I admit it: I'm a total geek. I love electronics, programming, 3D art, vintage Apple hardware, and whisky. I'm always juggling half a dozen projects. I also enjoy documenting it all: my successes, my failures, my experiences... and everything geeky along the way.

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Free Junker Laptop | Kevin Rye.net - Main

Kevin Rye

Geek Extraordinaire. Yeh, I said it.

Free Junker Laptop

My sister-in-law recently picked up a new MacBook Pro. She gave her old laptop to our niece to kick around. She ended up getting it back when it started falling apart. When I found out she was ready to throw it in the trash, I opted to take it off her hands. It’s got “photo frame” written all over it.

I’ve made a few photo frames in the past. I still have the LEGO photo frame set up at work. After all these years, it still runs great. I just recently loaded all the pics from last Christmas onto it. With that photo frame, all the images are loaded onto it via a USB thumb drive. It’s a manual process, but it’s easy. However, it would be cool to just be able to throw the images onto it via Ethernet. I could have it pull the images down from my DropBox, or a simple network share. That way, I wouldn’t have to even open it up to load images.

There’s really no space in my computer room for a digital photo frame and my wife’s not a big fan of hanging stuff on the walls. So I have no idea where I’d even put it. Two photo frames at work would be a little ridiculous. I’m thinking maybe some sort of weather box would be cool. It would be cool to have a realtime weather box to look at.

I’m imagining something like a 17” iPad running the Weather Channel app.

Anyway, let’s have a look at this junker.

It’s in really bad shape. I’ve never seen a laptop this beaten up before.

sonyVAIO_0047

The case is totally trashed. There’s tons of deep gouges and scratches. Pieces are missing. It’s not a matter of just cleaning it up. I’d never use a laptop in this condition. The only thing I can hope for is that I can pull the guts out and make use of them.

sonyVAIO_0046

sonyVAIO_0048

Missing cover; I take it that’s the WiFi antenna.

sonyVAIO_0049

It does have plenty options for expansion. Definitely more than the last laptop I used. This has 3 USB ports as well as a Sony card reader slot.

sonyVAIO_0050

Ethernet, modem, and DVD.

sonyVAIO_0051

Oh. My. Goodness. I guess this is what happens when you give a laptop to a kid. Looks like she colored in all the keys and the trackpad with a marker.

sonyVAIO_0053

I don’t think that display has ever been cleaned. Ever.

At least it works! I can’t believe it even powers up.

sonyVAIO_0055

I quick look at My Computer reveals that’s it’s a Pentium M clocked at 1.73GHz, has 512MBs of RAM and sports an 80GB hard drive.

sonyVAIO_0063

So it’s not a total dog. With a fresh install of XP and some more RAM, it should be more than capable of displaying the weather. Maybe I’ll get my hands on a weather API and make a custom webpage. I can then just point a browser to it and go fullscreen. I’m not about the write an app for Windows. What is that? .NET? I have no idea. I’d sooner hack it to run OS X and write an app in Cocoa.

Anyway, I envision something similar to the Weather Channel app for the iPad, only bigger. Something like this, but in a custom enclosure:

weather mockup

The laptop itself is pretty thin. It’ll be that much thiner once I gut it and rid it of all the extra plastic, the DVD drive and the keyboard. I should be able to fit it into a pretty thin enclosure. More LEGO? We’ll see. Black acrylic would look sweet.

I thought it might be easier to hack it to run OS X and write an app in Cocoa. I threw in my genericiso disc and tried the same routine I used to hack my MSi Wind.

vaiohack1

The bootloader did it’s thing. I then launched my 10.5 installer DVD and let ‘er rip.

vaiohack2

Unfortunately it hangs at the boot screen. That’s as far as it gets. Perhaps this hack is going to need a little more work...or a hammer.