This is just piece I decided to put together whilst trying to restore and old busted and abandoned laptop. I was originally restoring it with the intention to just sell it on as I was going about looking for the bits to get it working again at minimal cost. But as I was perusing auction sites looking for parts it began to make far more sense to just keep it with there being  a whole heap of useful applications that it could potentially take up the reigns for. All of which could be done without having to dole out too much cash for various bits of other  new specialized equipment that might have each only had a single  purpose just through spending a little extra on parts to get an old machine working again or software to put on it.

Repurposing your old laptop as a second/portable second LCD monitor - At the time I was trying to figure out what I would need to build my own custom slim portable LCD panel using a decent sized LCD panel for a laptop of eBay. But as it turns out its pretty hard to come by slim compact conversion kits with all the gubbins you'd need to get one hooked up to you laptop VGA port.

However all was not lost thanks to a piece of clever software. I guess this is only useful if you've got an old laptop with a working 15 inch LCD display or larger. On some other slightly different intent as mentioned before; I was looking to restore and old laptop since it would only fetch a couple of hundred at the most. That’s roughly how much it costs to buy a more modern secondhand netbook these days. At the same time it was only recently that I was looking into getting some sort of purpose built portable second LCD display too. Sure you could try lugging a 15" LCD monitor around with you but they aren't exactly built to withstand the rigors of being ported around.

The closest commercial product I found that fit the bill was Toshiba's usb powered dedicated 14 inch LCD panel which sold for about £250 RRP. However the main advantage that the dedicated Toshiba LCD display was that it was a damn sight lighter as well as being purely USB powered with no need for any additional power source to make it work. Other then that you won't really find many other LCD monitors of a decent size built with portability in mind anywhere else.

Oh, I almost forgot the important part. How to turn your old laptop into a second monitor/portable second monitor? Well easiest way is to use a little application called Maxi-Vista which sells for about 30 euro/$39. What it does is allows you to extend the desktop workspace of your computer onto the screen of another computer. That would definitely make it ideal for repurposing your old laptop as a second portable LCD screen. It works by using a network connection whether that be wireless or a wired RJ45. From what I've seen its pretty quick but if you need more convincing you can download it for free to try out for a limited trial period.

Remote access client - this only became a lot more viable for the average punter with the release of the most recent version of Team Viewer 6 with it being free for personal use. Setup only requires you to answer two or three questions and the set up of an account like you would do with pretty much everything else that you use on the internet. After which it would pretty much work straight off the bat. If you've got a several computers on a network that you want to control or access without their own monitors you can use Team Viewer to easily access them remotely from a single point over your network. The  ease of setting up Team Viewer with as many machines as you like makes it less fiddly to actually implement and use. One screen, one keyboard, one mouse. I guess its also much tidier as well as being much cheaper then shelling out for a KVM switch too. I might also point out that the premium version of maxiVista has built in software based KVM switching features too.

Repurposing it as a netbook - ok I guess it might be a little big in my particular case to use as a netbook. But having said that I'm always forever complaining that netbook screens are too pokey and small anyway, plus I was looking to get a netbook at some point later down the line too. Sure it might not be "grade A" portable computing tackle anymore as far as performance is concerned against more modern equivalents. however it was certainly still capable of competently kicking water when put against a whole slew of more modern netbook class machines for overall performance and functionality. Plus if I were to replace the dead battery it would go for about 3 hours anyways which is roughly the length of time a brand new 1st and 2nd gen netbook would go without  mains access. No doubt I'd get a little more out of it with a copy of Windows 7 installed on it whilst set to maximum power save mode. At well over 1.6Ghz its certainly faster then most netbooks for sure.

A dedicated hardware based firewall - This one was a little over my head since I'm the kind of person who just likes to click buttons for it to just work exactly the way I want it as far as firewall configurations are concerned. Meaning the perfect firewall would have to be able to read minds and detect my level of paranoia against the traffic that I require to make the stuff I want to use just work. An absolute impossibility. However if you have an idea of what you're doing or are willing to get to grips with some of the technicalities you just might want to give this a go. There's always been the fact that hardware firewalls are meant to be far superior at keeping unwanted network traffic at bay. From an initial scan there are a fair few free to acquire and use Linux or FreeBSD distro's to choose from which will turn your old PC/laptop into a 100% dedicated hardware based firewall, ironically with the use of software. When I say dedicated I really mean dedicated since you won't t be able to do anything else other than firewall related tasks with it once installed. All the resources of the machine  that you install the distro to will be used for this specific purpose. Which will most likely go some way to satisfying  my paranoia driven firewalled traffic filtering antics after just having checked the gas stove.

Actual research of current prices suggests...

Careful you don't pay over the odds for parts whilst trying to repair an old machine or getting hold of a none functioning spares or repair  machine to make the repairs with. As it stands you can get  some pretty decent fully functioning refurbished 17" notebooks with something like 3gigs of ram and a 2.26GHz dual core processor with 160GB's of hard drive space for around $380 inclusive of delivery which is roughly £240. So it might actually work out cheaper just to buy a refurbished machine that’s been proven to be fully operational.