Screw Drivers and PDF Files

Scott Stevens chenmel at
Sun Jun 5 19:39:27 CDT 2005

On Fri, 3 Jun 2005 00:28:31 -0400 (EDT)
der Mouse <mouse at> wrote:

> >> You are making life difficult if to don't have a tool for reading
> >> PDF files.  I think you can buy a nice one for a few hundred
> >> dollars.
> > You can buy a used PC for tens of dollars.
> Including the monitor and the license fees for all the necessary bits
> of software?  And including someone to be its sysadmin?  I'm certainly
> not about to baby along a machine running closed-source software.

I bought a few skid of Dell Optiplexes at auction about this time last
year.  I got approx. 80 machines for $40.  I've sold 30 or so of them
for from $20 to $80 each on eBay.  

All of the above machines are very capable of running NetBSD.  There is
a useful NetBSD package in the pkgsrc collection called xpdf that will
read and (somewhat) manipulate PDF files.  It is trivial to print from
xpdf to any common postscript printer, or to almost any non-postscript
printer with a printer filter script that uses ghostscript.  

I got an Apple Laserwriter that speaks Postscript about two years ago at
auction, on a skid that also included other stuff, (including a
Powerbook hidden in the bottom of one of the cartons that I sold for $80
on eBay), for $5.00.

Monitors you can get for almost free.  When I was buying that 'skid of
Optiplexes' back a year ago, I avoided the skids that had monitors, as I
have enough of them, they have almost no resale value unless bundled
with a system and they're just a burden to dispose of.  You can get a
workable used monitor for under $5 easily at yard sales.

Keyboards and mice are also 'virtually free.'  I got handed a box of ten
or so Dell keyboards at an auction by somebody who just wanted the SGI
keyboard out of the box.  I bought 'the remaining boxes' of Mice at an
auction for $10, then all these people converged on me and bought
individual mice out of the boxes for a buck each.

I think I've demonstrated that it can cost you negative hundreds of
dollars to get the software and hardware needed to view and print PDF
documents.  That's what I've spent on 'commodity' PeeCee hardware in the
last several years. 


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