Total posts : 45366
That’s pretty much a go – the only challenge that comes up occasionally is if there is some oddball hardware (Hard drive controller, sound card, video card, etc.) on the platform. Getting the right drivers for some of the more obscure hardware can be a pain and sometimes a no go.
That being said, most mainstream stuff is well supported – if the PCs are free or almost free, give it a shot.
There are almost limitless numbers of web sites, blogs and discussion boards devoted to exactly what you are trying to do, so it’s just a matter of finding some you like.
There are full station automation proggys in LINUX, lots of incredible work being done there.
Once you get the hang of it, you might even build yourself a nice home PC on one of those “10 year old” PCs – it’s amazing how well they run when not managing the sloth-ware they came with 🙂
For a single purpose machine (music player, etc.), don’t overlook good old DOS. It runs like a banshee on a modern PC (though there can also be occasional driver issues) and DOS is easy to get off an old WIN98 CD. An older Soundblaster card actually has more functionality in DOS. There are some phenomenal audio players available for DOS that include features like variable speed playback and crossfading. Again, lots of web assets to help there, too.
Perhaps you can show us how to build a cheap sound source for those shortwave transmitters folks are talking about.