As tech refreshes come and go, donations find their way to your desk or office, and students and teachers otherwise look to get rid of aging laptops, we look for ways to extract every last bit of life out of these expensive investments. While many of us have turned to leasing models that generally involve the old equipment being hauled away for free, countless laptops (in addition to plenty of other hardware) still end up looking for new homes.
Some can simply be wiped and redeployed for less critical uses. They can often beat Alphasmarts with one shift key tied behind their backs as word processors for students. If they can PXE boot, then Edubuntu would happily find them as all-in-one thin clients. We have a physics lab that needs several dedicated, low-powered workstations to gather data from various probes: enter our beaten and abused laptops that are being replaced this summer.
Others, however, aren't in any shape for redeployment to users. For these, Lifehacker has several great suggestions. While most in the article linked here are directed towards consumers and home users, there are several that I see my interns working on with a batch of recently-donated and largely unusable laptops. Routers, wireless hotspots, media servers, standalone monitors, etc., can all give new life to equipment that most home users and businesses would discard. Check out the article and share any additional suggestions that you have. My hacker interns await with their screwdrivers and soldering guns.