Old Computers Make Fine Musical Instruments

I was surprised, and disappointed, when Windows 11 became available, to find that none of my computers – even my most modern, powerful machines, aren’t supported on Windows 11. Fortunately, support of Windows 10 continues for some time, but it’s a shame to be expected to discard perfectly good computers.

Months ago, I was disappointed to find that my fairly modern Mac Mini computer, wouldn’t successfully install the next level of Mac OS. Now, I have on that one machine, Mac OS Catalina, Windows 10, and Lubuntu Linux 20.04, and all of them are musical instruments.

The KeyMusician Keyboard gives you an excellent solution to this situation.

Make your old computers into musical instruments!

In fact, you may already have old computers, gathering dust in a closet or downstairs, that you can’t use because there is no Windows or Macintosh support for these old machines.

Even with Linux, which usually gives you support for older machines, support for 32-bit computers on Ubuntu Linux has been dropped. Fortunately, on Debian Linux, even on its latest level, Debian 11, support of 32-bit machines continues for at least 5 more years.

I just got through installing and testing Debian 11 on my two slowest, 32-bit computers, so I can vouch for it working.

But you can continue to use your old machine. Even if there are no more updates for it, as long as you don’t connect it to the Internet, or read e-mail on it, it is pretty secure. And you’re probably not browsing the Internet or reading e-mails while you’re performing, or practicing music anyway!

If you aren’t competing for the family’s main computer, you can get more practicing in, which is better for your music.

Musical Instruments From Old Computers

With the end of support for Windows 7, there are a lot of perfectly good computers, that are no longer safe for reading e-mail, or browsing the Internet.

If you can upgrade them to Windows 10, no problem. But many of those computers can’t be upgraded to Windows 10, and very likely aren’t supported on Windows 11.

Many of those computers will run modern versions of Linux, so again, if you install Linux on them, no problem.

Although many Linux distributions have abandoned support of 32-bit machines, Debian, still supports them, especially if you use the LXDE desktop.

But that still leaves a lot of computers that are no longer safe to use as you normally would, and it seems a shame to have to junk a perfectly good, working computer!

A lot of you may have gone through this same thing before, when support of Windows XP ended. This article applies to those machines too.

This also applies to Windows 7 machines that didn’t have enough memory to install system updates.

Picture of an HP Mini netbook computer
32-bit machine, can't upgrade to Windows 10, but runs Windows XP and Linux (Debian 10 and 11)

Picture of a Dell Optiplex GX-260 desktop computer, with a MIDI keyboard.
32-bit desktop computer with MIDI keyboard, can't upgrade to Windows 10, but runs Linux (Lubuntu 18.04, and Debian 10 and 11)

Fortunately, there’s still good use for these computers.

If you can install Linux on these machines, it is a modern operating system, and probably more secure than Windows, so you can go on using them on the Internet, or reading e-mail on them.

It isn’t that these machines are to slow to run modern music software. The machine in the picture above, will play (using MuseScore), my modern compositions for concert band or symphony orchestra, without even ‘breaking into a sweat’.

But there are some machines that are not supported even by Linux. What about those machines?

If you don’t connect these computers to the Internet, or browse e-mail with them, they’re perfectly safe, and you can continue to use them.

We have a number of test machines that fall into that category, and where we don’t browse the Internet or read e-mail with them, they still work fine, and are useful to us, years beyond when support for them ended.

A good use for these machines, is as a musical instrument.

If you have a family, and other family members want to practice music on the computer, having to share your primary computer for such music practice, may cause conflicting demands for the same computer. But by using older machines for musical instruments, this conflict can be avoided.

The KeyMusician Keyboard is designed to run on, and is tested on, older, slower computers too.

We also still provide install-files for Windows XP, and Vista, so you can install it on such no-longer-supported machines. The same is true for 32-bit Mac OS X machines (10.6.8 – Snow Leopard).

Note: The VistaXP installer is no longer supported, but can be used on an as-is basis. It’s code-signing certificate is expired as of June 15th, 2021, because new code-signing certificates have gone beyond what is supported on Windows XP, and Vista. Its KMK version is frozen at 1.54.

So, install the KeyMusician Keyboard on one of these obsolete machines, and presto, change-o, you have a perfectly good musical instrument!

On old machines, there is a risk that the hard-disk will fail, and I do take that into consideration. But musical instruments aren’t left running all day long, so the disks will last longer. So far, only one of my older test machines has failed for that reason.

The Internet browsers of some old machines are not able to access modern web-sites with SSL encryption (including our website, https://keymusician.com), but no problem – simply download the proper install file for the old machine, using your new machine, copy it to a thumb-drive (a USB flash-drive), and copy it from the thumb-drive to the old machine, where you can install it.

You can even download the installer to an Android phone, and then connect the phone to the old machine as a USB disk drive, and copy it from the phone to the computer, where it can then be installed.

So don’t junk your obsolete computers – convert them into performance-quality musical instruments, using the KeyMusician Keyboard application!

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