A Week with AlphaSmart Neo in 2017

Do you want a device that has zero internet connectivity, can't play games, has a screen that can only display two to six lines of text, and is no-longer being sold outside of ebay?

Well, for many people those minuses turn this device into the perfect drafting tool. OK that last minus is a pain in the neck since in the unlikely event something happens you're kind of on your own. However even though these devices are a decade old, they're so simple there's not really a lot that needs to be worried over outside of an internal coin battery and general cleaning.

I first heard about the AlphaSmart when it was new and going for roughly $250. Right around that time netbooks became a fad, and in response rennessance learning slashed the price to $200, then a few years later to $180, and then $120, and then they stopped being made. As it turns out even education markets with a slant towards special needs can be out-competed by tablets, smartphones, and as much as the writing community that has sprung up around the AlphaSmart line of products has tried, there's just not enough to give a sustainable customer pool. To be fair unlike the iphone or traditional computers once you buy an AlphaSmart it pretty much is going to last you for an incredibly long time with no real need to buy a replacement, or an upgrade, or any real reason to spend more money unless you get supremely unlucky and your unit breaks.

I have had rather dim things to say about the Freewrite (formerly hemmingwrite) as I compare it unfavorably to the AlphaSmart in concept and most definitely in pricing. Let's take ebay out of the equation and put the AlphaSmart at it's introductory $250. That's still $150 cheaper than the hemingwrite, you have no dependance on a specialist cloud service that might or might not be around in ten years, and the neo's battery life is phenomenal. I've been using mine pretty regularly through the past week since acquisition and it's at 96%. Wiki, the official sources, and anecdotal user stories put the battery life at somewhere between 700 and 800 hours, with many users reporting 'well I hadn't changed them in a year I might as well put a fresh set in.'Verses the freewrite getting 'a month' of use with a rather large asterisk behind that detailing the use required to get that 'month.' of battery use.

Also while far from a guarantee I do know that the AlphaSmart flickr community has been petitioning renaissance learning for access to an a SDK or some other way to modify and add functionality to the neo line. After all while the device does what it does well and adding too much functionality would be bad, having the ability to adapt to changing conditions is always nice.

Plus who knows, maybe if enough people show interest they'll try designing a new device.

This blog post was written on my AlphaSmart neo while windows was merrily updating and thus leaving my computer unusable. Can't actually upload the post until my computer gets up and going, but for me it's nice to know I don't need to worry about file formats, OS, or anything since all I need to do is plug the neo in, mouse over to whatever text field I want to dump the text in, and hit the send key so my neo can type out everything from the currently open file onto the computer.

It could be better, but I bought mine for $25 on ebay. It's easily worth $120, but in a world of tablets and smartphones I'm not sure it could sell at that price, and I don't know how much it would need to sell for to make money.

In the meantime I'm going to use the one I've gotten and maybe, hopefully, down the road we will see a newer version made.

Two Months with my Tablet Back



It's been roughly two months since I'd gotten my tablet working, so I figure a status update is in order.

Recently reinstalled a bits and pieces in progress build of cyanogenmod/lineage OS 14.1 that is a combination of both plus stock android, and the screen defaults. Being upside down. This is annoying since Aldiko, Reddit, and a few other apps don't care what the current rotation is they have this one true view of how the thing should orient and that's that.

So why not go back to an older version that isn't such a pileup?

Cm12 was apparently a bit of a mess, laggy and slow.

Cm11 worked fine but the xposed framework didn't work on it, which annoys me because gravitybox, notification editing, autocorrect no matter the app,and a bunch of other things are so beyond handy to have I wish it were baked into stock android.

Cm 10.1/10.2 are nice, but apps are starting to have android 4.4 as their bare minamum, meaning CM11.

Currently CM/Lineage 14.1 for nook HD does not have xposed. This is mostly because android 7.1 is still very new. I'm hoping the builds continue to improve and lineage becomes a stable daily driver. Granted it is still somewhat surprising the nook HD is getting even these unofficial builds given it wasn't terribly popular to begin with and it's from 2012 to boot (five year old tablet in an ecosystem driven by yearly or bi-yearly hardware refreshes.)

It's got chips and cracks in the casing but it works, it does what I want, and the charger still works even though it is literally held together by painter's tape (cheap China made knockoff adaptor given the nook uses a proprietary thirty pin cable... That uses probably the same four wires USB does. I o not like the state of my charger. Unless there is a way to replace the port with a micro USB and micro HDMI ports? It's staying though.

Would I recommend picking up the Nook HD in 2017? No. Even if you can find one cheap there is the charging cable issue, which is a shame because it's comfortable to hold and could probably be gotten for $30 off eBay.

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Tablet pondering.


My tablet is functional. I have a frankendroid mishmash of cyanogenmod/lineage OS/Android 7.1 installed. Given my tablet is a nook HD so came with a locked down barns and noble redskin of android 4.2 and it came out five years ago? Fairly impressive.

Now I need xposed to work on it, lot of little tweaks between gravitybox, the different toast modifiers, spam filters, and other single trick applettes that work under its framework that makes android a lot better.

I am currently trying to find a good app that will work with android, so expect a few different filler posts while I try finding my feet.

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