[GLLUG] Recycling computers with Linux

James Roberts j.roberts at stabilys.com
Thu Nov 10 11:33:21 UTC 2016

On 10/11/16 02:10, DL Neil via GLLUG wrote:
> Is there a way to offer recycled computers for sale to 'Joe Public',
> which takes care of relative ignorance (of Linux) and embodies both
> realism/common sense and ethically-sound principles?


One of my colleagues has been attempting to get this going for some 
years now. It has not been overall a success to date.

It's a lovely idea: personally I despise our throwaway culture,and have 
spent thirty years or more repairing things for a living. I no longer do 
so for (hardly) anything newer than late '80's audio as it is totally 
uneconomic :(

A few of the problems we have encountered with recycling old Windows 
boxes are as follows:

1. Poor build quality and design life of 5 years.

We almost exclusively sell HP desktops so that's what we get back in 
large quantities. However, they come back because they are broken as 
often as because there is a replacement cycle.

The broken ones usually have a dead disk, which can be swapped. But all 
new disks now are GPT/2K sectors and are not supported by the old BIOS 
which cannot be updated to one that works (well, of course, it CAN - but 
at the cost of several hours faffin' about and who exactly is going to 
pay for that several hours? Us?)(this partly because HP no longer supply 
BIOS updates for machines that do not have a in-force warranty, and even 
when they do it does not support GPT on old machines).

The ones that do not have HDD failure soon will - so the same issue arises.

If they don't have disk failure then the capacitors on the board are on 
their way out OR the PSU is dying. Also the chipsets seem to develop 
grown errors after many power-on hours.

2. Workstation-level PC's are a better proposition and we usually get a 
couple more years out of those as they have better components in them. 
The GPT/2K and BIOS update issues remain, and they are dog-slow.

3. What we do reuse is server-grade hardware. Small HP tower servers ca. 
2010 make quite good Linux desktops, I'm using one at work myself at the 
moment, and they support enough memory to be useful (ie 16 GB).

It's notably slower than a modern machine but good enough for web, 
scripting, etc, and supports GPT.

Bigger rack servers work fine as low load infrastructure and parts are 
readily available and cheap second-user (not such an issue for 
Enterprise level drives/memory) - but I would not sell one to anyone for 
use in production!).

3. We do have a few people with re-purposed HP desktops converted to 
Linux. They are getting on OK but they need support which we have to 
supply and we charge them for this (this is our business model anyway). 
It is not now, and not likely to become, a profit centre. Also we have 
to keep swapping out the machines as they fail after 6-12 months. It's 
not really working.

4. The final point is that for Linux (for ANY OS) to work well it needs 
decent hardware and adequate working memory: I would suggest 8GB as a 
bare minimum, 16 is good, 32 better. 128GB probably is nearing excess. 
Old machines usually only support 4GB max, and that is old RAM which is 
more expensive than new RAM!

I have just built myself a new main workstation which triple boots. My 
work OS is Kubuntu. It has a 5820K at stock with 32 GB of RAM @3200 and 
256GB Samsung m2.nvde SSD 3GB/Sec and a 750Ti Nvidia card (to be 
upgraded soon).

On this machine Kubuntu is a joy to use (and I am typing this on it). I 
have to have two other disks each with Windows on them (one for games 
not available under Steam on Linux, one for my music Workstation as the 
plug-ins and Cubase/Wavelab only work under Windows, sadly).

For people to know just how good Linux really is, should we not give 
them modern hardware?

Take a look at this link:


Just as an example: you can get a Zoostorm AMD A8/8GB for GBP 229.98 
inc. vat.

This will be a very satisfactory and fast Linux box.

And if you have to pay for set up and recycling time as I do, works out 
at the same real cost as recycling and sorting out an old free Windows 
box which will have nowhere near the performance, reliability, 
upgradability or life expectancy.

As I said at the start, I despise throwing things away. I had my last 
car until it was 20; my new one is 10. My main monitor loudspeakers were 
purchased in 1989; my compressor-limiter in 1979. But these are stable 

The hardware in the PC is still evolving rapidly and is nowhere near a 
plateau, so old gear really is old.

I don't want to put you off. Just my opinion.

Stabilys Ltd		www.stabilys.com
244 Kilburn Lane
W10 4BA

0845 838 5370

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