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Rehabilitating Damaged Laptops

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the three-strikes-you're-in dept.

Portables 346

Rollie Hawk writes "It breaks my heart to see a computer in need of a good home. For years, I've driven my wife crazy with all the 'strays' I've brought home with me. After all, the last thing my house needs is a few more cubic feet devoted to kenneling old and abused computers. That being said, laptops present very unique opportunities. No matter what caused you or someone else to ditch that old laptop, there still may be some way to integrate it back into society. For every kind of laptop lemon, I've found that there's plenty of lemonade to be made."

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346 comments

Warning (5, Funny)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448481)

Once you have finished making lemonade, be certain not to spill it on your newly-refurbished laptop.

Re:Warning (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448524)

but if you spill it, then you get to enjoy the exciting and educational adventure of repairing it again!

Hot damn! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448485)

Do i finally get to do a first post? ..ok, sorry. Won't do this again...

Good idea ... (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448487)

... especially considering that these things decay rather rapidly. The notebook I bought a fortnight ago already stepped down Euro 199 heading rapidly towards the crap heap.

CC.

Re:Good idea ... (4, Insightful)

Oddly_Drac (625066) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448591)

"The notebook I bought a fortnight ago already stepped down Euro 199 heading rapidly towards the crap heap."

And the crap heap thanks you for your quick turnover of modern technology. I haven't paid for any of my laptops.

Re:Good idea ... (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448682)

I haven't paid for any of my laptops.

Actually, I did not own one before and did not really feel the need to have one, but there is some social pressure on the client side which one finally has to adapt to.

CC.

Is there a point? (3, Interesting)

jptechnical (644454) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448494)

Is it a question? Is it a statment? I am not sure what to reply.

That said... I have several old laptops and scoop them up when I get the chance. I have a couple dumb terminals running diskless terminal server clients... a couple playing mp3's. A simple ghostable one for installing *trial versions* of software I can then reghost and install when I need to.

Lots of good reasons to keep them.

Re:Is there a point? (1)

packeteer (566398) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448539)

Lots of good reasons but for many these idea are nto practical. In the article the author talks about installing a thinclient system on your laptop or using installing windows 3.1 to use word processing. When youg et to this point i have to wonder, do you relaly need a laptop that bad. All the time and effort that would go into instlaling a thin client system would probably take longer just using the main computer to do what your gunna do. Also i find if you really want to write anything long dont do it on a laptop keyboard, you will go much slower generally and i think it would be faster to just abandon those old laptops... as sad as that may sound.

Well, I found a use... (3, Interesting)

Polkyb (732262) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448663)

...and I know i may get flamed for this, but, I have about 25 'old' laptops, stacked in a few piles, in the corner of my office... They ARE my Beowulf cluster

None of them are particularly speedy, and half of them have cracked LCDs, but for what I'm using them for, they're fine

Thin Clients (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448495)

Another great use for laptops that are underpowered are as dumb wireless terminals. We have 10 laptops on our site (a public school) which we connect into a terminal server wirelessly and has given new life to laptops which would have just been thrown away.

Not terrifically exciting, but an easy read (3, Insightful)

Justus (18814) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448496)

Isn't most of this stuff a bit.. well.. obvious? The gist of the article appears to be "find a laptop with a small hard drive? upgrade it (through some unmentioned means of salvage from your friends who happen to have old laptop hard drives) or use things that don't require a lot of space!" and "have a laptop with a low resolution screen? run things that are low resolution!"

I mean, the suggestions as to what to run in which situation are helpful, but I like to think that if I were dealing with those problems, I'd be able to figure those solutions out as well.

Oh well, it killed a few minutes.

I wonder (0, Offtopic)

HuckleCom (690630) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448498)

I wonder if he's got names for all of his ... laptops.

Re:I wonder (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448532)

well, why did you think it bothers his wife so much? yeah.

Useful (4, Interesting)

loubrush (588838) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448499)

I found a great use for an old discarded 486 laptop running DOS. It is now dedicated to writing C64 disks thanks to my X1541 cable :-)

Re:Useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448718)

Um, what the hell is actually USEFULL about writing C64 diske. Let the past go already.

if it wasnt for busted laptops i woulnt have one (4, Interesting)

cyrax777 (633996) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448500)

In my case a friend ditched one since it had a broken keyboard. I got it for free simple fix I just got one of those flexable mini keyboards it fits perfectly over the old keylayout. so I can use it without having to lug around a full size keyboard and have it hanging all over the place taking up space. plus its rollable to It doesnt take up a boatload of space in my laptop case.

Re:if it wasnt for busted laptops i woulnt have on (1)

Ed_Moyse (171820) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448630)

I have a busted keyboard as well ... where did you get this mini keyboard from?

Of course ideally I'd like to find a "proper" spare part ... does anyone know where to get Sony Vaio keyboards?

