Like any home or business there is a closet for used or discarded stuff. There in the corner, under the mask of dust bunny fur are old PC's, monitors, printers, etc. I can't vouch for most electronic junk but PC's that can still run a descent operating system, hard drive and CD player can still be useful. If perchance you could run Linux on it you might even redeem it from the scrap heap. And what would make an older PC attractive to purchase from a reseller? Here is the vision!!
1. PC's do not have to be hooked up to the internet to be useful.
2. PC's do not need to be in a network to be useful.
3. There is no law that says one PC per person or family, or that it must sit at a desk with keyboard in front of it.
4. There is no law that says a computer must be used a certain way.
5. There is no law that says that a computer must be able to do everything.
Internet and networks are a fine convenience, but you could do many things without it. Lets say you wanted an entertainment system besides your big screen cable fed TV. A stand alone PC could play audio and video that your TV can't supply. All you'd really need is to download stuff from the net via your regular PC or laptop to a flash drive, or burn a CD/DVD, pop it into your dedicated PC entertainment system. You could buy one of those really small, cheap, can't play games on it PC's for this. On my main computer I have movies and YouTube clips, podcasts, iTunes, lots of photos and of course my artwork. I could put them all on a USB drive or jump drive and plug into my entertainment PC.
Ever ask yourself why those digital picture frames are so small? Want something bigger? For a few bucks more get a cheap 15 inch flat screen. Hook it up to your cheap PC and run a slide show of your photos. Oh and you can buy wall mounts and pole mounts for your flat screen. The artistic and decorating potential here is great. How about laying that flat screen under that glass top table or hanging 3 flat screens, one beneath the other on a wall. My flat screen has built in speakers, not good for rattling windows, but normal listening........ah!
Linux has many applications that are very useful for these projects. Elisa Media Center is one. It will play any media file stored on your PC, the desktop interface is simple and very attractive. Then most of the image viewers and photo management apps have slide show functions. There are a great selection of audio media players, some with music driven eye candy. I use VLC to play even commercial movie DVD's.
The thing is that we get into patterned thinking that computers are meant to do this and that. We think one computer is enough and it must do everything, only it can't do everything all at once. A few cheap computers doing dedicated tasks is less bother and more fun. Sometimes I will be working on my main machine and have my older other PC just running a slide show, playing some music or a podcast. Pretty cool, huh! I am looking for ways to use computers about the house without the theater experience or without gameplay takeover of my livingroom. I am surprised few ever talk about a "simple" touch screen display in the kitchen. Those all-in-one tablet PC's are too expensive, how much power do you need for a kitchen PC anyway? With my 15 inch glorified picture frame with touch screen control, I would insert my jump drive of downloaded recipes or morning digital newspaper and have my coffee. We always want technology to do too much. That is why we don't get it. I hope I have sparked your imagination to try stuff and use Linux. Let the other guys work on the next big thing, we in Linuxville bask in the sound, a sea of small imagination bangs. A bang in every head!