Bottom fishing. I was over at my church’s sister congregation Monday night, looking over their computer situation. They just got a grant to build a lab, so they asked me to come assess what they have and tell them how to most wisely spend the money they got.
If I were buying all new, I’d be torn. I like the idea of the Compaq iPAQ. It’s $499, it’s all integrated, it’s powerful enough (once you up the memory), comes with Windows 2000, and someone else built it. I can just get seven of them, plug them into a hub, set one up properly, clone it to the rest, and be done with it. It’s a business-class machine from a proven maker.
On the other hand, Compaq Presarios start at $399 and include all the software they need. I’d have to get NICs for them, but that’s $40. Memory’s another $60. So for the cost of the iPAQ, I get similar hardware plus Win98, Word, and Works. But it’s consumer-grade hardware and I’m not impressed with Presarios. I’d really rather have iPAQs with Windows 2000 and StarOffice, frankly. I think they’re better machines. (And there’s probably money to buy the software we need.)
But what about what they have? It’s truly a mixed bag. Mostly a mixed bag of junk. There’s an XT in their room, along with one of the first Compaq 386s. The Compaq is junk. I’m trying to find an appropriate word for the XT. There are a whole bunch of LPX form-factor 386SXs, some Dell and Compaq, others Packard Bell. Junk. There are three Compaq Proliant servers, 486-based, decked out with SCSI drives. Rugged and reliable, I could turn one of them into a Linux gateway, and put Samba on another for use for file serving and authentication. I thought I saw a Compaq Deskpro 486/33. Reliable, but not very useful these days. And there are three ATs: one a 386 and two Pentium-75s, one of which works. The other gives beep codes, so probably either the memory or video’s shot. All in all, 90% of it’s useless, and none of it’s even worthy of being called a museum piece.
Normally I’d say junk it all, maybe keep one of the Proliants and the working Pentium-75. But in light of those $29 Soyo BAT Celeron motherboards… Do the math. The board’s $29. A Celeron is $50. A 128-meg stick is $60. I can probably salvage the video cards, except for the one in the 386. So add a video card, say, $35. Of course I can salvage everything else I need from that big stack of obsolete stuff. So for about $150 each after shipping, I can have two Celerons. For another $180, I could have a third.
Sounds good on paper, but a new Presario costs $399, has more than $220 worth of software, and is covered under warranty. Compaq’s not my favorite computer company, but I don’t really want to be their computer company.
Those $29 Soyo boards are good enough for me. That’s why I ordered two. So I’ll get one final tour of duty out of my souped-up IBM PC/AT, which has done time as a 286 of course, a 386DX-40, a Pentium-75, and a Cyrix 6×86-166. Sick thought: If I end up putting a Celeron-500 in it (I haven’t decided what CPU it gets yet), that AT could be my fastest computer again.
But what makes sense for me often doesn’t make sense elsewhere. And I guess that’s why I write books and magazine articles–sometimes I can figure out when and why that is.
A disk tool that could save your bacon someday. You find all kinds of cool stuff in online forums, let me tell you. I probably find one or two gems a week, but for me, that’s worth it. MBRWORK allows you to play around with partitions, and can even allow you to restore deleted partitions. It’ll also remove those disk overlay programs for you, which is great–the only sure way I could ever get rid of them was to low-level format the drive, which takes forever and is destructive, of course. You can find it at www.terabyteunlimited.com . You can find some brief documentation and screenshots online at www.webdev.net/orca/mbrwork.htm . Download this and keep it in a safe place.
I don’t think do-it-yourself data recovery is something anyone wants to get good at, but it’s usually better than paying someone to do it.