Give them to kids... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448501)

Give them to some kid.

I got my interest in computer engineering from taking apart people's old junk. TVs, VCRs, computers, just about anything electro-mechanical.

If anything, i bet you can find a kid who would like to smash it up, but if you ask around, I am sure you can find a kid who would be interested in disecting it.

You never know, you could set some eager young mind on the path to a science or engineering career. And we can ALWAYS use more of us, especially as today's children drift farther and farther from science or engineering.

Re:Give them to kids... (5, Funny)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448554)

And we can ALWAYS use more of us

Socially maladjusted elitsts? Oh yes I whole-heartedly agree.

Re:Give them to kids... (3, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448567)

I used to drive my parents mad taking stuff apart. "He's so destructive," they used to lament. I couldn't work out why they said that - I had no intention of destroying whatever it was I was taking apart, I wanted to see what was inside, and then I would (attempt) to put it back together.

I'm much better at putting stuff back together these days (which is a good thing), and I still love taking stuff apart. I have a broken hard disk on my desk which is the next candidate...

Re:Give them to kids... (3, Interesting)

polecat_redux (779887) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448569)

you could set some eager young mind on the path to a science or engineering career. And we can ALWAYS use more of us

Then perhaps we should give our old laptops to kids in India.

Re:Give them to kids... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448789)

In the US Corps don't care about a good educational system. Who cares about stupid American engineeers. U want a good engineer get them from China or India. A typical stupid engineer. Engineers all they know is engineering and when their jobs are outsourced they wander why. IDIOTS.

How interesting. (4, Insightful)

rincebrain (776480) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448502)

I've always been fascinated by the possibilities provided by old laptops...I mean, heck, you don't need a 2 GHz P4 laptop to wardrive, word process [ignoring the huge requirements of certain solutions...*cough* MSWord *cough* KOffice *cough*], code [note that I didn't say COMPILE!], act as an MP3 player [assuming you use a decent MP3 decoder, and not a piece of crap], or any of the lovely uses for laptops that people are now marketing in self-contained devices for several hundred dollars a pop.

Honestly, though, I'm curious where you're getting yours...neighbors and coworkers? Or is there some online stash somewhere that nobody told me about?

Re:How interesting. (1)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448793)

People should remember just how little space and power that was required to run something like an Amiga. I forget how many Mhz it was, but it wasn't in double figures.

Even Win 3.1/Word 6 would run fine on a 486 DX/66 and I used to write all my project documentation on that.

Re:How interesting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448798)

word process [ignoring the huge requirements of certain solutions...*cough* MSWord *cough* KOffice *cough*]

KOffice is not heavy. :) Maybe it's heavier than whatever you seem to use, but it's a feather compared to MSWord and OOo!

What do you use for word processing?

Re:How interesting. (2, Informative)

rincebrain (776480) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448817)

Abiword.

KOffice seems a bit bloated to me. I don't, personally, like any word processor that I have to count to ten before it opens a native document.

I'm putting an old laptop to good use right now (4, Interesting)

Harald Paulsen (621759) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448504)

One of my pet projects now is to turn a laptop, a cuecat and a webcam into a fridge computer that will allow me to inventory my refridgerator as well as take a snapshot whenever I open the door.

Imagine using a WAP-enabled phone to check what I have in the fridge at home. No more "do I have milk?".

Re:I'm putting an old laptop to good use right now (2, Interesting)

skinfitz (564041) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448565)

Often the problem is not if one has milk, but if the milk one has is sour.

Also, I am trying to imagine using a WAP-enabled phone in the way you suggest, but in my mind I cannot get past swearing at it for not working.

Re:I'm putting an old laptop to good use right now (1)

Harald Paulsen (621759) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448631)

I forgot to mention this but I would have to punch in expiration dates as well when I put things in.

And ofcourse, My Nokia 6600 has Opera so I don't have to use WAP but can use a regular web interface.

Re:I'm putting an old laptop to good use right now (4, Funny)

polecat_redux (779887) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448584)

One of my pet projects now is to turn a laptop, a cuecat and a webcam into a fridge computer that will allow me to inventory my refridgerator as well as take a snapshot whenever I open the door. Imagine using a WAP-enabled phone to check what I have in the fridge at home. No more "do I have milk?".

You know what else works great for that?... a girlfriend. Yeah, I know, I don't have one either. :(

Re:I'm putting an old laptop to good use right now (1, Funny)

mattyrobinson69 (751521) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448642)

i'l try: /me bellows "wench! check for sour milk in the fridge ....

nope - doesn't work, i'l have to get myself a netbsd fridge with IEEE802.11b and usb2 (with webcam) so i can stream the contents of the fridge wirelessly to tvtime or something

hmmm.....

