Beyond Budget: The Low-End Life


Okay, so I make no attempt to hide that I’m not an affluent dude. I make very little money, but I love my tech, so how do I have a decent box? It’s something I’ve done for a long time, and save for thrice – twice was a decision that bit me in the butt – I’ve been a user of pre-owned computers since 1999.

Let’s get the exceptions out of the way. I purchased a Lenovo Flex notebook early in 2016 and with the understanding that it’s a decidedly budget system, I’ve been quite happy with it. The other new purchase was in early 2014 when I bought a Late 2012 Core i7 model Mac mini. Oh wow. Quad i7 power! With a craptastic 5400 RPM hard disk, only 4GB of RAM and completely laughable Intel HD 4000 video. TOTALLY WORTH THE THOUSAND DOLLARS I SPENT.

Worst purchase. 0/10 would never buy again. Don’t forget that on top of how pitiful this thing is, one day, Apple will simply decide I don’t get new OS versions. That’s the day I turn it into a Debian box.

Maybe. I’ve honestly considered selling it and getting a few hundred bucks that I can use to get something that isn’t garbage.

So, cutting to the chase, I buy used computers and use them up. Windows is the best OS for this purpose. Linux… is Linux. macOS regularly artificially drops support for older hardware. Windows will be there, though.

My list of previous hardware is so, SO not lustworthy.

I’m straight out forsaking that Mac mini with a quad-core Core i7 3615QM at 2.3GHz. Maybe to the point of selling it off because I hate it so much. I retired it because it got to be too much to resist beating it into not working with the Fist of Doom.

My main machine right now is a Lenovo Thinkstation S20 from 2009. Quad Xeon E5530 at 2.4GHz. I paid $150 for this machine and it’s an order of magnitude faster than that damn Mac mini. Why? I can actually open it up and put an SSD in it, and a new video card, and that Xeon isn’t honestly that much slower than the i7. Whatever. It was a no-holds-barred high-end workstation when new. So almost a decade later, it’s still more-than-adequate for my needs and wants. And at $150 I could replace it by this summer and not feel bad.

Before it, my PC was a Gateway-built AMD quad Phenom running at a blazing 1.6GHz. WOW!! Someone decided to build a desktop with budget notebook specs. Nothing I ever did to that machine ever made it not sluggish. It ran games even more pitifully than the box I had before it. I retired it when I couldn’t expect to get better than 35 FPS from anything, and Overwatch simply refused to be playable.

A Pentium 4 (Prescott) 3.4GHz monstrosity. It was built under HP’s zombie-like Compaq mark. It was a whatever-random-numbers-NX. WOW WHAT A NAME! It was always too hot, but running World of Warcraft on this thing felt decent. I was able to run 64-bit Windows Vista, and ended up throwing almost 4GB of RAM at it. It was a pretty high-end machine when it was new, and I paid $0 for it when I got it, but it had a weak 768MB of RAM and terrible Intel 710 video, so I dubbed it Gift Horse. By the end, it was a respectable box but I retired it because they didn’t bother to turn on the CPU’s NX feature, so Windows 8 wouldn’t run on it. Cheap.

Earlier than it was a newer machine. I have a tendency to end up with garbage boxes that I buy new and then replace them with formerly high-end boxes. I was at Best Buy one day and had a big paycheck along with a tax return burning my pocket, so I came home with a P4 w/hyperthreading box. I… honestly don’t remember any of the details about it at this point. I think it was a P4 515. Early 2007. It had Vista Home Basic. I really got ripped off on this piece of trash. The 3-year-old Compaq I got a couple of years later really kicked its butt after a couple of upgrades. This is better left forgotten.

Before it was a quickly-iterated series of junkers, from a Celeron 633, to a Dell OptiPlex with a P2 266 that I kept an unusually long time (’08 or so) just because I could cram anything I imagined in there. I had two Radeon cards in it, driving dual 1280×1024 screens, something like 3 GB of RAM, six 80GB hard disks, USB 2, WiFi, and a 7.1 surround video card. Was it fast? No. Did it run XP well enough? YES. It was just fine and served me as a day-to-day box for a long time. By ’03 or ’04 it was shifted to ad-hoc home server and there it stayed until the day it bluescreened and never started again.

These things were what I used, and had a blast with. There are older ones, like my Frankenstein K6 I had in college, but whatever. I’m too tired to talk about all that right now.

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