Where to buy vintage computers

Where to buy vintage computers

Collecting vintage computers can be fun. I also personally think it’s great that people are interested in preserving that history. Where to buy vintage computers hasn’t changed much over the years. It just may take a bit more work than it used to.

Some people think old computers are priceless. Others think they’re worthless. I don’t recommend wasting your time with people who think a Dell Pentium III laptop is worth $300. Think of the times you found a jewel for five bucks and keep moving.

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Tin buildings for train layouts

Tin buildings for train layouts

When it comes to trains, I prefer older ones made of tin, rather than plastic. And I like tin buildings too. Any time I open a magazine featuring someone’s train layouts, the buildings all look the same. I want something a little different, so I look for tin buildings to go with my tin trains.

Many companies through the years made food containers with printing on them that look like buildings. The tins tend to be about six inches wide, around 8 inches tall, and two inches deep. They tend to resemble the two-story commercial buildings you used to see in downtowns, with a storefront on the first story and offices or apartments on the second floor.

You can use these tins to put together a very timeless commercial district for your train layout. If you know what to look for, you can find coffee shops, bakeries, candy stores, florists, and plenty of other stores to make your town a nice place to live and work. And the buildings usually aren’t terribly expensive, either.

In this post, I’ll cover buildings made after 1970. For pre-1970 buildings, see Vintage Tin Litho Buildings.

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Estate sale tips for buyers

I talked earlier this week about garage sales, but what about estate sale tips for buyers? The overall strategy is similar, but there are definitely tips that apply specifically to estate sales.

So what is an estate sale? Imagine an oversized garage sale. Essentially, the family is liquidating everything in the house. Of course you find a lot of the same things you’d find at a garage sale, but at a good estate sale, there will be high-dollar items too.

So, without further ado, here are my 18 hard-won estate sale tips for buyers.

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Garage sale tips for buyers

Garage sale tips for buyers

I am a garage sale pro. Over the course of a decade, I attended thousands of garage sales, saved thousands of dollars buying things for my own use, and made tens of thousands of dollars reselling my loot (yes, I had a business license and declared it on my taxes). Here are my favorite garage sale tips for buyers.

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Using a router as a switch

Using a router as a switch

Most of us have an old router like a Linksys WRT54G laying around, or if we don’t, it’s very easy to find one–the nearest garage sale or thrift store is a good bet–but sometimes all we need is a switch, to hook up a couple more computers or other devices to a wired connection. Using a router as a switch wastes some of its capabilities, but it’s easy to do.

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How to convert any ATX or microATX case to silent operation

Now that SSDs and CPUs that consume 10 watts are readily available and inexpensive, it’s possible for almost any mainstream PC to be a silent PC. You can of course buy new cases for silent-PC builds, but if you want to upgrade and save a little money while doing it, you can easily convert a legacy case of almost any age to work silently. If you have an AC adapter from a discarded or disused laptop or LCD monitor, you can do this project for less than $30. Here’s how.

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Password advice in the wake of Heartbleed

I’ve seen a lot of bad password advice lately. Guessing passwords is just too easy for a computer to do, especially as they get more and more powerful.

Formulas are bad, but unavoidable, so here’s what I recommend if you’re not going to use a password manager creating completely random passwords: Unverifiable (or difficult to verify) facts. Things like what house you lived in in 2001 and what you paid for it. Better yet, your favorite baseball card and what you paid for it. Or maybe the address and phone number of your favorite long-gone pizza or BBQ joint. Think along those lines.

T206Wagner$0.50 was a reasonably good password before I published it here (you paid 50 cents for one at a garage sale! Right?) only because it contains an unverifiable fact. I guarantee T206Wagner$1M (the value of the most valuable baseball card in existence) is in all the password lists these days.

This isn’t especially great advice, but it’s something that there’s half a chance people will be willing to follow, and it pretty much forces passwords to have a nice mix of character types and to be at least 12-16 characters long. I don’t think it forces enough non-alphanumeric characters, or a wide enough variety of them, but left to choice most people won’t put any of them in. It would become lousy advice if very many people chose to follow it, but I know few will, and most people will continue to use the weakest passwords a site allows, so it’s adequate for a while.

The most important thing is to make it personal. What I paid for favorite baseball cards is easy for me to remember. If you never collected baseball cards, think of something along those lines that’s easy for you to remember, with a spin that’s hard for someone else, computer or otherwise, to guess.

How I turned a junker PC into a trap for scammers

Note: I wrote this almost a year ago. It wasn’t good enough to publish then, I thought. This week I’m slammed, and it’s better than anything I can write this week, so, it’s time to release it. -Dave

As my regulars will be aware, for the past few weeks I’ve been getting lots of phone calls from “Peggy” from “Computer Maintenance Department.” What I’ve found during these phone calls is that debating with them does no good, and saying that your computer is crazy fast gets them to hang up on you, but they’ll call back again in a few days anyway.

Last week, I had lunch with a group of future coworkers–I’ll be joining them once my background check results come in–and I mentioned these phone calls. The guy sitting across the table from me said he wants their malware, so he can reverse-engineer it. So I said I would cooperate the next time I got a phone call. Read more

Kickin’ my wireless oldskool, WRT54G-style

I found a couple of old Linksys WRT54G routers and decided to load DD-WRT on them. The first one, an abandoned-by-Linksys WRT54GS model, gave me some trouble, which led me to buying a TP-Link unit to run DD-WRT on. The second unit, which was a vanilla WRT54G, still had firmware available on Linksys’ site, so the upgrade was somewhat straightforward–it went by the book, at least. I installed the latest Linksys firmware, then installed the DD-WRT mini build, then upgraded to the full build.

Linksys WRT54g obsolete
This Linksys WRT54G was one of the best pieces of computer hardware of its day. I can’t recommend it as a router anymore but it can still help you out as an access point.

After getting DD-WRT running on it, I configured it to behave as an access point on channel 6. I was surprised at how strong the signal was. Years ago, I ran a pair of WRT54G routers, and they struggled to cover the house. It’s possible that was due to age, or perhaps I was getting too much interference from my neighbors since we were probably all running our wireless on the default channel in those days because none of us knew better.

As for my WRT54GS, when I tried to upgrade it, I got a nice message stating, “Upgrade are failed!” Nice. Too bad it didn’t add “All your base are belong to us.” That’s when I learned you need to install the last Linksys upgrade first, then upgrade from that. So I downloaded that from some forum, tried flashing that, and received the same message. So I set it aside, figuring I bricked the unit. A few days later, after getting the WRT54G running, I fired up the GS, visited its configuration page, and… found DD-WRT running on it! Upgrade are failed? More like all your upgrade are belong to ME.

In all honesty, I probably got lucky. It’s always best to go by the book on things like this.

The WRT54G is limited, of course, to 802.11b and 802.11g (54 megabits max) but as a complement to a more modern router, it still has a few tricks left. If you have one laying around, it won’t cost anything aside from about 30 minutes’ worth of effort to load DD-WRT on it and see what it can still do for you.

And if you don’t happen to have one laying around, it’s not hard to find a used WRT54G. I find them at estate sales, garage sales, and rummage sales pretty frequently because a lot of people set them aside when they either buy newer, faster routers or their ISP forces them into an all-in-one unit. Don’t pay too much for it, because it’s aging technology, but I’d say they’re worth grabbing for $5 or less.

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