Re:I'm putting an old laptop to good use right now (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448714)

I just need to either label stuff in the fridge, or get my girlfriend to check before she uses stuff. Particularly before we move up north:
"Erm, that double cream seems a bit funny, I'm not sure if I should use it?"
"Double cream? Do we *have* double cream?" /me checks, "Oh, uh, no, that's sheep colostrum. Best leave it just now..."

Re:I'm putting an old laptop to good use right now (5, Interesting)

djupedal (584558) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448594)

Internet 'fridges have been for sale in South Korea for two years. They scan for outdated or recalled products, such as expired babyfood, and send email if they suffer an outage that may generate spoiled food.

The idea is that the kitchen is the new center of the house, and why not use the surface of the refer to house a LCD and internet connection. Anything specific to cooled contents manifest is just a bonus.

Re:I'm putting an old laptop to good use right now (2, Funny)

Mr. Flibble (12943) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448724)

One of my pet projects now is to turn a laptop, a cuecat and a webcam into a fridge computer that will allow me to inventory my refridgerator as well as take a snapshot whenever I open the door.

Ah! Now at last we can answer that age old question that has been plaguing mankind! What happens to the light in the fridge when you close the door? You do mankind a great service...

.
.
.
.
.
(On a side note, for the humor impaired; Yes, I know what happens, but don't forget about the light in the equation for your idea...)

Re:I'm putting an old laptop to good use right now (1)

squaretorus (459130) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448759)

Milk is cheap. Just buy milk more often.

I know this is a typical /.ey 'you dont wanna do thaaaaat you wannba do thiiiiiiiis' but seriously - I never understand the Milk fixation of so many geeks.

I worry that I dont have parmesan, or the mozerella I bought to make pizza last week might be a bit off - not wether I have milk - I can get milk anywhere and its so cheap!

I worry more if I dont have beer - but only because if I buy too much beer I drink it and get the shits for a fortnight.

Destroy them... (1, Funny)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448505)

plenty of lemonade to be made

Do what the Germans do, when life gives you lemons - burn them.

When my TI-99/4A died a few years back my little brother had fun with it for a bit... he destroyed it with a hammer.

Made me pretty mad but he had fun.

broken laptops (1, Interesting)

mirko (198274) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448507)

I second the use of an old laptop as a web server.
Using BSD, it's fast enough and there's not only the advantage of using a compact platform but also the fact that even with an old battery this also benefits as a poor man's UPS...

Re:broken laptops (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448527)

Makes sense. A dying laptop needs a dying operating system. *BSD and laptops are meant for each other!

Ebay!!! (2, Interesting)

komodomichie (640090) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448508)

Exactly how I feel! I've rescued a handful of laptops from my work place and rehabilited them thanks to ebay. $20 motherboard, and I have a working laptop! Missing cover? Where else but... ebay!

It's like saying... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448509)

Have an old black and white television? Well, just use it to watch black and white movies, you won't notice the difference!

Hey! How about a server? (5, Funny)

imag0 (605684) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448511)

Damaged Display
Install Linux on it and make it into a server!
Tiny or Dead Hard Drive
Yep! Boot it from a CD and use it as a server!
Low Memory
A low memory server!
Dead Battery
plug it into a wall outlet and use it as a server!
Busted Keyboard or Touch Pad
Hook up a external keyboard and use it as a server!
Low Resolution Display
Servers dont need a display!
All of The Above?
Can you see where im going with this?
Conclusion
With a little imagination, just about any old piece of junk laptop can be a server!

Re:Hey! How about a server? (2, Insightful)

dotgain (630123) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448546)

What _sort_ of server? RAID? Nup.
High availability? Nup
Router? Probably not, unless you're going to use a combo of PCMCIA / USB eth adapters.
Database server? Nup.
File server? Check out prices of 120G laptop drives vs. 120G desktop drives. Nup.
Laptops are laptops, there were never intended to be servers, and run really poorly when tried to be used as such (in my experience, anyway).

Unless you just want a "server", and that's it. Sure it won't do anything, but you'll have a server!!

Re:Hey! How about a server? (1)

munkee (626234) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448602)

About the only server most laptops are good for is a print server.

Re:Hey! How about a server? (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448621)

Much more expensive than one of these little dedicated boxes, would it be only about power consumption...

Re:Hey! How about a server? (1)

Looke (260398) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448611)

A laptop is small and quiet. Even if you have to place it in your bedroom or living room, you can keep it running 24/7. If there's any juice left in the battery, it's even got a built-in UPS. I've got no problems imagining how to use my aging laptop, once I can afford replacing it with a Powerbook.

Re:Hey! How about a server? (1)

mattyrobinson69 (751521) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448653)

well if your running as a server, portability isn't a problem. you could run openbsd on it as a firewall/NAT box, plugin an external 120G drive and you have a smb/nfs fileshare box.

Re:Hey! How about a server? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448808)

For a file server get a USB 2.0 or a Firewire PCMCIA card and attach some external hard drives and there you go a file server with affordable storage. Use your imagination man!

