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Re-purposing old computer junk

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Bob the Unbeliever, Oct 12, 2018.

  1. Bob the Unbeliever

    Bob the Unbeliever Well-Known Member

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    So. The other day, I decided I really wanted to see a BlueRay movie I had purchased a while back.

    Now, about a year ago, my main 32" flatscreen TV finally died. It had lost it's sound years before, but it had a convenient sound output, so my old Sony stereo filled the sonic bill quite nicely.

    When it died completely, I simply switched up to my main PC, which sported 3 flatscreen monitors, at true 1080p (the old TV was a mere 720p). Actually, worked better than the TV in many ways. Windoze APPS for Hulu and Netflix (alas, Amazon Prime is a righteous pain in the donkey to use from a PC, so I mostly ignored it)

    But I could find no easy way to pipe the output of my BluRay player's HDMI to my PC, so it sat there, unused and gathering dust.

    But it finally hit me-- I bet there is a way to pipe HDMI to a computer monitor, and split the sound out to something else, say a pair of quality self-powered speakers. Hmmm.... whatyaknow? There IS!

    I ended up buying two gizmos: An HDMI switch-gonzo, that sports an audio spit into the design. It has 3 HDMI input jacks, one HDMI output jack, an optical audio out jack and a 3.5mm stereo "earbud" jack. It works! I resurrected my old Roku 3 box, and plugged it into my HDMI-input capable monitor.

    And the subject of THIS thread, the other gizmo: It sports an HDMI plug on one end, a VGA jack on the other end, and on the side? A 3.5mm audio-out jack. It kind of looks like a Roku stick or Amazon fire stick, only without the power input jack. It is powered by the HDMI jack you plug it into, and, obviously, you need powered speakers.

    So I own an aging 13" flatscreen from Days Gone By-- it was a very high-end screen when I got it new (on sale). It's mounted to a very high-quality VESA stand, that lets you raise, lower, rotate, etc. A nice bit of kit, but it's strictly VGA only input (that's how old it is). And I had an excellent speaker-box, a Milwaukee (yes, the toolmaker) brand, that can go mains or battery, with a nice 3.5mm input, good sound, portable, etc.

    So. I dusted off my Sanyo BluRay player, and plugged the gizmo into it's HDMI output jack. Connected the monitor, and powered up the player. Bingo! Video! So I quickly plugged in the speaker into the gizmo's audio port-- SOUND! Lovely! Quick--grab a movie, and test-- yes, it Just Works. Amazemballs!

    So for less than $10, and some Found Treasure, I had a very nice, compact BluRay player what I could watch those BluRay discs all that I pleased. Yes-yes, many will decry that one can do this on a laptop-- BUT. You need a Good laptop, and you must purchase expensive software, AND you have to be sporting a BluRay optical device in said laptop! (and being the brave soul that I am, I already tried that route-- borrowing a USB3.0 external optical drive, and downloading a try-before-you-buy software pack to see if my 'top was up to snuff-- it's not. It has a mere Intel "graphics" engine, which is ample for games written prior to 2002-ish, but not anything newer, and for sure not BluRay. SO glad I did not waste money buying a BluRay drive, removing the perfectly good DVD drive, and buying expensive bloatware "decoder")

    I use this setup at Work-- I work in a shop where there are great swaths of time, that Nothing Is Happening. And so long as I am able to HALT! what I'm doing, when some potential customer comes through the door? I may do whatever, including watching movies.

    I love the Rube Goldberg aspect of this-- and I really love reusing old hardware, that otherwise would have just been trash. It works very well, if you are about 20-30 inches from the screen-- quite possible in my work area. And with the remote? Pause is just a button-push away.

    Heavenly!

    (I use the other gizmo at home, where I use my Roku3 box feeding into one of my main computer monitors. I had so forgotten how much better Hulu/Netflix is on a Roku box, as opposed to the crappy App in Windoze... and Amazon Prime Video? It's like heaven versus hell... :D )

    (( Maybe I'll write that one up in another thread ))
     
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  2. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Bravo. I can't do that myself, but I wholly approve it.
    I have an old computer with a broken windows, and for long I want to put Mint linux on it (I have that on a pen drive). Perhaps I will do it one day.
     
