More and more of us have old computers or laptops laying around at home. Indeed, I just ordered a new laptop (Mac pro Pro 15") to use in a dual boot environement (MacOS X, Windows). So what do you do with the old computers. They have almost no market value (the old laptop I'm using at the moment is an Armada M700, Pentium III) that I bought in June 2000 ! (six years already). So putting them up for sale on eBay is not really an option, and throwing them away is not a good idea (there are some charities who would gladly receive your stuff though).
In addition, your kids might want to start owning their own computers ? Here is the perfect opportunity to recycle your old computer. My first recommendation:
- add as much memory as you can to your old computer (check www.kingston.com or www.crucial.com).
- you might need to get a new battery for your laptop.
- get a modern operating system (meaning linux), and a user-friendly distribution (Ubuntu is my preferred by now), and a fast and efficient graphical interface (I recommend xfce. Good, as there is a xubuntu distribution available).
- install it with as many options as you want. The Synaptic package is great to use. Lots of games available for your kids as well. You'll get the usual browsers (firefox or Opera 9) installed very easily. Flock is available but might require some extra work. You'll get the usual open-source package OpenOffice. And a number of email readers. You won't need anything else really, as all multimedia tools are also available (DVD, CDROM, music...)
- I was surprised to notice that GoogleEarth and Google's Picasa are also readily available on your linux box.
- finally, you might want to get hacking a bit, and turn your laptop into a wireless sniffer ?
And there you go, a new computer at home (or even the office), for a few bucks on hardware, and nothing on software. By the way, the latest issue of Make magazine has an article on how to upgrade all other components of your computer.