Feeds

back to article Five amazing computers for under £100

Many men are facing a dilemma in the coming days. Thanks to the Royals, a great, great, yawning maw of consecutive weekly Bank Holidays looms large. With enforced downtime, this means a stark choice: either face the family, or retreat to the Garden Shed. To help you make this choice, here are some suggestions. My desk at Vulture …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Silver badge

Pismo...

Love 'em.

I've still got one lovingly wrapped in my laptop cupboard to run legacy (OS9) software - and it still works perfectly.

I had a terrible sinking feeling when it's PSU got condemned by PAT testing, but the barbie doll iBooks had a compatible unit (although not aesthetically), so it's had another reprieve.

Even though I'm a pc wrangler by choice, this is still a thing of beauty.

And now I know it can run Panther, I'll dig out a spare disk drive....

4
0
Happy

Tiger as well

Tiger doesn't have THAT much of an issue running on these, had one running it recently. RAM is key though.

2
0
Pint

RAM is key

And Memory IS RAM !!!

3
0
Linux

And the Wallstreet model

LinuxPPC works fantastically with both the Wallstreet and Lombard. The pismo may have had firewire and 802.11b but nothing like running a 10Mbit SAN from an old SCSI disk array.

0
0
Pint

Pismo discovery...

Has the author been reading my mind? I've just build a "garden office" (OK, shed!) just in time for the long weekends and moved a few boxes of toys in there - one of them being a pristine Pismo that I haven't touched in several years.

Maybe I'll have to dust it off, fire it up and while away a few hours - beats watching what'll be on TV on Friday!

0
0
Silver badge
Joke

10Mbit SAN!?

Who networks 1.25MBytes of storage?

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Backups obviously

For "remote" storage onto a floppy.

0
0
Thumb Up

Love it!

The Psion was a marvel.

I would also recommend that people check out the Cambridge Z88. More Geek factor than you shake a stick at, and actually still usable today. It was years ahead of its time.

11
0
Silver badge

Huge fan of the Z88

I probably wrote a couple of million words in my time on that machine. You're quite right, it really was way ahead of its time in being truly portable, incredibly frugal with power and (unusually for a Sinclair) extremely robust.

I wonder where mine is? I think I'd better go hunting through the cupboards tonight.

1
0
Thumb Up

Completely agree

I have a few Psions...

Organiser (One... 1984... Nice!)

Org II (CM, LZ64, assortedd POS models)

MC400 (Nice laptop)

HC110

S3, S3a, S3c(no mx, yet...), Siena, WorkAbout mx

S5, Revo, netBook

The Geofox One and the Oregon Scientific Osaris.

(They run EPOC, they count!)

And nothing can beat the S3a/c/mx machines.

(I also have 'a few' HP and other contemporary and later PDAs9

The Z88 is fun...

But I seem to be stuck at a board in Lemmings. *Sigh*

The 'multitasking' on it is quite similar to PalmPilots(programs in background are 'frozen') except that it can't automatically close them to recover RAM.

I think I have 3 of these, two of which still have the fancy cardboard box they came in.

The memory modules aren't as impressive as the Psion Org II DataPaks, though.

And I still need to find the correct chips to do the 512KB RAM conversion on one.

0
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Worked with the Workabout and HC

The HC was great because it had exchangeable end-caps top and bottom to allow for customisability.

We developed a touch-memory interface end-cap for the HC and it worked really well. Shame there was no real market for it though, or touch-memory generally :(

Great kit and the Workabout was reasonably rugged.

0
0

Touch memory?

You mean, Dallas Semiconductor's iButtons?

If you happen to have any of those readers laying about...

0
0
Thumb Up

Z88

Completely agree. I had a second hand Cambridge Computer Z88 at school -- the geek joy of being able to take a laptop to all my lessons, and not have to worry about finding a power socket.

The only snag was the lack of Flash RAM. I had a 128K module that needed constant power, and a 32K EPROM that I could backup my important stuff to (not much important stuff, obviously). You could buy a special EPROM eraser from Sirclive, but was too rich for my (pocket money) blood. So, I instead left it under a UV lamp in our design centre for about 45 mins. Seemed to do the trick every time.

There really were some great innovations on it too. The Pipedream application combined word processing, spreadsheets and a simple database into one app (and synced well with the full fat Pipedream app on the Archimedes). The handy 'screen map' (where one pixel represented one character) in the margin of Pipedream somehow meant that the 8 or so line display wasn't as much of a pain in the arse as it sounds. It also came with terminal emulation software and a pretty fully featured version of BBC BASIC.

I still have mine somewhere. I wonder if it still works...

0
0
Silver badge
Unhappy

Yes Dallas Semi's Touch memory.

A great idea just waiting for a great application I thought.

