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From the mind of Packard Sonic. Buckle up for this ride!

Packard’s Tips: It doesn’t have to be a paperweight

Due to the current economy most everyone is trying to get more out of what they have already invested in their hardware and to make their money stretch. Whether it’s a computer, phone, or a network device, even though it’s gotten older it can still be useful.  Here are a few ideas on what to do with some of that older hardware.

With an older Mac that can run at least OS X (10.3) turn it into a home automation system with X10 Modules.  Controlling lights and other household appliances, Smarthome’s PowerLinc USB ($38) interface is the least-expensive option. It’s good choice to ease into home automation.

Should you feel daring enough to come out of your comfort zone of using the Mac OS, try putting Yellow Dog or Debian Linux on it. While Linux still has a smaller presence compared to the other operating systems out there, it’s getting better and has a good support base.

Turn that Mac into your personal jukebox. Install iTunes (if you haven’t already done so), on that computer and should you happen to have one other or more Airport Extreme Base Stations, (the old style bricks that you can find on eBay) they can be used to transmit your music wirelessly throughout your house.  With a typical stereo plug-in to a cheap amplifier, and a set of old speakers you can create a wireless system that you can install in an area that of the house where you can’t wire it up due to your landlord frowning on putting holes in the walls or floors.

An upside to this, with iTunes separated from your main machine you can save CPU cycles making your main computer run faster and with an iPod or other compatible MP3 device.  If you have it set for auto sync, just plug it in and when it’d ready you can be on your way to your outing with your favorite music or audio podcasts.

Have a printer that you want to use with multiple computers? Turn that extra Mac into a wireless print server!  From personal experience I can tell you that dealing with these devices that are supposed to do the job, just sometimes never do it quite right. They can be fussy and only come with so much firmware to handle the printer you want or have on hand.  With the market flooded with so many kinds to choose from out there, why spend another $100 or more on something that might not work?  The Mac must also be wireless for this trick to work as well.

Hook it up to your TV and make it into a media server.  External hard drives are getting bigger and less expensive every few weeks, it seems. With a few little bits you can pick up at your local Apple store or again on eBay for what you need and with a free program called VLC you can watch many different kinds of formats.

Do you have little kids or friends that visit with their kids when they come over to your place?  Set it up with games that you know of that still work on that older machine in a place where they can be monitored, yet just far enough away from everything else so you can enjoy your company.

Should you need some extra cash, again eBay is out there, and some one else that needs a computer might be willing to buy it from you.  Local pawn shops, should you have any in your area, may also be willing to take this item off your hands. Although eBay may be your better bet but the cash wont be as fast.

Some people out there may already be doing one or many of these things; these are just a few examples of the many things of what you can do with your older Mac.  Even though it may have fewer things it can do, it can still find itself useful in your home without becoming a paperweight.


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