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What can I do with my extra computer?
August 6, 2007 2:13 PM   Subscribe

What are some creative things I can use an extra desktop for? The computer is big, loud, and hot, so I keep it in the pantry with a wireless adapter and access it via SSH or remote desktop.

It's a 2yr old computer (no monitor) - fast with lots of disk space, a good video card and TV tuner. I don't want to keep it on 24/7 because of the noise (it rattles) and the heat. I have 3 computers which are up 24/7 anyways: a linux server, a laptop (no keyboard) in my kitchen for music & voip, and a regular desktop.

A few ideas I had:
- Sell it on craigslist, but I don't really want people coming in my home.
- Backup my documents (I should probably start making backups anyways)
- Testing new operating systems or applications
posted by lpctstr; to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
VMWare server? (you can consolidate your other computers)
Boat anchor?
Co-locate it and have it as "your server"?
Fish tank?
Donate it to charity/church/me?
Build server for a pet opensource project?
Recycle it?
eBay it?

Really, if you're not going to keep it on 24/7, it's not very useful for server tasks or idle-time-number-crunching like folding@home, sorry.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 2:27 PM on August 6, 2007


Assuming you can code, you could write a script that periodically turns the tv tuner on, goes to a random channel, records 5 seconds of tv, and then goes to another random channel, gets another 5 seconds etc. Have it do that until you've got 11 minutes of programming recorded. Next, purchase the domain name 11minutes.org, and post these 11 minutes there.

You could use it for folding or SETI@home.

You could take the hard drives out, and shoot them with various caliber rifles to see how much power is needed to pierce them (a .22 will not do it, IIRC). (If you do these, make sure you're safe. Also, make a video and post it on youtube).

Using it to back your stuff up is definitely a good idea.

You could use a dynamic dns type service, and use the server to host websites of controversial organizations. Schedule the times when it's online with the organization, and then feel really special to be part of something TOP-SEKRET enough to require coordination of watches across multiple timezones.

Using a math library that allows arbitrarily large integers, you could write a for loop that counts up and see how high it goes in a certain amount of time.

I believe there is a project where you download a program that looks for prime numbers. If it finds a high prime number, you get some money, because these are very valuable for cryptography.

Turn it into a metal sculpture. When artsy types look at it, call it social commentary. When normal people look at it, call it a metal sculpture.

I could go one like this, but I think you get the idea.
posted by !Jim at 2:45 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


MythTV! You needn't keep it up all the time. (I wonder, hypothetically, if you could use Wake-on-LAN in some way...) The fact that it has the tuner is just begging for a Myth box, and having lots of disk space makes it even more tempting.

You can run it just as the MythTV 'server' and use another computer as the 'client' that has a monitor hooked up to it.

You could also get Samba going and make periodic backups of your other machines.
posted by fogster at 2:48 PM on August 6, 2007


Since I never actually said it in my post: MythTV is an open-source Linux app that turns your computer+TV tuner into a digital Personal Video Recorder, a la Tivo.
posted by fogster at 2:51 PM on August 6, 2007


Turn it into a jukebox.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:52 PM on August 6, 2007


Backups. Definitely backups.

Actually it would be better if the computer wasn't in your home, so maybe you can find a friend and exchange old PCs with them? If you set the computer up with a dynamic DNS name, all you and your friend have to do is open some ports to the machine through your respective firewalls/routers (so that you can each get to it by SSHing to myboxname.dyndns.com:somereallyhighportnumber).

With that set up, you can back up your documents with tools like rsync every night, and know that you're safe not only from accidental stupidity, but also fires, floods, and other events.

There are some slick software packages around for doing backups, but I just copy my Documents folder to a remote machine every night while I'm asleep. It means the remote backup grows slowly (because if I move it or rename it, I get two copies on the backup), but as long as I go in and clean it out once in a while, it's not a bad system.

And you can still run Seti@Home in its spare cycles.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:16 PM on August 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Has it always been as hot and noisy? If not, you could give it a clean out (with compressed air to get rid of the dust bunnies on the fans and heatsinks) as that may make it quieter and cooler.

I wouldn't run SETI@home etc as its only use. Sure it would be cool if the aliens were speaking to you, but is it worth your electric bill?

If you don't see a need for another computer, could you use the parts in your other machines?

I think a while ago a suggestion for this type of thing would be as a fairly advanced firewall. But I presume that routers are now powerful enough that that's no longer necessary.
posted by kg at 3:32 PM on August 6, 2007


Asterisk?</a<
posted by Freen at 4:09 PM on August 6, 2007


I use mine as a file server and connect to it with remote desktop from my laptop for all my large file/porn needs. I use SyncBack (free version) to do nightly backups from the laptop.
posted by jeblis at 5:10 PM on August 6, 2007


- bittorrent download monster. You can install apache+torrentflux and it's pretty hassle-free.

- openMosix cluster, since you surely have others.

- Donate it to a school/boys/girls club, take the tax write-off.
posted by kickback at 8:19 PM on August 6, 2007


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