Upgrade Dell Inspiron 1545

I hate to throw away old technology. It can easily be repurposed for any manner of tasks.

I have taken a Thrift Store find, an old Windows Vista era Dell Inspiron 1545 that I think I probably got for $10 and turned it into a media server / radio for my office.

Here’s what I did.



The intent here was to provide several possible listening sources for entertainment and background noise at work.

A radio or streaming radio can cost hundreds of dollars and has limited content. A full blown computer has no such restriction.


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Let’s look at a partial list of the original specs on the right side.

Now, believe it or not this is still a lot of computer for most folks. Of note though is a weak little old Intel Celeron 585 processor.

Intel® Celeron® Processor 585
(1M Cache, 2.16 GHz, 667 MHz FSB)

Yuck.

Now here is the great thing. The CPU is upgradeable. I opted to order a T9600 Intel Core 2 Duo Processor at 2.8 GHz.

This computer will actually max out with an X9100 or T9900 CPU both of which are 3.06 GHz chips however the cost of these seems to be around $60 on the bargain end and $70 and higher. I personally think this is an area of diminishing returns. If you want to up your project cost by that much money you should factor in that comparable brand new laptops can be had for not much more money. A $15 CPU is the way to go. In 2 years these chips will be even less. Wait.

Decent specs on that 2.8 GHz chip. Go to Walmart and look at processor speeds on modern laptops. Yeah, there are more cores and the Front Side Bus speeds are higher but we don’t care about all that.

Best part of my CPU upgrade was that it cost $15 used on eBay. Can’t beat that with a big stick. Amazon sells them for $28 or so here. Just go to eBay and buy a used one.

Now flip your laptop over and remove the big cover with 4 screws.
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Now remove the fan and heat sinks by removing 5 screws. Once it is off turn the screw on the processor slot. The CPU will lift or pop right out. Drop the new one in, put some thermal paste or tape on it, and tighten the lock screw. Reassemble heat sink. Finished.

Change the memory while you are in there as well. This computer came with 2 GB of RAM. I upgraded to 4 from here for $20
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System summary
Service Tag
D7K6BH1
Computer Model
Inspiron 1545
Shipping Date
5/23/2009
Country
United States


Components

Quantity
Description
Part Number
MY297
1
Label, Fascia, Intel, CARTON
W056G
1
PROCESSOR, 585, 2.16, 1MB, CPEN, 1C, M0
P411K
1
DVD+/-RW, 8X, Serial ATA, TRAY, PLDS
RM067
1
HARD DRIVE, 160GB, S2, 5.4, 9.5, WD-ML160
PP102
2
DUAL IN-LINE MEMORY MODULE, 1G, 800, 128X64, 8, 200, 1GBIT
G848F
1
ASSEMBLY, BASE (ASSEMBLY OR GROUP), UNIFIED MEMORY ARCHITECTURE, NOTEBOOK, 1545
KX448
1
Label, Microsoft, Windows Vista Os, Basic, Small
XK850
1
ASSEMBLY, ADAPTER, ALTERNATING CURRENT, 65W, 3P, DELTA - AC ADAPT, M1330
U313H
6
BUMPER, LIQUID CRYSTAL DISPLAY, RUBBER, ARCTIC SILVER, 1545
WP969
1
LABEL, INTEL, NOTEBOOK, CELERON
Why yes, I would like some Cheesy-Poofs.
Cartman
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Now change the hard drive. I got the deal of the century here for an SSD drive. 250 GB Crucial. $63. Money well spent on making an old computer a super computer.

Now remove 2 screws and pull out the hard drive and replace it.

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Only a complete and total moron would install Windows at this point.
I said that.
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Now it is time to add an operating system. I don’t think this computer would be quite ready for prime time for Windows 8 or 10 but Windows 7 would probably be okay. But since Windows sucks we’ll be going with Linux.

There are all manner of geeky Linux Distributions however we want ease of use and flexibility because other folks in my office will be using this. I’m not trying to make something only I can use here.

I opted for Debian with Cinnamon desktop. It can be downloaded here. Note that I have used the “testing” version and not the “stable” version. I needed the latest kernel to support my TV Tuner USB card. You may not need that.

Download Debian then burn your iso image on a DVD and boot your computer and install. Same basic routine as Windows. Anyone should be able to figure it out. The installed OS is very clean and intuitive and Debian has a great support community.

At this point here are the items I am adding:


A software defined radio and an up converter. The up converter is very, very optional. What it will give you though is AM radio. The SDR will give you local FM radio. The up converter and SDR give you AM/FM, Emergency Services, Police, weather, etc (provided you have a good enough antenna). I also can listen to ground and air communications but I work on a Marine Corps Air Station and that’s kind of part of the job. Anyway SDR radio is amazingly versatile and cheap and gets our computer AM and FM. A big plus.

Below is a photo of a program I added called GQRX. I’m listening to local FM and I can RECORD from it as well. Leave the office for a few hours but you wanna listen to Hannity or Rush………record it and listen later. Cool, huh?
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Now we can add a couple programs to Linux Mint such as Spotify and Pithos. Pithos is a “wrapper” for Pandora. So now I have AM/FM and Spotify and Pandora. Here’s a shot of the Spotify app.

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Now you must acquire a taste for Free Form Jazz.
Genius Patrick Star to Spongebob


Now a screenshot of the Pithos (Pandora) app:

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Next I’ll add a program called JRiver Media Center. It is just a repository for your local music. I have a hard drive with 5 TB’s of music. That’s correct. TERRA BYTES. That’s a lot of music. I can listen for a year or so and never hear the same stuff twice.

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Then you can add SHAIRPORT


It will act as an iTunes Airport Device. Installing and using shairport is kind of geeky but there are a million great guides on the internet that show you how to install it.

Here’s the command to launch it that I use:

Actually you can get by with:

shairport -a nameyouwannagiveit

but that will only use your laptop speakers. I plug in a USB DAC with a hardware address of hw:0,0 so that’s why I add the rest of the commands.




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Now hit enter and start shairport and it should say it is listening for connections.

Note that I have called mine, “DumpsterDive”





Then finally

Open iTunes on your computer or phone and check for airport devices to stream to. Play some music from your phone. Couldn’t be simpler. Actually, yes it could.


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So now I can stream content from my phone to this computer. And by the way this computer is hooked to a (Tube) stereo via a Fiio E17 Digital to Analog (DAC) so it sounds oh so good as well.

And of course since this a computer I can watch YouTube or ripped movies or use if for a guest computer.


Summary:

$10 laptop
$20 memory upgrade
$15 CPU Upgrade
$60 hard drive (kind of optional)
Free Operating System - LinuxMint



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