Freebie Adventures: A Summary of Stuff, Part 1

Freebie Adventures: A Summary of Stuff, Part 1

I’ve had so much off of Freecycle, Freegle, similar sites and things I’ve been given by family and friends over the years, so I’ve decided to write a post about some of the better things I’ve had for free. One thing I will say is if people do choose to use these sites, give back a bit as well, don’t just take! Sure, I may have had a lot of things but I have given away things that are no longer of any use to me on these sites as well, such as furniture and other bits and bobs. Most of the ones written about here were before I could drive, so dad’s taxi was put to good use to fetch some of these!

This may become a series, as I have had so much from these sites and if I wrote about everything at once you’d all be here forever!

  • Dell E171FP – One of the first things I had from Freecycle. Almost a 30 mile round trip, but this was around 2009, so still sort of worth doing for this. Was in great condition, and was initially used as a HTPC screen in my room hooked up to another Freecycle machine (more on this one in another post). When I got my workshop (aka an 8×6 re-purposed shed, which I will write about one day!), it was relegated to there. After 18 months, a leak in my workshop roof damaged this, so none of the buttons worked any more. Kept using it for a couple of months after that until one day it just stopped working. Was promptly thrown away, but I had my use out of it.
  • Two cages of stuff – This was late 2011. A friend of my mothers had an electrical business that he was winding down, and offered some leftover items to me. Off we went in father’s car (rather irritatingly, he’d just gotten rid of his estate!), not knowing how much there would be to collect. Two metal cages full of stuff greeted us, a good mix of systems, parts, cables and about 6 CRT monitors. We ended up filling the car and having to go back another day! Most of the monitors were disposed of, I believe I stuck one or two on Freecycle. Highlights included a Compaq D530, later sold for £60 to a friend’s parents to replace their much older desktop, a 3Com 24-port switch, which got workshop use until the same leak that killed the Dell’s buttons killed it, and a boat load of cables, including a box full of Ethernet cables that I still haven’t managed to use up to this day! I’ve had a phone call just the other week to say that the guy has some more stuff if I want it. Not entirely sure what age it will be but will likely go and look.
  • Dell Inspiron 1545 – This was in late 2012. It was a lot further away than I’d usually travel, being a 40 mile round trip, and the listing only said Dell Inspiron with no hard drive, but that weekend I had to travel past that address for a university open day, so we took a slight detour to collect the machine. And it was well worth it! 3GB RAM, admittedly no hard drive but the caddy was included, a 2GHz Pentium dual core, and other than a damaged bezel (which seeing as I replaced it twice before selling it, I think is a common problem!), was in decent condition. Stuck in a spare 250GB drive, and kept it for myself for a while, ended up replacing the keyboard and the wireless card, before selling to a friend in early 2014 for £100. As far as I’m aware, it isn’t in use any more, but said friend does still own it.
  • Tiny P4 desktop PC – This was in about 2011. Freecycle lot, which my father was sent to collect. It would have been well specced when new, had a 3GHz Pentium 4 (which may or may not have had HT, I forget), 1GB RAM, 2 200GB Seagate SATA drives, 2 DVD rewriters, some Coolermaster Musketeer gauges in front, and a card reader too. Was used as a workshop rig for a bit, until the board stopped recognising hard drives any more. Various parts of it were reused in the end, the last to go was its case, which housed a system I sold in late 2014. Somewhere at home, I still have the Musketeer, I need to solder one of the cables after I accidentally cut them undoing some cable ties.
  • Another large lot of things – This was in early 2011. Man that was a good year, now I look back at things! Someone nearby was giving away a large lot of things, so father was borrowed along with his estate, and we went to pick things up. It was a relatively poor lot, and had I known what was in it, I’d probably not have bothered. I managed to get some cables and peripherals out of it, and a couple of computer cases, but most of the machines included were too old and non-functional. Lots of things such as dead subwoofers and other dead components in this lot. One working machine was a HP Pavilion 7906, with a massive 800MHz Celeron.. Got sold for around £15 to £20 when I added a hard drive.

