. I also dropped my 2GB worth of photos over there, and my assorted movie files. I no longer had to worry about running out of precious gigabytes on Gilgamesh.

So now, when my bosses are kind enough to let me work from my home in Oakland, I can stream my own music from Humbaba. But that’s a simple matter of enabling sharing in iTunes.

Sometimes I find that I want to set a large file to download to Humbaba, but I don’t want to leave my working environment to sit down in front of the desktop computer. I knew there was a way that I could control one computer from other through Virtual Network Control, also known as VNC.

I wanted a way to locally control my other computer without spending a fortune. Senior editor Rob Griffith’s suggested I try the free Chicken of the VNC from Geekspiff.

Its pun on tuna aside, Chicken of the VNC is a fantastically easy program to use. I followed Rob’s instructions on how to configure the server computer (in my case, Enkidu) and I could very easily control its screen and function from wherever in my house I happen to be. Often I’ll set a large file to download from the Internet overnight, and because Enkidu is connected directly to my router, and not via WiFi, I can simply let it do its thing and let Gilgamesh sleep on the shelf on my bedside table when I go to sleep.

Given that I’d migrated to having a laptop as my primary machine, there are some tasks that make having a desktop around well worthwhile.

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