18 September 2010

On Android communities

Giant Google Android statue with puppy and cupcakeImage by ToastyKen via FlickrWhile not writing for the blog many things changed in all of our lives but to be a bit more specific, I bought an Android mobile phone. It is a budget second generation phone made by HTC and called Tattoo.

Android is the operating system that runs on the phone. It manages the hardware and offers a unified platform for apps to run on it. One of the main advantages of Android is its freedom. Because it is based on Linux, its licence forces the source code to be available for anyone to hack. However, the devices themselves aren't nearly as open. That's why hackers across the world love to break into phones and change their inner workings. Such actions are usually deemed entirely legal and can offer quite a bit of insight into how computers are made to work and the quality of work done by industry engineers.

Why would someone root their phone? To do advanced things to it that are otherwise impossible! For instance my Tattoo had faulty buttons under the screen. Before sending it in for repairs under warranty I copied the contents of the on-board memory chips onto my memory card and did a factory reset. That way no prying eyes could access my data, my email account, etc. That turned out to be a good move because the phone had to have its motherboard replaced. On this motherboard the memory chips were soldered and I would have lost months of customizations had I not made backups.

Many discussions on mobile phone hacking and development take place on the forum xda-developers.com. Of course there are many other, more specific sites, but usually everything worth noting can be found on these forums. A problem I had at the beginning while reading various threads there was that, sure, there are many technical and newbie guides but very little is said what the accomplished result is useful for. Perhaps that is also a consequence of the bulletin board nature of the site. I find that wiki sites are much better for new people because all the information is centralised on one page, condensed and more formatted for legibility than countless bits of information spread around forum posts.

By the way, if you are considering buying a smartphone, please, PLEASE, do yourself a favour and don't get a budget phone. I find myself wanting the characteristics of a better phone all the time. The hardware can be very limiting to the usefulness of various third party applications and even to their availability. Fortunately some of the limitations are software based and therefore the attractiveness and promise of community based upgrades and hacks becomes quickly evident.

I imagined this blog as being more technically orientated so as not to deviate from that premise I will soon post some guides how (and why) I have fun with my mobile phone.

Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment

Yin & Yang!