GUEST ARTICLE-post 2 of 2 today
The BIC computer
I believe most survivalists are keeping old laptops as their SHTF computers, and some are venturing in experimental stuff like the raspberry Pi. I did both.
Following the latest WannaCry cyberattack, I realised both solutions were not adapted for a frugal/SHTF setup. Old laptops are power hogs, and I still haven't managed the Raspberry Pi to work on my small 12VDC parking-camera-screen. The Raspberry Pi looks inexpensive as such but then you have to purchase a screen, keyboard (preferably with an integrated mousepad) and various stuff, and you also need to learn a new programming language. The Raspberry Pi is actually a false good idea and a really bad one for our purposes.
I experimented with two old Android smartphones from 2011, turning them into mini tablets without SIM cards. It works very well, and you can't beat the price, for 25 ? each I have a fully functional computer with screen and interface (keyboard + mouse) that will run on a solar charger or a 12VDC battery (though a cigarette lighter USB adaptator).
The microSD card is the smartphone's external Hard Drive equivalent, which is perfectly fine ; those come with an SD adaptator than itself can fit into an SD card reader that costs about 5 USD.
Both Android smartphones run on Android 2.1 OS, which is also why they are so cheap. That, and their 320x480 screen. Now this is actually an important point : because it's obsolete doesn't mean it can't do its job.
2- Install disk equivalent
If you search for software for the Android OS you will generally have to use Google Play, that will install these straight to your smartphone, but you won't get the install files, which have the suffix ? .APK ?
In order to have APK files for these apps, I used an app called ?MyBackup?. It saves your apps in APK form, on the microSD card if you choose so. This is how I got most of my apps, a few I had to obtain from shady sites that allow you to download straight to APK format. This whole gymnastic here is actually the difficult part in the whole setup.
Once you have searched, collected and tried all the apps you have yourself an ?install disk? for these. In case of trouble, you'll reset the smartphone to factory settings and re-install those apps. Now this is a very good antiviral option. Don't try to fix the virus, just delete everything. I don't know about Android viruses much, if they do nest in the devices' ROM then the device is ruined anyway :(
3- Software suite (for Android 2.1)
Most smartphones don't come with a files manager, but this is crucial. So I got the APK for an app called Total Commander. My smartphones all had an in-built browser, and you have to use this to install this first app. Change the (very complicated) file name to something short like totalco.apk and then type " file:///sdcard/totalco.apk " in the browser bar to install this. (Yes, three / )
The other apps I installed are :
- Jota text editor (for inventory I ditched any Excel sheet capability, I'll edit a text list instead.)
- an ePUB reader ( Nomad Reader ). Due to the small screens I complement this with a 5? hand-sized plastic fresnel lens for easier reading.
- a Talkie Walkie app (made by ACES Android Development - Bahia Blanca -Argentina) for local texting - I can't get the talkie function to work)
- A8 player video player, that is choosy regarding the files it wants to read. Together with the in-built video reader I could read most video files but not all.
These are programs that will run under Android 2.1. If you have Android 4.0 you can have much more choice and functionalities, but it will be a couple of years before these phones can become affordable. Also, those large screens smartphones prove to be somewhat flimsy, the more compact ones have less screen issues.
I think the key argument in favor of the smartphone solution is that it doesn't require knowledge of coding, it is quite easy to use and configure. This ties in with the Zero-Skill Approach : your average human in 2017 knows how to use these. Also, the Bluetooth local networking options are very simple to configure and use, albeit with limitations.
The downside of the smartphone solution is that one can't run external devices such as external hard drives. Either you build youself an extensive collection of large-capacity microSD cards with all you movies and e-books, or you still have an old laptop computer in order to access external HDs or DVD-Roms etc.
Why would we need a BIC computer ? Our first use is access to knowledge and entertainment.
You can also manage your inventory, when you don't want to use pen & paper, but with just a text editor you won't have a synthetic view.
A smartphone has many additional apps such as a calculator for instance, a motion camera alarm, some have an integrated compass, Android 4 allows you to scan documents etc. etc. This would make for another article, but I lack the information& experience to list all useable apps (that don't require connecting to Internet or a SIM card, that is...)