Thursday, July 28, 2016

Frugality in the Ham Shack

Lately, I've been embracing my ham frugality and it feels pretty good. Here is a Dell Latitude E5500 that I rescued from a dumpster at work a couple of years ago. I had made some halfhearted attempts to use it but it was painfully slow, taking upwards of 5 minutes to boot up and  in general was a real slug. It spent most of the last year or so collecting dust but I needed another computer in the shack so I was motivated to try and make it a productive member of society again. After adding the maximum amount of RAM (4 GB, $26.50), and new SSD hard drive (256 GB, $$79.99), a new LiOn battery pack ($24.88),  and installing Linux, I've got a reasonably zippy machine for around $130. The Linux distro I selected was Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and its running very nicely. I like Debian distros since I have a fair amount experience with it, owning several Raspberry Pi's. I would have preferred to use the actual Debian distro, rather than a derivative, but there are several drivers that the Dell needs that are proprietary closed source (most noteably the Wifi card) and I didn't feel like hunting down the closed source drivers and installing from separate media. I'm a an open source fan when I can be, but I'm also lazy, err, efficient and Ubuntu has the closed source drivers included so it got the job done in one fairly pain free step. Keep an eye out at yard sales, flea markets, and thrift shops, some useable computers can be found for cheap. If the seller says it's slow running Windows, has problems with viruses, etc., that machine is a prime candidate for a second life as an awesome Linux computer. Take a live Linux USB stick with you to evaluate the PC if you're able to power it up before purchase.

Ubuntu Linux