Thursday, July 17, 2008

Little Engines that Still Can!

Well, I'm back at it. Opening up old computers, cleaning them, adjusting them--basically giving them a few more years of life when they would otherwise be destined for a landfill.

This time the name of the game is Dell Optiplex GX240. There were millions of these made, it seems. They were not the sexiest computers around--they tended to be used for business applications more than for gaming.

However, my school received 15 of these recently from the Jared Polis Foundations Community Computer Connection program.

Technology is outdated all too quickly in our world, and these desktops are no exception. Look at their specs: 20 GB Hard Drive, 1.6 GHz processor, and 256 MB of RAM.

I turned one on today and it took a long time to boot up. The JPF puts a barebones form of Windows XP on these and then uses free open source applications for everything else. There is no Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop here. Instead, you have Open Office and GIMP. In fact, there's so much open source software on here it makes you wonder why they don't just put Linux on these instead of Windows.

Well, they do. Trouble is, however, you'll have a tough time finding a school to take in any computers that don't have Windows on them.

Which is too bad, really. Recent forms of Linux (especially the Ubuntu flavors) have made it possible to turn these old sluggish machines into sleek animals once again. Hell, even the 256 MB of RAM is enough for regular Ubuntu, not to mention Xubuntu, which can operate on even less.

I have one of these at home and will be experimenting on it this weekend--mostly deciding between Ubuntu and Xubuntu. I may be running a whole lab of these this year, so I need to choose the best OS for the job. One thing is clear, though: Windows has got to go.

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