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Farewell to Good Hardware

I dropped off my custom-built Shuttle XPC SB52G2 at our local recycling center earlier this week.

Originally purchased in July 2003 for about $1,000, I used the system about three years as a file server running e-Smith, a customized Linux distribution. I re-purposed the system in 2006 to run Windows XP Home for my then 6 year old daughter.  I made several upgrades to the system:
– doubling the RAM to 2Gb,
– replacing the original two 80Gb hard drives with a single 500Gb drive,
– replacing the original CD-RW drive with a DVD-RW drive,
– and adding a video card (for gaming) that supported DVI-out. This is pretty much what I recommend to most nonprofit org I work with.  Spend around $1,000 for a new desktop, and plan for the system to last about 5 years.  Do upgrades all at once, usually around the mid-point of the system’s life. By late 2009, I replaced my daughter’s system with a newer Dell system running Windows 7 (costing about $1,000 again… but, compared to the original Shuttle configuration in 2003, having 6 times the RAM, more than 6 times the storage space, and with a quad core processor). According to my usual advice, I should have retired the 6-year Shuttle XPC at that time.  I didn’t. Instead, I tried to re-purpose it again as a Windows home media server.  It worked. Passably. If you had LOTS of patience. And if you were willing to pause and restart your movie a few times during playback to help the system get voice and video back in sync. After spending far too much time “tuning” the system settings, I finally listened to the advice I always give clients: “DON’T try to re-purpose or upgrade systems twice, and DON’T expect desktop computers to be usable after five years.” But… the system had run well with NO problems for so many years.  And it still worked, if a bit slowly. It seemed a shame to get rid of reliable, still usable hardware. But… Well… at some point, the speed and performance of newer systems wins out. Early this fall, I retired the Shuttle XPC to my home office. It sat unplugged in my office for almost four months before I recycled it. A new Zino HD — costing about $1,000, of course — now serves as my Windows home media center.  The new system has 8 times the RAM and more than 12 times the storage space of the original Shuttle configuration in 2003. And it supports new hardware, such as Blueray DVDs and HMDI. I’ll follow my own advice next time.  I’ll upgrade it when it is 2 or 3 years old, and recycle it when it turns 5. I encourage you to do the same.


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