Past Stories: Adventures with a 360

A while ago, roughly around summer 2013, on a forum I frequent, I had the chance to get an AM3 motherboard alongside an AM2 board with CPU for £15. Took a punt on that, it arrived, and worked! Got 2GB of RAM for £5, used my old Athlon X2 250, put it in a good condition case I’d received a Freecycle PC in, with a 250GB hard drive I’d also got from Freecycle, an 8400GS (bought from eBay, assumed faulty as it didn’t work, got a refund, forgot about it, 7 months later checked it and it worked… I felt really bad), and a free DVD drive I had. Installed an OS, and put it up for sale. It was one of the first systems I listed on Swapz, a site I’ve never really had much success with, other than people offering me fishing equipment in exchange for a laptop or similar. Had an offer of a swap for an Xbox 360 with some accessories and games, tried to go for it, and was told he didn’t want to do the swap any more. Fair enough, not too worried. Three days later, message back, my PC blew up, can I do the swap? Yeah, sure!

Xbox arrives, and the PC goes. Modern Warfare 3 special edition Slim, 250GB. Nice! Non-original see-through controller is a bit naff, but what’s this button on the bottom do? It’s got green LEDs… To eBay! Sold that for £12. And that’s a nice wireless headset… Oh, it’s a Turtle Beach X41! Sold on eBay for £45! Games weren’t my cup of tea, sold most of them to CEX for about £8. Then bought Forza 4 and played that for a bit. Eventually, sold Forza 4 for I think £5, and then sold the Xbox around late 2013 to a friend for £80. So when you think about it, from an initial spend of £12.50, I made about £130. Nice!

Auction Antics: My First Two Auctions!

Long time no post! I’ve been busy as hell, after finishing my degree I ended up doing a masters, and now I’m juggling volunteering, a job, my degree, and allegedly looking after myself as well. Tech trading is still something I do, and currently my database tells me I’ve got 42 laptops in stock! Nothing is really ready to go at the moment and a lot of those will be sold as-is as they were acquired in a job lot which I’ve sold the good stuff out of now. I also currently have a selection of TVs, audio gear and laptops currently on eBay.

I do intend to get this going again, but for the next month or so while I’m dealing with assessment hand ins and, oh, I don’t know, finding a job and somewhere to live post-university, I’m going to try and get out weekly posts of past stories. Once everything’s all over and I have a house with some proper space to work from (I look forward to not having a stack of laptops under the bed!), I might even try the vlog thing again! I’ll try and keep Twitter (@SorryNoRefunds) updated with brief pictures of purchases I make/things that happen in the mean time between posts.

Anyway, enough rambling, let’s hear about my auction experiences!

When standing a car boot a couple of years back, someone told me of an auction on a certain road nearby (about 15-20 miles from where I live, but not ridiculously far from where this boot was being held). I never found this online, so didn’t know when it ran, and when I drove past the ‘site’, it looked like an abandoned building. Fast forward to last summer, and a man I previously bought items from on another car boot mentioned this auction again. This time I managed to find the time and dates of the auction out. So, mildly nervous as I’ve never been to an auction before, I headed there one Friday and gave it a go.

It was a bizarre experience. I mean, it was being held in what looked like an abandoned village hall, it was hardly going to be Sotheby’s. Tat in every spare gap in the room, and only about 25 or so people there to bid on said tat. The auctions were fast paced. But eventually I plucked up the courage to start bidding… and that I definitely did! Here’s what I got (sorry for the lack of pictures on most things!) – Just to clarify, each price had 30p commission added on top.

  • Two CD/radio stereo systems – one missing a speaker grille – £1
  • A box of electrical tat for £1, containing:
    • A rechargeable torch with the power of a million candles (cue Rhod Gilbert set)
    • A Camping Gaz gas heater
    • A USB keyboard
    • Two table lamps
    • A desk fan with a damaged guard.
    • Some surround sound speakers and assorted wires
    • A really dodgy looking extension cable
  • A desktop PC in a rough looking Coolermaster case – £1
  • Three MP3 players – £1
  • A Dyson DC05 vacuum cleaner – £1
  • A Hoover upright vacuum cleaner – £3

How much did I pay for the lot including commission? £9.80. Upon testing, the Dyson and 1 MP3 player were dead, and the fan was scrap, but everything else worked. The Dyson sold for £3, the Hoover, after a damn good clean and a replacement belt (£1.69), sold for £20, the torch went for £2, the heater for £1, the stereos for £2 overall. A total so far of £29, or roughly £17 profit.

