Hydrogen None

It turns out that the Hydrogen One I picked up was non-functional; the sim/microSD slot was broken and it wouldn’t see either… So back it goes for a refund.

I’m happy though as I got to play with the Hydrogen One for a couple of days, and that sated my curiosity of the thing. It’s a neat phone, and you can tell Red was shooting for something really extraordinary – but fell short when reality set in.

I still frown at Android’s Google-ness and desire to know more about me than I do, so without the lure of something technologically funky like the Hydrogen One I will continue to avoid Android with an almost religious fervor.

I’m also not a huge fan of iOS because of its walled garden approach to everything and heavy ecosystem requirements… I don’t want a system, I just want a phone, damnit.

So, being back in the market for a phone I started researching again…

My biggest issue with cellphones is that I don’t really need a ‘smart phone’; I don’t do antisocial media, I’m not into journaling my meals, I dislike trying to do anything important on a tiny screen, I have better stand-alone cameras and music players, and if I’m not actively in front of a computer I don’t really want always-on connectivity – so I inherently balk at spending a thousand or more dollars on a glass sandwich with a hundred invasive functions I don’t really use.

On the other end of the spectrum (pun intended) is the sunsetting of 3G and the requirement for all phones to be 4G and VoLTE by next month-ish. This means that the vast proportion of ‘dumb’ phones on the market simply won’t work come February. That and I do in fact need a few features like decent texting and maybe a GPS on occasion…

So I can’t get a simple $30 flip-phone, and a $700-1200 smart-phone is a total waste of money and pocket space… There has to be something in the middle, right?

After a few days of research I eventually settled on a Nokia 6300 4G. It’s a cheap ($70) dual-sim ‘feature+’ phone running KaiOS (a fork of the now discontinued Firefox OS).

I use ‘feature+‘ to denote that it does a bit more than your typical crackfone… It has an App Store, of sorts, and runs a few handy things like Google’s speech-to-text for texting and Google maps with a built-in GPS – both without any sort of account for Sauron to latch on to.

And being a processing-limited device, a charge on the battery lasts just short of forever. And, speaking of battery, you can just pop it out and stick in a new one when it fails… A feature that used-car money smart phones seem to have done away with.

Currently the 6300 has my old SIM in it, which still gets like 30 spam calls a day. A new SIM with a new number is on the way though and will occupy the second sim slot while I switch everything over – which will take like three weeks…

Seriously. Change your phone number sometime – it’s amazing how much crap is tied to that number and how hard it is to change it…

A cunning plan, part two…

In my last entry I mentioned how I was turning a lot of Apple gear into cash via some complicated hoop jumping; and as of this afternoon I’ve finished phase 1.

Thursday the ‘magic keyboard’ for my new iPad arrived and was immediately pressed into service as I migrated a few work-related things to the iPad – like the VPN solution I will be using to get from the Wi-Fi at work to the internal wired network.

Being as I was selling my iPhone, I reset it to factory and pulled the sim out of it. The sim card was then installed into my Light Phone so that I could at least make phone calls in the interim between smartphones. And once this was done and tested, I set about finding a cheap phone to use…

For those who don’t know, 3G service is going the way of the dodo this year and will be completely extinct by year’s end. And to complicate matters not every 4G phone has Voice over LTE (VoLTE), and those that don’t will also become little more than paper weights by 2023. So, I spent most of Thursday cross referencing AT&T’s list of ‘okay’ phones with something I could (A) afford and (B) wanted to carry around.

And here’s where things get interesting.

Back in 2017, Red (the high-end camera company) decided to try and up-end the cellphone industry by introducing the “Hydrogen One” phone.

This beast of a phone touted a solid aluminum or titanium and carbon fiber construction, a very high-rez 3D ‘holographic’ screen, 3D cameras front and back, a huge battery, and a set of pogo-pins on the back to interface to modular addons like actual Red cameras with actual lens mounts.

Basically, it was the mobile device I’d always wanted – a high-end camera with a phone built into it, versus the other way around.

The problem was that the Hydrogen One was a boutique item made with totally non-mass-market parts, so the basic version was $1300, and the upper-end phone was north of $1500. And that was out of my price-range.

The Hydrogen One was also a bit too ambitious for even Red as it suffered delay after delay. And when it was finally released in limited quantities, it was well after it was supposed to be available… And by then the bleeding edge stuff in the phone was merely high-end, and compared to other flagship phones with similar specs, cost way too much.

So, a handful of these things were sold, Red probably lost a ton of money, and a year later (2019) Red dropped the whole project. And by 2020 the two 3D marketplaces for content went offline when Red turned off the ecosystem they promised for the device.

And that meant the stock of Hydrogen One phones from AT&T and Verizon went to auction…

And Thursday I picked up one for a bit under $200, which arrived today!

The fabled Hydrogen One in all of its glory. Those pins at the bottom are for the modules that will never be produced.
The clock is wrong because no cell network yet… The “LeiaLoft” and “Hydrogen Network” apps no longer function as the web services are gone – but everything else works fine.

The Hydrogen One arrived with its shipping condoms in place and had clearly never been used, so that makes me happy. But it’s an AT&T phone and of course is locked to their network, so I filled out the online unlock form and am in the 24 to 48-hour window for them to actually do it.

But it still gets on Wi-Fi just fine and I was able to play around with it a bit once it charged up a little… It was at 50% charge in about 15 minutes and considering it’s a 4500 mAh battery – that’s not bad!

