[Toybox] Phone docking stations for general purpose computing.

Rob Landley rob at landley.net
Sun May 17 18:42:05 PDT 2020

Hey Elliott, USB-C to HDMI adapters are going for $5 now. If I grabbed something
like https://www.ebay.com/i/312982429778 or https://www.ebay.com/i/302957153131
or any of the dozen others, and plugged that and my pixel 3a into the same usb-c
hub, could I get the display on my TV and if so what would I need to do?

Next question: ARE there any usb-c hubs, and if so what keyword should I be
looking for to find them? All the hubs seem to be "USB-C to 4 USB-A" splitters.
so far. (It's like trying to find a gigabit ethernet switch in 2005: it's all
one uplink port and the rest is 100baseT.)

Anyway, it occurs to me that with the shift from 32 to 64 bit hardware (which is
why so many devices got stuck on Android-M: they were 32 bit) plus the shift to
USB-C, means I may need to draw a line in the sand.

What I probably should be targeting is "5 years from now there's gonna be a lot
of old 64 bit phone hardware with USB-C in the backs of drawers", and people
will want to use that as hobbyist development systems the way Linux took over
all the old 386 PCs in the 1990's but ignored the 286 systems.

Everything _older_ than 64 bits with USB-C is basically 16-bit ISA PCs at this
point, which would be _nice_ to support but getting that to rebuild itself under
itself is less useful, because that pool of hardware is shrinking from here on
out and the other is doing all the growing.

What's  useful is teaching new systems to have a "general purpose computing
mode" (in a container or whatever) that can plug the phone into keyboard, mouse,
and big display, and having THAT instead of having a PC means you are not a
second class citizen but a full-fledged developer. The "docking station" to give
a phone a real screen, keyboard, and mouse is a usb-c hub, usb mouse and
keyboard, and a $5 hdmi adapter, which is all cheap generic and (eventually)

At some point I'd like to be able to draw a line in the sand and say "from this
system and on newer, you don't need a PC anymore, not even to do Android OS
development". Then the PC can go the way of the mainframe and minicomputer
before it, no longer the machine anyone sits down at to do their work, it's just
big iron at the other end of some network cable that only its priesthood ever
needs to touch.

But what would be really nice is the ability to prototype this now. Can I put
together such a docking station that works with a modern phone? Getting a
terminal on the screen with a posix container that can build AOSP is just
software at that point. (And stripping down AOSP so it doesn't take an 16x cloud
server hours to build it is also just a question of putting in the work. For one
thing, you don't "make debian", you make and install packages...)


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