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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.


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.



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


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.


Ethernet, modem, and DVD.


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.


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

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


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.


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.


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


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.