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Ask HN: What are some interesting projects to reuse your old devices?
376 points by thrwaway69 on Jan 28, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 256 comments
I am curious to know what companies and projects are trying to repurpose old phones, laptops and other tech devices. I feel this area is not explored as much as it should be.

Like converting your phone into a security cam or a radio controlled device, turning laptop into a streaming device etc.

Not a company, but sharing a personal project: I got a free broken 55" TV and turned it into a big daylight panel. I got a great explanation of why this works well (fresnel lens) from the DIY Perks channel on YouTube: Turning Smashed TVs into Realistic Artificial Daylight (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JrqH2oOTK4).

The main board had failed so the screen was black and the backlight cycled on and off. After disconnecting the main board, the backlight stayed on. I am using the existing LED lights, but may replace them with the excellent color quality LEDs recommended by DIY Perks.

Just FYI, repairing flat panel TVs by replacing the boards is fairly easy. Sometimes it's even an upgrade if you find a newer revision of the same board.

The boards tend to be used in multiple models of TV, so they're easier to find than you might think.

I was given one with a black stripe down the screen. I opened it up and wiggled a ribbon cable... and the line disappeared. Used it for a few years afterwards and gave it away still working

Though it's not exactly cheap. Some of the boards are often over one or two hundred dollars

Yeah, though most are between 100-200. If you can find a list of what model numbers and revisions will work for your TV, you can watch Ebay for a used one.

I'm curious - was that TV edge-lit? I've been on the search for a suitable TV for this project for a while now. Most of the cheap/broken TVs you can find are backlit with fluorescent tubes. I disassembled one and discovered it did not have the lens. And from searching for TVs, it looks like most large screens (beyond about 30") directly backlight with LEDs rather than using LEDs around the sides. Was wondering if the direct-lit LED TVs still had the lens.

Yes, it is edge-lit. And since the original power supply still works, I was able to use the existing LEDs. I'm not a huge fan of the spectrum/quality of the light though, so I may replace the existing edge lights with pleasing LED strip lights.

Be careful white (which are actually blue) LEDs may be damaging to your retinas.



The study results indicate that LED blue-light exposure poses a great risk of retinal injury in awake, task-oriented rod-dominant animals. The wavelength-dependent effect should be considered carefully when switching to LED lighting applications.

Does this work with old cellphones? I’ve got a lot more cellphones lying around than TVs/monitors.

What's the energy draw on this compared to, say, an LED lightbulb?

From the recommendations I've read, replacing the backlight with your own LED strip is easier than trying to get the backlight of the original TV working properly again (if it's not already); and sometimes even worth replacing if it works as getting just the backlight to turn on can be annoying (not exactly a standard, some take "strange" voltages or are hard to figure out, no specs).

Side note: use 'nice' LED strip lights if you go this route. I did a similar project with a small 19" monitor, for the lensz etc, and grabbed cheapo home Depot LED strip -- it worked about as expected: not daylight/bright enough. I'd reel off specs but the LED strip had none on the box. :-)

Next, larger lens waiting at my brother's house will get a better treatment.

As an aside, it's a really neat project to do, my kids thought it was super cool to help with. Large one will go in stairwell.

I have my old Galaxy S1 sitting in my cellar listening to the beeps from my washing machine. It sends me an email when the wash finishes. (I can't hear the beeps from upstairs.)

My Samsung Galaxy S turns 10 this year. It runs the latest compatible version of Cyanogenmod. Despite the obvious security drawbacks, I am still using it as my day-to-day smartphone for these reasons:

* These things are seemingly indestructible. In 10 years, the only problems I had was a deteriorating battery (which I replaced once) and a broken back cover (which I replaced by a 2,99 EUR one from eBay). The screen is still unbroken, fully working, and without scratches

* They are small, handy, and slim (thinner than many modern smartphones)

* Browsing is so slow that I cannot do anything except checking Hackernews and reading the local news. So it is definitely not a procrastination tool for me

* The camera still works great, and makes good pictures

* I don't care about security holes. I have no important passwords stored on the phone, I don't use it to check my mail (for the reason above). The only password stored is the ical service password on my private server which is used to update the calendar app. I couldn't care less if anyone had this password, my calendar is really not interesting.

* Osmand (for OpenStreetMap) and the national route planning app for public transit still work

So basically, I have an extremely reliable pocket machine which can be used as a telephone, to send SMS, to do route planning, to check the news, to check my calendar, to provide a Wifi access point for my laptop and which is also a world wide map. I don't need anything else, so why replace it? During these 10 years, I saw my then-girlfriend and now-wife go through 5 new smartphones, which regularly broke. I used it to make pictures of all our vacations, our engagement, our wedding and our child as a new-born. It has accumulated an amount of experience-patina which is very rare for physical things these days, so I also cling to it out of sheer nostalgia.

> turns 10 this year. It runs the latest compatible version of Cyanogenmod. Despite the obvious security drawbacks


6 months ago I got a OnePlus 7 Pro and installed LineageOS (continuation of CyanogenMod) on it. The 7 Pro has very small screen borders and no notch (iPhone) / punch hole (Samsung); instead a motor makes the selfie camera pop up & retract from the top of the phone. I also never updated LineageOS because it went from an unofficial build to officially supported so updating would require a complete reset.

About two months ago I noticed that the camera would pop up every once in a while for seemingly no reason.

I could only conclude that it was hacked; worse, I would have never noticed on a 'normal' phone without a pop-up camera. Was my phone also recording me the entire time?

I don't know what the vulnerability was - it could have been a remote exploit in Android itself that's also exploitable on your phone, or it could have been from an app that I had installed (the only apps I had with network usage + camera permissions were Firefox, and the latest version of WhatsApp from when I bought the phone (no updates since I don't have Google software on it, I just downloaded the WhatsApp APK when I set it up)).

You've said that you don't have any sensitive data on your phone, but still be careful.

I updated LineageOS and since then the issue has disappeared. I update the OS about every week now to hopefully prevent this from happening again.

>I could only conclude that it was hacked

That seems like a bit of a leap. Isn't it more likely to have been a software glitch of some sort?

Camera activated for a split second every once in a while, with no apparent relation to what I was using the phone for at that moment.

And it hasn't happened again since I reinstalled the OS two months ago (though admittedly it took ~4 months to start happening the first time).

Doesn't seem like a very big leap to me.

I could imagine some app (background service? Unsure) iterating through available devices and the OS or system services being a bit too eager to initialize devices upon iteration.

(Not saying that's what happened, but I can easily hypothesize a scenario where this only happens after a while, after some specific app is installed or configured.)

Hah! I did the same with an iPad. It loops me singing “the wash is done” instead of an email.

That's a cute hack!

I tried several approaches to this problem, with an ESP8266 and a water-flow measurement on the intake, via a microphone/vibration sensor catching the spin-cycle, and finally via measuring electrical consumption (again on the spin-cycle).

Sadly I had to remove the setup, but it was a fun project that took a few months of iteration to get working.

What software do you use?

I hacked together an Android app specifically for the purpose, so it doesn't really answer the original question about generally available projects. (I haven't got round to releasing the code as it's rather bespoke, but could do if you're interested.)

I'd be interested in the general technique, "teach a man to listen for beeps..."

I FFT incoming sound buffers, and if the 2KHz band is the highest for a suitable number of consecutive frames, then I send the email and stop listening for a few minutes to avoid double notifications.