Re:Hey! How about a server? (1)

ceeam (39911) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448547)

And if, say, CPU or motherboard dies you can still *serve* drinks on it!

He Forgot using a laptop with a Monitor (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448600)

Just because the display is damaged doesn't mean that the laptop can't work just fine with a monitor, often at higher resolution than with the original screen. You _can_ use it as a server with no display, but you're not limited to that.

One of the three PCs on my desk is a laptop with a dead screen that works just fine with the monitor when I switch the KVM switch over to it, and keeps a couple of old Win95 apps alive; when we're done with them I'll probably turn it into a Linux server of some sort, but it's happy for now, or I may just use it as a printer server.

Re:Hey! How about a server? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448657)

No Ethernet/USB/WiFi (like mine)? Uhhh...

Re:Hey! How about a server? (1)

heikkile (111814) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448661)

I have an old Toshiba laptop: 256K RAM (yes, that's kilobytes!), 2 floppy drives of (one of them bad). 4.77MHz CPU. 8-level greyscale display of (at most) 640x480, without a backlight, but with many broken pixels. One serial and one parallel port. Heavy lead-acid battery, permanently flat. Missing power supply. No hard disk. No network interfaces. The original DOS diskette (2.0 I think) has gone missing.

Any idea what kind of server I could possibly make of that???

Re:Hey! How about a server? (1)

NoMaster (142776) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448717)

T1000 [spray.se]?

That link says 512k, but I think it's wrong - IIRC, it was the T1200 that had 512k (as well as a 20Meg HD!). I'm pretty sure the T1000 did only have 256k...

Funnily enough, I have a T1200 next to me at the moment. No good as a server, but makes a nice serial terminal / console for various things around the place (you'd be amazed how many things in the modern household have some sort of serial connectivity!). Besides that, it holds my ever-evolving version of the old "Trek" game, written in Turbo Basic ;-)

Re:Hey! How about a server? (1)

heikkile (111814) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448788)

The T1000 doesn't look quite right. Especially the battery, it was a flat packet under the whole bottom of the laptop, weighing more than the rest together. The carrying handle was in the battery pack, not in the laptop itself! btw, I am not sure I remember the memory size right, it has been years since I tried to boot that thing.

Re:Hey! How about a server? (1)

Carl Drougge (222479) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448803)

Most bad floppydrives are just dirty and/or misaligned, so it may well be easy to fix. If it takes some standard RAM chips for upgrade (sounds fairly likely) you can probably expand it to 640k and run Minix on it, thus turning it more or less into a "server". (RAM chips available in other computers of the same generation.)

FTFA and Linux Alternatives? (4, Interesting)

thewldisntenuff (778302) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448512)

"If your old laptop has a tiny hard drive, and by small I mean under 100 MB of space, you may or may not be able to upgrade it. Even if you can, you are certainly looking at no more than a gigabyte of space and will probably be making use of someone else's used drive."

I could see using Windows...Hell, I used Win95 0SR2 on a 166mhz ATT Globalyst without much of a hitch.....Slow for mp3s, but ran most of the web and IRC chat well enough for me.

But Windows aside, he never makes mention of distros like Knoppix or even Damn Small Linux (Isn't DSL like 50mb?)...You could easily run a distro off a Knoppix or Live CD....Wouldn't it be more useful to do this, as one gets a full-fledged OS with software to boot?

-thewldisntenuff

Re:FTFA and Linux Alternatives? (1)

Random Web Developer (776291) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448589)

I still got one of those ATT globalysts running very nice (did cram in a few extra scsi disks) only IIRC mine is a 133mhz version.

It's happily running debian for file, print, mail, dns, subversion, whatever server.

The only things that were able to kill it so far were
- apache
- the combination of spamfilter/antivirus when there was loads of mail (eg coming back from a power failure i had to shut down the filters until the queue was cleared.
I suppose that could be fixed with a little more ram (currently 32) but I'd rather be on the lookout for a more recent throwaway system.

move along (4, Funny)

BoneMarrow (577933) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448515)

what a crap article. his answer to all the problems is make it into a server - yeah thanks captain obvious. dosshell and edit for a word processor - kill me now!

Re:move along (1)

_Hellfire_ (170113) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448576)

Right on brother. I can't help but think that old laptops die for a reason. Resurrecting a laptop with a 100MB hard drive is the quintessential act of flogging a dead horse. Let it RIP.