It’s currently on Android 8.1 and seems to think that’s the current version. I’m sure I’ll have the thing rooted and running a homebrew OS in a week or two though, because I can. I also need to see if I can find the spec for the module connector and see if there’s anything fun I can do with it…

The exposed data connector reminds me a bit of the ‘geekport’ on the BeBox – a 90’s flash-in-the-pan computer system for tinkerers that ran BeOS.

So, that’s my update for the day – now back to taking wacky 3D photos and videos that can only be seen on this one 6″ screen. 🙂

A cunning plan…

With everything costing just slightly less than my soul these days, I find myself needing a little extra cash to get back into the black after the holidays. And in that regard, I’ve decided to sell off some stuff in a slightly convoluted fashion…

I have a lot of Apple stuff. One might say I’m heavily invested in the ecosystem even, and some of this Apple stuff isn’t doing much more than depreciating and other items just aren’t used that much – so I may as well sell them.

By far the easiest way to render Apple stuff into money is via Apple’s recycling program because they value their own stuff pretty highly, so there’s a decent return on anything you trade in.

The downside to this is that anything you trade in only gives store credit. I need cash, so I need to jump through some hoops…

This series of hoops begins with the Apple Card; I really like Apple’s implementation of the credit card and have moved pretty much everything that bills me to it. So, I want to keep it, but I only have one device that will run the “wallet” app – the iphone. My iPad is a 2nd generation ‘pro’ and doesn’t do wallet stuff, and the iMac doesn’t have a biometric sensor which is a requirement for ‘wallet’ functionality.

Now, at work we are always looking for more mobile devices (phones, tablets, and what have you) for testing, so it’s not hard to sell my old devices to work for a pretty reasonable return on investment. But if I want to continue using the Apple Card, I can’t sell my iPhone.

And work just isn’t interested in buying a $2000 iMac off of me as I’m the only one there who could make use of such a thing.

So, today I hauled the iMac over to the Apple store where they gave me $1500 for it in trade for a new 6th gen iPad Pro (the 12″ M1 powered beast) and a $54 gift card for the difference in cost. The whole process took about 15 minutes – super painless.

The new iPad does do “wallet” stuff, so now I have a method to still use the Apple Card sans iPhone.

Once I got home, I used the $54 gift card along with the $165 Apple offered me for my old iPad to just about cover the fancy keyboard cover for the new iPad… So far, I’m about $60 out of pocket and have a much better iPad and a nice machine for work.

This frees up my iPhone 12 Pro Max that I will sell to work for $700 or so, which pays off the $60 out of pocket, covers the $80 for the new flip phone I’ll pick up to keep work happy, and I’ll get to pocket around $500 to pay off Christmas dinner and the few gifts I bought.


Interesting MMO

Over the weekend I messed around with this new MMO called “ChimeraLand” a bit.

I’m a big fan of MMOs in general, and tend to play most of them in some form or fashion for at least a day or two.

These days most MMOs come from China, Taiwan, Korea, or some other southeast Asian locale, so they tend to have a lot of cultural subtlety that I completely miss as well as being incredibly grindy. ChimeraLand is one of these Asian ports and hails from Singapore.

The game is one of the ‘survival’ style games that’s all the rage these days – mostly, in my humble opinion, due to it taking a lot less effort on the developer’s part… No need for quest content or group content when the players have to make their own content.

ChimeraLand’s new feature is the way races and critters are handled in that a lot of the body parts are interchangeable, kind of like a limited “Spore”, so there’s a ton of possibilities in both.

For example, there are 18 playable races, and each can be manipulated in lots of ways to create something truly unique. And the pet system goes even further in that your pets can literally acquire appendages from things they defeat… So I have this horse with a deer head and antlers, wings from a condor, and the tail of a wolf…

I think the aspect of the game I like the most is the base-building; you can literally build anywhere on the rather immense map. My base is currently sitting atop a tall rock outcropping at the edge of a vast plains area right off of a road – so it’s both convenient and pretty epic.

I’m not sure how much more time I’ll invest in the game though as it’s very “beta” currently and the UI was obviously designed for a mobile platform (the game runs on Android and iOS, as well as PC). So if you do successfully figure out how to do a thing, it might not be working anyway…

But, for free, it was a nice way to waste a weekend. 🙂

It was a simpler time

Yesterday I found an interesting item on the porch; a phone book… And thumbing through the thing sent me straight back to the 80’s – back when it was fun to look up your friends or find companies with weird names in the new phonebook.

Apparently CenturyLink still makes an actual physical phonebook, at least until the tree huggers freak out about it being made out of paper at least… I’m guessing that because I use CenturyLink for my fiber connection here at the house that means I get a phone book.

Of course it’s only a small business subset of the white pages and the yellow pages for the immediate area – no white pages for residential. Wouldn’t want someone being able to look up someone else’s phone number or something, a terminator might use that to find them.

Speaking of the 80’s, I had a bit of a chuckle the night before last while I was perusing old movies for something to watch. I dug up “The Running Man” from 1987 and, once again, the 80’s called and wants its dystopia back…

In the year 2019, the world economy has collapsed. The great freedoms of the United States are no longer, as the once great nation has sealed off its borders and become a militarized police state, censoring all film, art, literature, and communications. Even so, a small resistance force led by two revolutionaries manages to fight the oppression. With full control over the media, the government attempts to quell the nation’s yearning for freedom by broadcasting a number of game shows on which convicted criminals fight for their lives.

The Running man, 1987

While the movie is pretty tongue in cheek, watching it here in 2022 is decidedly different than when I saw it in the theater in 1987…

Back then it was just another dystopian action flick, and now? Well now is now.