Sorry, there was only one or two prototypes and they're long gone I think,

0
0

NAS bashing

"NAS units aimed at the civilian are noisy, expensive and too complex for the plug-and-pray consumer, but not flexible enough for the tech-savvy".

What rubbish. You can get a very decent Synology NAS for around £150 (admittedly sans disk, but the plug ain't got one either), and it's the best of both worlds. Exceptionally easy and swish AJAX interface if you just want to plug and play, yet I've customised mine in myriad ways through the SSH command line to do a crazy amount of useful stuff (which I won't bore you with here).

Mine's got a fan in it, but I can barely hear it (and believe me I'm sensitive to these things). Thought about getting a SheevaPlug but realised it only seemed to have disadvantages in terms of versatility and power when compared to a Synology NAS (or indeed QNAP, for a bit more cash). That, my friend, is why the community is underground.

12
10

Huh?

Whaddisay for the downvotes? Gimme a reason.

2
6
Bronze badge
Boffin

hmm

They work for a competitor of Synology?

0
0

NAS: WD My Book WE

I quite like the WD MyBook World Edition units - the 1TB models go for about 80 quid. Earlier models needed a hack to get ssh access but WD has now put this in their web interface. Then you can install Optware, which makes the installation of many interesting apps very easy : P2P clients, VPN, web servers, etc.

I guess there are many other cheap NAS devices or DSL routers that can be hacked in a similar fashion - I'm just used to the My Book.

1
0

Agreed

Agreed entirely: I just bought a D-Link DNS-323, which was CAN$150 without disks. It's very flexible and open (D-Link honor their GPL commitments and provide frequent updates and add-on apps, there's alternative firmwares and you can even just throw Debian on the thing), is decently made, not noisy, and nice and small - much tidier than a plug with two USB hard disks attached would be.

0
0
Thumb Down

D-Link very surprised...

I' m very surprised about your comments that D-Link provide frequent updates. I used to own D-Link Vonage router, the only thing that was good about it was that it worked as a vonage box and wireless router all in one. Had it for three years waiting for D-Link to provide an update to it's firmware to stop the frequent crashing, resetting, forgetting all settings when power is switched off (including most importantly wi-fi security settings). Kept asking D-Link and Vonage if they were ever going to provide a firmware update to fix the problems, Vonage said it was D-Link's responsibility D-Link were never forthcoming with the update. Also looking on the net for reviews of that router it seems I wasn't the only one that was stuck with this useless bugged device that D-Link wouldn't do anything about. Since then got myself a new Linksys router and added a seperate Vonage box instead, and certainly wouldn't touch anything made by D-Link ever again.

0
0
Silver badge

NAS Speed

Lower end domestic NAS units are punishingly slow due to their feeble CPUs. "Gigabit!" shouts the packaging, hinting at the possibility of 70 or 80 Mb/s transfers. You get it home and the CPU is maxed out at 15 Mb/s, only slightly more than it could have managed with Fast Ethernet. What a crock.

Sheevaplug makes an excellent always-on server - plenty powerful, well supported and using only 3 or 4 Watts. Not the best NAS head though, for the above reasons.

Likewise, NAS units do not make good always-on servers - spinning disks, juddering read heads - no thanks, I like to leave the datacentre at work.

1
1
Silver badge
Go

there are other cheap NAS boxes too

I have some random noname box that looks like an external USB drive (you can use it as an external USB drive if you want to ) but it also has an ethernet port too. No issues with it at all, easy to set up. Shares fine in windows 7 and linux.

I stripped it out of its housing a long time ago to live in the TV cabinet so no idea on its real name. cost me about £20 from some honk kong ebay.

0
0

@NAS Speed

I can actually get a solid 25MB/sec (~200Mb/sec) out of mine (single disk, non-raid), and the CPU isn't maxed out while I'm doing it either- suggesting that's not the bottleneck. Most likely it's the disk itself (or the arrangement of the data on it). Anyway, that's plenty for what I use it for- even streaming HD films. In fact, that speed will give you the full 50GB of a blu-ray disc in just over 34 minutes. Not that I ever play files that big- I'll sometimes play a 8GB 1½-hour film, but even that only technically needs 1.5MB/sec, leaving ample overhead for multitasking.

And what do you mean by "NAS units do not make good always-on servers" because of the "spinning disks, juddering read heads"? Depends what you want the server for- if you only have a tiny amount of data to serve then you can get away without disks. However, if you're playing with tens or hundreds of GB, you're going to have to accept that a hard drive is the best solution at the moment. Anyway, mine's on a shelf high up in the larder, where the (very slight) clicking of the read heads won't disturb anyone.

My point is the Sheevaplug is a good device, but without disks attached it's quite limited as a server. If you've got tasks that only need the few GB you can fit on an SD card then it's great. But if you need more space, then you might as well get a decent NAS instead.

