Time for new computers?

Last night (2 Jan 2016) @Elliot_Wells and I looked over the computers we have in the front room. All of them are very old machines – Scarab has a “Designed for Windows XP” logo on it – and were old when we got them. We scavenged memory as best we could to get these machines at peak memory. Scarab, Twilight Sparkle, Princess Buttercup, and I believe one of the 3d printer computers are now rocking a whole 4GB of ram. I guess they are not completely worthless – Newegg is selling a refurbished machine almost identical to Scarab for $70 – but they are close.

I just got a notice this afternoon that Google Chrome will stop supporting 32-bit Linux in March, which doesn’t mean the machines are completely gone, but it does show that support is seriously waning on these boxes.

Maybe it’s time to solicit donations of more modern machines? Stuff that isn’t 8-10 years old?

The Optiplex 755 machines (Firefly, Marvin, Gort, Twilight Sparkle, Princess Buttercup) all have more modern processors than Scarab and Monarch, and can run 64-bit operating systems. As a temporary measure, we could look into swapping out Scarab in favor of Twilight Sparkle, unless there’s a reason that machine is out of service (it appears to have some display issues).

I have an inventory of machines at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1vwGsVzxUHFhWh3VK7uq62zA6XNyhArkXndjeNqUVrT4/edit?usp=sharing which should probably be updated with the parts scavenging that’s been going on.

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Due to operator error or perhaps permissions, I can’t edit the table. Scarab, princess, and the two 3d print machines do indeed have 4gb a peice, as you stated. No other hardware changes were made by me. :slight_smile:

You should be able to comment on the page now. Send me your email and I’ll add you as an editor.

You didn’t take memory out of the dead machines?

Given that Twilight Sparkle seems to just have video problems, maybe we could swap it for Firefly (a headless server doesn’t need good video) and get another machine into use?

Or pull a DVI display adapter from one of the machines on the shelf. They all have the same one. Oh and yes, there is no memory in any of the unnamed machines on the top shelf.

This is the type of thing the chamber could help us with

I want to pull twilight sparkle down today, install a second hand video adapter, install a shiny new linux, and set her up next to scarab to shakedown/update for a few days, with the idea of then retiring Scarab.


There is already a plan in the works put shiny new linuxem on the machines. I think Twilight Sparkle would be a good test-case machine for that, and I was going to work on that tonight or Wednesday. Our plans are decently in parallel.

Sounds good

twilight sparkle is down from shelf. swapped hdmi adapter with identical unit from another shelf machine. Booted to find that “graphical problem” was seemingly a software issue. now booting a live distro and running pre-flight diagnostics. memory test, harddrive test etc.

if it boots live okay and passes all tests I’ll leave it alone for you to install what you will.

currently next to scarab and hooked up to that monitor.

edit @ 6.13pm

four machines (princess, twilight, gort, and tesla) have most recent bios update A22. All four boot properly with 4gb ram. no changes to operating system have been made.

Twilight Sparkle has a shiny, new, but incomplete, Debian 8.2 installation on it, and is sitting under the visitor’s-book stand. I will continue to work on it next time I’m in.

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Yay fun!

I’m afraid that I sort of derailed this thread from it’s original and important topic -

Time for new computers?

Not sure how to get that back on the table, but this is me trying!

The thing which triggered me asking (specifically, the discovery that Scarab was a 32-bit only machine, and Google Chrome was ending support for 32-bit Linux) is alleviated by the discovery that we can bring Twilight Sparkle into service.

While it wouldn’t be a bad idea to solicit donations of newer equipment, possibly even from the same sources we got these (I believe Cornell has a computer depreciation/replacement cycle of about 3 years, and we got these machines 3 years ago), it isn’t as big a crisis as I feared.

Hi new fodder for the thread.

The dell optiplex computers we have (q35 onboard graphics) do not support webgl, even with the most recent chipset drivers.

There are a plethora of exciting new development in 3d-modeling, data visualization, and so forth that lean on webgl.

specifically, free 3d tools from Nervous Systems and Marcin Ignac have come across my desk in the last few weeks. I would love to be able to share them with members, students, kids, and so on because it’s really mind-blowing stuff…but our lab just can’t handle it.


so, whats the deal with chromebooks? can we program arduinos with them? draw files for laser? should we try to get 5-10 of them for the space?

Chromebooks run a web browser. That’s it. They don’t have any local programs on them except that which can run in a web browser. I don’t know if there are web sites which allow you to program your Arduino (I don’t think so… the Photon yes, but not Arduinos), or draw files for the laser cutter (probably).

codebender? https://www.sparkfun.com/news/1803

I see two advantages to chromebooks- the compact lap-top form factor and the fact that if we bought them they might work out of the box and not require a member to install and update an OS. That’s totally non-trivial because you could just pick one up and use it or host a class and expect them to work.

On the other hand, they are much more limited in terms of software support, expansion and so on, and almost certainly would not have more memory, processing power, or storage than what we have, nor support full-fledged software like illustrator and so on. I guess it depends on what one is trying to do.