Her “new” $170 computer
Operation “swap-out MrsDoF’s computer” went very well yesterday as I decomissioned her 4-year-old generibox running Windows 2000 Professional and put in an IBM ThinkCentre mini tower running Windows XP professional.
Her computer desperately needed rebuilt which presented me with a couple options: scrounge up an XP license, or install Ubuntu. Having used the Uuu on my laptop for a while now (and less than enamored of it) I was pretty sure I didn’t want to have her navigating that learning curve. And the time required for a reasonably secure XP rebuild meant she’d be computerless for several days at least – no thanks.
eBay to the rescue! For $145 and $25 shipping, I got an off-lease IBM ThinkCentre P4 2.4ghz with 512 ram… including an XP license. So I could take my sweet time and make a sweet build with all her favorite, familiar software. I may pop some more ram into it later, though she says it is very fast and smooth already.
The ThinkCentre is a very well-built computer – it runs Windows with a solidity that you only get from a motherboard that is engineered several notches above average. It has so many USB-2 ports one would never need to purchase a hub. The power supply is excellent and the case is as solid as they come. The case can be opened and serviced without tools and has a carry handle on the top front. The front panel is securely mounted but there’s a latch to release it for vacuuming. But I do have a few criticisms.
The plastic front of the computer slants backward a little. I suppose this is intended to be stylish but it necessitates the CD/floppy drive cage is mounted in the case at a nonlevel angle. This means you can’t install an extra hard drive in that cage – hard drive spindles need to be horizontal or vertical. The hard drive is mounted vertically in the metal front of the case, which is fine, but there’s nowhere to mount a second hard drive, so we have a mini tower that can only hold one hard drive. That’s just dumb.
Most of the USB ports are on the rear, but there are 2 on the front of the case. OK, fine, except they’re recessed three quarters of an inch into a the channel at lower-right Still accessible, not as bad as the insane, downward-pointing USB ports on some Dell computers, but what’s so damn hard about making the USB ports flush with the front of the case? Compaq, Dell, and IBM all try to hide them, which is just dumb.
The power button is flush with the front panel – sort of hard to find by touch alone, and when you push it in, you are in contact with very small-radius plastic corners. I made this same criticism of an Apple notebook – what’s so damn hard about smoothing parts that come into contact with human fingers? Style over ergonomics, which is dumb.
The keyboard and mouse were excellent but MrsDoF uses a Microsoft Natural Keyboard which worked fine with this box. I will probably install some Linux distro on her old computer, stuff a giant hard drive into it, and put it downstairs as a backup server.
All in all, the ThinkCentre is a very good computer for < $200.