This blog requires a disclaimer…..

Wow, only three posts into this thingy and I have to put a disclaimer up…I’ll get to that; but first a word about the all powerful, global, multi-billion dollar corporation Sony:

REALLY?  It’s like being a high schooler beating up kindergarten kids for their lollipops.  Here Wiki Article Those should give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Yet again Sony has gone after a 21 year old kid for being smarter than their geeks. The first time looked like this of course that was more the RIAA than Sony, but Sony had their fingers in the pie too.  The premise for those that didn’t bother to read the links is: Sony is going after this kid for hacking his Playstation 3 and offering to help others “jailbreak” theirs. I understand that Sony doesn’t want people to modify their PS3’s I really do, I also think taking a 21 year old kid to court over it is a bit excessive.  If they had half a brain for every billion dollars they have;  they’d have hired the kid.  So can someone please explain what this multi-billion dollar company has to fear from one hacker?  I hadn’t even heard of him until the lawsuit started up.  So think about that the next time you want to go drop a dime or two on Sony’s newest overpriced gadget.

That is not entirely unrelated to today’s real topic…..and here is the disclaimer


So….I decided to flash a custom ROM on my 8 month old Android phone.  In other words I decided to put a version of Android on the phone that was not made by the manufacturer, or supported by my carrier (see disclaimer) Some brilliant people make these as a hobby or for a living.  That is one of the beautiful things about using an open source product: if your device won’t do something, there is probably an app for that (thanks for the saying Apple) Because what open source means is that the source code, or the programming instructions are available to the public.  In fact one of the legal requirements for being “open source” means you HAVE to let people have the source code.  If they can have it they can edit it.  This leads us to custom ROM’S, as well as the 45 zillion apps on the Android marketplace. To be clear the source code for Android is open source, the user interface or the part of the phone you interact with is not open source.  In other words each manufacturer has their own proprietary software that goes on the phones.  Thus when you install a different version, or a custom ROM you void the warranty.  This doesn’t apply to manufacturer sponsored updates obviously, that is still their software, and if you install their software and brick your phone it should still be covered under warranty.

Now for me this was the first time I’d really thought long and hard about putting a new ROM on my phone, and I have several reasons for doing so….mostly I just got bored with my phone.  I’ve had it long enough that I know all about it, and I wanted a new toy and don’t want to pay for a new phone.  So I started researching the steps involved in this process and almost quit.  It’s really quite a bit of work, and there was definitely some fear of bricking my phone.

I’m not going to go into detail here, but it’s a fairly lengthy process all in all, and it takes a bit of nerve to watch your phone appear to do nothing for what seems like eternity.

I will say this though, I didn’t brick my phone, and in fact I’m quite happy with the results.  I was very careful to back up all of my data, I mean EVERYTHING, apps, pictures, contacts, settings etc…and I only lost one picture.   The process itself doesn’t take very long, it took me about an hour from the time I did the initial factory reset until I finished re-installing my apps.  There really wasn’t very much weirdness, my contacts were a little weird but it was a quick edit to get them back to normal.

So if you are wondering why anyone would do this to their phone, there are several reasons:

1) Bloatware– you know all the crap programs the carrier demands be installed on the phone so they can charge you $4.95 a month for a GPS, even though you can get one for free (on Android anyway).  Bloatware is something to be expected, but carriers seem to ratchet it up every new product cycle, more useless programs that take up memory on your phone.  Bloatware is difficult if not impossible to uninstall with out root access, and there can be a LOT of it, therefore a custom ROM is sometimes easier to use.

2)Some apps require “root” access, this is more common than you might think,  I use an app for monitoring wireless networks that has to have root access.  Of course you don’t need a custom ROM for root access, but most of them seem to be rooted.

3)Carrier unapproved applications–AT&T for example will not allow users to install anything that is not from the Android market.  custom ROM’S don’t have those limitations.  There are other types of unapproved applications too, but I’m not going into those.  This might be against your terms of service so be warned. (Google is your friend)

4) Added functionality–Maybe you want to do something that your carrier/manufacturer simply won’t put in a phone.  Find a ROM that has the functionality and have a nice day.  These of course might also violate your terms of use with your carrier, so be warned.

5) New Look–this was my big reason, I saw a ROM I liked the look of.  The user interface of some phones just plain sucks.  This is one way to get a nicer user experience.

So the question for the day is do you want to flash a custom ROM on your phone?  Probably not.  For the most part the phone’s are pretty decent working the way they are, and it’s not worth the risk of bricking your phone just for giggles.  IF you decided AMA (against my advice) to flash a custom ROM, or root your phone, research it first, think about it, sleep on it.  Then follow the steps as outlined by whoever built the ROM, see it’s like this, they made it, they probably know more about that ROM than you do.  Each one is a little different, and each has it’s own quirks.  The MOST important thing I can tell you about this is too backup your data.  I’m going to say it again, BACK UP EVERYTHING, I mean your non-volatile memory, contacts, applications, pictures, music EVERYTHING you can find to back up BACK IT UP.  Because if you flash a ROM that changes your IMEI and you don’t know how to change it back you are hosed.  Thats only one example, there are lots of things that can go wrong.  So research it, and think long and hard about it before you decide to do it.

The internet is full of information……..

have a good weekend all.