Thursday, July 22, 2010

Modding my Droid - now, hand me that hyperdrive!

So, I'm finally using this silly blog because I'm excited about my success loading third party ROM's on to my Motorola Droid (Verizon Wireless). I've had it since the first week they were available and it's pretty great. So glad I held out on getting an iPhone because I would have been miserable just like with my iPod (thank goodness for

So I had been pretty content with using the stock software as provided by Moto/VZW. However, the new 2.2 Froyo release of Google's Android was just too much to resist. A few weeks ago I followed P3Droid's instructions (thanks dude! links below) on loading Froyo and am now convinced that I will probably always mod from here on out.

I had been interested in the CyanogenMod community for a while. What P3Droid provided was stock Android, straight from Google along with his awesome overclock-low voltage kernels. The CyanogenMod releases appear to be fairly well maintained and stable. Seems a good community of developers are working on it and they have some pretty great stuff going on. Of course I had to try 6.0-RC1 which was pretty stable but had a few interface quirks and seemed to run a little warm when overclocked. I soon switched to the nightly build from 7/21/2010 with one of P3Droid's Low Voltage kernels with clocking ranging from 250 MHz to 1GHz. The nightly build fixed all of the interface quirks I noticed and the new LV kernel runs cool, stable and has great battery life. I also installed the updated radio/baseband files. Not sure I can tell a difference, but it's working just fine.

I am in love with the ability to easily theme and tweak my interface. Adjusting rotation, number and size of widgets/icons, the list goes on. Let me say, I understand and appreciate the carriers' and manufacturers' interest in differentiating their devices, but it is clear and unfortunate that they still are not truly understanding and embracing the openness of this platform. The awesome new Samsung Galaxy S, Moto Droid X and Droid 2 phones with their signed boot loaders are a mistake. They're going to get cracked or bypassed eventually. And they're already rooted, so it does nothing to prevent the wireless tether apps and the like that take away from those revenue streams. Yes, a lot of people will buy them not caring that they're locked down. But those are the people who would not mod anyway. So the only thing you are doing is frustrating and hindering the intense marketing power of the power users. They're loss, our frustration. Maybe I'll go more in depth on this in a future blog, but I don't want to ramble too much.

So, if you're thinking of trying it, I'll try to post my experiences here and offer some tips. I'm providing links below of the best collections on getting started. It's kind of scary at first because you're thinking, "I can't afford to brick my phone." But afterwards, it wasn't that hard and once you're rooted, it's super easy from there on out.

Let's clarify some terminology...

Rooting your phone.
This means you apply a patch that gives you the ability to have root priviledges. This term is from the UNIX/Linux world which is basically equivalent to Administrator/System access in Windows. This is usually coupled with a feature/app that prompts you to let you know a program is requesting root access to do something and you can allow/deny this. There are hacks out there that give you the ability to root nearly every Android phone out there and still be using the original software that came with your phone. With root access, you can then load interesting programs like Wireless Tethering for Root Users or third party ROMs.

Read Only Memory. This is a read only image of the operating system software. You need to have root access to load these. The manufacturer has preloaded its own ROM of the Android software plus apps and tweaks. This includes choices and settings the manufacturer has decided for you. Some good, some annoying. Because the Android OS is release by Google under an Open Source license, both you and the manufacturers can take it make changes to it and install it on the hardware. So third party ROMs like Cyanogen and others make their own tweaks to it, usually give the user more ability to change the look and functionality of the device. And themes to really change the look, extending your personality to an inanimate object. Ahhh, the freedom...

So, the ROM is an image of this Android Operating System which uses the Linux kernel. Think of the OS as the body (heart, lungs, skin, skeleton, etc.) and the kernel as the brain. You can use custom tweak kernels from P3Droid and others with any of the ROMs.

If you're going to load custom ROMs, you really need to spend a few bucks on ROM Manager. The free version is okay, but you unlock much better functionality and you're supporting the development. I am not affiliated nor compensated if you buy it, I'm just a very satisfied user. It makes it super easy to download and apply ROMs, themes, kernels and takes care of recovery mode and backup images so that you can fix it if something doesn't go right.

If you want to overclock your kernel, P3Droid, jdlfg and ChevyNo1 are all well known for provide good tweaked kernels. I have only used P3Droid's low voltage kernels which I was extremely pleased with. I also highly recommend a few dollars for the SetCPU app. It gives you the ability to dynamically over/under clock based on profiles (temperature, battery, screen off, etc). When I am using it, it is overclocked and fast. When I am not using it or the battery is low/hot, it is underclocked and saving power. Again, I'm just a happy user.

Okay, Verizon, Apple/Steve, Samsung, Motorola, and others. You see all of these recommendations and guidance? Wouldn't you love to tap into this social marketing? I am currently recommending to all the original Droid by Motorola because of its openness. I hope I am presented with a better open handset to recommend soon.

Links, as promised:

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