The problem with bleeding edge devices is that they quickly become old and irrelevant. Replaced with the latest gizmo, old smart phones and PDAs tend to find their way to a drawer or a landfill after about 2 or 3 years.
It’s not that most of us want a throwaway society. It’s that most of the gadgets we buy are designed to expire, with hardware that cannot be user serviced, batteries that cannot be easily replaced, and with firmware and software stacks that cannot be modified to accommodate the future. Proprietary. Closed. User subjugating. Stupid.
One half of the solution is to choose open hardware and open source whenever you have the choice. The other part of the solution is to hack your closed devices to do your bidding. Thankfully, there are a lot of people working hard to make the latter possible, and you can run Free Software on everything from Palms to iPhones.
We caught this note from Hans-Christoph Steiner on the dorkbot nyc mailng list. He’s currently working on a project called Reware, which is attempting to bring a common hacker-friendly Linux distro to a variety of PDAs:
We’ve been working at Eyebeam since July on making it easy to hack old devices and run new software on them. We now have our first Reware HOWTO video, showing the basics of how to use a Reware image yourself, then it illustrates some of the Pd patches we’ve made.
Coming soon, a image for running Pd, Python, and Lua programs on PDAs, as well as a HOWTO for making Pd patches for 1-5G iPods. The key idea is to turn old PDAs, mobile phones, etc. into something like an Arduino, where you can easily upload your own code to the device.
Currently Reware supports several Palm devices, but with iPods on the radar and a number of Pocket PCs that can run Linux, there’s a lot of potential here. Just think about all those 200-400MHz ARM processors just waiting for something interesting to do.