The desktop PC? Well, that’s a Core 2 Duo E6600, with 2GB RAM, a 320GB hard drive, an Nvidia 7900GS, a DVD drive and a card reader. All working, and with a fresh install of 7, it sold for £30. So we’re at £47 profit with two MP3 players, a keyboard and the two desk lamps left. The MP3 players then sold for £2, so that’s a total of £49. I threw the keyboard in with a system, and binned the rest due to them going mouldy in storage.

The next week, a friend decided to get in on the action and come and join me. So, this is what I ended up with this time:

  • A basket of laptop chargers – £7
  • A Dell Latitude D610, charger and bag – £5
  • A Sony DAB stereo – £2
  • A box of CDs – £1
  • Three old car stereos – £1
  • A Logitech iPod dock – £3

Total spend, £20.80. Out of interest, my friend ended up with a trolley jack for £1. The Dell worked when RAM was added (2GHz Pentium M, came with 512MB RAM of dead RAM, upped that to 1GB, and an 80GB hard drive), but is missing two covers off the base which are 99p a pop on eBay. The charger and battery were dead, but I had a good charger and battery in stock already. Sold for £20. The DAB stereo was dead but looked smart so was sold for £2 for spares, the Logitech dock does work when tested with a spare power supply (nicked from the basket of chargers) but needs a proper power supply at £10 – it’s a Pure-Fi Anywhere and has quite a decent sound, so I’m tempted to keep this for myself. The CDs are an alright mix of music, and I made about £2.50 on the car boot with various CDs and then another £1.50 at CEX with the leftover ones. I may have kept the ‘Best of Sash!’ CD.

The chargers are a varied assortment, some Vaio and Toshiba (the 15v ones like the older ones take) power supplies in there, although the Vaio one I tested didn’t seem to work at first. The basket has come in useful as storage though, and had a £5 price tag on it from Matalan! The car stereos are an interesting punt – they’re all from old 80s vehicles. I know enthusiasts do like to put the original equipment back in where possible, so these could sell for money. I’ve got a Ford ESRT 21 PS that sadly doesn’t support FM, but would have been equipped in Mk2 Fiestas from the research I’ve done, a generic Philips unit with an Austin Rover part number on the base (this allegedly came from a late 80s Rover 216, a vehicle most would recognise as being from the sitcom Keeping Up Appearances), and a Jaguar branded Clarion unit that was allegedly fitted to the XJS and XJ12 models. These were put on eBay as a job lot and fetched £13.

Fast forward a bit further to a couple of winters ago, and I found an auction in my uni town, and decided to give it a go. There was nothing the first time (and I totally didn’t receive a ticket for going over a level crossing slightly later than I should have on the way there), but the second time I went a couple of weeks afterwards, and I didn’t do too badly. I bought:

  • LG 19″ TV, for £5.50
    • This is an LG M197WD, a monitor/TV combo job with a TV tuner, 2 SCART, component/composite, 2 HDMI, DVI and VGA inputs. Works fine, but has a non-genuine remote. This sold for £25 without me having to source a proper remote.
  • Box of assorted for £5.50, containing:
    • A lot of charity shop/bin worthy junk.
    • A set of Logitech Z-323 speakers – didn’t work. Got binned.

Later purchases from this auction include a set of Logitech Z-506 speakers that didn’t work, but I was able to claim under the warranty with these and got a brand new set, which I’ve kept (total cost to me, £12).

So, auctions. Would I do it again? Yeah, sure. The one thing to remember is buyer beware. Had I looked at items more thoroughly I would’ve spotted the lack of power adapter on the Logitech, the missing screws on the back of the DAB stereo and possibly other things.

Since I originally wrote this, I’ve been back to both auctions and even sold something (a 50″ ancient plasma TV that didn’t work for about £10) at the latter one. The first auction has turned into pure crap really, they do have some more modern stuff like TVs but they want good money for somewhat untested goods, and things like laptops get bid up to hell (£20 for what I think was a HP G62 that looked like it had lost a fight with a pickaxe? No thanks!), and due to it being back at home, I don’t go. The latter one? I’ve been once or twice but they lack technology really. I did get an EEE PC with a destroyed DC jack for about £5 once, which for the screen and hard drive was worth it, but other than that there isn’t really a lot.

