Last week was our campus-wide electronic waste collection drive, with several drop-off sites set up around the university. Needing a few parts for some hacking projects I have in mind (for one previous example, see here), I decided to browse the e-waste items that had been dropped off. There is also a regular e-waste recycling depot in my building, which I have started checking out more regularly. Hey, if dumpster diving for electronics is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right.
You wouldn’t believe the things some people throw away. Most notable (aside from a wireless keyboard and mouse set still in the original box) are what I am calling FIFEs, computers that are Free, Intact, and Fast Enough. Operationally, I am setting a minimum cut-off of Pentium 4, which is what I still have in my office at work. In the past week, I have found two FIFEs — Pentium 4, 160Gb HDD, 1Gb RAM, LCD monitor, etc. I have taken them back to my office, cleaned them up, formatted the hard drives, and started installing software.
As a follow-up to my previous post about free science software, I am trying a little experiment in putting together a 100% free desktop computer that can be used by undergraduate research students in my lab. The first step is to find a FIFE, then to install a free operating system like Ubuntu, and then to install the various free office, stats, graphing, imaging, web, and other necessary software.
I’ll let you know how it goes.