Linked by Howard Fosdick on Mon 11th Jul 2011 21:50 UTC
Linux I've described how to refurbish mature computers in several articles. The emphasis has been on machines in the four to ten year old range -- Pentium IV's, D's, M's, III's and Celerons. But what if you have a really old computer, like a Pentium II, I, or even a 486? Can you use it for anything worthwhile? A vintage distro named Damn Small Linux answers "yes." This article describes DSL and tells how to make 1990's computers useful again. Screenshots follow the article.
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Repurposing Old Hardware
by danger_nakamura on Tue 12th Jul 2011 04:51 UTC
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Not a flame... I am fascinated by the subject and a hobby-tinkerer myself.

Every time an article of this sort is printed, one of the issues raised in the flames that you sought to preempt is power consumption. Is it cost effective or "green" (man, I have come to hate that word) to run an older unit with all of the advances in power technology?

There is also the question how much of a demand is there for such a computer (a power guzzler with a DSL desktop and no horsepower) outside of the hobby field? I don't think very much, although feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

As it stands, I recycle much of what I come across, retaining only the newer stuff to tinker with. I have tried offering older systems for free (with Puppy, DSL, etc...) with no takers. While it kills me to take a perfectly working computer (which if you think about it, is a really amazing and sophisticated device) and turn it into scrap, the lack of a more compelling option makes it so.

Even if the prognosis was more positive, it seems like a stronger case would be made for a unit to be repruposed for use outside of the paradigm of desktop computer. Certainly the obvious is understood - print/file/media server, internet router, home automation server, etc...

But what else? I've had some ideas, mainly surrounding reducing the footprint of the case by eliminated hardware from the scanario. One idea was to build a motherboard (with integrated everything) and a compact power supply into a desk. now only a monitor, mouse and keyboard would need to be visible. In this scenario, a thin-client solution would be probable, so it ultimaltely would still be a "desktop" in one sense. The value-add here would be no visible computer in the room.

I'd love to see an article reviewing some of the things that people have accomplished using older PC hardware, with a focus on thinking outside the box. Maybe if I get some time I'll research it myself.

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