0
0
Silver badge

NAS Speed

If fast file sharing is all you want, then agreed, a NAS is the unit for you. If, on the other hand, you want a full server with OS functionality, maybe to run several websites, Wordpress, Drupal, a home auitomation framework, some webcams, and so on, go with the Sheevaplug. You could do some of those (badly) by hackng around your NAS, but with the Sheevaplug the work is already done. The best tool for the job.

I have a both. The Linkstation NAS maxes the CPU at 15 Mb/s, the Sheeva at about 8.

0
0
Bronze badge

Synology NAS

I've been using a Synology NAS for 6 months, but I've had to move the difficult stuff off of it.

Synology NAS is OK for simple file sharing and other bog-standard media sharing operations, but not for any sophisticated file-locking or mixed-permission stuff.

So probably good at home, or in a very large corporate where you could dedicate it to just one task, for one class of user, with a single type of client connection, but a total failure if I have re-write each client application for each client network stack to work around the file and record-locking failures, and put up with user complaints about lockouts, the flat permission model, missing permission granularity, and poor system integration.

0
0
Silver badge
Dead Vulture

iphone--;

I can somewhat agree with the list, but do remove the iphone, it is not an open platform to write apps for. Cheers for mentioning the psion and the sheevaplug...

6
6
Pint

Please re-read the title.

It does not say "Five amazing open-platform computers for under £100"

And, technically, the iPhone IS (essentially) a computer once hacked, which was stated in the article.

Have a pint!

5
1
Anonymous Coward

It even runs Android should you wish to!

You can't get more choice than that...

See http://www.idroidproject.org/

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Please re-read the title.

It does however say:

"What's the best computing kit you can get for under £100 – preferably with some unique feature that modern computers can't replicate?"

I don't think an iphone 1 has anything unique about it! Even when it came out the only thing unique was the user interface, which of course is now found on ummm the current iphone and the ipad. Oh, and some Samsung devices (allegedly)

The function/device I mourn is the old Archos Gmini 120. Big, bulky, *but* it had line in record with manual level setting (no nasty AGC) and can record to MP3 or wav. I mourned it so much that I had to set up a watch on ebay for 6 months to be able to buy one for my DJ brother (who likes to record his sets) so I could get mine back!

I did try emailing Archos several times enquiring if any of their current models had this feature, or any future plans, and they never replied. One reason why Archos are firmly off my future techie toy list. If they won't even reply to a potential customer what hope would you have of getting support once they have got your money?!

1
0
Bronze badge

iPhone 1 was unique

What do you mean the only thing unique about the iPhone 1 was it's interface???

It was very unique - when it launched, it was the only top-shelf phone that didn't do MMS, didn't have copy-and-paste in any form, and had nothing really going for it. Pretty unique asking price in my opinion.

Heck, even the current iPhone doesn't do Bluetooth beyond basic audio, and is one of a very very small number of 3G phones that doesn't do standard video calls. That's pretty unique!

6
1
Gold badge

Bluetooth

That's because nobody really gives a shit about bluetooth features. If they did then people would rave about their Nokia phone but given how fast Nokia sunk it's obvious that the mobile Internet and a decent user interface is more important.

Anyway most phones have all this wonderful bluetooth technology yet you still see white van man hand holding his mobile phone while driving along.

4
5
Silver badge

Re: iPhone 1 was unique

You missed a few:

- Couldn't do group messaging

- No 3G support

- No flash on the low res camera

1
2
Unhappy

I tend to agree

I'm staggered that the iPhone is in there. It was behind the times even when it came out!

"It's an iPhone" - so what?

"It's hackable" - you mean you have to hack to get it to do anything vaguely useful.

Mac fans, such as our author, are just like religious nuts - they simply cannot see common sense.

1
2

Psion Series 3

I had one of these the first time I went to America, and everybody I showed it to was totally blown away by it. The only downside is I left it on top of a credit card once, and the speaker squished the mag-stripe. Was a terrific piece of kit, probably would still be using it if somebody hadn't knicked it :(

5
0
Bronze badge
Happy

Loved my Psion3!

I loved the fact that I had a natty little screen and fully featured programming language in my pocket, with a usable keyboard, if only they'd been able to network it to the basic mobile phone network and allow data transfer, it would have been unbeatable.

Kids today with their iPhones and Android wotnots, bah! Don't know you born! / Get of my lawn! / Whipper-Snappers / etc!

7
0
Silver badge

re. Psion Love

The Psion 5MX can be had for less than £100 on e-bay. I remember linking via the IR port to my Nokia 6310i and then connecting to the internet (slowly) to read and send e-mails using webmail and the built in browser.

As I recall, this had to be done by calling a special number, provided by Psion support for their internet gateway. I have no idea if this is still supported.

(Needs an icon for vague memories bubbling up from the past.)

3
0

I Still Use my Psion 3a!

I still use my Psion Series 3a on just about a daily basis.

