Why Buy New When Strange Will Do?

“Hey Bob, do you think you can install Linux on a machine for me?”

I hate “just installing Linux” for people. Actually, it’s not all that bad, but the machines become one-offs. I’d much rather give people the CDs and have them do it themselves, and then maintain it themselves.

“Sure. What kind of machine is it?” I’m a masochist at heart, apparently.

“Oh, it’s this old machine that was a mail scanning appliance. I want to rebuild it and use it for a desktop.”

“I know the machine you speak of. Isn’t it like five years old?”

“Yeah. Linux should run okay on it, right?” Linux, the miracle worker. Dear Linux, I have an IBM PS/2 Model 30 386 with Microchannel. I’d like you to make it the most useful PC ever.

“Do you think it’d run Windows okay?” Survey says: no!

“It’d be slow.”

“Then it probably won’t run X Windows well, either. The people that think Linux is okay on old hardware don’t use X Windows. Besides, it’ll sound like a jet engine under your desk.”

“That’ll be okay. Noise doesn’t bother me.”

“No dude, I’m trying to be nice. Spend the $500 you’d pay me in time wrestling with this thing, it’s strange hardware, it’s tiny disk drives on the weird SCSI controller, it’s lack of RAM, it’s complete lack of a worthy video card for it’s now-ancient PCI bus, and go buy the cheapest new Dell desktop you can find. They’re $499. Or check the refurbished pile — sometimes there’s cheaper stuff there. That thing was built five years ago for a purpose, and it wasn’t to be a good desktop machine five years later.”

“I guess I could do that. Then will you install Linux on that new machine?”

“No, because you’ll be able to do it yourself. I’ll burn you the CDs.”


I guess my masochism gets a day off. I’m not usually one to turn down work but he would have such a bad experience with this that it just isn’t worth it. Plus I’m hoping that by doing some of this himself he gets a better idea of what I have to deal with.