The Hacked Barnes & Noble NOOKColor: CyanogenMod Makes It Even Better
At the conclusion of last week’s writeup on hacking a ViewSonic gTablet to transform it into a fiscally attractive approximation of a Motorola Xoom, I mentioned that next on my list would be a revisit and revamp of the Barnes & Noble NOOKcolor that I’d first ‘rooted’ in early March. The Auto-Nooter-augmented NOOKcolor was certainly more robust than in its factory-default software stack past, but with it still being based on Android 2.1, I wasn’t (for example) able to install software to its microSD card. The embedded Bluetooth transceiver wasn’t enabled. And because it wasn’t a full-blown Android build, using it was somewhat wonky; some utilities weren’t functional at all, while others only partly worked, gaining access to my Google Contacts and Calendar data was incomplete and hit-and-miss, etc.
Therefore my motivation to further revamp the NOOKcolor firmware foundations to Android 2.3, courtesy of the same CyanogenMod v7 ‘Android Community ROM’ that I’d used last week on the gTablet. The full update guide on the CyanogenMod website is reasonably complete but (again, as with the gTablet) assumes a degree of expertise that comparative newbies like me might lack. To wit, a few up-front comments from Wednesday night’s ultimately successful experiments:
- The instructions linked to above will install CyanogenMod (and optional Google Apps) to the eMMC (internal memory), expunging the factory firmware in the process. If you instead want to install the new firmware image to the microSD card, which the NOOkcolor will boot from if present in the tablet’s expansion memory slot (thereby preserving the factory image in internal memory, should you ever want to go back to it), follow these instructions instead. Note that an add-on memory-tailored build of the O/S and apps is reportedly very picky about which microSD card you use; too-fast cards, ironically, seem to give more problems than do their slower siblings.
- Because I didn’t realize until after install was complete that I’d be overriding the factory image (which is ok, actually…I had been concerned that future B&N-pushed updates, which end users can’t block, might wipe out my AutoNooter efforts), I ended up spending more money than was necessary. On hand, I had a variety of 1 and 2 GByte microSD cards, along with a 4 GByte card that I was currently using with AutoNooter, and two Kingston 16 GByte cards. However, the ClockworkMod Recovery images available for download only come tailored for microSD card sizes up to 8 GBytes. So, since I thought I was going to be running everything off the microSD card, I went ahead and bought a Patriot 8 GByte card for $17 after rebate. As it turns out, one of the smaller cards already on-hand would have also handled the hacking process just fine.
- Now that I know that the microSD card is only used (in normal operation) for user data, along with apps that optionally install to external memory, I replaced the Patriot 8 GByte microSD card (which, by the way, self-identifies as a Sandisk card in Mac OS X) with one of the Kingston 16 GByte cards. It’s only Class 2 speed-rated, but I figure that given the NOOKcolor’s 800 MHz single-core CPU and other relatively conservative system specifications, a faster and more expensive card would be overkill.
- Mac OS X users, before you use the ‘dd’ (data dump) Terminal command to copy the image file to the microSD card, don’t forget to first uncompress the IMG from its TAR.GZ source The ‘dd’ command will happily copy the TAR.GZ to the microSD card, and much faster than with the IMG counterpart, I know from personal experience. But subsequently inserting the TAR.GZ-inclusive microSD card in the NOOKcolor will not produce the desired end result!
As before with the gTablet, when I saw the CyanogenMod “splash screen” appear on the LCD, I knew I was good to go:
I’ve succeeded, as with the gTablet, in installing a plethora of apps onto the NOOKcolor:
Among them is Barnes & Noble’s Nook E-book app. So I figure the company can’t be too upset with my hacking efforts, since I still have access to lucrative-to-B&N content purchases:
Speaking of apps, and just as with the gTablet, third-party programs don’t (yet?) seem to have access to the accelerometer…bubble level utilities and the like don’t work. But one thing that does now work is Bluetooth, as I forecasted in last week’s writeup. Initially this didn’t seem to be the case; Bluetooth was available for enabling, but every time I checked the appropriate box, it’d uncheck itself after a few seconds:
However, another writeup from the eminently knowledgeable Quinxy von Besiex set me straight. For reasons that aren’t clear but nonetheless are effective, you need to disable Wi-Fi, reboot, then enable Bluetooth and re-enable Wi-Fi. At that point, all’s well: