Help me repurpose my old laptop
April 16, 2009 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I have a spare 17" widescreen laptop (single core, 3GHz) that's not too shabby, but I don't use it anymore. Help me do something neat with it!

Current ideas:

1) Cut up the case so it becomes more like a tablet, and mount to the wall for use as a "display screen" for misc info such as weather and RSS snippets. I'm thinking about those screens in elevators. This would require a little bit of coding, but that's fine.

2) Connect it to my TV for use as a "media center". I already have a Roku box for watching Netflix / Amazon Video, so I'm not sure what I would use this for (porn?), but it would require a pretty decent bluetooth keyboard/mouse combo for use from the couch (any recommendations?)

3) Create a DIY projector from the LCD screen. This might be inefficient, but it's a nice little project. It'd result in a useless laptop, though.

Other ideas welcome. What would YOU do?
posted by phrakture to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd start asking all my friends and acquaintances if they knew anybody that needed a laptop.
posted by box at 12:48 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't do anything destructive to it, or anything that can be done by a way lesser machine at this point. Keep in mind that you can still get a few bucks for it, and buy something older and cheaper to do the things you've come up with easily, which, while a little time-consuming, could net you a substantial amount of bucks.

I've always been a fan of covering the keyboard in plastic wrap and using it in the kitchen as a weather/recipe/etc appliance.
posted by General Malaise at 12:51 PM on April 16, 2009

Response by poster: I'm not really looking to trade or sell it. My motivation is two fold: 1) I have this laptop that gets no use, and 2) I want to do some nifty DIY project with it.
posted by phrakture at 12:57 PM on April 16, 2009

Sorta what you already suggested, but I would do this if I had an old laptop sitting around

posted by sliderjc at 12:58 PM on April 16, 2009

Sorry, missed the link!
It's Here!
posted by sliderjc at 12:59 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, I didn't say anything about trading or selling--I want you to give it away.
posted by box at 1:12 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @box: Can I interest you in a laptop?
posted by phrakture at 1:22 PM on April 16, 2009

I've already got a laptop, but if you send it to me, I'll make sure it finds a good home.

One of my coworkers is the first person in her family to go to college, and she doesn't have a computer at home--I bet she could make good use of it. MeMail me if you're serious--I ought to be able to pick up the shipping cost, anyway.
posted by box at 1:29 PM on April 16, 2009

I'm in the process of converting an old 15" Powerbook to a bedroom media machine (bow chicka wow); perhaps you'll have some interest in this:

So far, I've successfully removed the screen hinges and folded the screen over the body, so effectively have a 15" mountable display (with no easily accessible mouse/keyboard - which is fine, as I'm only going to drive it via remote control, and if I need to do maintenance, I'll either remote in or just unflip the keyboard/mousepad). Next, I'm hoping to find a lightweight articulated arm that I can mount under my bed so that I can freely swing the display wherever I want (within reason).

Eventually, I may get a touchscreen overlay.
posted by zerokey at 1:37 PM on April 16, 2009

Kitchen pc . all it really takes is a specialized version of linux (i remember seeing it on lifehacker i think) and rearranging the screen.

You make it so that you put the laptop underneath the cabinets with the screen facing down and out.
posted by majortom1981 at 1:40 PM on April 16, 2009

I like sliderjc's suggestion. I have a tabletpc with a broken hinge that would be perfect for converting to hanging wall pc.
posted by aGee at 1:54 PM on April 16, 2009

How about flipping over the screen and adding a touchscreen overlay so you can use it like a tablet and then just have it on your coffee table with something pretty and interactive on it? (or a browser and onscreen keyboard or something similar) There was a guy who made a gorgeous interactive touchscreen table using Processing, but unfortunately I've lost the link :(

If you turned the LCD into a projector you could use the laptop itself for file storage, bittorrent etc and have them hooked together. You could maybe set it up as a porn media centre for your bedroom?
posted by teraspawn at 1:55 PM on April 16, 2009

I just made a kitchen under the cabinet pc. It's pretty cool. I use it for pandora, music, recipes, and it's a dashboard for time weather etc during the day.


Side note: I don't get why every time someone asks something here on what to do with a computer 20 people act all entitled and say to give it away. Maybe I\others donate tons of computers all year and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe I want a cool project to do with A computer. =\

For your number 2:
Do you have another laptop? I have a media pc and just VNC to it with my iphone or another laptop to control it instead of getting a bt mouse and keyboard.
posted by zephyr_words at 1:56 PM on April 16, 2009

Response by poster: @zephyr_words: How do you control it? External kb/mouse?

And I agree with your "donate it!" response.
@box: I was just joking around :)
posted by phrakture at 2:28 PM on April 16, 2009


Control what? The kitchen PC? I have it setup to use voice command and I have a small wireless mouse that's hidden behind a plant. It looks pretty nice. Keyboard isn't needed much since it's mostly just clicky click stuff but if the voice command doesn't get it done I use an on-screen keyboard.
I also VNC into it sometimes via iPhone\other laptop.
posted by zephyr_words at 2:34 PM on April 16, 2009

I'm with box. Whenever these questions come up, and it's fairly often, I'm left wondering why not just give it to a person that can really use a computer instead of trying so very hard to find something unpractical to do with an unused computer. If you don't know anyone personally there are organizations that can always find good homes for good computers, like needy families and poor students.

I recently gave away my old desktop, decent enough in its day, but now with completely unremarkable specs: AMD Sempron 2800+ CPU, 2x160GB HD, 768MB RAM, and a GeForce Titanium 2 something-or-other video card. The report I got back? Wow, that was a really nice computer. Which, to me, suggests they get a lot of absolutely obsolete old crap.

Your 3GHz laptop is definitely a good computer by those standards.
posted by 6550 at 3:30 PM on April 16, 2009

On post-view.

Side note: I don't get why every time someone asks something here on what to do with a computer 20 people act all entitled and say to give it away. Maybe I\others donate tons of computers all year and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe I want a cool project to do with A computer. =\

Because you'd already be using the computer to do something cool if you actually had a use. No one ever suggests something in these threads that's just some awesomely wonderful use for an old computer because there are only so many uses for a an old computer and these frequent questions read like fishing expeditions and wishful thinking.
posted by 6550 at 3:36 PM on April 16, 2009

Response by poster: I have donated enough in the past 8 months or so (including money, goods and time). I am sated in that regard. I would like to use _my_ property to further _my_ happiness now. This is not "trying so very hard to find something unpractical to do with an unused computer" - this is fun to me, and makes me happy. I am here looking for others, who share in this sort of "tinkering mindset" to provide insight and thoughts. I am not here to be lambasted by "save the world" types who feel that if you have even a little bit of extra anything it MUST be donated to our fellow brethren before we worry about benefiting ourselves.

I have stated already that I do not want to donate this machine. Let's move on back to the actual question where I explicitly asked for help "do[ing] something neat with it".

I think I like the wall / cabinet mount ideas the best. One problem though is that I am a renter and could probably not screw things into my kitchen cabinets. I wonder if there's a better way to rig it up.

Still holding out just a tad to see if there are any "omg awesome" unique ideas that haven't been touched on.
posted by phrakture at 3:57 PM on April 16, 2009

Okay. How about a robot? Or home automation? Those are pretty "omg awesome" if a lot of work.
posted by 6550 at 4:13 PM on April 16, 2009

Car PCs offer some neat possibilities, I think.
posted by box at 5:10 PM on April 16, 2009

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