Past Stories: Adventures in OS X

This takes place in late 2012. I was browsing my usual sites, and a PowerMac G4 on Gumtree caught my eye, at £20. At that I thought it was worth a go to try out OS X, so a friend of mine who lived up the road collected it (at the time he was the only one of us that had passed his test!) and I got it home.. Not too bad a system, 1GHz single processor MDD model, worked alright. I bumped the RAM up to 1.5GB, and stuck another DVD-RW drive in, and began to use it as a workshop PC. A few weeks later, eBay threw up another one of these, with dual 866MHz processors. Won that for £1.64, went to collect (aided by dearest mother this time), got it home, oh fantastic, 3 500GB IDE drives inside it! One went in the 1GHz, one stayed in the 866MHz and one went on eBay, fetching £23. Set up the 866MHz with a spare keyboard and mouse from a lot of free stuff I had, and a 19″ Viewsonic monitor with DVI that I got with another PC for £20 (there will be a story about this soon!), and sold them for £70. Nice profit! I continued to use the 1GHz, and got an Apple keyboard for £1.

Eventually the 1GHz started to die, apparently one of the caches had packed up and it was struggling to recognise RAM a lot of the time, and I got fed up with it late 2014 and sold it to a friend for £5. The 500GB drive was still in it, but I was busy with assignments and didn’t have the time to take it out and sell it, and I only really dealt with systems with SATA from then on anyway. I got my use out of it, so I’m not too bothered. Overall, counting the money I made off the two systems, the total spend was £21.64 purchase + £1 for the keyboard (the monitor money was made back on the tower I got with it), making £70 + £5 + 20 (that’s the 23 minus eBay fees), so £95 – roughly £23 = roughly £72 profit.

Then, a few months after I sold it, I stood a car boot with the friend who I sold this to, and he managed to get £10 for it there! Since then aside from a couple of Apple USB keyboards and my work MacBook Pro, I’ve not really dabbled in Apple hardware much.

Past Stories: Tales from a Car Dealer

This story comes from a few summers ago, just before I went to university. I know the guy who used to run a local dealership in my hometown, and he was having some computer trouble, so I was recommended to him to have a look. While I was sat waiting for the various anti-virus tools I was running to work their magic, he mentioned an old system he had lying around that he didn’t want. I went upstairs to take a look, and offered him £20.

Upon getting home I had a closer look. The tower was a fairly standard socket 939 Acer Aspire, but had been upgraded with an ATI X1950, which was promptly taken out and I may even still have somewhere. It also had been upgraded with 2 1GB sticks of Geil DDR RAM, which were promptly placed on eBay and replaced with some generic 512MB sticks. Replaced the missing drive blank on the front of the case with one I had spare, reinstalled XP, sold for I believe £30 (although this was a while ago so I have sort of forgotten!). The monitor was a 19″ Viewsonic with VGA and DVI, and there was also a keyboard and mouse. These were paired with a dual 867MHz PowerMac G4 that is in a story that’s still in my drafts I will write about soon.

A few months later, and after I’d replaced a failed hard drive in his garage’s main PC, I was offered a laptop he had lying around for free. Looked a bit tatty but was a decentish Sony Vaio. Upon further inspection, I discovered it was a Vaio VGN-AR61S, so 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, 2 200GB hard drives in RAID, and a Blu-Ray drive… and Nvidia graphics. I’ve always been a bit nervous of Nvidia graphics in laptops ever since my old Acer 9300 died due to them. Took out one of the HDDs to take it down to 200GB (I was out of HDDs at the time!) and it was taken to a car boot and sold for £60 without spending any more on it (I charged and tested it with a universal charger).

As for the dealer? He disappeared. The garage still exists and operates, and have been known to fix my French heap of crap on a semi-regular basis.

Tales from the Car Boot: Vaio, Vaio, Daylight come and we don’t wanna go home

This is an old post I wrote in March and never properly finished, so here it is now for your viewing pleasure.

