I did a full kernel build, wrote the device driver for the LCD screen, am currently writing the driver for the SIM. I have a debian rootfs running on it - its a nifty little linux gadget. I am currently using a bunch of these as part of a linux kernel hacking tutorial for college kids.
I believe there is a lot of potential for these as alternatives to RPi and its brethren for certain applications. If you try to add all the above peripherals to RPi we quickly cross $500 (of course, you would probably not do so in reality).
If any one is interested in more info, message me.
Shameless Plug: I am also looking for consulting ops on such and similar (I have a LOT of embedded and electronic design experience - from vague user spec to full design).
These little systems are quite capable indeed! I remember compiling the Linux kernel on a 1ghz machine with 32Megs of RAM, back in the day .. and here we are with these little machines in our pockets. Fantastic stuff to be teaching kids to use ..
Lots of things seem up your alley, like the need for a per pixel alpha driver for the Kopin display, etc..
I remember the time when Mediatek was considered ultra-low-end and relatively unknown, and sellers would be selling MTK phones faked to show Qualcomm and other more "prestigious" brands of SoC. Faking MTK would be unheard of, because there wasn't anything below them (there were still fakes between the different SoCs models from them, and that still continues today.) Now that MTK has grown past that point and others have appeared below them, they've become a lot more desirable. I'd consider the fact that someone wants to fake some other brand as MTK evidence of that.
The interesting thing about the MTK platform is that it's "unofficially open" - various people have leaked detailed technical information on the SoCs, which doesn't seem to bother MTK; maybe it's somewhat deliberate. Many devices are also rooted by default, and it's really easy to root one (there's no bootloader locking, and being able to read/write the entire internal storage in raw format via the official SpFlashTool means they're practically unbrickable.) This means they're quite hackable, and the low price also helps. MTK themselves won't provide any support, but a whole community has formed in its place.
Perhaps the same might happen to Spreadtrum in the future, but the last time I looked there was not nearly as much information available for SC devices and rooting was not easy.
The "Time Switch Machine" is scheduled power on/off. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_switch
The rooting is definitely to do with company culture though, the Jiayu S3 I recently played with (and has become my daily driver) actually has a root toggle in the settings menu. Great stuff.
I also recently noticed a kickstarter that is trying to pitch a device that can act as a emergency charger or powerbank using phone batteries.
By the way, the fact that the author of the blog could not get past 2.5G could be because the phone only supports 3G in one of the SIM slots and the only SIM was inserted in the wrong slot. This is the kind of thing that can be confirmed by looking up the datasheet of that SC6825C SoC, to see if it supports 3G at all. The main problem is, before buying you can never be really sure what SoC it has...
The "Timer Switch Machine" is probably a function to turn the phone on and off automatically at given times. Most Mediatek chips support this (as well as ringing alarms when off), so it'd make sense if their competitor's chips also did this.
These days you find this dual direction (lift to open, left and right to adjust temperature mix) type everywhere. But as best i can tell it was originally designed with handicapped users in mind.
Unfortunately many of the one-control faucets have terrible mechanical engineering under the interface, and as a result you often can’t adequately control either pressure or temperature, and the two aren’t actually separated orthogonally (i.e. as you move the control along one axis both attributes change, and to change just one attribute you must adjust the control along both axes)
Shameless plug, my startup wholesales a 3G Android smartphone with 4GB memory running on a Spreadtrum chip that costs $30: https://www.voxsupplychain.com/shop/users/#/shop/product/and...
We have found that there are some natural dividing lines on low-end Android specs. If you cut more corners, it really impedes the user experience.
For example: I use the terms flash memory and flash storage interchangeably. The other way round, RAM can be thought of as temporary storage that is lost when the device is powered off.
Lowest we could go for a SC7715 was about 35$.
Also, we work directly with carriers and get wholesale rates for air and sea freight to major ports. Delivery to Hamburg by sea is about $0.05 USD per device for 1,000 smartphones.
These phones would make excellent autopilots and controllers for RC cars, quadcopters, even regular helicopters, but there's just a few things missing.
My email is in my profile if you'd like to be in touch.
You can't be sure whats in it unless a company such as Chipworks tears it down piece by piece and wire by wire. Sneaky is the norm in hardware.
Why isn't some smart hacker buying these in bulk, reverse engineering the firmware to enable the full 1TB, and reselling at a 1tb price point? Would that be a good business?
