Coping: Living Better with Refurbs

The whole underpinning of the UrbanSurvival ^ Peoplenomics lifestyle is the idea of living better than most by intelligently deploying our money.

This doesn’t mean we sacrifice quality; nothing could be further from the Truth. It’s just we do take some pride in squeezing each nickel a bit to make it go a little further than retail customers.

My first refurb computer was purchased 20-years ago while I was still on our sailboat, the Magic Elf. I needed a dual-purpose laptop. Something that would drive Nobeltec Navigation Suite – which in turn ran the autopilot and would drive the boat wherever AND a computer that would be more miserly on power than the tower when at anchor. (Boat had gobs of AC power from a big inverter and high output alternator, wind machine, solar, and yada, yada…)

So I found a refurb. I think it might have been TigerDirect. Sony Vaio and we used that little bugger for six years before upgrading to something faster and passing the Vaio on to one of the kids.

Fast-forward to last week: It became apparent that another one of my dual-use computers had come up against its economic lifespan. I had an old Windows XP machine that had just over half a gB of RAM and a slow hard drive.

Refurbs….where to go to get refurbs?

Three great sources, depending on your needs:

1. Amazon.



How to find them: Go to the store home page and put in “refurb” as your first search term and then another term to get into the right area.

Several power tools ion the shop that don’t get used very often, like the power planer, for example, were refurbs.  Electronics and tools; you can save real money this way.

I put in “refurb” plus “8GB” to make sure I would get a computer with enough RAM to run current and new applications to come.

Bingo! Slightly dirty box was dropped off by my UPS guy:


Inside is a SFF computer (meaning Small Form Factor) because I don’t need a big deal. Just something with a big drive – and this has 2 TB, a quad processors (Core2Duo), operating system (Windows 10 Professional), lots of USB ports (has 8!!!) and the 8 GB of RAM.

Refurb price tag? Free shipping, tax and everything: $163 and change!


I don’t know why SFF computers haven’t sold like hotcakes, but at prices like this, you should be able to adapt them to all kinds of missions around the house (media server for share photos, music, movies, etc.), or for CNC machines if you want to play in the shop, or on the electronics bench, I may get another one just to effectively be an ‘electronic microscope’ for me.

Now About the EYES

Haven’t mentioned them for a while. Hasn’t been much to report. But now there is.

On October 3 I will go in for the fitting on an RGP (Rigid, Gas-Permeable) contact in the left eye and then it should (finally) be done.

Which has what to do with another computer? Well…

I have a USB camera that I use on my desk, but for serious tiny ham radio components we have a Radical Instruments binocular microscope. (Elaine’s – ideas for paintings). Problem is soldering under the microscope is an issue. The electronic camera is a much smaller, easier to adjust platform.

Remember I told you a while back about my +3 diopter BIG electronics work light? Designed for skin docs and clinics, you would think it is way overkill. But it is not. In fact, it’s nowhere near up to the task of microelectronics.

To prove it, here’s a look at a component that I need to replace (three of ‘em) on a tiny surface mount printed circuit board. The dot in the center of the picture is the component (A Toshiba 1SV307 PIN Diode, thanks!) And yes, that is a regular gel point pen.


It doesn’t show up in the picture well, but there are TWO LEADS to solder on this baby not to mention the cathode band so it goes in circuit the right way. No, using the Radical is not a joke. I’m just getting too old (is this how inform starts???) to work on components this small.

Which is why you need to write this down somewhere: When you get old, get Bigger Hobbies!!! Tube-type radios are a cinch.

Plane Speaking

Well, we would get to this, then, wouldn’t we?

First, breaking in the new cylinder on the airplane, the eyes are good enough for flying: 20-25/20-30 with the Adlens Adjustables Frame Glasses, Black -6D to +3D diopters adjustable glasses on and a good day.

The Take-Off and Landing to maintain currency is 3 take offs and landings in type in the more recent 90-days.  BUT I didn’t see defined anywhere in the FAA regs what a take-off and landing is….

But the ICAO definition seemed reasonable: Take off, normal gear up and 100 feet off the runway, climb power. Fair enough. With no gear to retract, I have time for sightseeing and a sandwich up to 100-feet. Completely out of “ground effect.”  Except gravity, of course.

So 15-degrees of flaps, full power, rolling, note temp since this is break-in cycling, lift off, climb to 100’ hmmm…. put down the sandwich…I still have lots of room left to land. So…

Carb heat, power back, smoothly pitch -over,  nose down, pull in full flaps, slip a bit to drop altitude, flare perfectly.  All in a nice flowing sequence.

Repeat four times, and let the new cylinder temp cycle properly.  Yep, I can still fly.

I will do another BFR (*biennial flight review) next month…great pilots are not born, they are trained.

Unlike cars, airplane engines are made so you don’t have to replace the whole thing. Except when this engine get to 2,000 hours, then it will go by-by and a higher-performance (think balanced, blue-printed, and the higher compression 8.5:1 cylinder STC done) will go in.  Currently 7:1.

If autos were done to this level they would last millions of miles….planes are way cheaper than cars lately.  Half price insurance, too.

Weekend in the Workshop

New SFF computer will be installed at the ham radio desk. Downloading direct satellite imagery should improve.

Elaine’s FTA (free to air sat tv) downlink for the house needs tune-up, so that will get done.

New electric motor for the joiner should be in…why is it this is one of those projects that should be 15 minutes and I fear it will be four hours?

Last but not least, if you are looking for ideas of ways to improve your life, The Family Handyman “Wordless Workshop” is always full of cool ideas and starting points. Search results from the Handyman site here.

The Wordless Workshop is quite a franchise – collections of past articles can be found on Amazon like Wordless Workshop: 120 Of the Best, Easy-To-Make Projects from Roy Doty’s Monthly Feature in Popular Science.

After that, I will read a bit more on the new Michael Savage book Scorched Earth: Restoring the Country after Obama.   

Then there is a check of 20 meter ham band activity and if things move quickly enough, maybe I can get back to copying slow-scan TV on 20, as well.

Mr. and Mrs Panama Bates will be moving at the end of the month, so overhauling that space from apartment to more a cross-ov er room (guest room and art studio for Elaine) will come next.

What’s the old joke?  I’,m to busy to die just yet, thank you.  Hope you are too…

Write when you get rich,

George@ure. net


Coping: Living Better with Refurbs — 16 Comments

  1. George, I have been a fan of the same SFF HP refurbs as well. Currently running one as a media pc and the second is for the mrs.

  2. George – I bought a pair of the Aldens based on your suggestion. Brilliant! Just THE tool for the needed task. Thank you!!

  3. That dang Mercury retrograde is still in effect – this one was a toughie for us – the 2003 Jeep permanently died; the garbage disposer stopped working (and no, the reset didn’t work); the bathroom exhaust vent fan went on the blitz with no fix; and significant others iphone is having issues with the latest installed update. And we still have til the 22nd before Merc goes direct…..

  4. “After that, I will read a bit more on the new Michael Savage book”

    I’ve been listening to him for >20 years and that’s why I have given up on the whole issue of saving our race. For what? Yes, 20 percent, and the reminder could get lost. What do I care, except, I am so glad you give him a plug in your rant. Thanks!

  5. I am gobsmacked! It appears that you and I have purchased the same computer at the same time! Mine arrived Wednesday with Win10 Home OS. It has two glitches, so good luck with yours.

    This machine has difficulty installing software from DVD’s. I am not a techie, so doing some of this is a challenge. I saved the old hard drive from dead machine, used an external USB 2.0 conversion kit from ebay, and connected it to the new machine. All transfers went well, but some of the software would not run, so I resorted to DVD installs. A few of the programs would not install. Plus, when the PC is started or awakened from sleep, the keyboard is dead until I unplug then plug it back in.

    Otherwise, I am happy with the performance. Display is crisp and sound is much better quality. I am hoping I can get problems resolved without having to ship it back.

    • Sorry to hear that. Mine worked from go and has been doing fine. If you are installing from DVDs don’t forget to use a right click and then “Run as Administrator” when you hit the install program. Win 10 can be particular like that!

    • Might want to check the BIOS power saver settings, and maybe the on-board battery (kinda resembles a quarter-dollar coin), probably a CR2025/CR2032 type/size.

  6. About that pin diode ,I see a big screen TV on the desk,I see a Sony 60×Optical Zoom mounted on a stand about 1 and a half feet high on the desk,I see a platform on the desk about 4 inches high with a thin sliding plate on top attached to micrometers

  7. Watch those refurbs George. My daughter has been doing online courses through a major college with her refurbed HP. It was a really nice Envy model and simply gave up the ghost a few weeks ago with all of her downloaded proprietary programs from the college and course papers. Blink codes say it’s the BIOS and recovery procedure HP puts out doesn’t work. Probably a dead motherboard. Danged if I can figure out how to open it and remove the drive like I can my Dells but she’s gone with a new Dell desktop tower as a replacement.

    Of course I’m writing this on a second hand Dell laptop I bought off of ebay a couple of years ago. Personally I prefer computers that have proven themselves over time like this one rather than something that died shortly after it left the factory.

    “Refurb” can mean many different things from as generally minimal as the owner didn’t like the color to “it let all the smoke out when I plugged it in!”. Smoke is evidently one of those important and mysterious things that make electronics go…

  8. Die? Why? It is to much fun going to the kids house leaving all the lights on, leaving all the doors open and taking a 2 hour shower. Dad, I pay the electricity! HA! Paybacks are a B—h!

    • Hmmm…remind me to leave the doors and windows open with heat or ac on too, lol.
      And play shitty music at 2 AM and…and….