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  3. Shadow Wolf

    Shadow Wolf Living Dead Girl

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    An external blu-ray drive and program such as Handbrake would also work. But it's always great repurposing old things into new things. Add in something like a Teensy, Arduino, or Raspberry Pi and the possibilities are pretty much only limited by you imagination and ability to program.
     
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  4. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    If you want the best performance, use the XFCE desktop version of Linux Mint. If your hardware is really old, Zorin or even Puppy Linux Quirky are even faster.
     
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  5. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    I would not want any great performance from it, and I am not a gamer. I would want it just for wandering on the internet and participating in forums. I will need to check. It may be about 10 years old. That may be equivalent to about 12 years old in the developed world. Yes, I know about Puppy linux and love it, though it might not be as smooth as Mint. I have never installed Puppy on a machine, though I have downloaded it for a few times. On the other hand, Mint was just as smooth or smoother than Windows, and safer too. :D
     
    #5 Aupmanyav, Oct 12, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
  6. Bob the Unbeliever

    Bob the Unbeliever Well-Known Member

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    Not a fan of Linux. I have, on multiple occasions, attempted to learn that sh88. Alas, In spite of being a veteran programmer, I just could not beat it into submission.

    And gawd help you if you go out into the interwebs, and ask: RTFM is the nicest thing you will see-- only? There does not seem to BE a forking manual that actually matches anything you'd consider installing...!

    Now, to be sure, if you have a mainstream, plain vanilla box? It works. But if you are one millimeter outside of that narrow box? Forgetaboutit. Ain't gonna work for you.

    The last time I tried, I wanted 3 screens as a single, virtual screen, at the hardware level, so that games could only see the single virtual screen. Nuh-unh. Not gonna happen in Linux.

    Heck! I couldn't even get past 3 identical, cloned desktops! What a load of uselessness. Now, to be fair, that was a few years back, and it's possible the Linux video drivers now have Eyefinity, but they did not, back then.

    But what burned out any desire for me to try Linux for a fourth? Fifth? (lost count) time?

    Was the rudeness of Fan Bois.... so I'll stick to legal Micro$uck for now. Or Android.
     
  7. sun rise

    sun rise "Love pour forth from the heart of the universe."
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    True for Handbrake as long as there is no evil copy protection crap on the bluray.
     
  8. Bob the Unbeliever

    Bob the Unbeliever Well-Known Member

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    I don't do Linux. I was burned one too many times attempting to beat it into submission.
     
  9. DavidMcCann

    DavidMcCann Well-Known Member

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    That must have been a long time ago! Mint has pdf manuals: one for installation, one for usage. Other distros also have good documentation.

    As for forums, it depends where you go. Debian and Arch can be rude, while Ubuntu has too many indians and not enough chiefs, but many, like Salix and PCLinuxOS, are great. And there's always the biggest and oldest, Linux Questions: if you ask appropriate questions, you might even get helped by me!

    I can't compare Linux with Windows, as I've never had the latter, but Linux has served me faithfully for years.

    As for old computers, today I'm using my laptop: a genuine IBM Thinkpad X31, with a 1.6 GHz Pentium M, running Xubuntu.
     
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  10. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Ignorant Atheist Libertarian Capitalist
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    I need, but am having trouble finding DOS boxes.
    I have a few which I use, but they're old, & I might
    need to replace one some day.
    (My business software won't run on a modern machine.
    Simulated DOS isn't compatible.)
     
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  11. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    It's a lot different than Linux in days of yore. More highly polished, and easy to use, for the most part. The hardest part is in partitioning the drive, but auto partitioning is an option if you only want Linux on the drive. Try Linux Mint, XFCE desktop. Fast and stable and easy to use. Avoid Debian, as it is mainlly command line for purists.
     
