The Anti-Productivity PC


I bought an older used PC from a buddy of mine a few months ago. Not because I needed a desktop PC–I was still using my soon-to-be-retired workhorse MacBook at home, and I had my work computer (Thinkpad T500) at work, so I wasn’t really hurting for another computer. However, I had a vision in mind for this computer. I was driven.

Driven to use it for absolutely nothing productive.

Needless to say, I was something of a man on an anti-mission.

The Hardware

The computer itself cost me $200, which got me a 2GHz dual core Athlon 64, 2GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, and an Nvidia GeForce 7900 GT. I had a Wi-Fi adapter lying around, and I plugged it into my 36″ HDTV (CRT, thing weighs over 200lbs) so the only other gear I had to shell out for was a wireless keyboard and mouse ($30 off Amazon). The cost of being nerdy diminishes at higher levels.

Dell E521.

Determined to waste your time and money.


Obviously, the first thing that came to mind was gaming: I’ve never been much of a PC gamer (Mac gamer back in the day, and consoles since I was old enough to hold a pad), so I was looking forward for a chance to try it out–particularly because I occasionally get free games from work (at last count: Mirror’s Edge, Prototype, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Borderlands, Oblivion, Bioshock, and, uh, Grey’s Anatomy) but I can’t play them without some kind of gaming rig.

By and large, the Anti-Productivity PC handles games fairly well, though the fact that I can’t get HD input (S-Video only) thanks to a combination of NVidia’s drivers and my antiquated HDTV was kind of a downer. Still, I can play Borderlands and Street Fighter IV without worrying too much about dropped frames, which is pretty much all I ask for–especially since I’m Xboxless for the time being.

One reason I was salivating over the prospect of a cheap desktop PC that could hook up to my TV was emulation. I’m a fiend for the classics, but it’s just not the same playing them on a laptop screen and a keyboard. My Xbox joystick (custom mod of a Sega Saturn Virtua Stick) worked fine out of the box, and I’m planning on grabbing some USB cables for my Xb0x 360 pad so my buddies and I can get our four-player X-Men: The Arcade Game on.

The Sega Saturn Virtua Stick.

Got one of these bad boys with PS2 + Xbox 360 hookups, Seimitsu stick, Sanwa buttons. $130 shipped. Just ask me, I know a guy.

Sadly, the gear collection isn’t quite there yet, but it’s coming along nicely. Now I just need to find a way to re-create the thrill of playing arcade games with quarters at stake.


I’ve been using my MacBook’s puny 60GB hard drive for so long that storing movies and music has been kind of a pain. Anti-Productivity PC’s 250GB hard drive has been comparatively roomy, and the audio cable to connect its speaker output to my TV cost like $5 from Monoprice. Considering I listen to Pandora and random podcasts more than MP3s these days anyway (thanks, Allen) the eventual plan is to copy all the MP3s from my iPods/computers as well as the lady’s onto the hard drive and share it to the other computers via iTunes. Of course, Pandora works just fine, too. Between the iPod dock in the kitchen, the APPC in the living room, and the laptops + speakers in the bedroom, we’re basically able to listen to music via local storage or Pandora anywhere in our 1BR apartment now.

The APPC also functions as my de facto iPod Charge Station, since I can just leave the plugs connected to the USB ports. I forgot how nice it was to have a desktop computer after years of being laptop-only.


Of course, we can stream Netflix/YouTube/Hulu whatever, and it looks great. Can’t wait for Boondocks Season 3.

However, I still haven’t gotten around one unexpected stumbling block: our couch.

The HomieCouch.

This would be the HomieCouch--so named because babygirl won't come near it.

Our couch is so phenomenally uncomfortable for the lady that she won’t go anywhere near it, which basically means that the only time we use the streaming video functions are when I’m watching something by myself or with the homies–but not her. Just didn’t see that upgrade coming.

For downloadable video, I’ve got uTorrent set up for one reason: the WebUI lets you manage your torrents remotely, so I can queue up DLs from anywhere with Internet access. I tried using TVTrigger to automate downloads of our favorite TV shows (Criminal Minds, Grey’s Anatomy, and Private Practice as of this writing) but it hasn’t worked well.

I’ve also set up Orb, so I can stream any of my video/audio from the APPC from anywhere. It’s one of those things that seems useful in theory, but I’ve never actually used it. Huh.

That’s all I’ve got so far–still working on the music management and getting some extra controllers in the mix, but it’s been a good use of $200. Let’s hear it from you–what could I do to make this even more anti-productive?

-patrick miller

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