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Making good use of old or spare tablets/smartphones


oj88
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The background: I got into the Arduino prototyping bandwagon last year because I wanted to create a clock that can regularly query an atomic timekeeper via NTP on the internet. My lame excuse was that I simply got tired of correcting quartz clocks every several weeks because of poor movement accuracy. I'm an engineer and I always love a challenge... but I don't like taking down wall clocks to fix them.

 

Yes... lame.

Even more lame however, is that the plan didn't panned out. I can bore you with the details but that's not my reason for writing this post.

Anyway, I went for the easy way out. Why not use a tablet? I had an extra one (at the time) lying around so instead of selling it at practically zero value, why not convert it into an appliance? It's already got a processor, a display, and thousands of ready-made apps.

This was the first ever tablet from Samsung, the Galaxy Tab P1000. We bought this in Dec 2010. It has since been rooted and currently runs Cyanogenmod firmware. I had to literally sift through dozens of clock apps before I settled with the one below. I also added a utility that will regularly synchronize the time with a time server. It's permanently plugged in using a modified USB cable (to allow it to charge at full-current using any 3rd-party charger). I installed this last October 2014 and so far, it has never needed any intervention. Most of all, it's always accurate!
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Next is a Starmobile 7TV+ (a local PH brand). I bought this last month because I wanted a portable analog/digital TV... just for the heck of it. After the wow factor have died, I made it into a CCTV monitor on my bedside table. I only keep this turned on at night (or when we're waiting for the pizza delivery guy). Please don't laugh at the makeshift stand. You have to thank the Brits for their oversized, three-pronged plug!
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Finally, as part of a re-contracting deal with my mobile provider, I also received a free Lenovo A3300 tablet (bundled with a Lenovo A536 smartphone). The phone went to my son. But since I've got nothing planned for the tablet, I thought I make it into a dedicated Spotify and Pandora player for the time being. It connects to a Bluetooth receiver which then plays audio out to a 2.1-channel speaker.
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This is as close to home automation I'd ever gonna get from this cornier of the world. But Android tablets are cheap. Entry-models costs even less. And as an appliance, you don't need a high-end device.

 

Doing this has allowed us to free up our iPads for doing the regular stuff; work, browsing and games. Try listening to a tune from Spotify/Pandora and play games at the same time from a single device. wink.png

If you did something similar or got creative, please do share them.

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I have MagicJack for my home phone.  They have an app that uses the wireless signal to let any mobile device access the phone line.  So, out came the regular wireless handsets and I now use my last smart phone as the house phone.

 

There is also an APP that I tried to let the old device act as a security camera too.

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I have MagicJack for my home phone.  They have an app that uses the wireless signal to let any mobile device access the phone line.  So, out came the regular wireless handsets and I now use my last smart phone as the house phone.

 

There is also an APP that I tried to let the old device act as a security camera too.

Now why did that never occur to me?  I have Ooma and it looks like I can do something similar.

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I had one of those "aha" moments.  Actually, I used the App while overseas a LOT.  All I needed was Wi-Fi access and it looked like I was making a call from home.

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I did something similar with smartphones. Installed CSipSimple and associated them with my Cisco SIP server. Smartphones can make and receive calls to/from other local SIP phones and also make outside PSTN calls. CSipSimple goes active when the smartphones gets a whiff of my WiFi.

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I think a great use for old tablets would be as digital photo frames. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find an app that does what I want/need. Several years ago I bought my mother an eStarling photo frame. It's only 8" diagonally, and only 800 x 600, but it has one fantastic feature: it can automatically download and display photos sent to a gmail account.

 

This is a vital feature for people like my mother, who is very elderly and has never even touched a computer. Friends and relatives can send photos to the gmail account and she gets to see them without doing anything at all. She really looks forward to seeing new photos. If anyone knows of an app that could do this, please let me know. I would love to be able to take a tablet, one larger than 8" and with higher resolution, and replace the eStarling frame with it.

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Open a Limited guest Account to a separate shared folder and then powershell the contents over on a schedule.  They would still have to upload or could you sync to dropbox?

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That's the thing you see. The current eStarling frame goes out to gmail, logs into my mother's account, retrieves attachments from any new emails, resizes them, stores them on the frame, and slots them into the image rotation, all automatically. It's really nicely done actually.

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