Despite the best intentions of the Android modding community, there comes a point at which it's just not feasibile to maintain older kit. Long-abandoned by the manufacturers and carriers, even the humble old first-gen hardware such as the HTC G1/Dream will eventually begin to gather dust as their newer and shinier models march forever onwards and upwards.
I've a soft spot for my G1. I really do consider it a piece of history - the first Android handset will always be special, and looking at the way things are heading, quite the collectors item once domination is complete ;-) Yet ... it's still very much usable, and certainly for far more than a mere backup phone. So I got to thinking ... what can it be used for today in a positive way? And I don't mean giving to someone as their first smartphone such as the folks or kids - although in my experince kids are certainly switched onto what's in and isn't in the Android world anyway, so that would likely get it thrown straight back at you with a loud "meh!".
It still runs (most) apps
So, we have a very powerful piece of kit here with a camera and WiFi, which is largely compatible with a whole bunch of apps on Google Play. There must be something genuinely useful it can do. Well, here's my take - with the right app, I mounted it on my car dashboard facing forwards and used it as a black box video recording car camera! A very, very powerful one too as it turns out. Since I already used my main Android handset in a car mount, a quick trip to my local Walmart-owned ASDA bought me a £7 gooseneck suction holder, and 10 minutes of fitting and wiring the charger to the cars cigarette lighter socket later was good to go!
The idea is to not even bother charging the battery since it will always be wired in, and the unit only needed when driving. Each time I get in the car, I find I need to boot the handset, but that's one tap, and since there's only 1 app it will now be used for all I need is that app's icon right on the home screen. Hey presto! Two taps later and we're in action. I won't need to use a live SIM in either, but I know that if I did want internet connectivity on the go I'd use it tethered to my other Android phone running as a WiFi hotspot. As it turns out, you don't even need a connection for the GPS updates, so things like speed and lat/long data come for free, although for use as a full sat nav with images this wouldn't be the case.
I keep a modest 2G memory card in place, cleared down before I began, so the recorded videos are all it will store. I paired the WiFi up with the office and my home, so that if I leave the handset turned on (and the battery lasts long enough!), I can copy/browse the vids from my desktop browser. That's really cool - more on that later.
The software I run is DailyRoads Voyager - it's free and without ads - from Google Play. This amazing App can record the video with audio to files on the SD card, each of a length you set. I chose 10 minutes - meaning after that, a new one is created, and if the SD card gets full the oldest are deleted. Actually I set things so that it doesn't record every file by default, only when I tap the screen, the idea being that I'd know if there was something I wanted to keep so just tap to save and start again anyway. And I end up saving for all sorts of different reasons - recent examples being a nice sunset, a duck waddling across the motorway and yes, a jerk overtaking dangerously. Well, you never know... It can also auto record when triggered by a jolt, i.e. the accellerometer has detected one, and that's for the obvious reason which I hope never to encounter.
James Bond would be proud - that's my existing trusty Nexus One to the left and the G1 running DailyRoads in landscape next to it. The device below it, err, is just for decoration ;-) Here's another users video from it - this is taken from an HTC Desire S:
To access the files from my desk, as I said I leave the app running and use SwiftFTP as an FTP server on the handset. I set the G1 to have a static IP and paired it with both my office and home WiFi. Then, with the car parked outside, when I get to my PC with a suitable bookmark in Chrome, it's simplicity itself to browse the new files to view and copy as I like.
All in all a pretty cool way to extend Android beyond its expected lifetime. Anyone else got uses for older kit? Please - feel free to speak up in the comments below.
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