What a life. (2, Funny)

Daniel Ellard (799842) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448787)

This isn't a crap article, it's the perfect slashdot boast. This guy has:

  • A wife, who he drives crazy
  • A house, which he has filled with computers
  • An apparently endless stream of old laptops to futz with
  • Spare time in which to futz
  • All the lemonade he wants
    • Life is beautiful.

toshiba satellites make great webservers (4, Informative)

'Aikanaka (581446) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448520)

I've had great success using an old Toshiba Satellite Pro 410CDS (Pentium) with a half-dead screen & no CD drive as a Linux based, multi-purpose server. I used my "damaged laptop" to run my personal web and SMTP/POP servers for over two years (until I upgraded to a PIII 600Mhz machine). It only had an 800MB hard drive and about 64MB of RAM, but it still hummed along just fine. Of course, I never submitted it to a slashdotting :) ---

Most of these older Toshibas can gotten for pretty cheap from eBay. The only drawback is that a good battery is quite expensive.

Here's some helpful links:

Serious Question (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448523)

Like a lot of other fellow /.'rs I am having trouble finding a girlfriend. I am slightly overweight, still live in my parent's basement and wear glasses. Though my online friends say I have a great personality I still haven't been able to lose my virginity. So I have an idea - maybe a fellow /.'er in the same position could come over and we could began some experimenting with each other. After we check out my Anime collection and write a cool new Perl script and play some Gamecube maybe we could play some 'pretend' girlfriend? We can take turns perhaps? Reply to this post for more details!

(I am not gay but girls just don't want to get 'physical' with me for some reason.)

Speaking of broken laptops... (1)

thegoogler (792786) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448526)

I got a free old gateway solo 1100, the batery AND the PMU that would let the battery charge are dead. so was the HDD, but after a quick swap of that and a 16bit wifi card i had laying arround. it was plugged into my car cigarete liter and happily wardriving. another laptop saved from the landfill!

Use as a server (1)

jginspace (678908) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448529)

Gone are the days when laptops took a significant step down in terms of performance. Now even discarded ones are pretty sweet so they tend to make very good servers for the at home tinkerer. If you've got the kind of space I've got you don't want to fill it with a full desktop machine. Heaven forbid adding a CRT monitor on top. I also recommend this if you're the one that's paying the electricity bill.

Use old laptop as a server (4, Interesting)

GreatDrok (684119) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448536)

I did just this when my 18 month old Toshiba Satellite Pro 3000 partially died making it useless for its primary purpose because the LCD backlight failed. I had only just replaced the battery because that had died and the case was made from a brittle plastic that left it prone to cracks and chipping. Basically, Toshiba isn't getting any more of my money, I bought an iBook G4 instead and it is coming up to 12 months old now and is in perfect condition despite the daily use that wrecked the Toshiba in a similar amount of time.

Anyway, the Tosh does have a few redeeming features, it has built in 10/100 ethernet fully supported under Linux, 1Ghz PIII CPU and a 20GB disc. With a new battery and no backlight it will run for over four hours without power so it made sense to make it a server. Currently it has an HP laserjet 1200 hanging off it, served with Samba to support printing from Windows, Linux and OS X, it has network shares (Samba and NFS), DNS (using dnsmasq, much easier to set up than bind), DHCP, squid web proxy (including wpad.dat configuration for automatic detection by IE and Firefox), IMAPS for serving e-mail with fetchmail to pull it down from my pop accounts, Openwebmail to allow me to send and receive mail from anywhere in the world using ipcheck to update my dyndns records so I don't have to remember my specific IP address, spamassassin to filter all the crap about viagra etc, and clamwin antivirus before mail ever hits a Windows box (yeah yeah, I shouldn't use Windows for e-mail and browsing, but I have thunderbird and firefox as defaults and I only really use Windows for games but it is still nice to feel I can read mail and browse a little with some level of safety).

Actually, now I feel less bothered about the £1500 the laptop cost me because with all it is now doing as a server I feel like I can get several more years use out of it. Although, compared with the £1000 the iBook cost I still think Toshiba blows.

In the end, setting up this machine as a server has been great experience, I have got it interacting with my heterogenous environment and it does a lot for such a little machine. Oh, and the lack of fan noise and small size is also a real bonus.

Re:Use old laptop as a server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448650)

In case your backlight failed it might just be that the fuse for the backlight needs to be replaced. Should cost approx. $1. I've often heard about notebook repair shops which charged for a complete new backlight ($100-$250) while all they really did was just replacing the fuse ...

Re:Use old laptop as a server (1)

rediguana (104664) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448697)

Yeah I've been doing the same with my old Toshiba laptops - I seem to keep having the hard drives fail. I'll be doing that will all the old laptops from the business now. I've taken to sticking Fedora on them, using Samba for file sharing, SquirrelMail and DoveCot IMAP for email archives, and eGroupWare.

As a small business server they are fantastic. Take up little space, have an inbuilt screeen, mouse, keyboard, networking and battery if the power fails. Setup rsync for backups and you're set! Especially now I've got a PowerBook G4 and can rsync from the terminal. And it all works beautifully with a mixture of XP, OSX and FC machines on the network!

I can't... (1)

squoozer (730327) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448538)

believe I RTFA!

me too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448755)

Worst. article. ever.

