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Uses for a really old laptop?

I'm cleaning out my apartment (getting ready for a move from San Francisco to Seattle) and came across my dear old P-133 laptop.  It isn't much by today's standards and I haven't used it in years, but I hate to just toss it.

Does anyone have thoughts about what to do with old equipment like this?  The specs, FWIW, are:

-- P-133 processor
-- 48 MB RAM
-- 1 gig HD
-- Windows 95b
-- 11" TFT screen.
-- External CD-ROM.  (This connects via a PCMCIA card, so it can't be used as a boot device AFAIK.)
-- The battery's probably shot by now, but it runs on AC just fine.

It's way below spec for Windows 2000 or XP, but it could run Win 98 if it had a bigger hard drive.  Otherwise, possibly it could be used as a Linux box, but it might take some effort to install a Linux distro since I can't boot from the CD.

One idea I have is to get a new HD and an ethernet adapter, and then use it as a simple home file server.  Otherwise, perhaps I could donate it if there's any nonprofit that would want it.  Any suggestions?

Robert Jacobson
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Give it to Goodwill and write off $500.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

As regards linux in general, this probably applies to windows too mind you. Basically say, in your house, you had wireless. If linux was on it, you could actually run the app off a nice powerful box and make it display on the less powerful one, so while you're wondering around the house, apps run as quickly on this as your main box.

As regards installing without a cdrom, simply put in a boot disk, and start the installer. Basically a cdrom linux distro just saves on downloads, the installer will still come on one or two disks, and just download via the network instead of a cdrom.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Throw linux/bsd on it and use it as a router/firewall/wireless access point/mail server/spam filter, etc. I do this and more with a similar spec laptop.

Rhys Keepence
Friday, April 23, 2004

give it to a local school or charity that needs it for word processing

Joe Hendricks
Friday, April 23, 2004

Thanks for the tips, guys.

The problem with the network idea for Linux is that my notebook doesn't have a built-in ethernet port, so it would have to be a PCMCIA ethernet adapter.  This puts me in the same chicken-and-egg situation as with the CD drive.  However, I uncovered some Linux distros that can use a boot floppy to enable a PCMCIA CD drive, so it seems possible to install Linux without too much trouble.

Also, I found a cool nonprofit organization in the Bay Area that accepts all sorts of used computer equipment, refurbishes them and installs software, and then farms them out to schools and other nonprofits:

Since my notebook is still perfectly useful for running Office 97 and other Win 95 applications, this might be the best thing to do.

Robert Jacobson
Friday, April 23, 2004

Give it to a kid who seems like a budding young programmer.  No VS .NET on a laptop like that, but he can definitely write some C on it.

Friday, April 23, 2004

First remember the value of the basic machine. - under $100 if you could get anybody to pay for it.

In Sri Lanka desktops of equivalent specification sell for around $100 - $150 depending on whether the monitor is new or not. Now somebody has paid for these machines to be shipped all the way there, it is possible that somebody even paid for them in the country of origin, and the reseller has to make his profit, and probably pay Customs Duty and VAT.

In the First World nearly everybody who wants a computer can have one. Now your laptop is useful because often the problem is people can't afford a house with enough space for a desktop, but how you get it to the right person I don't know.

Schools are unlikely to want it because it will cost too much to administer. I could give it away to a Sri Lankan school, or any of the Indian programmers here could give it away to an Indian school, but the cost of shipping and the hassle of getting it out of customs would far outweigh the value.

You're probably best using it as a router.

Stephen Jones
Friday, April 23, 2004

I built a NAT firewall, router and wireless access point using an old 486 laptop like that to use as my internet gateway.  It too used pcmcia for everything, so I ripped out the hard drive and put together a single disk linux boot floppy based on a micro distribution called Sisela  The best thing is that the boot floppy can be write disabled, so I know that if it ever got hacked I can reset everything with a simple reboot.

Friday, April 23, 2004

I've been thinking of turning my old 486 laptop into a super-duper alarm clock that knows the difference between the weekend and weekdays, and you can actually *type* the time in instead of fiddling with buttons that only go one way.

David M. Cooke
Friday, April 23, 2004

Why not strip it and build such a cool LCD picture frame?


Anon for once
Friday, April 23, 2004

Find your local Scrabble club and ask if they want it.  Old laptops are required to run the canonical word judging program in a tournament setting.

David Jones
Friday, April 23, 2004

Rich, there is a whitespace to much in your URL.

This one should work better:

Glenn. B. Hansen
Friday, April 23, 2004

A friend of mine used his old 486 laptop to display pretty pictures in his kitchen.  He built a lego gameboy around it and hung it on the wall.  I think he uses VNC to go in and make any updates needed.

Friday, April 23, 2004

You live in the Bay Area, right?  Post the thing on craigslist for free and someone will be at your door in about 45 minutes...

Sam Livingston-Gray
Friday, April 23, 2004

I gave my old 486 to my sister. She wanted a "MS Word" machine to do some basic word processing.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Set up the screen saver to scroll the Unabomber's Manifesto, then leave it unattended in the airport.  Watch hilarity ensue.

yet another anon
Friday, April 23, 2004

[I always forget: For the humor impaired, that was a joke.]

yet another anon
Friday, April 23, 2004

I had a similar notebook that I gave to a 7 year old nephew to play with. He was thrilled. I have no idea what he's doing with it.

Friday, April 23, 2004

1.  Install minimal Windows98.

2.  Install Flash Player 5.

3.  Use slideshow software to create photo shows.

4.  Send the laptop to a loved one who doesn't like computers, but loves pictures of the kids/family (assuming you have them).  Maybe even make it so you can dialup, and keep new slideshows coming.

Alternative 1:  Sell it to someone who has kids/family.  Tell them to send it to THEIR loved ones as a living slideshow.

Alternative 2:  Install NetOp RemoteControl for DOS, and MS Client for Networks.  Sell it to your least favorite customer as the latest in Thin Client technology.

Alternative 3:  Smash the keyboard and screen with a hammer.  Give it some nice burns with an acetylene torch.  Put it on display at a local elementary school, claiming the damage was caused by a child drinking a soda within 5 feet, that the child didn't survive the freak accident, and it could have all been avoided by keeping liquids away from the keyboard.

Alternative 4:  Load a Pit Bull ScreenSaver.  Add an audio track of Pit Bull dogfights in Mexico (if you can't find one, I can send you mine).  Run Audio out to an amp, and hook up Bose 901's.  Install at the front of your house, as a deterrent to would-be home-invaders.  Use X10 to control it from your place in the Hamptons.

Alternative 5:  Set it on your desk at work.  When disciplining an employee, pound on it for emphasis, each time you use a 4-letter expletive.  Gets the point across every time, and never fails to function properly.  After all, it's supposed to look broken, once you've calmed down.

Alternative 6:  Take the laptop you broke in alternative 5.  Turn it in to your manager after returning from travel, claiming damage took place at a dangerous airport in Illinois.  Get new laptop.  Save the broken laptop for your new employees (the pounding thing in #5 will probably scare away all your current employees), and for your next manager (current manager can't possibly last, if he falls for the "dangerous airport" story).

Alternative 7:  Find a braggart at a tech expo, and bet him $100, that your laptop is tougher than his laptop.  Beat his laptop with your laptop.  Physically.  Tell him he can keep the $100.

Alternative 8:  Drop laptop from 10-story building.  Film the act from multiple cameras, including hi-speed, zoom, point-of-impact, rooftop, ground-level.  Sell footage to competitor of your laptop's manufacturer.  Buy A LOT of new laptops.

Alternative 9:  Attach your laptop to a fishing line.  Go to the pier, drop it over the side, then explain to onlookers that your brother, who is searching for oysters, prefers to read his e-mail this way, rather than waste time coming to the surface.  Return a week later, to see how many people are waiting for you and your brother to read your mail.

Alternative 10:  This one requires the help of a friend:

Run out of a building during daylight business hours, in front of plenty of witnesses.  Have your friend drive up, knock you down, take your laptop, smash it, then jump in his car and drive away.  Explain to onlookers that you were just attacked by a competitor, who knew your laptop stored the only copy of new formulas that could revolutionize the field of cancer research/weight loss/erectile dysfunction/whatever.  Take names and addresses of anyone who is willing to testify on your behalf, explaining that a windfall civil suit could mean compensation for them.

If anyone asks for your name, tell them you're Joel Spolsky, you're mad enough, and you're just not gonna take it anymore..!

Just kidding.

Friday, April 23, 2004



Vlad Gudim
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Ha-ha..!  Thanks, Vlad..!  I had fun writing it...

Friday, April 30, 2004

Can't top that last one.

Anyway, see

Friday, May 7, 2004

Joe. Thats not funny. No matter how long it took you to write it.


Monday, July 19, 2004

rodger is of course gay and realy loves joe

Sunday, August 29, 2004

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