"Data" & "Agenda" are the most used functions.

Psion really should have become the sum of Nokia & Apple but being a British tech company, never stood a chance I guess...

Good article!

5
1
jai
Silver badge

miss my psion s3 :(

used my psion series 3 everyday when i had it - awesome machine and as the article says, the only machine to ever adequately replace the filofax.

replaced it eventually with a series 5

so strange that its only now with smartphones that we're getting back to being close to the functionality that these little machines provided us with back in the 90s

5
0

Psion.net

I had a psion.net dialup account. It was just a rebadged Lineone dial-up account. Ultimately the psion.net domain stopped working, but the address still worked with lineone.net appended. I still use it as one of my main email accounts even though it's now been bumped along via acquisitions and mergers through Tiscali to ultimately reside with Talk Talk.

0
0

But you CAN connect it to phones...

You just needed a 'pod' which accepted a PCMCIA-size 'serial' card the worked with your cell-phone.

I used one of these pods with my S5 and Nokia 2110 for years. And later I also got a S3/S3a compatible pod. (Different plugs for the 'serial' port. By then my Nokia was dead, though.)

The terminal program on the S3 series is quite good, with lots of scripting possibilities.

(I used it to program routers, and thanks to a few scripts it automated 99% of the job for me. Handling SMS mesaging should be easy.)

If you wanted to surf the net with a S3a/S3c/S3mx,though, you needed a SW package. And reportedly, that didn't even support Frames.(Frames is an abomination anyway)

1
0
Thumb Up

Re: Psion Series 3

I can remember the first time I saw one of these. Some years ago I was doing some work at Intergraph in Swindon, time dragged on and food was needed. The chap I was working with pulled out his Psion, pressed a couple of buttons, held it next to the phone and suddenly we were ordering pizza.

Nothing at all now of course, but at the time it had me picking my chin up of the desk.

1
0

Psion 3a totally rocked

I had one of them for years, until the hinge finally cracked too badly. Gorgeous screen, I could run a 24x80 terminal emulator on it, organizer and notes than synced with Outlook. I replaced it with a Palm III, which did a much better job of being pocket sized but wasn't very good for taking notes with (even though I was good at Graffiti, it was still slower than typing on the 3a.) My current Android phone is much shinier, and almost as useful as the 3a, but not quite.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Gah.

Thinkpad X60s command at least double the price over here. Maybe I should try importing.

Lenovo, please bring back the 4:3 windows key-free X and T types. And bring the no-touchpad option to yurp, damn you. I'm not even asking for a hardware serial in the laptop though it'd be more useful there than in the ultrabase. Finding the right mix of things and bobs on a laptop to get useful work done. How hard can it be?

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Gah.

Don't forget the R series... I'm sitting here using my R52 with a 4:3 1400x1050 screen... Tis lovely. I really can't upgrade it to anything as I don't want a laptop the size of the surfboard!

1
0
FAIL

Fast, open, NeXT handheld computer

I have heard many ridiculous claims of what an iPhone is but seriously. It may be some kind of computer (as are other cell phones), but it's certainly not fast, it's not open, and it definitely is not a 'NeXT handheld computer' as it doesn't run NeXTStep/OpenStep (and no, Mac OS X is *not* NeXTStep/OpenStep) or has any relation to NeXT Computers.

Also, in this day and age, £100 for a second hand cell phone without 3G is not a bargain, it's a rip-off. The Orange San Francisco (which until recently did cost £99 new) would have probably been a much better choise as it's faster and much more open than any iPhone ever was.

10
8
Bronze badge
Boffin

@Davidoff

And guess what? The iPhone doesn't run Mac OS X - it runs iOS instead.

2
3

LoLz

Haters.

4
3

San Francisco

Agree the Orange San Francisco is a good choice for this £100 challenge.

1
4
Silver badge

@Davidoff re: "not a 'NeXT handheld computer'"

It has an updated version of the language runtime (per the move towards formal protocols and the addition of closures), all the old Foundation classes (with additions), much the same conventions and patterns (target/action, delegation), and the kernel is a much updated version of that which was part of NextStep. Only the user interface library is all new, per the new user interface paradigm — multiple touches and direct manipulation are in; at the C level DisplayPostscript is out due to licensing costs and a PDF-derived alternative (so, same primitives but no language) is in.

I'd say it is quite closely related to NextStep.

4
0
Bronze badge

Re: Haters comment

Why do people assume that just because someone speaks badly about an iProduct that they must be a "hater"? Why, also, is it acceptable for people to harp on about how magical the iPhone is with no reasoning, yet these people are not labelled "lovers"?

I think the iPhone is one of the most pathetic communications products available. I don't hate Apple, but I also don't keep quiet about how bad a product they have made. Particularly to people who think it's the best thing since sliced bread.

5
5

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.