Computer Retirement

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my computer situation. At home, right now I have:

  • little router box; on 24/7 (Cyrix MediaGX 233MHz)

  • Aging desktop machine; on 24/7 (mid-tower case, Athlon 1.33GHz)

  • HTPC/PVR; on only when I’m watching or recording something (mid-sized desktop case, Sempron somethingorother)

  • PowerBook G4 laptop; usually on 24/7, though occasionally it gets turned off (ppc 1GHz)

I’ve noticed recently that I haven’t been using my desktop all that much. In general, it just sits there eating power and making noise. In a way, I want to retire it and just turn it off permanently, and just use my laptop for everything.

However, it has four main advantages over my laptop:

  1. slightly faster processor (the laptop can’t handle some video using more computationally-intensive codecs)

  2. Flash plugin (laptop is running Linux on ppc, and Adobe doesn’t support that; all the open source Flash players I’ve tried are useless for my purposes)

  3. better-supported video (albeit through an nvidia binary driver; the laptop has an nvidia chipset as well, but Linux on ppc is not supported)

  4. storage: I have a 1TB array in there

#1 isn’t all that big a deal, since I have the HTPC for watching video, and it’s been able to handle pretty much anything I’ve thrown at it (720p H.264 with 5.1 audio is fine).

#2 isn’t that bad either. The only real downside is that I lose out on YouTube; people do send me links to funny videos, and I feel bad when I say “I’m on the laptop and I don’t have Flash here.” Eventually, I figure the open source Flash players will achieve some measure of parity with Adobe’s and the problem will disappear (or maybe Adobe will start supporting Linux on ppc, which is unlikely). If there’s something I just have to see, I can always reboot to MacOS and watch it there.

#3 is a bit annoying: I like real window transparency. I find it very useful because I work with a lot of terminals open. Making them semi-transparent helps me find the one I want when I have many piled up. It’s also just fun and nifty. But I can (and do) live without.

#4 is the problem at this point. Due to some annoying recent financial occurrences, I won’t be building my low-power file server any time soon. My HTPC case isn’t large enough to accommodate the drives, and I don’t really want to spend the money on external USB/Firewire enclosures for a temporary solution. I’m a bit stuck here.

I guess, in the near-term, I’ll leave things as-is. Maybe I’ll turn off the desktop machine at night sometimes to save power (and thus money) and reduce noise. Sure, people won’t be able to download stuff off my computer overnight, but… well, too bad.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with not logging into AIM/Jabber/etc. from the desktop. I’ve just been chatting on the laptop, and that seems to be working pretty well. For the past several days I haven’t even touched my desktop. I think this clearly points toward the idea that I’d rather sit on the couch with my laptop while doing computer stuff than at my desk. And for occasions where I’d rather use the desk, I can always hook up the laptop to my monitor, keyboard, and mouse (though I guess I’d need to buy a USB keyboard).

So we’ll see. I’ll continue my experiment until the weekend, and maybe start turning the desktop off after that.