Well, guess from the title what I bought that week? Yep, that’s right, a Toshiba and an Acer. Oh, a Sony too.

Toshiba L300-22X

Pretty standard fare, this. Celeron dual core, 2GB RAM, 160GB hard drive (which was dead, so was replaced with a new one at £10), but mint plastics, the webcam model, and a good battery mean I should make decent money on this. Came with a cracked LCD, so I swapped in a spare 15.4″ (I have loads of these from scrapped machines so it’s no biggie).
Price Paid: £10
Price Sold: £50
Profit: around £25 if you count the cost of the charger and not the screen

Acer Aspire 2920

Pretty awful buy. Has various bits of damage I can’t be bothered or can’t fix, such as a buggered battery (it claims the capacity when full is 14 times that of what it can actually hold), smashed headphone jack, some damage to the palmrest and hinge covers, and 3 missing keys (which are expensive to replace – I have to order them in from Poland!), but does run OK, has a Core 2 Duo T5450, 2GB RAM and a 120GB hard drive with intact recovery partition for Vista. Restoring to factory and listing as soon as I decide what to do with the key situation.

UPDATE: As of now, this is still sat in my storage pile. The odds of anything other than maybe the keys being sorted are low at best. Its charger has been sold with something else.
Price Paid: £7 (inc charger)

Tesco Hudl 1 (purple)

This was a chance. Powered on to a flat battery sign, but wouldn’t charge. These are known for USB port failure, so I changed the USB board. No joy. Changed the cable between the motherboard and USB board, and it worked fine. Cost me £4 for the board and £5 for the cable. Came with a tatty folding case. Runs Jelly Bean, not too bad as a tablet actually, quicker than I expected it to be.
Price Paid: £5
Price Sold: £25
Profit: £11

And now, the highlight…

Sony Vaio F11S1E (PCG-81112M)

A pretty powerful machine! This had an i7-720QM quad core processor, 6GB of RAM, an Nvidia GT330 GPU, a 500GB drive, a Bluray drive and a full HD screen! Bought for spares with a broken DC jack, but I couldn’t help but test it – turns out most Vaios of this era take the same battery, namely the PCG-21313M I had in (Now scrapped!), so I charged the battery in that, and put it in, and what do you know, it worked perfectly! Restored it back to factory and updated it while waiting for the DC jack to arrive (thankfully not soldered! £5 part, but a pain in the arse to fit), and sold it a week later! I think this is my best profit yet on a single item, the closest I’ve ever got was £100ish on a Toshiba C660 back when they were a bit newer.
Price Paid: £30 (!)
Price Sold: £200 (!!)
Profit: around £160 (assuming £5 for the charger I had in stock) (!!!)


Tales from the Car Boot: Christmas Booting

This takes place a couple of Christmases ago, when I went back home. One of the boots I attend when I’m back at home is an indoor boot that only runs in the colder months of the year.

The boot itself is primarily traders, although there are a few stands run by your average Joe. Stalls are spread across two (sometimes, when it’s warmer and busier, three) floors of what I can only assume is a dilapidated warehouse of some form. It isn’t uncommon to dodge buckets in the middle of the aisle, strategically placed to catch drips from the leaky roof. It’s a strange atmosphere but there are some bargains to be had here, so when I can (and usually when my outdoor boots are called off due to weather) I take a trip down.

One such Sunday morning after Christmas, I braved the treacherous conditions and drove down to this boot. All you need to know about the journey there is that I’d never driven in snow and ice before, and thank god my car has ABS or I’d have probably been hit by a bus en route. I encountered a stand full of phones, games consoles and laptop bits, the usual hallmarks of a trader.

Piled on a table were two stacks of about 5 laptops each. Naturally I had a rummage through, and three machines caught my eye: An MSI netbook with a detached hinge and hideous stickers on the lid, a Sony Vaio which had one of the most destroyed keyboards I’ve seen and I later learned, a cracked LCD, and a smart little Lenovo ThinkPad X60. I have a soft spot for these little ThinkPads, I once acquired an X31 missing its top half, so I duly bought one, and my mother used it for about 2 years or so before I sold it on. With some bartering, I got the Vaio for £10 and the MSI for £5. I left the ThinkPad for that week, as it was priced at £25 and was untested. My intention was to fix up the Vaio and steal the hard drive and RAM from the MSI for another machine I had in stock.

