Working with older hardware means many caveats and jumping through hoops to make it work as you intend it to. While it isn’t necessarily a bad thing for tinkerers, it can be quite daunting for those who aren’t inclined to more technological pursuits. But people don’t usually choose old hardware because they like retro tech — it is often the lack of resources that makes people choose older hardware.
With limited resources comes limited choice. With limited choice comes limited creativity, and creative limitations mean you have to utilize another skill altogether: ingenuity.
Older Hardware Are Still Good
Of course, you can always build a top-of-the-line gaming PC rig or a high-tier streaming setup if you have the means. However, another thing you can do is use old computer hardware to help you manage a day job. With how prevalent work-from-home is nowadays, everyone needs a desktop PC or a laptop to accomplish their work and earn income for the household.
By eschewing traditional operating systems that require the latest hardware and the most modern software drivers, you’re free to utilize older components. And most of the older parts can also go for an affordable price.
However, the OS you need to run a system using older hardware has to be something particular, and that’s Linux. It’s an open-source alternative to Windows or Mac, offering a very similar user experience and a more modification-friendly backend. Even though it can be notorious for being unwieldy, its user interface and experience have improved considerably to become a daily work computer for basic office tasks.
Managing Work with Linux
As mentioned before, if your work requires basic office tasks, like word processing, spreadsheet editing, management of documents and data, then Linux can do that just fine. There are free and open-source alternatives to standard work software, meaning you won’t be behind functionalities. Some parts of the experience might be different, but in the end, you will still be able to accomplish the tasks required of you.
Software Side of Things
First, you need to address the software your work requires you of. It’s most likely browser-based, as many businesses have moved their operations to the cloud. This shouldn’t be a major hurdle, though, as a few minutes of Google searching will lead you to the browser-based software you need. Linux supports common web browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari anyway.
However, when it comes to desktop apps, things can be a bit different. If your work uses proprietary software, check first if they have Linux versions of their software (many companies do). But in the chance that they only support Windows or Mac, ask your company if you’re allowed to use parallel software. As mentioned before, Linux developers and software engineers often create similar-use software for everyone to use.
Hardware Side of Things
Keyboards, mice, monitors, speakers typically work out of the box, with minimal tinkering involved. This is all thanks to Linux’s open-source format, allowing many companies to upload the necessary drivers to Linux’s main kernel. However, things can be different with webcams and microphones. But that’s not without a solution either: at this point, almost everyone has an old Android phone hidden somewhere in their house. It may not be common knowledge, but there are ways to connect your smartphone to a computer and use it as an input/output device of your preference.
In this case, a smartphone has both a mic and a camera — meaning you can use open-source software like Droidcam to turn your old smartphone into both a webcam and a microphone. This is perhaps one of the most convenient ways to go about the issue of needing both a webcam and a microphone (especially with how prevalent online meetings are now).
This mishmash of remedies does make up a mighty competent work setup, though. You’ll be able to achieve all the things you need to accomplish with minimal hiccups. The interface is very similar to the standard Windows interface, and the behavior is quite the same. If businesses were to use this style, for their office workers who only surf the web and use office software, they would save up money for both software and hardware expenses.
Five- to eight-year-old hardware is often considered old already, but let’s face it: not everyone can afford to build a work computer. This makes “upcycling” or refurbishing older computers to become workstations very efficient. It’s not hard; it just takes time, effort, and ingenuity. So take the time to consider when you can reuse and maximize them for your productivity.