It's a moot point anyways because reformatting an HDD to a different capacity would be an impossibly complex endeavor. Performing a low-level format on a modern HDD requires a multi-step (and multi day!) process of burn-in and calibration. None of it is documented publicly of course. Doing this outside of the factory is far beyond the realm of possibility.
If it's literally the exact same hardware, but different firmware, then they most definitely should perform exactly the same.
Some IP vendors are also offering encryption, tamper-sensing circuitry, and obfuscation to help chip-makers protect the systems better. They really want that extra few hundred dollars. ;)
So, that counts out at least one HD vendor from my claim. More could follow if they do something similar. Thanks for the article, too, as I enjoyed reading it.
They could be serious defects too, i.e. surface abberations that would damage the heads if they ventured into that area.
But I'm guessing the drive manufacturers test the platters and use faulty platters for these firmware restricted drives, like CPU makers test the cores.
There might be some 750GB disks using 1TB platters, but the difference is never x10.
One of the most expensive aspects of chip manufacturing is the setup cost, i.e. the mask and "tooling". So it is much cheaper for them to it once and have one chip that rolls of the line.
Also, things like RAM and EEPROM have fabrication errors just like other parts of the chip. It isn't uncommon to have "self healing" RAM. Basically the RAM has a few more cells or address rows more than the actual capacity. As part of wafer testing certain paths are cut so you still end up with the amount of RAM you need. Although it takes up a bit more area (because you're actually manufacturing more RAM) you still end up with higher overall yield.
So as chips come off the line, some get binned into lower grades, or RAM size and the rest of the features are disabled via laser cutting fuses or vias.
I hope Mozilla can encourage interesting but honest budget engineering.
E.g the first one I had in that range was a (physically) near perfect Samsung SIII replica, complete with the dandelion screen saver, and the place I bought it for hinted strongly that you could get it with the Samsung logo if I asked. I knew what I was buying (a much slower MTK based phone), but I saw plenty of places try to pass it off as a genuine SIII too, which at the time was substantially more expensive.
This is often the best way of finding (reasonably) honest sellers: Look for other sellers offering the same phone and assume the worst listed specs are most accurate.
The interesting thing is how they've gotten to the point of faking MTK cheap-ish based phones too, rather than just faking more expensive devices.
Here's some good background reading on the culture of these ecosystems:
Almost none of the phones in that range are truly "no-name" (though beware the fakes) - even Oppo and Jiayu are fairly established brands by now, though obviously nowhere near as well known.
They have some... interesting models like this one, which is far cheaper than $400:
I have the quadcore (MT6589) version and have gotten quite a few "is that an iPhone running Android?" questions, which somewhat adds to the experience of owning one. It's slightly bigger than an iPhone though.
This because transistor density allows for two things, but Intel is only pushing one of them.
First it allows for more compute power for a certain price.
Second, it allows for a set compute power at a lower price.
The second comes because you can stack more chips on a single wafer, and so get a bigger yield out of each production run.
I suspect Intel avoids that one because it will inevitably lead to a race to the bottom.
The base Android system will run with surprisingly little RAM.
Mostly because it held a story about the lady out buying a handbag, and using her detailed knowledge of brands to get the seller to bring out ever better copies of a certain brand from storage.
I wonder how much this falls within a culture of haggling.
(Now lets see if i can find the right one...)
You can get higher spec better screen phones for $75 or less if you send in rebates. In the US we have hit smart phones that are affordable to everyone and can do "most stuff" already.
I did read the article and saw the phone in question fakes most of the specs.
ZTE Whirl 2 is $9-19 and runs 4.3
Moto G is $29 (<!!!, as of last week - probably sold out by now, but max 2 per person on bestbuy.com; boost mobile moto g's standard price is $39 either way though: this is probably the best price:performance ratio in terms of not being a complete POS)
I pick up a few oddball phones for android testing/development.
Some of these have like.. 300x480 screens or something equally ridiculous, which is a nice way to test for "see how bad your app can get". It helps that they are all "legitimate" phones, i.e., have the full Play Store and ecosystem (supporting push, google accounts, etc).
ZTE Whirl 2 is $10 still (active, in store only) - http://www.familydollar.com/pages/hotitems.aspx
Moto G is over now, it was $29 on bestbuy, carrier locked to your choice of Boost, Verizon, or a few others. Not rootable
Plus there are lots of used phones smartphones for cheap.