MAKE: 10 Things to Do With Old PCs

People have been fairly excited about the new Make magazine. From the page:

The first magazine devoted to digital projects, hardware hacks, and D.I.Y. inspiration.

They actually have a blog where they post interesting projects. Today I found an entry on 10 Things to Do With Old PCs. I was amused that out of all of the cool things they mentioned, “Install Linux” was simply one option and not a preprequisite for most of them. B-)

I’ve been using a home network for some time and it was a great learning experience. As a gamer, LAN parties are a semi-normal part of life, and setting up LANs is second-nature now. My main system is my multimedia center, and I am interested in making a DVR. I run my own webserver and file server. I even make automated backups across the network.

Sure, none of it “requires” you to use Gnu/Linux. Windows is currently much preferred for LAN parties due to the number of games it has. Still, what’s the point of tinkering with an old box if you aren’t trying to learn something? And isn’t it easier to learn how an engine works when it is visible? When you can take it apart and put it back together again? One of the big things that appealed to me about Gnu/Linux was that it was hackable, meaning that I could mess with it all I wanted without worrying about some violation of a draconian EULA.

Make obviously needs to cater to as many customers as it can, and most people run Windows in some form. Still, I can’t help wondering how much easier it would be to setup a central repository for files or create a personal website for your LAN when running Gnu/Linux. It would also be cheaper since you would technically have to buy a license for Windows in order to run it on the new member of your computer family. You’ll be hard pressed to find an older version of Windows that would run on an older machine, so be prepared for potentially expensive hardware upgrades just to meet minimum specs. Some Linux-based distros, on the other hand, can run on machines that gave Windows 98 problems, and most distros will run on the low-specs described in the article. Since you don’t need a per-machine license, you can even create your own Beowulf cluster if you have multiple old machines.

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