2KHz is the frequency of my machine's beep. Just triggering on overall noise level alone would notify me each time the machine goes into spin, but using the FFT allows it to be more discerning.

(I'll try to publish the code soon.)

I'd appreciate seeing your code for this - I've intended to write a similar app for listening to an old alarm system I have.

Thank you!

Thanks for sharing the code.

Perhaps someone (with more patience than I for Android/Kotlin development) can tweak it so that is can listen for knocking on a door to trigger some sort of alert (email/txt/broadcast an intent).

Triggering an intent would be very helpful as then it could then be acted upon by Tasker or Automagic4Android.

this would be very interesting!

If you're looking for an off the shelf solution, I turned an old Android phone into a baby monitor for keeping track of crying when I'm on the other side of the house. There's plenty of baby monitoring apps that do anomalous noise detection and raises an alert.

That’s so simple and brilliant; if I kept any old phones I’d love to build a little device like that. I’ve thought about similar stuff with raspberry pis or the other tiny hacker platform (can’t remember the name right now!) but these things cost more to figure out than its worth to me right now.

In an attempt to be more present with one another away from our phooes, my partner and I have (ironically) started using old phones as single-app devices.

For example: we have a "spotiphone" which is an old iPhone with a shattered camera that has only Spotify installed that we use in our bedroom to control music/podcasts. Similar thing for where my partner meditates (but it's an old iPod touch).

Our real phones are usually left by the door when we come home.

Absolutely. I use an old phone specifically for all social media apps. It doesn't have my contacts or other data on it, so they can't steal that. When I want to be distracted by Twitter, I have to find it and turn it on explicitly. Which is enough of a barrier that I do it a lot less.

Another way to achieve this is to avoid the native apps for Twitter/FB/etc and just use the mobile websites. No access to camera/photos/contacts/location/etc.

I too am using an old ipod just for Spotify. I have a decent stereo system that also has dock for for ipod/older iphones, and that ipod is the official "media player"!

From my laptop I can control it from afar, so it's been docked there for years.

An old monitor + previous generation Raspberry Pi: hangs on the kitchen wall to display Find My Friends in kiosk mode. Connected to a timer so it's on in the afternoon until dinner so you can see the family come home. Really cute to see your children move as little picture icons across the map towards you from school.

At what age do you disable the tracking?

My parents' tracking of me in the 1990s was awful enough. I dread to think what they have set up I were 12 years old today.

That discussion has not come up yet. The kids are old enough to be able to switch it off themselves on their phone if they wanted to but so far they seem comfortable with it.

It works both ways: they can see at any moment in time where their parents are, which may be a soothing idea. With one parent travelling a lot for business the screen in the kitchen teaches them a bit about geography too. (What country is mummy in now?)

I felt "watched" from age 11 or so, once I saw other children had freedoms I didn't, like stopping by the Warhammer shop on the way home from school.

I worked around some of them — I joined an after school club for a while, but rarely attended which gave me about 45 minutes to wander around the city. One friend's parents thought mine were ridiculous, and would lie for me if I'd said I was at their house but wasn't.

It would have been a lot more difficult with an electronic tracker.

Reminds me of the Weasley clock in Harry Potter[1]. Really cool, you can probably make a mechanical clock using zones and a simple location api.

[1] https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Weasley_Clock

That is indeed where I got the idea from :-)

Cool idea! What api did you use to query the data?

The Find my Friends web page that apple provides through iCloud actually works really well in kiosk mode (automatically updating, zooming into the relevant part of the map). So I just used one of the many tutorials on how to set up a kiosk om the Raspberry Pi [1]. I augmented it with a little ruby script to check if the WiFi connection was up before loading the page. Also, iCloud logs itself out about once a month, so I put a VNC client on there to be able log back in (but you can also hook up mouse and keyboard).

[1] https://pimylifeup.com/raspberry-pi-kiosk/

I have a five year old HP laptop. It was an Elite model, top of the line when I bought it with an i7 processor and SSD.

14 months after I bought it the hinge failed and the screen part physically detached from the base, with only the data/power wire holding them together. This also broke the screen beyond repair.

Low and behold there had been a recall issued on that model to fix the dodgy hinge. Despite me having registered my laptop with HP on day one, they never told me - and the refused to fix it now as it was out of warranty.

So I carefully detached what was left of the screen and was able to disconnect the wires with no issues. I built a box to hold the base, with holes to attach an external monitor and plug stuff in. It now functions as part family media server and computer for the children.

Also never buying HP again.


They are attempting to build a os for smartphones based on Alpine linux with the stated goal of supporting a 10 year life cycle. They have a limited list of devices they support but I have heard good things about them.

For an old device project of the sort the OP is asking about, there must be an OS that supports the old device, otherwise the device become a members the dreaded IoT botnets.

I really hope postmarketOS grows.

I wish my hardware would last that long. Two previous phones I bought have lasted less than 2 years.

If I can get 2 years out of a phone, I'm "happy" (it lasted longer than I expected it would).

Even just the shell. I could see a shell & keyboard making it to 10 years

I don’t know why everyone acts like old laptops aren’t usable, my 2011 MacBook Pro has no HD (the cable died again and I’m not replacing it this time) and it runs from ram just fine (with Linux of course, not OSX)

If you’re not silly you really don’t need much computing power, even then newer laptops aren’t big improvements so if your old one still works I don’t see why you would replace it.

I bought a x230 last year as my non-gaming computer, and I really like it. I bought it for 117€, it was pretty beaten up. The display is the cheap TN panel, has a light spot in the center, and the keyboard doesn't match my locale. However, it has the top-level i5. (i5-3380M, I think). I also bought a docking station at a bargain.

This year, I bought a new IPS display, a matching keyboard and a new screen bezel for it. I'll hopefully be able to use it for some more years - I really love the form factor.

Enterprise ThinkPads are amazing machines. They're very sturdy (although the X230 notoriously has a weak screw holder in the top left (or is it right?) corner that will almost always break and make that corner of the case a bit wobbly. Annoying but not critical. And the i7 top of the range version that comes with the 180GB Intel SSD... Well, the SSD is bad and can be thrown out. It has a bug in its firmware that was never fixed by Intel and never acknowledged by Lenovo so no recall, and no fix. Just throw it away and replace with a 256-512 GB SSD.

And the parts are cheap and plentiful. Get the docking station if you can, I paid 30$ for two a few years ago (top of the range dock, the one with all the connectors and 2x video out)

Also, the IPS upgrade is well worth it.

Using a t440p base as my laptop, best laptop for the buck. bought it as a 4300m model with a dual core. now it has an IPS display, better coreboot+bios update, 32gb ram, i7-4712, 2x 512gb ssds plus a 4tb hdd. all together cost me less than 600eur. hackintosh compatible if necessary, though it's running Arch these days.

While I agree with this, I have an Intel graphics version of the T430 (running Ubuntu) and it doesn't seem to play nice with two external monitors, even with the "fully loaded" docking station :(

I had external display issues as well, with a T440 and an UltraDock under Debian. It was mostly flickering and blinking of the outputs, but occasionally a display wouldn't come out of powersave mode.

You may have already found and tried these possible fixes, but just in case you haven't-

1) There's a firmware update for the docks that is supposed to resolve a number of display issues.

2) It appears that similar issues can be caused by having a defective or incorrectly-sized dock power supply. So replacing the power supply with a known-good and/or bigger power supply might help.

Though, in my case, neither of the above helped. It turns out I had a bad HDMI/VGA adapter. Since eliminating that, I've had zero display issues. But I'm guessing that probably doesn't apply to you, since my configuration is a little unconventional.

Anyway, I hope you find something that fixes it for you.

IPS upgrade?

Tell me more!

Thanks! Though they seem to be x430s rather than the X230s :/

Some of the x230 configurations shipped with IPS screens, so you can just obtain one of those (or a compatible replacement) and swap it in. The resolution is still 1366x768. Beware of sellers falsely claiming "IPS".

Alternatively, you can do a bit of soldering/modding and put in an aftermarket 1920x1080 panel. https://nitrocaster.me/store/x220-x230-fhd-mod-kit.html

Oh. My.


I use a couple of X220s as my work laptops, as I find the keyboard far superior to the X230 and all later models (it's the last classic ThinkPad keyboard prior to the chiclet designs). The hardware is still mostly sufficient for my needs (just don't run Electron apps...) and the case and the keyboard are much better than anything I could buy new these days. Apart from the displays, it feels like laptops have mostly regressed over the last decade and continue to do so at an alarming pace (just compare the T490 series to the T480, for instance).

Hah! I am writing this from an X220 for exactly the same reason. I bought a Thinkpad 25 when those came out, just so I could get the keyboard, but I agree with you: they're just not made as well as the older Thinkpads, which are tanks.

My 2012 MacBook Pro is in great condition and probably would’ve stayed that way for awhile, but sluggishness was just becoming too common. Especially when I’m off mains, running an IDE, a browser, and occasionally compiling

I’m still runnin a 2012 (non retina) without any issues, and I plan on keeping it until it literally won’t boot. What’s funny is I was initially annoyed as I got it a few weeks before they announced they were releasing the first Retina display models (discontinuing the non retinas), however getting the last non-retina generation was a blessing because that’s was that was when they also began making upgrading MacBooks nearly impossible (non upgradable ram/and I believe some weird half SSD/half disc drive that didn’t come in >512GB or something like that). So getting the last (upgradable) MacBook Pro was the better deal because two or so years ago I upgraded the RAM to 32GB and because it was also the last MacBook to have a CD drive (that I never used) I was able to rip it out, put a $5 hardrive bracket in it’s place and threw the original (I think) 750GB or whatever HDD where the CD drive used to go, and popped in a nice 1TB SSD into the main disc drive, and nowadays it’s almost always plugged into a monitor so I wouldn’t really even be using the retina anyway.

Sadly though, I think I got the last generation of great MacBooks, and as much as I love it I fear for the day it finally dies, because I’m probably not getting another MacBook unless something changes, and there still isn’t a laptop out there that comes close to the good MacBooks (I know good one’s exist and I’ll manage, but they’re still not the same)

I'm exactly in the same boat as you, I love my 2012 non retina Macbook Pro. Upgraded the RAM a few years ago, changed the HDD for an SSD, and it still works fine. I didn't like the newer MBP keyboard or touchbar, maybe now they're getting better. But the price is what will push me away. I'll probably try to find a nice model on which I can make sure Linux run fine.

Hey mine was non retina too!

It really was a fantastic piece of hardware, and probably the only Mac I’ll ever live. The dual SSDs(I replaced the cd drive too) gave it a few more years for me.

I’m pretty happy with the replacement I got though. It’s and MSI gaming laptop, but without the “gamer” look. It’ll handle anything I throw at it, so now I can take VR in the go.

Still gonna miss that MacBook though

I snagged an official Apple refurb 2015 MBP (last decent keyboard) just a few months ago. They’re still out there.

I am also holding on to mine, and it is my primary machine even though we have newer MacBooks in the house.

I've a 2012 MacBook Pro as well, and Chrome is unusably slow on it (OS X). Safari runs okay. Mine has 4 GiB of ram, and a spinning disk. The combination means it's hitting swap constantly, and hitting swap thrashes the disk on top of it. When I get the money to upgrade the ram to 16 GiB and upgrade to an SSD I'm hopeful it's be more usable, but for now it runs a terminal well enough.

I have a mid 2012, I upgraded the ram to 10GB 4 years ago and replaced both the hdd and the cd reader by 2 ssd.

This things flies for most tasks, I only see it slow down when I try compiling Android apps.

My personal laptop has 4Gb of RAM and terrible CPU (HP Stream 14). I only need more when I run an IDE or HD video.

For lots of cases, 1Gb-2Gb of RAM and some computing power is more than enough.

I agree, my 2010 MacBook Air is still going strong despite having abjectly pathetic specs. It still holds a 3ish hour charge on the original cells too. I used it this summer as a camera capture device taking one image every 5 minutes of my garden and stitching the whole summer together in to a 3 minute video at the end. Only bits I used were some code to capture (automator), a 40' powered Belkin USB cable, a Logitech 720P Webcam, and some PVC electrical boxes and fittings to water-proof the whole thing.

On another note, my 2003ish iBook G4 is still in functional condition and it gets a good deal of use recently as a game-device playing SimTower. I prefer its keyboard over most others in my house (MacBook Air aside) and as such I tend to do most of my writing on it using Pages.

Yup.. My 2012 Macbook Pro is also fine, and is the more capable among my 2 personal laptops. I upgraded it with SSD, and 16 GB RAM, and installed Manjaro. The day to day usage (photo editing with Darktable/Rawtherapee, some light software development etc) is fine - no stuttering. The other one is a Vaio from 2008. I upgraded that one too with an SSD and 4 GB RAM. It is fine for Media consumption and office tasks - no slowdown at all.

2004 1.5GHz Centrino isn't exactly fun to use, but it's my OpenBSD playground. Need to update, but with 6.2 I could browse 1 concurrent website in a current browser.

My x200 finally died the other day. Hoping the new Thinkpad lasts as long as the old one did...

How can it function without a drive?

The terms you're looking for are Linux Live USB, or netboot. Both often make use of local RAM disks.

One way is to burn a CD/DVD live image that has your configs added and configure it to mount a mergefs(iirc) on top of the read-only /home so all writes go to /tmp/merge.

But past that, I don't see how you can do anything since installing programs would require storage.

Most live linux has support for saving stuff to the flash drive. It runs slowly but works.

Just mount a drive over ssh?

I used my old Moto G1 as a baby camera/monitor. Ingredients:

- RTSP Camera Server on Moto G

- Address reservation for Moto G on DHCP server

- VLC and Shortcut to URL [1]

Worked like a charm. Much better than other solutions I considered trustworthy.

[0] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.miv.rtspca...

[1] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=jp.miotti.Shor...

Can you provide some more details? I have a Moto G2 laying around. This sounds interesting.

It should work with any Android phone. You install RTSP Camera Server on the phone on the baby side. Configure it regarding the microphone use, video quality etc. I think that by default it also records and you may want to disable that, because it may fill up all the storage. To be sure disable battery optimization for it. I recommend enabling time-stamping, so you can see something even if it's quiet and dark, because with full screen VLC it may be confusing if it's still working.

Then on your client device you need VLC. You can manually enter rtsp://PHONES_IP:PORT every time, or make a shortcut and place it on your homescreen. It was certainly easier for my wife. To make a shortcut use the Shortcut to URL app. It's quite easy to use.

For it to work you need to make sure that phone's IP address will not change under you. Your router should give the ability to assign an IP to a mac address. If you have your own home DNS server you probably did not have to read all that.

All apps are free and without ads and seem to be a labor of love.

I have an old iPhone SE plugged in and running a simple web server via (disclosure: my app) http://pocketweb.io

The two sample pages seen there are hosted from this phone.

Edit: There's an Android version available as well.

I still use the iPhone SE as a daily driver and there is an active second-hand market for them. I understand that it's spare tech but this could be done by an SoC board that costs less than $50. The iPhone, even a small one, has an expensive touch screen. You could probably sell an iPhone SE for at least $110, enough for a couple of Raspberry Pi 4 4GB systems. That's a cool project but it is a puzzling use of hardware.

So the app actually works in the background and is meant to serve web pages from your daily driver phone (ie. out of your pocket). This particular phone is plugged in just because it serves the example pages which get higher traffic and should have higher uptime.

Your not wrong, but for some people keeping the device vs going through the trouble to try to sell it is easier.

Could you say a bit more (provide some links) explaining this active second-hand market? I love my SE!

I don't know how active it is now, but last summer I was trying to decide whether to upgrade as I love my SE but it was starting to feel slow (thanks Apple!). Back then, eBay has lots and lots of "new" ones at every spec level, and some foreign shops were still selling new-in-box ones at the lower spec levels.

I ended up buying an 8, by the way, and I like it much much less than I liked my SE, though it is a lot faster and the pictures are a little better. Still have the SE as a backup phone and because my banking software has no option to move between devices once configured. (Thank you Commerzbank!)

If you use your SE with one hand, be aware it is the last model of iPhone that can be used that way. Starting with the 6, all the larger ones have impossible reach from the bottom-right (typing) to the top-left (navigation), unless you have massive hands I suppose. In retrospect I wish I'd bought a couple of refurb SE's and not ever done a major-version iOS upgrade.

There are only a few niche phones on the market in the US right now that can be used with one hand. I know because I insist upon it and haven't been able to buy a new phone (I also insist upon being able to run a fully de-googled LineageOS or similar ROM). So I use a Motorola Moto E 2015 model and will continue to indefinitely, until there is a phone that fits my required specifications.

There are a few small phones available, but most of them are too small like the Palm phone or Unihertz Atom. There's nothing that's just normal with a 4" - 4.5" screen.

If you touch twice on the home button, the contents of the screen move down to alleviate this.

Any alternative for Android?

Edit: How is this working? I'm behind double NAT and other http servers do not work.

It's not a server in the true sense of the word. We piggyback on push notifications (proxied through our backend) to respond to requests. So really your phone's polling for requests, but it's a poll that it's already doing for push notifications.

The website has a link to the Play Store..

This is really neat. What are the limitations on what you can host? Are they just static sites?

Just static sites for now, although you could have them talk to a backend somewhere else. A longterm goal is to allow basic backend code to run on the phone as well (ie. a simple wrapper around sqlite).

I run https://motion-project.github.io/index.html on a DELL D400 (I think, it's Core 2 ULV), uploads picture to Gdrive. I set it up when leaving for long vacations.

I used to run a 24/7 server (bittorrent, HTTP) on a fanless PC originally built for cash desks. Got it very cheap, ran several years till the Debian repo actually disappeared!! Consumption was 19W with HDD. It was replaced with a RaspPi and a SSD.

BTW almost all the laptops at home have been bought used (usually in Germany where offer is plenty). All the tablets (Google Nexus 7 1st gen) have been bought used. No regret when kids break one.

I just realized my older daughter recently received a trusty Nexus S (the one with a curved screen) as a media player. In airplane mode and a number of apps disabled, battery life is decent. After some initial complaining, she adopted it :)

> BTW almost all the laptops at home have been bought used (usually in Germany where offer is plenty).

Do you know a company online that sells these second hand laptops? Or do you buy from classifieds, individual to individual?

What do you mean the Debian repo disappeared?

Maybe it was just moved somewhere else, but still it appears they just do not leave the very old versions available on the official ftp's and mirrors. As of now it looks like the oldest available repo is the one for Jessie.

I'm in the process of turning my Toshiba Libretto 110CT (a subnotebook from 1998) into a simple remote terminal (over ssh) with custom server software to handle emails, rss feeds, chats and so on. It runs under FreeDOS and connects to WiFi by a combination of PCMCIA ethernet adapter + mobile router with built-in battery. I love the form factor and the "oldschool" keyboard, I have regenerated the battery and it's quite light so it's really portable and handy.

How are you using Freedos with Wifi?

Wouldn't it be easier to use a modern linux/freebsd kernel with a lightweight userspace?

I use a Xircom RealPort Ethernet 10/100+Modem56 (REM56G-100) PCMCIA card that has a packet driver for DOS and a TP-LINK TL-MR3040 mobile router that has a ethernet socket, mTCP does the rest on software layer. Yes, a lot of people install Linux on their Librettos, but I wanted something oldschool and be able to play DOS games.

Huh, does mTCP ship an ssh client now, or are you building it yourself?

My mistake, mTCP doesn't include SSH client, there is a separate project [1] for that.

[1] http://sshdos.sourceforge.net/

Cool, I'll try this on my XT clone one day to see the performance :-D

Would SSH encryption add noticeable overhead to that use case? I've seen videos of folks using modern software on 80586-class ("enhanced" 486-compatible) devices and the overhead adds several seconds to any connection attempt and is even noticeable in normal use.

Since the GP mentioned it is a machine from 1998 I would expect it to be PII with a clock above 200MHz. Since the Moore's law actually worked in the 90's that machine will be a lot more powerfull than that 586 (from 94-95 I guess).

On top of that curves and chacha20 could be used for ssh to reduce the CPU load.

The 110CT model is relatively fast with a 233MHz processor so the overhead isn't an issue from what I tested so far (BBS over SSH).

Have you any info about how you regenerated the battery?

I sent it to guys that regenerate laptop batteries, but next time I will do it on my own because you basically replace the cells, weld them together and its done - here [1] you can find detailed guide for Libretto.

[1] https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:frP4SG... (from cache as it doesn't seem to work right now)

Be extremely careful if soldering Lithium-Ion batteries together, as getting them too hot (which isn't very hot compared to soldering!) can easily cause them to burst into flames or explode...

I'll second that...

Now, I'll say, after 30-40 batteries, I've never had one catch fire. I've had a few that I probably broke as a result of heat, and I suspect that if you've tested the cells carefully and the batteries are in good condition, that they tolerate the brief heating better than cells that are already damaged, but that's not something I'm willing to bet my shed or my body on.

welding != soldering

When you said regenerate I thought you were doing some prices on the existing cells, rather than just replacing them. Thanks for your reply.

Many older laptop batteries are simply a set of 18650 batteries wired together. I've "fixed" about 30-40 batteries. (1) Carefully take the battery pack apart, (2) Visually inspect the cells for any that are bulging or just, otherwise, look wrong -- take these to the electronic recycler, (3) charge each cell in an 18650 charger (mine is a Micro USB unit that charges very slowly), (4) test in a multi-meter, toss any that are bad, (5) put them in a low-drain device for a few hours[0] and throw out any that under-perform.

In a typical "failed battery" there's rarely more than one dead cell in my experience. And I've had packs with as many as 9 cells.

From there, it's a matter of putting it all back together. There's soldering involved, and you have to be extremely careful -- hit the battery with the temp required to melt the solder for too long and you have a seriously dangerous situation on your hands. I use two 3D printed clips and alligator clamps to hold the wire, wand and battery at distance from one another, battery on the bottom, wand on the top, wire in-between, and a 120mm fan, requiring me to only hold the cable to the wand and the length of solder.

Can't caution enough that it's exceedingly dangerous soldering this kind of battery. I originally built the rig because I wanted to improve the quality of my soldering -- I'm pretty terrible with an iron, but I made several changes after I had a small number of batteries start failing after repair and a few searches led me to believe I may have damaged them[1] with my poor soldering skills. My rig involves two 3D printed clips, one to hold the iron exactly where I want it, and one to secure the battery. The cable to the iron has a length of wax lace on it to let me pull it back up/remove the iron from the rig with a yank at a distance.

I use an alligator clip to hold the wiring in place and a long length of solder so that I can stand an arms length away. The iron "drops" in -- it's mounted on top, battery on bottom, wire in-between -- so I can heat it up an inch or so from the battery, I place tip of the length of solder in its spot and "tap" the wire of the iron to drop it into place. When I see it melt the tip of the length of solder and the small amount that's on the wire, I pull up on the string to move the iron away, wait a few seconds so the 120mm fan can cool things a little, and put a new battery in.

Goggles, gloves and a nearby fire extinguisher of the right kind are a really good idea. I also do the work in a large, mostly empty, shed with doors that, when opened, eliminate nearly an entire wall and work directly on the cement floor.

A lot of devices use 18650s and not all 18650s are the same. The one powering your drill might be able to handle higher drain than the one that came out of your laptop; don't mix those up. I was given a cardboard box full of dead laptop battery packs from the same model, so I was taking cells from a similar source each time.

[0] I use an adapter that lets me power a Raspberry Pi via an 18650.

[1] And likely made them into a fire hazard on their own.

That looks sweet - I did a small search on EBay, and - dang - they are expensive. The only two I could find where around 150€ each.

€150 is expensive? From what I remember of that thread a few weeks back, everybody on HN is pulling down $400k + 250k options.

The people that comment on those threads are probably by definition the ones in the highest salary brackets.

I'm fairly certain you meant your comment in jest, but figured it was worth pointing out.

Which thread?

definitely not everyone.

The best place to get them is Japan, model 70 regularly sell at ~$50-60 there.

Yes they are getting really expensive and hard to find, I looked for over a year to find one in a decent shape and top specs, paid a lot but it was a dream of mine for a long time.

I set up a home movie system on a very old unused laptop. Installed Linux (Xfce) on it because it is very lightweight and connected it to my TV with HDMI. Now I can watch downloaded movies, but also stream on YouTube, Amazon, Netflix etc. on one device without having to jump between UIs with their various kinks. Very happy with this, because it was free and works better than anything I had before.

Does it have HW decoding? Do you use VGA-to-HDMI adapter or just my definition old very-old is very old itself? ;)

This isn't a very creative "repurpose" like many of the others however... I have purchased a few Surface Pro tablets off eBay with badly broken (read completely shattered) screens and bent frames. Seems that once Surface Pros have bad screen and chassis damage their price plummets even though the internals are often fine. One of these is my workbench computer in my shop. The tablet hangs on the wall with a thift store monitor and wireless KB plugged in. Excellent performing computer on the cheap. Another runs as a Plex media server and I just remote desktop into it.

The OUYA API server was shut down mid 2019 and rendered the gaming consoles useless.

I reverse engineered the API, documented it and built a re-implementation that makes the OUYAs fully working again: http://ouya.cweiske.de/

I use an old laptop (single core, 1g ram) as a remote desktop client. Since I work regularly in two different locations this allowed me to buy only one workstation which I keep at one location and that old laptop allows me to use it from the other one. TBH I initialy did it as a fun project/experiment but was amazed how well it worked[0] and stayed with it.

[0]That being said both locations have a fibre and the distance between them is below 20 miles so neither bandwidth nor response times cause any issues

Is there any specific thing you did apart from having a fiber and being close ?

I tried to set up my home PC as a server with tincVPN and X2go, i couldn't get a usable performance. Well, to be fair i tried using KiCAD remotely but even the XFCE desktop interface felt sluggish. I also had fiber on the three nodes (Vultr server, home server and my local machine).

From my (limited) experience RDP is significantly better than VNC in terms of sluggishness and glitches. The second thing is that both VNC and RDP will try to transmit those parts of the screen that changed since the last frame rather than simply sending full "screenshots" for every frame. As a result the final effect highly depends on what are you using the remote desktop for.

Since my work is mainly coding in IDE and working with several ssh sessions, I almost exclusively work with text which is much easier for a great remote desktop experience. On the other hand, when I tried watching videos over remote desktop it was really bad.

The other things that you might consider is UDP vs. TCP, especially since some routers can handle long UDP connections badly. Since you are using VPN tunneling, you should probably avoid TCP over TCP scenario: if the VPN connection is using TCP, then I would rather use UDP for remote desktop connection. I would aim for UDP over UDP, but in a situation where the router can't handle UDP properly you could try TCP over UDP (that is VPN: TCP, VNC: UDP). You could also try to tune mtu size in tincvpn config.

Did you use WiFi? An old Wifi router can easily add half a second of latency. Even high end Wifi endpoint still adds a few ms of latency which can be significant considering that short distances (20 miles) of fiber has sub ms latency. A software router or switch can also add up to a ms of latency. Could also try SSH (tunnel) instead of VPN as SSH encryption might be faster.

I don't know what the Vultr instance uses but i had cable connection on both of my devices (home server and local machine).

I suspected ssh over tinc might bring latency since there is an extra layer of encryption, i will try ssh tunneling. Thanks!

I find it amazing what you can do with old gear. Phones I've used for bluetooth update stations, where a bit of code can read sensors and send emails with the readings (on WiFi). Or small 'stick up' displays where you use the web page widget in Android and just re-read the same web page over and over again.

I used a number of laptops as servers because of the built in battery backup. Less useful when they don't have on board ethernet since USB ethernet can be flakey. Opening them up to disconnect the display backlight insures they don't try to run themselves down by turning on the screen.

I've given away a number of machines to young people who wanted to learn programming and computers but their parents both wouldn't trust them with the "family" computer and they likely could not afford (or know how) to get a free one. Back before WeirdStuff closed in the Bay Area I had an after school activity that would be to take a few students to there and build a machine out of parts, limit $20. Put together some really interesting machines that we would install Linux on and be off and running.

Also have salvaged parts to make things, like PC power supplies to make a benchtop power supply.

I had an old laptop with a broken hinge. I ended up flipping the screen all the way around, velcroing it to the keyboard side, loading a bunch of personal pictures into a slide show screen saver and then mounted it on the wall in a picture frame.

I have an old iPhone with an app that uses the camera to watch for motion. If something happens, it takes a bunch of still pictures and stitches them together into a herky-jerky video and stores it for later.

I keep it on top of the kitchen cabinet to make sure the lady I pay to feed and play with my cats when I'm away does both things. So far, so good. It's hard to get people to actually play with pets when you're away, no matter how much you pay them.

I think the app is called "GorillaCam." I don't think it's on the app store anymore. But it reminds me that when the iPhone first came out, it didn't have the horsepower to do video. But not too long after the App Store came out there were third-party apps that would use the phone's still camera to make poor quality videos.

Cool! I use my old laptop as a cat camera too. I use the integrated webcam to take a photo every 5 seconds, and then I send it through a lightweight CNN to classify of there is a cat in the photo. If there is I get an email with the photo as an attachment! Great for when we are traveling but our cat is left at home, we get some nice photos of her eating or stretching

Just curious, did your cat-tender consent to remote monitoring as part of the contract for service?

It's not remote. It's stored on the camera, and I check it when I come home and then erase the videos because it's an original iPhone and has very limited storage.

I didn't tell her that I record that she's arrived. Legally, I don't have to because she's in my house.

Ethically, it never occurred to me to tell her. But if I did I don't think she'd be surprised since so many of my neighbors have live-streaming cameras in their homes. Most of them not even hidden -- they're right there on the kitchen counter or on the piano with a blinking light.

I repurposed my old Intel Atom powered netbook to be an Emacs server. Until recently, it sat in a corner and would have a half dozen emacs session running screen. Every time I want to resume work on given project from any desktop or laptop in my office or when I'm travelling. I simply open a remote X11 emacs window on the machine, and viola! my entire development sesion is available to me exactly where I left off. Tools used: Emacs, X11 (for windows, mac, and Linux) Emacs tramp, and ssh, putty, and screen. For access from outside my network OpenVPN and Viscosity VPN client on Mac and Windows. Last week I replaced the atom machine with an Raspberry Pi 2.

Reusing an old tablet to control the X32 Mixer at church, also using it with a Arduino in a stompbox that emulates a keyboard, to turn pages on my sheet music when playing guitar and both my hands are occupied.

I'm working on web forum/community software which should be compatible with just about any Web-capable device, regardless of browser.

I've dedicated a lot of time to compatibility, and now it is usable and fully feature-accessible in IE4, IE5.5, IE8, Netscape 3, 4, Opera 3-12, Lynx, w3m, Chrome 1.0, old Safari versions, etc.

I'm still working on a few IE3 issues, will be fixed soon.

Who is this intended for? IE3, who would still be using this?

Don't get me wrong. Great achievement, just curious.

It's intended for time travelers, retro-computing enthusiasts, and post-apocalyptic users with whatever device they found in the closet of the abandoned building.

It's also intended as inspiration for Web lovers of all kind to show that that it is possible.

Time travelers of course.

...Getting my old Windows Phone ready!

Do you actually deliver different versions of the site depending on browser, with more and fancier features for modern browsers, or does it look the same on everything (with different CSS/JS fixes for all the horrible old browsers)?

It's largely the same version, with a couple of .js files that get included or left out depending on feature checks. This is necessary because one is a library written in modern JS with syntax like ===, which causes syntax errors in older browsers.

Please, do check it out in Windows Phone. I have only tested it once so far. It worked, but it was a while ago.

Not sure if this counts, but I stuffed some pumps into old cisco switches and use those as cocktail machines.



I used an old Kindle as an Information display in my home server (no typo) for my home server. I provided a write-up over at the Unraid forum [1].

tl;dr: It got rooted, and was reprogrammed to fetch an image from a local server running on Unraid. As I didn't know how to elegantly create an image from live data, I opted for a svg template. I placed placeholder texts in this svg, and then did a simple search & replace. With each update, I stored a copy of the template as the "live" version, and then used Imagemagick to convert the SVG to a format the Kindle would understand.

It was a nice project, but got replaced with a Grafana dashboard later last year. :)

[1]: https://forums.unraid.net/topic/75710-meet-zeus/

That's really cool, might be an idea for my kindle in the future :D

It's always good to have an old device on hand for performance testing. It's easier to discover performance issues on a slow machine, as you get to experience the lag first hand.

I don't know if this counts as a Project, but a friend of mine is still using her black plastic MacBook[0] interfaced to a ton of audio gear.

I don't know if she uses it for anything other than audio, but she's a musician so I think that part is used pretty seriously.

[0]: https://everymac.com/systems/apple/macbook/specs/macbook_2.0...

Not very creative: I use my older phone to read books in the hot tub. This way, if I drop it, I don't loose my fancy new expensive phone.

Be very careful when using a phone with wet hands. It can make unexpected presses when droplets get on the phone and, say, make an unexpected emergency call.

you have a fancy new phone that isn't waterproof? mine is and it's not even that expensive.

I have learned the hard way that today's fancy waterproof phones can lose that magical property when dropped. And then the warranty might not cover you when it dies after being rained upon.

That's not what I, an old Defy user, had in mind :/

I used to have a waterproof phone, but when the back started peeling off exposing a circuit board when it was 1 year old, I decided that the claim was bogus.

A good phone is expensive enough that certain risks just aren't worth taking. :)

Waterproof and soapy-waterproof aren't necessarily the same thing.

Is it soap proof too?

I have this for an old iPad 1 https://xaviesteve.com/pro/weather/

It tells the weather forecast and time for the next few days and at night it goes into 'dark mode' which is nice, have it in a corner in my living room.

Edit: forgot to mention that if you use it, remember to do the 'Add to Homescreen' so it displays in full screen.

I've repurposed a couple old iPhones and a 2nd Gen iPad as baby monitors using the aptly-named Baby Monitor app (no affiliation other than being a satisfied customer). One sits in the kid's room as the mic/camera and the others serve as the speakers/display. The app is fantastic as it works on essentially any version of iOS and any iOS device. The iPad chokes on any website and barely runs anything else, but works perfectly with the Baby Monitor app.

I wish more apps like this worked on older versions of iOS or Android. No need to hack around with some alternative OS (not that there's anything wrong with that) - it's usable by any non-techie with some old iOS devices.

Using an old desktop my dad gave me to spin up some websites getting 1,000,000+ unique visitors monthly. It has some basic specs: 12gb RAM and 8 cores from a decade or so ago.

Was using Raspberry Pis before, but given that many Docker containers don't support ARMv7, I'm just utilizing the luxury of AMD64 (and using Docker Compose, Traefik, and Wireguard to do scaling and networking).

> to spin up some websites getting 1,000,000+ unique visitors monthly

What kind of websites?

Really cool! But can you tell us what you use Wireguard for?

Well I don't really want my home IP anything to do with my websites (don't want to deal with dynamic IP or whatever) so I just route traffic to a GCP instance (pretty small one) that routes to the internet (meaning cloudflare).

GCP instance is like the main Wireguard peer and I can easily add my laptop to the VPN so I can remotely ssh into my server.

Recently I installed CodeServer (https://github.com/cdr/code-server) on one of my old laptops.

Now I can do my coding using VSCode, except I can do it from any computer that has a browser (although Chrome seems to work the best).

I highly recommend checking out CodeServer (no affiliation)

I use an old iPad with brightness turned way down as an indoor IP security camera via the free Periscope HD app:


I also use an old iPhone mounted inside the front door as a Touch ID enabled alarm control panel for a DIY HomeKit alarm system. This is using a Homebridge plugin I wrote:


I use an old Android smartphone as a replacement wifi antenna for the notebook I use plugged to my 65 inch TV. It's my main workstation, and is a very good machine, but for some reason there's a short circuit on the motherboard and the wifi antenna does not work. This same old phone is also used as a security camera so I can see my pets remotely when I'm traveling. I use the app Alfred to do that, and it works very well.

