Friday, March 13, 2015

Fun on the Cheap

My readership has flatlined, so you know what that means... it's time for another hasty update! I wanted to let all y'all know about my work-in-progress entertainment center, which was assembled from the following bits and pieces...

Price: $15

Purchased: July 2014

Don't buy this thing. Really.
This seemed like the sale of the century when I picked it up at a yard sale for a fistful of fivers, but in hindsight this thing has been a monkey's paw with one finger extended. Really Sony, what kind of idiot makes a Blu-Ray player without a wi-fi antenna? That makes it useful for playing discs and that's about it. Technically, you could connect it to a router with an Ethernet cable, but good luck finding one that stretches across three rooms.

A few months after arriving in Arizona, I found another Blu-Ray player at another yard sale for two dollars. It was even worse, if such a thing can be imagined. I should have just gotten a PS3 instead...

Price: $150
Purchased: Jan 2014

Pronouns ahoy!
You know it, you love it (at least since Mario Kart 8 was released last summer)... it's the Wii U, Nintendo's next generation game system built with last generation hardware! I've been squeaking by with the GamePad over the last few months, playing games and drawing on its modestly sized screen, but lately I've been wanting a display I don't have to press my nose against to see. Which brings me to...

Price: $10
Purchased: March 2015

Get your board shined up,
grab a stick of Juicy Fruit...
I came across this budget monitor at a thrift store for a pretty reasonable $15... but with a little finagling, I was able to bring the price down to a downright ridiculous ten clams. It's hardly in mint condition- there's a dead pixel hidden in the center of the display and a scratch just below that- but it's proven to be a perfectly serviceable monitor with just a few extra parts. And speaking of those...

Price: $25-$30
Purchased: Late February to March 2015

Sugar... spice... and everything nice. These are the ingredients Professor Utonium used to make the perfect little girls. But since I was trying to make an entertainment center instead, I needed a few cables and gadgets. First up to bat was a DVI to HDMI adapter, found at Walmart for about $17. Good lord, that cost more than the monitor!

This costly doodad let me connect devices like my Blu-Ray player and the Wii U to the Sceptre with little fuss, but I was still left without sound. So I had to pick up a 3.5mm male to twin RCA male cable on eBay, and a 3.5mm male to twin RCA female connector from Radio Shack ($7 in total, with the Radio Shack connector making up the lion's share of that expense). After picking up a Wii A/V cable from Goodwill ($1), I could pipe sound directly into the monitor, letting me play games and watch shows on Netflix. I could also do that with the Blu-Ray player, but eh, who cares.

Price: $5
Purchased: March 2015

Hard to hate,
despite the name.
Originally designed for Apple's iPod line of trendy music players, this device will work just as well with an Android, or pretty much anything with a 3.5mm jack. You just need an external power supply, because two AA batteries aren't going to cut it... contrary to what the clerk at Goodwill told me. Hmph. The power supply wasn't included, but as luck would have it, the AC adapter I'd salvaged from an old DSL modem was an adequate substitute. I'm testing it right now with my Android phone, and the iH8 delivers big, big sound even over the din of multiple fans. It ought to provide a boost to the volume of both my Wii U and that crappy-ass Blu-Ray player, which was barely audible through the monitor.

Price: $2
Purchased: March 2015

This has nothing to do with the entertainment center... it was just entertaining for me to find a copy of Microsoft's best operating system for such a low price. You would not believe the nightmare I had trying to get Windows 7 back on my laptop after my hard drive died... maybe this (and a few other tricks up my sleeve) will make it less of a headache. Plus, it's Professional! I don't know what that means, but it sounds high class!


  1. Cool scores. I remember when I first moved out on my own and scoured thrift stores for an affordable VCR. I finally got my hands on a hulking old simulated woodgrain RCA with silver clicky channel knobs for around $20. The thing was half the size of my TV at the time. Now there are stacks of the things along with DVD players and the occasional Blu-Ray at the thrifts. :D Crazy. Been loving the blog!

  2. A woodgrain finish? Wow, that's so 1970s I'm surprised it wasn't dressed in bell bottoms.

    I feel like my luck with pawn shops and thrift stores has improved over the last couple of years. I mean, a Vita for $75 and a Wii U for $150? Those prices are hard to beat, and that was from last year.

    Lately, I've seen no end of printers at thrifts, particularly Goodwill. I guess people have just decided that it's easier to buy a whole new printer than the ink for one, even if that printer has bells and whistles like wi-fi and an LCD display. Go figure!

    1. I've seen a lot of printers too now that you mention it. One Goodwill in my town must have a dozen or so old VHS camcorders. Maybe now that everyone has a camera on their phone people are finally making space in their closets. It's certainly fun watching the rise and fall of technology via the thrift store. :)

  3. Oh, some good pick-ups here, Jess! I'm especially jealous of the Wii U find. I'd love to find one at just $150!