  12. godnotgod

    godnotgod Thou art That

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    You can run a program called DosBox inside of Linux for your old apps and games. If that doesn't work, you can install VirtualBox inside of any OS, and run the guest OS inside of it, fully installed.
     
  13. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Ignorant Atheist Libertarian Capitalist
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    I've tried emulators.
    They aren't the same as the real thing.
    My problem is unusual in that I use an ancient British portable operating
    system (BOS) which ported to run as a DOS application. Memory handling
    is very different, & BOS does some things which are very unDOS, eg,
    concurrent processing using time slicing, multi-user.
     
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  14. Shadow Wolf

    Shadow Wolf Living Dead Girl

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    Unless I'm mistaking it for another program, Handbrake even bypasses the copy protections that are just absurdly excessive in this case.
     
  15. Shadow Wolf

    Shadow Wolf Living Dead Girl

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    Unless I'm mistaking it for another program, Handbrake even bypasses the copy protections that are just absurdly excessive in this case.
     
  16. Quagmire

    Quagmire Imaginary talking monkey
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    I have a stack of old laptops/macbooks that I use exclusively for charging my phone and tablets when I'm living in the great outdoors (which is more often than not).
     
  17. sun rise

    sun rise "Love pour forth from the heart of the universe."
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    I've not seen any evidence that HandBrake can strip HDCP when ripping a video. (HDCP is the high def copy protection s***). You can strip it by passing the signal to a lower resolution device such as HDMI to VGA conversion.

    But if you know of anything specific, please post.
     
  18. Shadow Wolf

    Shadow Wolf Living Dead Girl

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    It's a program called MakeMKV. I haven't done it in years, but if I remember correctly you start the initial rip with MakeMKV and then use Handbrake to convert the file to other formats.
    I also believe DVDFab can rip Blu Ray, but the program isn't free.
     
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  19. Bob the Unbeliever

    Bob the Unbeliever Well-Known Member

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    Well, when I really attempted to use it, it was 5? 8? years ago-- time flies.

    The latest attempt, was really more of a "what can I do with this ancient Windoze XP machine?". It's graphics card wasn't up to snuff for most of Win10, but I have learned how to quell the graphics-intensive stuff, and it actually worked. More or less.

    One of the funniest things about Win10, though? You can install it without registering and all it really blocks? ARE THE USELESS APPS! I consider than a fantastic improvement, myself.... LOL! But some aspects of Control Panel are also blocked, which does somewhat hamstring it. A bit. ;)

    I did put Linux, Mint? I think, on that same old box-- alas, I could not get the Wireless Networking to work, under Linux. No matter who I asked, or how hard I worked-- I simply lacked the knowledge to get it working. And the "help" files were so basic, that I was, "yes, I did all that already, now what?"

    It's been a few months back. And I wrote this in reverse order: first I tried 3? 4? different flavors of Linux on that box, because it was fun, and because I could and so on.

    Alas, none would enable any of the wireless networking cards I had, some of which were not all *that* old, and all of which were classic brands (realtech, HP, etc). And without WiFi? No internet here at work. And Linux does NOT like being without internet... ! Worse, by far, than Windoze! (in my limited experience) Pretty much anything I tried to do? Wanted to first go out to the interwebs to fetch something.... !

    So this is the box I tried a "what the heck? Let's see" with Win10. Yes, it's not activated, and yes, Win10 nags you every time you boot, but what'ya know? The WiFI **worked** under Win10, on a 15 year old machine too. It was a Dell, and did not have built-in Wifi, but did have the old serial ports, parallel, keyboard/mouse jacks, etc. Even had a built in video engine that also just worked. Kinda amazing, really.

    To be fair, those all worked under Linux too-- except for the internet, as I explained.

    If I could get that old beater working on Linux? It'd be cool. But to get it working, I need the internet, which doesn't work, and so on, round and round.
     
  20. Bob the Unbeliever

    Bob the Unbeliever Well-Known Member

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    I have a couple-- you could have'em if I could figure out how to get'em to you.

    Some currently have old flavors of Windoze, but they are certainly capable of any flavor of DOS, up to and including 7 (the last one, as far as I know).
     
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