Technological Wanderlust

I love technology. I think by this point if anyone has read anything other than a surface-level skim here they already know that. I love trying new things in tech, trying to repurpose a piece of kit to get new life out of it. Before I was in college I’d go to the nearest scrapyard and buy a few broken PC towers, work out what was wrong with them, fix them and sell them on, minus the donor for whatever parts there were.

I’ve undetaken many such projects. “RasPrint” was making a CUPS server with an RPi Zero for a decade-old printer to add features. It meant spending £20 to get Google Print compatability without throwing away a perfectly good printer. “PiFi” used another RPi machine as a web-enabled, phone controllable Hi-Fi before Google Home or Amazon Echo existed. Then there were others like “FrankenNAS”, turning my EeePC into a NAS when it wasn’t useful as a laptop, before eventually gutting the whole thing and putting it on a shoebox to aid with cooling after removing the fan.

Each of these things were opportunities at the time. They were also relatively inexpensive and were chances to learn (mostly about linux) while making something cool or useful, or both if I was lucky. As I have become more ambitious with my projects, so have the costs involved. This one is a doozy; it would be a labour of love moreso than a simple project, not to mention probably taking most of the year to afford and build.

RasPrint - aka how to add wireless, online functionality to an at least decade-old printer.

I want to build a hackintosh. I could make myself a machine that is more capable than the new Mac Mini at £800, for just more than half the price. I haven’t used a Mac regularly since I had an iMac (of ‘Crash Different‘ fame) on OS9 and early OSX. I want a ‘not-gaming’ machine, for creativity and productivity, to put it simply. While my Chromebook does count I can’t do anything on it beyond browse the Internet.

Beyond that, I want to go further than just making the hackintosh (so-called the NUCcracker by SnazzyLabs), I want to take the opportunity to customise as much of the whole experience as I can. This includes a custom, self-built mechanical keyboard. This is something I’ve thought about doing for years but never had the courage to do; actually buying a knock-off CherryMX Blue keyboard has hooked me onto actually making it happen. Couple that with a touchpad (thinking either an older Logitech, or splashing out on the Magic Trackpad 2) and I would have a machine that I can use productively without having the raw power to distract me. I would also get a new display to replace my half-decade old aging 22″ LCD, with a VESA mount to hide the NUC behind it and keep that distraction-free ideal.

The older I get the more I understand that just being mechanically sound isn’t the only thing that I should consider. Sometimes the measure of quality of experience is worth a price. While I am sounding like the beginnings of an Apple enthusiast, I am most certainly still in the tinkerer’s tent. I have no intention of surrendering my ability to customise beyond artificial boundaries. That and if I don’t like OSX there’s always Linux, which is becoming a more capable replacement environment every day.

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