Back in the safety of home and armed with screwdrivers and coffee, I set to work seeing what could be done. The Vaio, despite being marked as untested, appeared to work other than its original faults, and it eventually booted into its XP installation with an external monitor hooked up. Not the quickest machine in the world, but a 1.66GHz Pentium dual core with 1GB RAM and a 100GB hard drive would still have netted me a good £50-70. Bonus points for the DVD-rewriter, webcam and battery that held a charge would have ensured the higher end of that estimate.

However, eBay revealed that the cost of a keyboard would be about £30-40, and the screen a similar amount. The MSI was a similar crapshoot, due to soldered RAM, but this gave up its 160GB hard drive for the other machine (an Acer Aspire 5920, see next paragraph!) and was then given to one of my contacts in my uni town alongside another machine, funnily enough, the same Acer!

While I remember, I’ll write about the 5920. This was bought from a uni town car boot for £10 missing its RAM and hard drive. 2GB was put in, alongside the 160GB drive, and was sold for £50 to a contact of mine. It then died, but this wasn’t picked up on until a long while after. As I’m not a total bastard, I refunded him £40 and let him keep the rest for spares.

I went back the next week, after New Year’s, to see if I could get a machine with a donor screen for the Vaio, and to see what I could do about the price on the ThinkPad. Previously I had seen some 15.4″ HPs in the pile that could have donated screens, but before I could look for those I spotted a couple of new additions in the pile, so went straight for them. One was a Packard Bell, 15.4″, with a severely gouged lid and in need of a damn good clean, marked as untested. I took a punt on that, and negotiated down to £10 from £20 after giving the seller an endorsement while she was attempting to sell an Xbox to an unsure buyer. I then managed to get the ThinkPad down to £15.

Back home, and problem one: My universal charger doesn’t fit the ThinkPad, I can’t test it. Shit. This is the first laptop in the 4 years I’ve owned the charger that I couldn’t use it on. As a sidenote, that universal charger was the best £10 I ever spent. Yes, £10, bought it from Ebuyer, Xenta own brand one, never let me down until that moment! But wait, it fits the Packard Bell… for kicks, let’s turn it on shall we? Oh. It works perfectly and after a wipe down, aside from the lid is in pretty good condition. Sure, it’s a Vista laptop running 1GB of RAM, why manufacturers thought this would be acceptable I will never know, and it’s only an 80GB hard drive, but the condition and the hour-long battery life made it a good candidate to sell on.

Back at university, and oh look, in my spares box is a charger for the Packard Bell. Paid around £5 for the charger in a lot of them on a boot a few months prior. My usual contact, new custodian of the MSI and the previously mentioned Acer, agreed to swap the Vaio for a charger that would fit the ThinkPad, so this deal was done, and the ThinkPad turned out to be fully working as well! The slow 40GB drive with XP Pro was removed and replaced with a spare 60GB I had from a stripped machine, the RAM was upped from 1 to 2GB thanks to some cheap sticks of DDR2 at our local CEX store, and Windows was loaded on. The machine later sold for £60 to a grateful lady who collected.

The Packard Bell sold a few weeks later for £30 to a lowballing Gumtreer. I had it listed at £50, but given the condition of the lid and the low specs, £50 was a bit of a long shot anyway.

Total Profits made:
Vaio –  £10 = Breakeven (swapped for charger worth roughly £10)
ThinkPad – £15 + £4 for the RAM, £10 item swapped for charger, sold for £60 = £29 spend, £31 profit
MSI – £5 = £5 loss, given away after HDD removed.
Packard Bell – £10 + £5 for the charger, sold for £30 = £15 spend, £15 profit
Total spend across all four machines was £59, total made was £90, so an overall profit of £31. Not too shabby for four laptops another trader had pretty much discarded!

And as for the Acer, £10 purchase price, £5 for the HDD (effectively the price of the MSI), £5 for a hard drive caddy, £10 for a charger, sold for £50 = £30 spend, £20 profit. Let’s ignore the fact that it died shortly after selling and I ended up refunding £40!