So are you using the phone as a "hot spot" for the machine plugged into the 65 inch TV?

It's just sharing the connection it gets from my wifi router over USB to my laptop. Since my laptop's wifi antenna does not work, I have to give it access to the internet through USB tethering.

My laptop is always plugged to my TV via HDMI. It's my multimedia center, I use PopCorn Time every day on it. It has a bluetooth keyboard/mouse set.

It's also my main workstation, I develop Android apps on my spare time at home, and nowadays I'm getting more money from the apps than from my 9to5 corporate job, so this side gig is becoming more and more of a main gig.

I love this setup, it's better than ANY smart tv OS, there's simply no replacement to a full-fledged Linux OS on your big screen TV and a real, full sized keyboard and mouse. And to code sitting on a huge armchair is pretty nice too.

How do you share the network connection from the Android phone to the laptop?

I just go to Android settings and enable tethering over usb. Unfortunately, this creates another step every time I turn on the laptop, but I'm actually used to do it already. This "smartphone antenna" is being used for two years now.

Old phones make for rather good CCTV/surveillance cameras. Anything made in the past 4-6 years will have great picture quality (during the day, mostly), Internet connectivity, alarm features, motion sensing, even object recognition.

What software do you use to turn a phone into a surveillance camera?

Ah, thanks. I tried this on an old Android phone but it was unusable. Perhaps I'll have better luck with it when my Apple hardware ages out.

There's quite a few of them. Alfred and IP Webcam, for example

I got a Raspberry pi 1 B+ for free because it wasn't powerful enough for anything. Put it inside my old but perfectly working laser printer. Got a Google Cloud Print(RIP) enabled printer.


You could still switch it into a network enabled printserver (usb to the printer and a usb wifi card)

I installed CUPS on it so it is a network enabled printer

I spend a lot of time in the backcountry trekking, hiking, snowshoeing, and canoeing.

Over the last couple years I have increasingly started using my iPhone for navigation using GaiaGPS and Avenza PDF Maps.

My old phone, though unpowered for day to day life still functions great for navigation. On long trips I’ll bring this second phone as a backup map/gps which is smaller and lighter than the equivalent paper maps and navigation tools.

I've built a good ol' web app which runs in fullscreen mode on an old iPad 1, turning it into a "smart" picture frame. Runs on top of Trello, with a small backend in Go for caching and proxying. Works great.

I have an original iPad here just waiting around to die. Something like this seems like a perfect use case for it. Thanks.

I do intend to release it and also open-source the code at some point. It's not entirely in that state yet, but I'll probably throw it up on a Show HN when the time comes.

I use an old laptop to backup data I save in Google Drive, in case my account becomes inaccessible someday.

Do you have a script or any automated way to save a backup regularly?

Using an iPad Mini 2 inside a wall-mount as a control for various home automation tasks.


It's been fun building custom iOS apps for HA tasks.

I put an Apple 4x PCIe AHCI SSD, a Radeon R9 280X, 2 additional SATA SSDs, and a USB 3 card into a 2006 Mac Pro with dual quadcores and 32GB RAM. In doing so, I converted it into a useful computer-cum-space-heater that handles almost any modern workload I can throw at it, except for things requiring AVX extensions that the CPUs don't support.

edit: even games! Even moderately-recent ones!

What OS do you run?

I have a very old netbook running FreeDOS. I have installed nothing but nano on it, and I use it as a distraction-free writing device. I also have a black MacBook running Xubuntu, and it works great. Got a new, non-matching battery for it for about CDN$60, and I get three or four hours of use on a charge. Only issue is the wifi is sometimes flakey on newer routers.

I took out my old OnePlus phone and I've built my own baby monitor app. We use it with our 5mo and it's been super useful for us so I polished it and a few days ago released it in Play Store so other parents can try it.

The app has some cool and unique features:

    - pink noise to help our baby fall asleep faster and sleep longer
    - works in the background
    - auto-reconnect
    - low baby monitor battery warning
If someone is interested, the app is in the play store here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zzzbabymon...

Initially, there are 4 hours of free monitoring time, but as the app is new I'm happy to give promo codes with extra time. Just drop me a message (contact info is the app) and I'll send you one.

I run boinc (https://boinc.berkeley.edu/) on my old computers, mostly https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/ to help with climate and health research

Depending on how the electricity is produced in your area and whether you use the heat for home heating, it may be better for the climate to simply turn these computer off.

My country have close to 100% green electricity and I need the heat a big part of the year. According to the scientists it is better for the climate to run the projects distributed this way than to use mainframes.

I'm working on a software stack that would let you plug a hard drive into an old Android phone and access the files over the cloud in a Google Drive type fashion. My patchbay[0] service is a step in that direction.

[0] https://patchbay.pub

I replaced my roku stick with an old laptop and bluetooth keyboard and mouse, it was great having a super fast and responsive smart tv. Ultimately I replaced it with a $20 chromecast which is just as capable but with better ux.

Im using an ex corporate hp dl380e server for my home lab, loads of computing power for dirt cheap because there is no SLA.

The server was cheap but the electricity is not, and while its powerful I could get a modern quad core would be as powerful and use less electricity for about the same cost over three years.

A lot of this stuff is e-waste not because its no longer powerful but because it is no longer economically viable. A lot of e-waste, phones in particular go to Africa to be reused, outside of this I don't see any reuse / recycling thats realistic.

Saw a lot of great videos on YouTube about turning old laptop screens into standalone HDMI monitors (with a simple $12 board). That now explains the the stack of taken-apart laptops in the flat where I've been unable to get them to release the screen...

I have an ipad mini 1 that I keep wanting to leave plugged into the stereo to use for music but its version of Music is too old to access the copies of my stuff in the cloud and trying to update the OS just spins forever. This post made me decide to look into it and discover this is because it was jailbroken, and that blocks Software Update from working, so I've plugged it into the computer and am updating it from there.

Dunno if it'll actually end up working, right now I'm doing a backup and iTunes is saying it's "over capacity by 634 MB" and pinwheeling, but at least it's an attempt.

edit, an hour later: IT WORKS YAY, thanks for giving me a reason to fool with it.

You can contribute to the effort to port https://postmarketos.org/ to old phones and help unify hardware support in the mainline kernel.

I use ancient Atom processor laptops to run our home automation servers. Minimal power consumption, built-in battery backups, WOL/power, extremely reliable, $40 on eBay.

I have an old hand-me-down laptop from a relative. It's from 2011 and is a Core i5. The screen is terrible, but otherwise it's perfectly capable.

I couldn't call it a "project," but I've installed a music player (Rhythmbox, but pick whatever software you like) and hooked it up to some premium speakers. It's the best music player I could hope for -- it can play literally any format, doesn't phone home, and uses very little energy.

I took an old tablet, stuck it to the wall above my desk with 3M's Command picture hanging doodads, and now have an always-on display of my kanban board: https://kanbanflow.com/

It's great to have a permanent visible reminder of what I intended to be doing. I used to do that with sticky notes, but that had the big disadvantage of not being visible except right at my desk.

I use a spare TV like a kiosk panel for the family calendar, weather, and various RSS feeds.

What software do you use for the kiosk? I have been thinking of doing this with Ubuntu Core using the Chromium snap and a custom website which it refreshes.

This is a fun idea, and I am a terrible person as all I would think about doing is ways to subvert it and torment the family.

