I got my laptop probably six or seven years ago. It usually just sits in its case, but I tried to use it last November. Basically useless. It was running on Win95, and I was unable to download the version of Explorer (with 32-bit encription) that I needed in order to read my webmail. Today I upgraded it to Win98. (I’d tried earlier to upgrade to Win2K, but the computer needed a 32-bit something-or-other and it didn’t work.)
In the meantime I have a new Apple G4 PowerBook with a 1.5 gHz processor. Quite a lot better than my old 166 mHz CTX laptop!
So now I have a functional, but obsolete laptop computer. What can I do with it? Use it to operate my telescope (if I can find the laptop battery)? Give it to a friend who has a desktop and doesn’t need a laptop, but doesn’t have much money so she may find a use for it anyway? Something else?
If you feel like geeking out, install a version of Linux on it. I just put Debian on my wife’s old laptop; it’s none too speedy, but it’s functional. (You’ll not be able to use the latest whiz-bang GUI stuff like gnome or KDE, but a lightweight window manager like ICEwm will do.) You’d be amazed at the variety of software available. Set it up as a dedicated jukebox, firewall, or webserver. If nothing else, install a bare-bones system and use it as a backup system for your powerbook (assuming it has a network card).
Otherwise, give it away to a friend or some other interested party.
I thought about putting Linux on it, but I’d still wonder what to do with it. I have the G4 and the iPod as ‘dedicated jukeboxes’. Since I’m on a dial-up, I can’t see using it as a webserver or firewall. Right now, I guess it’s sort of a ‘back-up system’. If the PowerBook fails and the PC fails, I can ‘fall back’ on the laptop. Seems a bit of overkill. I’ve given the iMac back to my partner for use as an admin computer in the studio. Like the laptop, the iMac is old and slow; but I did put OS X on it and it will be good enough for doing the books.
As I said, we can use it as a prop. But it would be cool if I could figure out some sort of geeky thing to do with it. Is SETI at Home still around?
Friend? I have no friends! My sister is a bit of a Luddite, and doesn’t even use the computer she has. My ex-fiancée (we’re still friends) doesn’t need it. My best mate might make use of it, but he took his PC with him to his internship. I have a friend who is a Loser – no, wait: LOSER – who complains about the police taking his computers (long story I won’t get into here). He might make use of it, if I could contact him, but he’d complain it’s so old and slow. Anyway, he’d probably sell it for drugs. I wouldn’t want to give it to someone who would just sell it. I could do that myself and keep the cash.
I guess the first use will be as a movie prop. After that, I need some geeky ideas. Too bad I don’t have an ‘automatic house’ or something that I could hook it into.
There are a lot of non-profit organizations which could probably use it. I work in a museum, (privately funded, so we’re as poor as church mice) and I know we’d probably kill to have a nice computer like that.
Call around to your favorite charities-- animal (and human) shelters, museums, food banks, and the like. The smaller ones (not places like Red Cross) would probably be the ones who have a need for it.
Not only can you could take the computer’s value off on your taxes, but you’ll have the warm, fuzzy feeling of Doing Something Nice.
I’ve got a similar situation (although it’s a 98 Box) and I’ve been looking into some options as well.
I’ve managed to get wifi working on it, so it’s pretty much my coffee shop Doping machine.
I’ve been interested in checking out some remote interface software like GoToMyPC, but haven’t had time to really investigate the system reqs. If it works, I’ll be taking the crappy laptop on the road and using it to control my real machines back at the house. If I lose it or it’s stolen, no big deal.
I totally understand. At the same time, this is why I mentioned Debian. I spent an hour just browsing through available packages before I realized that I’m not really looking for yet another distraction. There’s just so much cool stuff! And, the nice thing about Debian is that you don’t have to deal with figuring out dependencies – if it’s listed in the repository you connect to, you just install it. (OK, sometimes it’s not quite that easy, but it’s close. I’m also given to understand that Gentoo or Ubuntu are pretty good in this regard, but I’ve heard that Debian has more packages available.)
I didn’t really think the webserver/firewall would be useful, but if you’re looking for something to do with it…it’s a learning experience. Dedicated jukebox was just one thing I remembered from browsing the Debian repository; it looked like it was just a matter of installing and using it. I was thinking you set it up on a shelf somewhere and just leave it. A friend of mine set up an old desktop this way with a touch screen he found on eBay (cheap!); when he’d have people over, they could just add songs to the queue. I wonder if a wireless mouse hookup might not be nifty, allowing you to control it via browser from across the room. You could also redirect your X display to allow multiple frontends for control. One of the issues here, of course, would be disk space. The nice thing about a desktop is that hard disks are so cheap nowadays.
I always wanted to figure out how to set up actuator controls via a serial port. Y’know, along the lines of a “smart house” – I was a little less ambitious with my plans, perhaps limited to controlling a dog-feeder or plant watering system. As always, time and effort (oh, yeah – and money) are the limiting factors. If you decide to pursue anything, I do hope you’ll post progress reports…
Oh, yeah – by “interested parties”, I was referring to something like the non-profits Lissa brought up. For instance, take the time to install a free OS (to avoid licensing issues) and give it to Good Will. I’d think that there are quite a few people that would appreciate a working laptop fo’ cheap…
I was going to suggest schools. You won’t believe the crap they still work with in most schools, and any computer will be a plus.
I gave my last computer to a friend of a friend of a friend; a single mother (who works nights for little money) and her two daughters who go to high school. You would have thought I gave them a million dollars. The kids were thrilled to finally be able to write homework and do some simple internet searches (like all of their friends at school with more money were able to do) and the mother practically cried now that her daughters had the computer. And to make things even better, the one daughter is a bit of a geek and had that puppy up and running in no time. Did my heart good.
Beat me to it. I say just reinstall the OS, put some basic freeware applications on it, like Abiword or Open Office (if it’ll run on it well), and ring up a local school.
Better yet, if you know any teachers, they’ll probably know how to get it to families that could use it. Back when we had a bunch of old computers gathering dust, we did that–one of the employees here was dating a teacher who knew a bunch of kids who could use them.
Pard Jerry says there are five laptops sitting round the studio. Paul’s (the co-writer/actor) wife works at a place that had them sitting around and the company gave them to her. So we don’t really need my laptop as a prop.
Interesting… Pard Jerry bought a Beretta 92FS yesterday – originally purchased by a cop in 1994 who never opened the box. :eek: Jerry is a big fan of the Beretta. He has a life-sized one tattoed on one of his arms. (His infant son is on the other. He calls the tats ‘his two kids’.) I wouldn’t sell him mine; which, although it’s been used – slightly – is still in new condition. So he had to get his own. He was going to get a thrashed 92FS so that he could modify it into a blank-firing movie gun. I guess he’ll have to get another. Incidentally, he owes me a lot of money for some of the projects we shot. In partial payment, he bought me a Walther P22 yesterday.
But I don’t really want to shoot a working computer.
There is a fine point in technology between “usable and still worth keeping around” and “Having pay to get rid of it”. Your trusty old laptop can only run a ten year old system software. I will leave it to you to consider which side of the line it is dancing on.
And they are best shot while on. With a Beretta .40. Wait until nearly nothing is left before obliterating it entirely with hollow points.