"Use it as a server"... wow, he actually made out of that sentence a whole article.

This is so bizarre... (1, Funny)

ceeam (39911) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448542)

Wouldn't it be healthier to develop the alcohol addiction instead? :)

So Close! (5, Funny)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448558)

I have a 4 way Xeon server that I've been thinking about turning into a laptop.

I've got it built into a custom plywood case with a 19" LCD, 4 drive RAID, tape backup and 100 disc CDR changer. I'm working on installing the 3 day battery backup and generator this week.

Now, could someone come help me? My legs are pinnned and crushed and I can't reach the remote.

I did this to get a floppy drive (1)

ehud88 (819531) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448562)

I got a new laptop (IBM T42), it had everything I wanted except a floppy drive. Yes I know floppies are old and nobody uses them, however in my lab we still use them so I need a floppy drive. So I took my old laptop with a dedicated floppy drive, started sshd and on the new machine setup keychain (allows you to log in to ssh without passwords but still secure) and a put together a bash script. Now I have a floppy drive for the new machine and still the option to set the old machine up as a web server or some other odd application.

All of this was done just to save money on a usb floppy drive.

Jukebox... (1)

genneth (649285) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448566)

Use another server as the storage. If the controls (keyboard + mouse) work and the screen works, then you're sorted. If not, do a bit of electronics hacking and interface with the parallel port (believe me, a friend and I actually did this). LED's are a few pennies, and parport printer connectors a couple of pounds. The software is free, coz you are gonna write it, right?

i use my laptop for emule (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448574)

don't just use it as a server for urself.

Same with any computer... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448588)

Every use he lists is the same for any old computer except that it has a built in UPS. How is this cool? I mean, UPS's cost $50 and up. Old Laptop batteries don't last to much longer than a cheap UPS. And besides, most old laptops don't have stuff like ethernet jacks or have weird proprietary ports.

This ain't worth the front page of /.

SCO? You had me worried for a second (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448593)

As long as you have a floppy or CD-ROM drive on the laptop, you can create a bootable FreeSCO disk that will turn your laptop into a fully functional and highly configurable router. You don't even have to configure anything on the laptop itself because all the work is done on the computer where you make your bootable disks.

I was worried until I saw that FreeSCO stands for Free Cisco [freesco.org].

"Damaged Display" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448603)

In many cases the LCD-display's backlight just stops working (while the display remains dark the output is still slightly visible). Instead of buying a complete new expensive display you might want to check the SMD-fuse first. On my old laptop it was placed on the inverter board and was labeled "F1". I replaced it with a new fuse (not an SMD one but who cares ...) and the backlight worked again :-)

Ancient laptops make great Serial terminal's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10448620)


Ancient laptops with no batteries make great serial terminals. You go out a buy a "null modem cable", or maybe you had a old one laying around from a external modem or something. Also known as laplink cables. Carefull! There are different types of serial cables, have the wrong one CAN/WILL damage a board!

I had a ancient 386 laptop. I installed DOS on it, and used Kermit as a terminal emulator to connect to a tty out I had on a serial port on my desktop.

Had that open to a terminal, and I could start programs on my X server from it, too!

Also great for all those servers. So that you don't have to waste a monitor and keyboard on all those servers you simply setup Lilo to boot up using the serial as the main tty interface. Simply have a cord hanging out of each server, or have the servers turned around backwards or something and go and plug the laptop into the server that you need to work on.

Nice for a secure setup! All gettys are disabled, except for serial cord. No ssh in or out. Only nessicary services would be needed. All administration you could ever want done you could do thru that serial terminal via the laptop.

I like it for the extra keyboard and screen it provides. Nice to IRC while playing games, I'll talk thru the boring parts.

Before Slashdotting happens (1)

rathehun (818491) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448664)

