Old smartphones should be usable as single-board computers, just as this one is

Ron Amadeo

David Hamp-Gonsalves had two issues fairly a couple of folks have as of late: previous telephones mendacity round and a slowly constructing want to get one other Raspberry Pi for a unusual private mission.

The mission this time was a personal music streaming server (detailed in full on GitHub). Whereas Pi inventories are slowly improving, they’re nonetheless not fairly what they have been, as a glance at rpilocator shows. What is much extra available is the previous Samsung Galaxy S7 telephone in your drawer. Hamp-Gonsalves had one with a damaged charging port, and a good friend had one other one with a foul battery, and one transplant later, he had a take a look at mannequin.

You may read David’s full post for the details (which we first saw at Hackaday). The gist is that he tried three options, with various levels of fiddling and success, to get the Navidrome private music service operating:

  • Working an Android terminal emulator, Termux, and discovering Android would often auto-kill it for reminiscence
  • Utilizing PostmarketOS, an precise Linux distribution for telephones, the identical one used on some PinePhones, however assist for the S7 had fallen off significantly
  • Utilizing LineageOS, the open supply Android-based system, which labored after some package deal constructing, SSH, DDNS, and transcoding work

This type of mission might be much more commonplace, and it ought to be far simpler to drag off, too. Promoting, buying and selling in, or correctly recycling your previous telephone entails inherent friction, a few of it extra unreasonable than it ought to be. These components, plus the human tendency to hoard previous gadgets, result in junk drawers of sadness. With effort, although, a tool with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, an SD card slot, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and an SoC discovered new life as a streaming server.

Seeing a reborn Galaxy S7 jogs my memory of Samsung’s short-lived, little-considered Galaxy Upcycling program. The corporate, having partnered with iFixit (the place I beforehand labored and wrote about this), meant to supply unlocked bootloaders and software program initiatives to assist folks flip their older Galaxy telephones into home-automation instruments, retro sport consoles, and even straight-up Linux desktops—the everyday assortment of “previous laptop, what now” initiatives. It was novel for an Android telephone maker to proactively provide unlocked and repurpose-ready gadgets fairly than watching because the neighborhood bypasses its safety and updates its previous telephones, as LineageOS has achieved for Hamp-Gonsalves’ S7.

Software program-unlocking and root entry are vital, however so is battery management. I’ve spent near a decade repurposing dozens of previous gadgets and taking a look at a whole lot extra initiatives. In the mean time, I might love to show an previous iPad right into a wall-mounted House Assistant sensible dwelling management. However almost each on-line dialogue of those initiatives might be derailed by considering what you may do concerning the battery inside.

What can happen when an old smartphone battery is left charging forever.
Enlarge / What can occur when an previous smartphone battery is left charging eternally.

Getty Photos/NurPhoto

Some batteries are sensible and will not hold trickle-charging once they’re full, switching as an alternative to run themselves totally from an influence supply. Some batteries are only a cathode, an anode, and a really dumb controller and can mean you can hold making use of high-charge stress to them till their already-old selves swell, push on their already-tight areas, and both develop into spicy pillows or, effectively, catch fireplace. In each dialogue, you may discover somebody who saved an previous Android pill plugged in for years and had no points, alongside cautionary tales from folks speaking about why their desk has an oblong warmth mark in it. If battery firmware might be up to date or telephone makers all the time provided a kiosk-like cable-only mode, this sort of dire guesswork might be averted.

Not each telephone can do what a Raspberry Pi can do, to make sure, and area of interest telephones are positive to have far much less curiosity from builders. However it will be good if extra small, helpful initiatives might discover a dwelling inside a small, helpful gadget that has already been manufactured and is value much more working than as shredded bulk.

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