I collect (or hoard, as my wife tells it) older tech if I find it interesting.

Sometimes it sits for a while before I get around to investigating it, and I guess my wife misunderstands this, and thinks the stuff is no use – but us techies know better, don’t we?

I am selling my main computer (iMac 27″ i5 4 core) to fund the purchase of a PC that I can upgrade as and when money is available, so I didn’t want to be without a desktop, and to that end I started investigating some of the older boxes I have collected (edit: he means hoarded – wife) over time. At the bottom of the pile I came across a box I used to use as a file server when I had a thing for digitising my DVD collection and playing it wirelessly around the house and over the internet. I remembered that it was a 64-bit AMD processor, and had a gigabyte of ram and was set up with 4 raided sata-1 drives (long since used for other projects).

I pulled it out, opened it up and found an 80Gig IDE hard drive still inside – so just for a laugh I connected a monitor and keyboard, plugged it in and it fired up with dire warnings about a CMOS checksum error (meaning the motherboard battery was flat, so CMOS info was wrong). After going in to setup, putting in the date and time and rebooting we got the known and loved scrolling boot messages from a Slackware  install. Then it informed me that it was going to check the disks, as it had been 2782 days since the last time – or 7 1/2 years! 80Gig didn’t take very long, and ignoring the missing file systems, I had a login prompt. My usual practice is to assign the same user-name and password to all my house boxes, and I was able to login without any problems.

Checking the hardware, I found that it was a Turion 64bit processor (1 core) running at 1.8ghz with a gig of ram and on-board graphics from Nvidia.

The question was, is this a usable box for one to two weeks while I set up the new PC?

The best test was simply to clone my iMac hard-drive and boot it in this box and see.

My iMac runs Salix OS, a Slackware based Linux distribution, not Mac OS X 😉

With minor hiccups (setting the display driver to Nvidia rather than ATI), I had my usual desktop (albeit at 1440 x 900 instead of 2560 x 1440!) and everything looked good, but what about performance?

For everyday tasks like reading email, surfing the net and playing videos (youtube and DVD’s) there was a barely perceptible decrease in performance. For editing photos, performance took a nose-dive.  Playing some old DOS games and games run under wine I found the performance to be tolerable, but I wouldn’t want to do this for a long time.

After playing around with this system for most of a day, I figure I can live with it for a week or two while I sort out the sell-purchase-set-up cycle of the new PC box.

So, what have we learned from this?

1. Look in the bottom of the pile of first.

2. If you just want to surf, email and watch videos any old (Linux)  box will be enough.

3. Games need more grunt than this box has to be pleasurably played.

4. Photography is an expensive pastime 🙂

5. Use Linux, ’cause you couldn’t do what I have just done with Windows or Mac OS X.

If you got this far, thanks for sticking with it!