Here is interesting DIY video of things one can create from an old laptop. Inside the video there is a link to creating a daylight lamp/panel from a monitor -- it's really great and looks like a daylight from a window due to specific materials used in monitors to evenly distribute light.


If you have an old router with USB 2.0 ports lying around it's fairly straightforward to install OpenWRT and Zerotier and make a VPN with a private cloud attached if you mount a HDD, and as long as your file transfer requirements aren't too intense. Have one running on my LAN and it works well for FTP, SMB shares for backup, and normal VPN stuff. Plus, it doesn't consume much power as it's MIPS chipset.

I don't think this is exactly what you're looking for, but my favorite repurposing of old devices was when I was looking for something to do with the eight Kaypro IIs I had kicking around about 15 years ago.

What I ended up doing was chaining them together to use as a single multiprocessor PC. Those 8, working together, came very close to reaching the same performance as a low-end "modern" PC of the time.

I use an old Android phone as a dedicated Kodi remote for a media center PC and my old Nexus 7 is pretty much exclusively for reading Jojo's manga.

This is not something I've done, but I've been holding onto this paper from Princeton about using old mobile devices as compute nodes [1] which I think might be of interest here

[1] https://www.usenix.org/conference/hotcloud17/program/present...

Just until recently I was usging an old Nokia N85 for my running sessions. It had dedicated physical buttons for playback, skip song, volume etc, the "Nokia Sports tracker app" also suported polar heart rate monitor.

Some years ago it stop supporting direct upload of workouts and I had to send the gpx file via bluetooth.

Last year battery died and I haven't found cheap replacements.

Any Android burner phone with LineageOS.

I have an iBook G3 that i use to monitor a server and make announcements about current workload, logins , lockouts and database health.

My friend had a raspberry pi2, which he didnt want because of lack of bt and wifi, that is my plex server now.

Have you noticed any issues? Especially transcoding?

I don't use transcoding, as plex asks premium account for internet connectivity and transcoding is not needed over lan.

Not your parent poster, but I've gotten acceptable playback performance in Jellyfin with video transcoding disabled. Audio transcoding appears to hold up at least.


My stack of old laptops and computers is repurposed into a franken-cluster running various OpenStack services and testing applications on different platforms and performance profiles. Also handy for testing dweb applications and ideas.

Would be interesting to find a way to flash old dumbphones for something.

Great platforms for CTF or pen-testing practice if that is something you enjoy. I have a few raspberry pis and old phones that I test out new tools and methods on. If something breaks or something I install looks questionable I can factory reset them (the phones) and its no big deal.

Old laptop + USB docks + old hdds made for a pretty respectable home server. Especially since it was a gaming laptop so only the gfx was proper old

...struggling to work out what to do now though as the next generation of laptops needs to retire. Might try donating but I'm not optimistic

Still hanging onto that 256MB thumb drive? Turn it into a key for a deniably encrypted operating system: https://habd.as/post/invisible-arch-linux/

I have a Thinkpad T42p, that I don't use anymore. I wonder how hard would it be to gut it and with a small SBC like Pine64's Rock64 and some additional board make it useful again. Question is how to drive: LVDS display, keyboard, touchpad and trackpoint?

+ Thinkpad X230 (2013 model, i5, 8gb ram, ssd) with docking station as a media center running Kodi[0]

+ Samsung Galaxy Express I8730 (2013)[1] as a remote control for that media center[2]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kodi_(software)

[1] https://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_express_i8730-5271.p...

[2] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.xbmc.kore&...

Forgot to add an older entry-level android tablet (7”) used as a digital photo frame, running Fotoo:


It’s a better display and cheaper than any off-the-shelf digital photo frames. Fotoo syncs the photos from cloud storage, so family members can upload to the frame, too.

I use a bad Xiaomi Mi A2 for watching preloaded vids during commute, and playing OpenMW !

It was my partner's former phone but she eventually broke the camera, and it was quite sluggish. However, it has a big screen, a big battery life, and had cost me 150€ anyway.

Low-hanging fruit, not particularly hacky, but really nice: Android phone on guitar pedalboard. Metronome, tuner, backing track jukebox, etc. I run the headphone jack into a Boss looper pedal. Very handy to have a dedicated android in the effect loop.

Old Android phone has LineageOS on it and acts as a remote for my TV and Chromecast.

I use my 6 year old OnePlus One as a smart phone.

It runs LineageOS just fine and I can barely tell it from a new phone. The drawback is the camera is not as good as current flagships but I can live with that as photos are still pretty good.

Idea: kids go house to house fund raising by collecting old phones plus $10 per phone (ewaste). They factory reset and load with kid friendly apps and sell to Moms via cheepfone.com. Raise money for school tech clubs.

I use batocera linux in my old desktop for a very capable retro-games machine. It's a little bulkier than the tipical Raspberry Pi + retropie installation, but beats it's performance and comes for free.

We created Viyo.io for this very purpose. With all of the ridiculousness around security system privacy right now, we wanted to build a web-based, privacy-first solution because it's something that we wanted but couldn't find. Basically you can use almost any web-accessible device as a security camera, or to observe your cameras. We've had a super awesome response so far, and we've been able to add a ton of backwards compatibility. Some of our users are using 7+ year old Android devices.

Using broken phone (nexus 5x) with nice camera for timelapsing hill for paragliding club


Reminded me of using an old Nokia N900 to watch EdX videos offline while commuting. No cellular, just Using WiFi.

Loved this little Nokia because Maemo OS was Linux-based, had a keyboard and terminal.

I’m using an old Asus netbook as a home server. I installed Xubuntu and now I use it as a Docker host for Plex, a torrent server, and other projects. It works surprisingly well!

Run BOINC(Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing), a distributed, high throughout computing initiative that runs with volunteer computing. It helps solve cutting edge research problems in science.

It is easy to set up (just screate an account with scienceunited.org) and great to contribute to. It runs on Linux, macOS, Windows and Android!

Link: https://boinc.berkeley.edu/

I set up an old iPad as a picture frame that shuffles through all my photos. It's been wonderful reliving memories and vacations! I did have to buy a third party app to do the shuffle since Apple removed it a few OS versions ago though.

Q: are there any uses for old Core 2 desktops without onboard GPU that consume ~200W when idle?

I'm wondering if I should just trash my old desktop, especially if it'll be cheaper in the long term to get something more power-efficient.

200W when idle?! That's ridiculous! I'd personally just trash it, unless the upfront cost of something more power efficient is too high.

There are no Core2 desktops without GPU consuming 200W when idle. Even at full load you will be hard pressed to peak over 150W.

You could always use it as a stylish space heater..

Use old speakers and cellphone to generate random noise to annoy your noisy neighbors

You kid but works great for a white noise generator

I use an old Ipad (retina screen) with Dakboard free edition stuck to the refrigerator as a family calendar and photo frame. It works really well with open weather and google photos, google calendar integration.

My laptop broke at the hinge; now I have two parts. I wanted to convert the screen into a touchscreen for a while now. Not sure what I am going to do with that, tho. Maybe hook it to a Raspi?

I built an "autonomous" remote-controlled car using an old iPhone: http://pyetras.com/car3

I have about 30 Android smartphones I am using for volunteer distributed computing (BOINC). Most are running Android 4.x

I made blurb.cloud so that an old phone or tablet could serve as a shared billboard.

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