September 27, 2007 10:43 PM   Subscribe

Up in ur antique pc's optimizin ur network. I, a previously porn-surfing net monkey whose "kit" was a Dell Inspiron 5100 laptop (a retard's computer if there ever was one), have through recent endowments of hardware and employment opportunities, become the proud new owner of a fleet of slightly antiquated electronics that will need to be strung together and (probably) modified and moved if I'm not going to go insane tranferring massive volumes of data from one to another. This isn't so much a tech question as a planning one - what would you do with all this stuff? How can I get the best use out of it?

I have 2 desktops from...I don't know who, but both are 3-4 years old and from the Pentium 3-4 era. Both work fine. I also have my old Dell, which of late has been falling apart. It's nothing big...but everything little, like loose connections on the motherboard, a dead USB port (which means there's only one functioning one, and it can't handle devices that draw power from the laptop), and we won't even get into the overheating issues these things have. It makes it almost impossible to do anything processor-intensive. There's also a Sony Vaio T350, an ultraportable thinger 2.5 years old. That works perfectly, which is exactly what I need it to do.

But now we get to the employment duties part. I am, officially, an editor of a company publication, the content and web manager of a film distribution agent (with occasional editing and subtitling for the same), and an occasional writer/photographer, which needs editing. On top of which is my day job, language teaching, which often requires multimedia presentations and assembling things off the web for class. I'm also a classic web addict and download hog, so I have a couple of USB IDE drives I need to factor into this whole thing, and one of them is failing and the other is showing signs of failing, so those need to be replaced and will be shortly, but with SATA/IDE/Firewire/blahblahblah I honestly am clueless about how low or high I want my technology investments.

Here's how I envision it: The writing/web-presentation-assembly stuff is pretty easily delegated to the Vaio. That's the most easily portable to the couch. I'm not too keen on using that to do the sorting through hundreds of DVD's requires though, because replacing those drives isn't cheap. One of the desktops will be a dedicated straw, to which I plug in my archiving drives every day and clean out what I want and don't want. The Inspiron laptop has a desktop processor and takes desktop RAM (I think), and is for all intents and purposes a "desktop replacement", which is exactly what this class is called, and so I figure I may as well use it as such - I've got a copy of Ubuntu that I need to learn to use before XP goes completely obsolete, and which I'll need to expand to everything, so the Dell will be training wheels, as well as my intake for all the gunk I download, i.e. I'll plug it into the stereo as my mp3 player, or watch a movie on it in bed. Which leaves the other desktop as my "content" computer. To turn it into that though, I'd ideally like to wire in a TV and do a double monitor setup so I don't have to hunch over the 15-inch screen while I watch movies all day. And concurrently I'd like to be able to work on the website over the LAN while I screen these things and upload them, another task which the Vaio seems fit for.

So, what do you think? So long as any part can be had 2nd-hand, money isn't an object. Ergonomics? We're half-moved in and we've got a lot of space to move things around. Virus protection? What can I turn off and what should I leave on all the time? The only network I've ever built is setting up wifi in my old apartment, so if anyone has any suggestions, experience, ideas, I'm glad to have them.
posted by saysthis to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Sounds like overkill to me. Why not take this opportunity to simplify your life?

Slap some big harddrives in the desktop, transfer all your data there, and it becomes your desk workstation and file server. Set up ssh and samba sharing for access from anywhere.

Then all you need is one laptop to port around.

If you really want to use the old laptop, drop it off at your parent's house, plug it in to their DSL line, and schedule nightly incremental backups of your important data.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:30 PM on September 27, 2007

Given the randomness of the hardware, I think either you do what chrisamiller suggests, or you just let the hardware dictate what you do.

So you want to learn Ubuntu. Well, you take one of your spares and make it a Linux toy. Pretty basic. Build workstations around tasks if it makes sense to you.
posted by dhartung at 1:40 AM on September 28, 2007

Back up everything on a huge honking external, then sell everything on Ebay and by a new,fast, laptop.

Also, tl;dr.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 8:06 AM on September 28, 2007

Stop using the flaky drives right away until you have them backed up up elsewhere.

Build a NAS out of one of your old Dell desktops and, say, 4 500GB drives (about $100 each.) Build a small network. Come up with a regular scheme to backup to the NAS. Read

Dump the flaky hardware. New hardware's too cheap; life's too short.

or, what they said.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:40 AM on September 28, 2007

Old drives fail. For that matter, new drives occasionally fail. If anything else breaks, you can replace it, but if a drive fails, you often lose data. So create a storage server and backup.
posted by theora55 at 10:44 AM on September 28, 2007

One of the flaws with Inspirons is that dust will build up on the CPUs heatsink. Just blowing into the vent on the rear of the machine will improve things noticeably. Google inspiron heat problems for more solutions.

As far as your LAN, set up the desktop as a central fileserver, and put all your data in it's internal drives.

I've had bad luck with USB drive enclosures, though the drives I've put in them wind up working with no problem once I take them out of the enclosures and put them back into a desktop machine.
posted by fnerg at 11:42 AM on September 28, 2007

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