Your old computer, born again

Turn your old machines into media servers, e-mail stations and nodes to help with scientific research

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Page 4
Page 4 of 7

If you're particularly ambitious, you could set up multiple old computers as Folding@Home clients. The software lets you determine the percentage of computing resources you want to dedicate to the research and even when those resources will operate.

I used a Toshiba Satellite 4600 laptop as a research client. This system is so old it doesn't even support current wireless standards, so I added a 3Com Wi-Fi card. Next, I downloaded the client at Folding.stanford.edu and installed it. The app runs in the system tray in the background -- you can right-click the icon to see configuration options.

Stanford's Folding@home project
You can see Stanford's calculations as they're running, but you can still use your old laptop for Web access or e-mail, too.

You can see the scientific calculations running on your laptop, but for the most part the software runs in the background so you can still use the laptop for Web or e-mail. In my tests, the calculations never intruded on my daily activities and only started running after the system went idle -- usually after several minutes. You can even configure how long the software will wait before it starts working and restrict the time to certain hours of the day.

Folding@Home isn't the only distributed computing project that will run on older computers. There's a list of some others at Wikipedia.

6. Use any netbook for home security

Netbooks are too slow to handle gaming and movies, but they work great as home security devices. They can show you who is at the front door or even detect motion and alert you to an intruder. I used a Lenovo IdeaPad S10-3t with 1GB of RAM and an Intel Atom processor to find out if a new webcam could support motion detection on an old system.

Webcam security
Yawcam is a free surveillance app that can detect motion via a netbook's webcam.

I installed Yawcam, a free Web surveillance application that supports motion detection and video recording. Setting up Yawcam is easy: You first install the app, then select the built-in webcam for your netbook. You can set up the software so that it sends you an e-mail whenever it detects motion.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Page 4
Page 4 of 7
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon