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Out of the attic

If the closets in your home have become computer graveyards, with several old computers patiently waiting for something useful to do, then we’ve got the perfect book for you.

If you’re like me, you can’t bear to throw away your old, outdated (but working!) computers. Consequently, the closets in your home have become computer graveyards, with several old computers, patiently waiting for something useful to do.

Enter “Linux Toys” by Christopher Negus and Chuck Wolber (Wiley, $29.99 paperback). This 330-page book is a veritable treasure trove of fun and interesting projects that utilize Linux to help you resurrect your old computers and give them a new lease on life.

With 13 projects, including a music jukebox, video archive system, digital receptionist, TV recorder/player, home broadcast center, digital picture frame, home network server, arcade game player, remote control car controller, temperature monitor and more, everyone should find at least one project to pique their interest.

All projects require an installation of Red Hat Linux, which is not provided. Other Linux distributions may work, but the projects haven’t been tested on anything but Red Hat Linux. Detailed instructions are provided for each project, from what hardware is needed, to what kind of an install of Red Hat Linux is necessary. In addition, a CD is included with the book that provides additional software used by the projects as well as the extra “glue” needed to set up and configure each project.

Most of the projects recommend a Pentium II-based system (or equivalent) with 128M of RAM as a minimum configuration. A faster processor and more memory will greatly benefit video-based projects. A few of the projects require some basic electronics know-how and the use of of soldering iron.

If you have doubts about your Linux skills, never fear. You don’t have to be a Linux expert to use this book. There is a chapter devoted to how to install Red Hat Linux and also a chapter on the basics of using Linux to assist those lacking Linux experience to play with Linux Toys.

In addition, there is a companion Web site that contains additional and updated information on the projects. An online community devoted to the book and ways to update, enhance, and extend your Linux Toys creations can also be found at the site.

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