Rehabilitating Damaged Laptops Submitted by Lineman Sun, 10/03/2004 - 10:48 Hardware It breaks my heart to see a computer in need of a good home. For years, I've driven my wife crazy with all the "strays" I've brought home with me. After all, the last thing my house needs is a few more cubic feet devoted to kenneling old and abused computers. That being said, laptops present very unique opportunities. No matter what caused you or someone else to ditch that old laptop, there still may be some way to integrate it back into society. For every kind of laptop lemon, I've found that there's plenty of lemonade to be made. Damaged Display This has to be the most common laptop problem that I've seen, particularly among my own. Unfortunately, replacing a damaged LCD can easily end up costing more than a brand new laptop. Without a display, you can still make use of even a moderately old laptop as a Web server. Install some stripped-down version of Windows and install EasyPHP or just use Linux with MySQL and Apache and you'll soon have your own personal Web "sandbox." Since you don't need a graphics card for a game server, you could even run your own local or Internet Quake server. If the battery is still good, you even have a built-in UPS of sorts to keep your server from crashing during any short power outages. This may not sound like much of a benefit since you will lose power on everything else during power failure, but consider this: since you don't have to worry about it shutting down, you can stash it in a closet or on top of a shelf without worrying about physically rebooting it. Tiny or Dead Hard Drive If your old laptop has a tiny hard drive, and by small I mean under 100 MB of space, you may or may not be able to upgrade it. Even if you can, you are certainly looking at no more than a gigabyte of space and will probably be making use of someone else's used drive. Still worse, maybe the drive in your laptop is completely dead. Since we are talking about an older laptop in this case, we are fortunate because unlike newer models, older laptops almost always came with a built-in floppy drive. With a small drive, you might be able to squeeze an early edition of Windows 95 onto it (I've done this but it's painful). However, Windows 3.1 will comfortable fit on such a drive just fine. With a few floppy disks, you can install that and a compatible word processor from that era like Microsoft Works or Word Perfect. You now have a small and portable word processor to use while on the road or to write that novel you've secretly been working on. But what if the drive is dead or nonexistent? There's still hope. Some of you may not remember using computers before they had hard drives, but I can assure you that it is possible to get by without one on many tasks. You'll need to create a bootable DOS disk. If you aren't terribly familiar with DOS, you may want to make sure DOSSHELL is on it to help you navigate files without fumbling around on the command line. Once you've booted into DOS, you can use the built-in EDIT utility as a word processor. Once you have EDIT running, you can swap out the disk and use a second disk to store your documents on. You might even be able to install an older word processor on a third disk that you can load ofter booting that will have more functionality than DOS's EDIT. Low Memory If you find yourself with custody of a really old laptop, you may not have enough memory to do much of anything. Those of you who can still remember measuring memory in kilobytes can probably still appreciate how much of an issue RAM used to be. Maybe you have a laptop with only a few megabytes of memory and still refuse to throw it away like it's going to grow more RAM over time. What you can use such a system for hearkens back to the days when memory and drive space was such a premium that most computing was done with a single mainframe holding all the major resources and terminals were used to access them. If you have a Linux or BSD server on your network, you can share its resources by installing a very bare version of Linux or BSD on the laptop itself. From there, you can telnet or SSH into the server to make minor changes using vi, pico, or another text editor. If you find yourself having to SSH into other servers a lot, you may find it convenient to have a terminal sitting there ready to go. Dead Battery With a dead battery, a laptop has essentially lost all its portable functionalities. You can use it as a server, as I described before, but you no longer have the battery as a backup power source and may want to go with a type of server that you won't constant access to. You won't be able to stash it somewhere because it's more likely to need rebooted. This is a case where I would turn a laptop into a file and print server. It will still need to be constantly plugged in, but it will need to be close to a printer anyway. If you have a wireless network card installed, you can even use it as a wireless print server, allowing you to place your printer in a convenient section of the house without the nightmare of running network cable across the living room floor (don't ask). If you insist on using Windows for this server, I'd suggest going with Windows 2000 if possible. If you have to, Windows XP Professional will work as well. Earlier versions of Windows will be tougher to configure and secure properly while XP Home tends to be a bit too wide-open when it comes to file sharing. If you aren't chained to Windows, you can do the same sort of thing in Linux. Even for the Linux-impaired folks like myself, there are distributions such as SmoothWall and CoyoteLinux that will hold your had through the whole process. Busted Keyboard or Touch Pad If your laptop's keyboard or touch pad quit working, you can at least plug external devices into any PS/2 and USB ports and work around this problem. Still, you've lost the major selling point of a laptop: portability. If your laptop isn't over-the-hill just yet, you may want to transfer it to a desk job before retirement. For some reason, we can fit memory into smaller spaces, can squeeze more processing power into smaller areas, and can make portable computers that fit into the palm of your hand, but we can't seem to make desktop computers any smaller. With that in mind, your beaten-up laptop can do a fantastic impression of an ultra-slim desktop! You can hook up those external peripherals while still taking advantage of such a tiny "case" and even get a nice looking LCD thrown in for free. Low Resolution Display On an older laptop, you may be frustrated by the poor resolution of the display. It may not even be worth using for Web surfing since most pages won't even fit on it comfortably. But it's still possible to have a lot of fun with a small display. Even a tiny display can put to shame the kinds of TVs most of us played Atari and Nintendo games on. By downloading a few emulators such as MAME and ZSNES, you can turn that laptop into a portable gaming device that even the GameBoy Advanced can't compete with. If you have an external VGA port, you can even use a capture card to connect to the family entertainment center and share some of those classic games with the entire family on your brand new (sort of) multi-console gaming station. All of The Above? If you've still got a laptop that you can't find any use for and I haven't given you any ideas that can work, I have one more possibility to share with you. Let's say you've got a laptop where just about everything has gone wrong: the display is broken, the processor is slow, the batter is dead, there's no hard drive, and the keyboard been eaten by mice. I've still got a job that your laptop can handle. As long as you have a floppy or CD-ROM drive on the laptop, you can create a bootable FreeSCO disk that will turn your laptop into a fully functional and highly configurable router. You don't even have to configure anything on the laptop itself because all the work is done on the computer where you make your bootable disks. Conclusion Even if none of the solutions will work for you, please don't kick that tired old laptop to the curb. With a little imagination, just about all of them can be salvaged. For just pennies a day, we can end the suffering.

