Old posts, new ideas

A quick note: I updated a two-and-a-half-year-old post the other day, adding to it a few more things you can do with an old computer. Ordinarily I wouldn’t tend to a post that old except under unusual circumstances.

But the fact that it still gets attention this late in its life, that it’s still a frequent link on this site’s “most popular posts” list, and that I still refer people to it on occasion, is unusual enough to warrant a short update.

So what changed? Not a whole lot. There had always been a couple of points on that list that needed editing or better explanation, and so it was polished a bit in some places. After that, I added a few points about media servers (because there are specific packages designed to add media server functions to networked machines, and some specific to console game systems), plus the idea of an in-house software repository and an automatic compiler — two things I have used ancient machines for in the past.

The last idea I added was kind of fruity — the idea of using a very old computer as a kind of remote personal information manager. I wouldn’t have ever thought of that idea, let alone suggested it, except that I found myself doing that very thing the other day, after experimenting with wyrd and some other task organizers. Rather than take the time to install then directly on the Thinkpad, I was using ssh and screen to install and playtest them quickly in Arch, then bounce back to my nearby Crux machine to tinker with the ones I liked most.

This isn’t a new idea really; I can remember scheduling and database software accessed from dumb terminals on 1970s-era mainframe systems that I worked with, decades ago. Keeping your appointment book on one machine and accessing it from another is not terrifically innovative.

But it struck me as a possibility, since the resource management between the two is better suited to that model. The little machine handles the little tasks, and the big machine focuses on the big ones.

So there it is then.


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