[nSLUG] Selling Used Computers

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Tue Mar 30 11:45:16 ADT 2010

On 3/30/10, Richard Bonner <ak621 at chebucto.ns.ca> wrote:
> On Mon, 29 Mar 2010, George N. White III wrote:
>> On 3/29/10, Richard Bonner <ak621 at chebucto.ns.ca> wrote:
>>> On Thu, 25 Mar 2010, George N. White III wrote:
>>>> I have friends who tried installing linux on older computers for
>>>> their kids, but the kids "would just die" without iTunes, so linux
>>>> was abandoned and they ended up buying new computers.
>>> ***   Are the "iTunes" people or any independents considering
>>> developing or porting the program for non Windows machines?
>> The key issue is digital rights management.   I can't see Apple porting
>> iTunes to linux,
> ***   So only Apple users can access iTunes?

The vast majority of iTunes users run WIndows.   You can use Apple iPods
on linux, but you can't purchase from Apple's iTunes.

>>>> In the past I know there have been efforts to make older computers
>>>> available, sometimes connected to a trade school where students
>>>> "refurbish" older computers.  One problem is that old hard disks are
>>>> too failure prone and should be one of the first components to be
>>>> replaced with new, so you need some real cash for new disk drives.
>>> ***   There are plenty of newer, but used, hard drives around from
>>> those upscaling for bloatware or excessive media storage.
>> I've had too many drives fail within warranty, and many drives that
>> failed shortly after the warranty expired, but I generally buy drives
>> with 5-year warranties.   My guess that drives are build to last 3 or
>> 5 years but with a pretty high rate of premature failures, so you can
>> sell them at a discount if you offer 1-year warranty, so a 2-year old
>> drive could be expected to last a year (more if it is lightly used) if
>> it passes the vendor's diagnostics.
> ***     I have heard of more newer drives failing lately. Are they not
> as well built as before? I have 10-year-old drives that function fine.
> The last hard drive I had fail was around 12 or more years old.

New drives pack a lot more data into a smaller package, and with the
low prices people are moving into data-intensive tasks (editing
multimedia) and loading up systems with lots of disks.  At work we
have some Mac Pro systems with 4x 1TB disk, one for the system
and 3 drives in a stripped configuration to store on-line remote sensing
images.  We have problems keeping the systems cool, which likely
contributed to the two drive failures we have had in 1 year of use.

>> My main concern over disks is that a disk failure can be very
>> disruptive for someone who relies on a single computer, has no real
>> backup capability, and lacks the technical background to distinguish
>> between disk problems and other issues, and has very limited access
>> to technical support, and will have to wait months to get a
>> replacement if they can't afford to buy a new disk, and will have
>> trouble finding someone to reinstall and configure linux.
> ***   I can't believe that so many don't seem to bother with backups.
> With the low cost of floppies and flashdrives - even used zip drives,
> there is no excuse except for laziness, as I see it.

Well, this thread is about getting computers to people with very little
computer experience or money.

>> There are two categories of people who would benefit from low or no
>> cost computers: those who have temporary needs (e.g., home or
>> workplace destoyed by natural disaster or fire with inadequate
>> insurance) and those with chronic needs (disabilities, inadequate
>> pension).  For the latter the program that provides a computer
>> should do life-cycle management so the majority of systems are
>> refurbished or replaced before hardware fails.
> ***   It would be nice, but the funding is just not there and many
> with disabilities cannot afford to buy new, especially if there are
> issues with running their disability software on newer systems.
>     I was at a friend's place earlier this month. He has severe
> respiratory problems. His system is MS-DOS 7 with a Win 98 overlay and
> I went there to check out an issue. We determined that it appears to
> be his hard drive, but he has decided to replace it all with another P
> II or P III.

Someone who does not expect multi-media has lots of options, from 10-year
old P-III ($50, but may need PS, fan, or disk at any moment) to new atom-based
box with free-dos or command-line linux.

>     On a related subject, at A1 Laptop, the owner mentioned to me that
> he has a customer looking for a large quantity of P iIs. So the demand
> is there for these older systems, or at least newer ones that will
> accept older software and operating systems.

Yes.  Many of these older systems have specialized hardware interfaces
on 8-bit or 16-bit ATI cards, or even 5v PCI that can't be used in current
mainstream systems.   A few years ago there were "industrial" system
boards that still had ATI slots, and also an external chassis with a PCI
interface that could be connected to a newer PC.  The problem is that
much of the older software used polling loops, etc. that only work on
a specific CPU, so even if you can find new hardware that accepts
your cards you have to completely rewrite the software if you change
CPU, and many of those older systems didn't come with source code
(and the sources may be long lost due to bankruptcy, reorganization,
etc of the original company).

>> While there is no substitute for having your own computer, there is
>> certainly a role for CAP.  From the recent news reports, I gather
>> that CAP sites could benefit from life-cycle managed computers.
> ***   I agree.
>   Richard
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George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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