Read the article...kind of scary (5, Insightful)

leereyno (32197) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448672)

This guy reminds me of an uncle of mine whose back yard is full of junk. Just because you CAN find a use for something doesn't mean that you've found a GOOD use for it. There comes a time when you need to toss stuff. Bending over backwards inventing uses for archaic hardware just so you can have an excuse to hold onto it just isn't rational.

I do agree that setting up a late model laptop with a cracked display as a server of some sort does make a lot of sense, asssuming of course you have need for such a server. But installing Win3.1 and wordperfect 6.0 on a 386 that's old enough for a bar mitzva is just plain crazy for anyone who has any means of getting anything better. Toss it!

Human beings are aquisitive. We like to get stuff and keep stuff. Some people don't seem to understand that there comes a point at which holding on to something is a detriment because it eats up resources without providing any genuine return. The resources I'm talking about are things like space, electricity, and the patience of your spouse. It is far, far better to periodically do an inventory and toss out stuff. If you don't have a legitimate use for it and aren't going to have a use for it, then get rid of it. If you can't stand the idea of throwing it into the landfill then take it down to goodwill. Just because its useless to you doesn't mean its useless to everyone. Not only will you have more space for new stuff, but you'll find that your state of mind will improve. Lets face it, having a yard, or a house, or even a room filled up with junk creates a problem. The junk takes up space, gets in the way, and is generally a pain, and yet you don't want to get rid of it for some reason. This creates stress. Get rid of the junk and get rid of the stress.

I used to collect computers. Not anymore. I ditch anything I can't put to good use. The only exception I've made is for my old Apple IIe that I've had since I was 12, and if it ever dies I'm ditching it too. Today I've got 2 PC's and an Ultra-10. Actually make that 3 PC's if you count my HTPC that's in the living room. I'm a lot happier now than I was back in my hoarding and pack-ratting days.

I think the author of this piece needs to throw some crap out. If his wife hasn't left him by now then someone need to tell the vatican because she needs to be cannonized as a saint.

Lee

Why reuse it? (2, Insightful)

ihavnoid (749312) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448691)

Need a simple console emulator machine? run it on your main PC.
Need a MP3 player? run it on your main PC.
Need a word processor? run it on your main PC.
Need a server? run it on your main PC with VMWare or user-mode linux or whatsoever equivalent.

Don't need any of them? forget about it and throw the old laptop away, or maybe give it to some of your friends who wants it as some other usage.

That would be cheaper, considering that old laptops eat up your room space, and here in Seoul, every square feet of your apartment cost thousands of dollars.

Not to mention getting your room full of ancient machines, and the disk+fan noise you have to tolerate every day.

Note to the crazy-driven wife (1)

dJOEK (66178) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448693)

Leave.

(you can get fortune! just tell the judge how many laptops he has ;) )

Mp3 Player (1)

t0qer (230538) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448706)

Old laptops make really nice MP3 players. There's a nice DOS mp3 player called damp [damp-mp3.co.uk] that even has support for alphanumeric LCD's.

Works great in the car too.

What's the use? (1)

pdx_joe (690372) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448737)

With prices low and available clock cycles high, why would someone waste their time/energy/space finding archaeic uses for these machines? Sure, I believe in recycle/reuse, I use old boxes for servers or play toys for the kids, but come on! Once it reaches a certain point it's time to say goodbye.

e-bay baby (1)

zakezuke (229119) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448747)

I don't know if this has been said, but the best way to get rid of strays is to do the e-bay thing. Seriously, there is always someone out there that is going to need bits of trivial parts, and you might be doing a service and earning a buck or two. For example, I busted a friends cd-rom connector, the person told me specificly that the floppy went in the right bay when it clearly did not. $50 or so odd bucks later I get a replacement with the right part. Ok, now I have a stray, but that's not the point. The point is it was cool I could find an exact match.

But so long as there is a useful application for a POStop, there is going to be someone in need of parts to make their very own frankentop.

Yup. (1)

jcuervo (715139) | more than 9 years ago | (#10448805)

I have a Compaq Contura 410c. Ancient little thing, 486 with 16 megs. Missing its screen, hard drive has bad sectors, keyboard sucks. Been my home firewall and primary dns server for years (though it's offline now; didn't pay the DSL bill, and not in any particular hurry to give the bastards at SBC any money). Was also doing MX duty for a while, but I moved that to another box.

Best uptime was a little past one year. :-)
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