ESA ISS Tracker on Nokia Lumia 520

While the unfortunate Samsung 500T will be dropped from Windows 10 support in 2023, I don’t need to wait that long for a Microsoft end-of-life product. I have several old Windows Phone 8 devices on hand, and they’ve already ventured beyond the bounds of supported systems which is bad for security if I wanted use these devices for general internet activities. But if I have only a specific web property in mind that I trust to be safe, then all I care about is if it works. ESA’s online HTML ISS Tracker fits this bill.

The version of Internet Explorer built into Windows Phone 8 is far more compatible with web than IE of old, though it still had enough incomplete/missing features to make its web experience a little bumpy. It’s fine for most sites and a quick test on a Nokia Lumia 520 proved that the ESA tracker is one of them.

Since this phone had hardware navigation buttons, there was no need to keep a navigation bar on screen as the Amazon Kindle did. This allowed the ISS tracker to actually have the full screen as intended. The is one cosmetic problem: the map occupied top part of the screen leaving a little black bar at the bottom instead of vertically centered. But that’s a tiny nit to pick.

I could tell this the phone never to turn off the screen even after some period of inactivity, better than I could with my Kindle. The phone should be able to run indefinitely on USB power making it suitable for an around-the-clock display. The only thing I can gripe about is screen resolution. The 800×480 screen of this Windows Phone is just a little too low resolution for all the ISS tracking details to be clearly legible. I think a HTML-based status display will be a promising way to reuse obsolete Windows Phone hardware, but maybe a different project preferably with lower information density. This shortcoming of the Lumia 520 motivated me to repeat the same experiment on a Google Nexus 5, another phone that has fallen out of support.

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