I have long fantasized about a project that provides smart phones or tablets to homeless individuals, but I want the device to come with some kind of informational or educational component. Ideally, it should be built into the phone and I had no idea how to do that well. In conversation on HN, someone suggested a custom Android ROM. This is a new concept for me.
I have already developed informational resources in the form of various blogs, but I didn't know how to set up a phone so that it points to them. Hopefully a custom ROM will solve that.
Then people can wipe their old phones, install the custom ROM and give them away. This repo is intended to provide the technical piece marrying existing informational resources to the hardware in an elegant fashion so that just giving a homeless person the phone hooks them up with a means to start solving their problems.
My initial concept was that someone would need to develop a class or information packet and that strikes me as inherently problematic. If a phone can be set up properly such that the phone itself prompts people with URLs and other info, that is a vastly superior solution. Homeless people have trouble making it to classes. They lose papers or get them wet. Etc. I think this idea only really works if the phone itself is the instruction manual for how to start accessing online resources relevant to the needs of homeless individuals.
I have a lot to learn about the technical end of things. I would welcome collaborators.
Is there any particular reason why this isn't better solved with just a regular old app?
Aside from a whole bunch of technical hurdles involved with a custom ROM, it would probably be easier to. Instead of needing to get this custom ROM on the phone, it would just be a matter of wiping the thing, resetting to a clean OS, and installing the app either through the store, or (possible on Android) by providing a link.
As for the prompts and active 'engagement': I think that's a really, really good idea. And it could be achieved by simply using the phone's built-in features (notifications, badges, alerts, etc.).
I'm not sure if I can be too involved when it comes to building the thing, but I'd love to help out in any way I can.
Previously, my best idea was to set up a throw away gmail address, activate the phone using that and then bookmark some websites. I am looking for something better than that approach.
An app still probably needs to set up your Google account on the phone to download it. That might be a problem, especially if this catches on and hundreds (or thousands) of throwaway gmail addresses are needed. I would rather the recipient of the phone set it up with their own email address.
My understanding is a custom ROM is more built in than that and shouldn't require setting up an app store account. Correct me if I'm wrong.
For Android, as far as I know, the app can just be a download from a webpage, so you'd bypass the need to use the app store, and the need for an email address.
One way perhaps to solve the iOS issue (assuming you'd even want to do this for iOS devices) is to do whatever it is that some companies do where apps come pre-installed for new employees. Not sure how that works and what the options are, but that could be a way to avoid the apple app store.