Category: Past Stories

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!

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: 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!

Tales from the Car Boot: Adventures Down South

This week’s been a busy one, so here’s a post on some of my previous escapades! Sorry for the lack of pictures, and there’ll be an update on some towers I’ve bought soon!

One weekend last summer, it was decided that the family would go on a trip away to my uncle’s, which can only be described as being ‘in the south’. Being a sad, and mildly addicted to booting, I went online and had a look to see if there were any decent boots going off near his place, and come Sunday morning I was off on a short journey to a nearby boot.

I’d been warned that they may not be as good as the more Northern boots I was used to, but that didn’t put me off. First row, what do I spot in that box, why it appears to be a widescreen Dell monitor. Sorry, did you say £5? Sold! A few rows later, I spot some landline phones, decent BT ones with an answer machine. £3? Sold! Further down that row, Superdry-style record bag, £1.50? Aye, go on. Last stand before I walk back to the car, is that a wall mountable LED sign, as you’d see in a shop window, with the words Rock N Roll on it? That’ll earn me brownie points with the 50’s obsessed parents. £3.50? Sold!

As for making money, the monitor, which later I discovered was a Dell E2020, a fairly basic VGA-only 1600×900 monitor, went for £35 back home. The sign was given to my parents, as apparently, I have to be nice to them sometimes. The bag has been kept, and the phones, a twin set of BT Studio Plus 5400s, are currently in use at my uni house, and should sell for about £10-15 if I don’t need them in next year’s house

Tales from the Car Boot: Encryption Shmencryption!

Sorry about the lack of updates, but nothing really interesting has gone on lately. I did pick up a phone on Sunday, which I shall write about tomorrow alongside anything I get from my Wednesday boot. I shall be doing Saturday this week too, and in an extra plot twist, I go home on Saturday evening and will be attending my three Sunday boots, so there should be some more updates this weekend! For now, here’s a story from my past. Apologies for the lack of pictures, for some reason I can’t find the picture of this one!

A few months back, I was doing the rounds at my regular Saturday boot in my uni town, as I normally do, and stumbled across, you’ve guessed it, a laptop. Initial impressions were, HP business range (a rather smart looking 6710b), Vista era, Core 2 Duo, with charger, looks alright, probably can harvest the RAM, hard drive and screen amongst other things. I ask the price, £20. At that sort of price, you automatically ask what’s wrong with it, and I was told that their child had managed to put a password on it and they couldn’t get round this. Fearing the worst and that this was a BIOS password that couldn’t be gotten around (being a business model I assumed security would be quite high on these), I managed to haggle the guy down to £15.

Upon getting it home, a quick clean up showed that it was in pretty decent condition for the age. On powering it on I was greeted with a strange password screen after the BIOS. Good news! This was drive encryption software, easily sorted by wiping the hard drive and reinstalling Windows, which I then did. As it was running Vista, I stuck in an extra 1GB of RAM that I’d managed to get in a Freecycle lot a couple of months previously, bringing it up to 2. By Tuesday I had it listed on Gumtree for £90, and on Wednesday a guy came to view it and gave me £100! Not a bad day’s work at all, £85 profit for reinstalling Windows, I’m happy with that!

Tales from the Car Boot: The Story of the Dodgy Fifty

A tale from my past this week, as there was nothing at my Saturday boot and due to a house party on Saturday evening, I was in no fit state to drive to my Sunday boot! Hopefully I’ll have more to feed back on on Wednesday, as I have sold some bits this weekend!

This happened back in 2013, just before I was about to go to university. I decided to stand one of my home car boots in order to get rid of as much stock as I could prior to going to uni, and to free up vital money for alcohol during Fresher’s Week. The stock in question was some old desktop parts, a few laptop parts (including untested screens) and four laptops, all relatively bog standard Core 2 Duo machines, 2GB RAM, 120GBish hard drives, and then a little Toshiba Portege that decided in the heat (well, cold) of the moment to corrupt its graphics card just as a potential buyer was looking at it. I had a lot of crap to take with me, such as granny’s old crockery and some of my old clothes, so the decision was made that my father would come along, as he had an estate at the time and I had a lowly Corsa.

Let’s set the scene. It’s roughly half past 8, and we’ve been set up for about 90 minutes. I’m still very sleepy, and a man starts looking at some untested screens. We agreed on a price of £10, and he paid me with a £50 note. Not thinking that this note may not be legitimate, I coughed up £40 change. A few minutes later, the doubt sets in along with various amounts of “Oh shit, what do we do with it?”. At this point, a plan was hatched, father would attempt to buy breakfast from the concessions stand with it. 10 minutes later he returned burgerless, stating they hadn’t got enough change. Double shit.

At this point, I carried out plan B. I left the stand in the capable hands of my father, and roamed around the car boot, looking for something I could buy. Granted, it would reduce my profits, but it means I have genuine money. I quickly spot an item at a trader’s stand. A laptop, marked up as spares repairs, at £5. Ideal, methinks. Sadly, this seller only had £40 change, so I acquired a PCI-E graphics card alongside the laptop for another £5. Back at the stall, attempts to sell the graphics card failed, and I decided to check out the laptop on my return home.

After being fixed, here's the D520 in question.
After being fixed, here’s the D520 in question.

Back at home, and after a good day where I made roughly £135 (all bar two laptops had sold, and these sold in the next week for asking price), I decided to inspect the two items. The graphics card was a Sapphire ATI X1050, and worked fine. Excellent, that was worth the £10 I’d lost, so disaster averted. Onto the laptop, a Dell Latitude D520. Plugged it in, and surprise surprise, it booted! Only a 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo with 1GB ram and a 60GB hard drive, but it did work, apart from a screen fault where the bottom third would suddenly turn garbled when the lid was moved. £20 for a replacement panel on eBay later, and a spare PA-12 charger I happened to have in stock, and I managed to sell it on for £60, giving me roughly £30 profit! As for the X1050, well, I still have that. My second PC’s on board graphics chip is dying, so it might go in there soon.

The funny thing? Next time I had a £50 note, almost a year later when I got cash out of the bank in order to replace my Corsa, I realised the original note had been real all along.