Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Root of it all

What a long and productive week so far. I know it is only Wednesday and I am already calling it long! I am going to write something a little different today. A blog about more how I do the tech geek stuff I do. This all started around noon on Tuesday, I got this idea in my head to research Rooting my Motorola Droid Android phone. I wanted to install Android OS V2.2, aka Froyo, before the official release. So I dug through the forums and read a few of the guides. There were about 10 different ways of doing it according the the people on there. So I am here to tell you it isn't that complicated and some of the ways really don't work with the phone and it can be trial and error. After I was done with the root/update and I spent about 2 hours staring at the phone setting up all the accounts and configs, I decided to blog about my experience. I think doing so will give some insight in to how I go about the geek stuff I do, and maybe explain a little of the 'why?' too.

FYI.. Rooting is the process of hacking an Android phone so you have access to the kernel files and can replace them with anything you want. Android is an open source OS. Everyone, even you, have access to the raw computer code that it is written in. There are many people in the Android community that create their own special versions of this code and publish it for general use. Many do these types of things in there free time and ask for donations. It is always good to donate some cash to these guys so they keep up the great work that they do. Think of it like tipping the bar tender, I tip my software providers.

Getting started...
Everyone knows you have to prepare for any project you take on. It may be as simple as closing the door of your office but you have to do it. In this case, I was doing this as an after work (starting at about 7pm) project. With this in mind there are some things that you have to do to prepare your body, mind and, as I like to believe, my soul. I took a shower and got in to comfortable, lay-around-the-house cloths grabbed some mind food. Most of the time I prefer a simple meat and vegie plate, like a grilled chicken breast and a side of broccoli. I didn't have the time to pull off such a meal so I digressed to the more popular and overly effective bowl of fruit loops cereal. These little sugar coated multi color loops of joy may be the best brain food have used in my entire life. I use them a lot!!!

Now I bring up the guide that I have decided to follow. It is a two part guide... an overview from a user that wanted to make sure he was doing it right, good links to more info from his post: HERE... the actual step my step detailed guide I will be following (yes guys do read instructions and follow them): HERE.

The first part of the guide is mainly downloading and installing software and drivers. RSD Lite and Motorola Flash Interface Drivers. I these items install without much issue. Suggestion... do this on a pre-Windows Vista system if possible. Issues with the new UAC (user account control) can keep it from working correctly. My Windows 7 Ultimate N 64 Bit didn't like it much. Once I moved the setups to my Windows 2003 SB Server everything went smooth. Like I said the first attempts at rooting the phone failed, I tried it about 6 - 10 times for each of the methods with slight variations in the process that I came up with on my own. The two methods I tried are the Terminal Enumerator method (not explained in the linked guide) and the RSD Method. The Terminal Enumerator method entails moving some files to the SD Card and loading them using a command line app. This didn't work all that well so I abandoned it for the RSD method as it seemed to be more well documented in the forum world and if there were problems I could find solutions. I spent the next two hours trying to get my Phone to detect on the RSD software on my Win 7 system. By the time these two hours were over and I had read about 20 different sites and forums trying to find anything that could cause the problem as I had almost nothing to go on besides it just didn't work... I wanted to not only shoot my laptop... I wanted to hack it up in to little inch squares and burn it!!! We who love and live the world of technology have the times where we are just as frustrated, if not more because we are the geeks and should know how it all works already, as the average users out there. It just made me more mad when I installed the software in to my home server and the whole process of rooting using the RSD method was complete in less than 5 mins. The process after that was merely copying files to and from the phone so that part was all done on my laptop. Important note... Do the backup processes and data clearing as stated in the guide do it twice if you have any doubts. If you do not and you update and it doesn't work... you may have a nice paperweight when you are all done. BACKUP EVERYTHING you want to keep. I didn't care about a lot of it so I only did the Nandroid backup and made a copy of some of the files on my SD Card that I didn't have saved anywhere else. I also have my contacts backed up in several other ways so I don't loose them so I did't need the backup off the phone.

Rooting is done, so it is time for loading the kernel of choice. I decided on the basic Froyo FRG01B release listed in the guide. This is just one that doesn't have too many custom mods in the release. I only wanted to add flash and the new Froyo features to my droid. I can't really afford downtime with my phone as it also is my business phone. If you want to go to the extreme mod side... Check out Bugless Beast V0.4 Android 2.2 FRF84B (Fully Deodexed). That is one of the most modded I have seen to date. The update process is easy from this point, follow the instructions and you are all set. If the update crashes your phone... see the Rescue Squad forum. There are all kinds of info in there to help you out.

Flash Update and cleanup...
There are several other things listed in the guide that you can mod to add features to your device. You are the only one to judge if you need them or not... Don't do them unless you need them. The less you mess with your phone the less likely you are going to break something. I added the Flash Beta as that was one of the reasons I was doing this update. I also followed the Watch Hulu steps for the browser to make sure flash was working correctly and I love HULU. Everything worked awesome.

Be cautious with your data usage after the update. Froyo's new features have more sync options that increase the amount of data you need to use, like Picasa web albums can now be synced to your phone gallery, and if you have multiple Google accounts it will now allow you to sync all your calendars from all accounts. Use a good WIFI connection to speed this update process up, my phone is still trying to complete the updates. I almost have 11 GB of pictures posted on my Picasa account so they are taking a while to sync to the phone. Based on the data usage it isn't downloading the full copy of the files. What can I say like to take pictures.

After the fruit loops, shredded laptop, hours of research, and quick updates, I ended with a rooted and updated phone with so many new features and I found new ones every time I opened another app. At this point I am very happy with my choice to update this way. I not have the choice to change out versions fairly easy and might up my mod level if I find something I can't live without. You can ask just about anyone I spoke with today... this root has made me like a kid geek again... and that feeling is why I test and run Beta and Alpha release software all the time. Finding a new version or new program that does better or something never done before makes me just ecstatic and I can't hold myself back from yelling it to the world.

Until my next big breakthrough... the techy writer in me is signing off.