While you might need a brand new phone to take advantage of cutting edge features, older phones are both cheap and more than powerful enough for around-the-house type tasks. I routinely pick up old Android phones either by asking friends for their old friends or buying cheap ones off eBay. One of the ways I’ve repurposed them is super awesome multimedia remotes for my XBMC boxes. If I wanted a commercial “super remote” I’d have to spend over $100 but using Wi-Fi I can use an Android phone (with a touch screen no less!) for as little as $30 off eBay. Just because a phone isn’t super powerful, super new, or your daily talker, doesn’t mean it needs to get scrapped out! Any of the useful apps you used before, at least the ones that didn’t require cellular service, will keep on working.
I work in a very, very old office. On top of working in a very old office, I work in a basement workshop frequently. For reasons beyond me, no one has ever wired up the basement with a regular light switch at the top of the stairs. The only lights are operated by a pull chain down at the bottom. There is enough light on the stairs to get down, but once you’re down there it’s nearly pitch black. Huge pain to get to the pull cord, let me tell you! A few months ago I stumbled upon this extremely inventive solution on Instructables… a guy ripped apart a solar light and rigged it up to a pull chain on his bedroom light. When the lights are off the pull chain glows, when the lights are on it doesn’t (and it charges the battery in the solar module to boot!). I finally got around to installing it on that darn pullchain and it’s somewhat of an illumination miracle. I’m curious to try and work the design into other things. Maybe my fellow readers will come up with something.
I love syncing files with Dropbox but I’m a bit paranoid. I’ve messed around with manually taking care of sensitive file encryption but it was a hassle. What I was really looking for was a simple way to partially encrypt my Dropbox folder so that the sensitive files were on-the-fly encrypted and the other stuff (like my MP3s) were just sitting there happy and accessible. A free account from SecretSync was just what I was looking for. You install it and it creates a folder in your Dropbox account that is synced across your computers and decrypted locally. Much easier than manually unpacking the encrypted container!