Geek dilemma

I found myself in the junk aisle of another recycle shop the other day, this time turning over an ancient Fujitsu laptop in my hands … 266Mhz Celeron, 64Mb with a 6Gb hard drive, CDROM, floppy drive … and wondering if I’m not going in the wrong direction.

Right now I have two screenless laptops — I like to call them “blind” — that I could be using, if I would only break down and buy an external monitor. Neither of them is technically old enough to satisfy my need for a low-, low-end machine, but while they sit on the sidelines, unused, I could be putting them to use as torrent slaves or media centers, just by plugging in a decent flat-panel screen.

And flat-panel screens at the recycle shop run as low as US$30, for a rather ugly and small one, all the way up to US$200-plus, for something modern with built-in speakers and a widescreen aspect.

Picking up a monitor alone is somehow disturbing to my conscience though — I can get a monitor bundled with a leftover machine for the price of the monitor by itself, and it’s in the right bracket, speedwise.

But if it’s just the monitor I’m really after, why pay money for one when co-workers and friends are practically begging me to take away their boat-anchor Pentium II desktops — machines I repeatedly turn down just because I don’t want to deal with the bulk.

And that’s the ultimate complication: Do I really want to start messing with desktop machines again? I could, conceivably, justify owning one as an excuse that it came with the monitor, but space is an issue, and dragging desktop machines home like lost puppies is opening another can of worms altogether.

So there I am, standing in the junk aisle of another recycling center again, wondering if I should place a US$50-bet on a leftover laptop, or take home a US$35 desktop system of equal caliber, with the added bonus of having a monitor to connect the other machines to.

It’s the toughest decision I have to make these days, and I guess that’s a good thing. In the end, I put the laptop down, and left empty-handed. I lost nothing by procrastinating, I guess. :|

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4 thoughts on “Geek dilemma

  1. Josh Miller

    Speaking from experience, it’s easy to “fallout” of the desktop collecting “habit”. I’ve gotten several old desktops that I use for various things (webserver, media center, wife’s office PC, one in the attic). and I’m forcing myself to refuse anymore. Or if I get something better dropped into my lap, I’ll replace one, starting with the webserver since it’s the lowest end model (P2, 400mhz I think).

    The point is, as you quickly run out of space for these things, you’ll quickly stop collecting them.

    Laptops on the other hand, I’ve got 3 of those, with one in the pipes. I’d replace my Media PC and Webserver with one but none are powerful enough spec wise. Laptops are easy and compact to store.

    Still, having a spare monitor is probably a good idea. Does this desktop+monitor have a flat panel or a CRT? CRTs are huge, I wish I could replace both of mine with flat panels.

    Oh yeah, there’s two G3 Powermacs too.

    Anyway, I’m rambling about nothing mostly.

    BTW, Was that Fujitsu a Lifebook? I may have that same one except I screwed up the screen with this PCIMA “MPEG 2 Go card”. I think resetting the NVRAM would fix it but I can’t figure out how to. I really like the shell design of the Lifebook, it’s rpetty versatile for an older machine.

    Reply
  2. Luke Maciak

    Josh is right – you can’t really collect desktops the way you collect laptops. You can possibly only find space for N laptops in your room. The N+1′th laptop will end up sitting in a corner somewhere waiting for room to free up or will get tossed away. I know cause I have a perfectly good, never before used low end desktop sitting in an original box behind my desk because I have no space to put it.

    I got it for free from work – it was a left-behind from a liquidation of some company. The thing was never used, but it was an older model (1.5 GHz single core with 256 MB of RAM I believe) so no one wanted it. I could not resist. But alas, I have absolutely no place to put it – even as a headless server.

    If you have room for one though, go for it.

    Reply
  3. Josh Miller

    The key is of course room, and how much clutter you mind. I keep my media PC an server hidden behind a dresser that my TV sits on. So they are out of sight out of mind. I doubt my wife would let me use either if they were out in the room.

    Reply

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