Nook SimpleTouch eInk Tablet v2

I recently got the nook 1.2.1 firmware and it locks down the device (again). I knew I was likely to lose all my tablet-y stuff but frankly it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to and at the battery life I might as well have a new tablet. I blame the gapps, which never close and sync in the background nonstop. To add insult to injury, nook apps tend to assume you have colors. No colors makes for a very confusing experience. Also the eInk display tended to be hacky with special secret handshakes to activate fast mode, etc. Turns out someone else got really fed up with it also and decided to write a launcher and android ROM which was based on the official 1.2.1 and also knew someone might actually want to use the nook as a nook! WOW! So the smart guys over at XDA put together NookManager which does all this good stuff and still keeps the B&N official applications so you can read their books for free in the store. It even does the right things with the buttons which is really sweet.

That being said, Amazon seems to know something is up because the kindle app isn’t available in this ROM (although I suspect it’s because it upgrades the android core OS on the device) nor through the store. You have to sideload it from here, which is as simple as using dropbox to grap the APK and then opening it on the device. It does have the google RSS feed cacher, which I have desperately wanted and would crash immediately on the old ROM. The browser is still nothing special and will “forget” to update the page if you throw too much JS at it.

The only real rub is that I have to reseat my SD card for the nook to see it if the Nook completely runs out of battery. A small annoyance since I have 30 microUSB plugs next to my bed but still requires fingernails.

Nook Simple Touch: A $50 Tablet

I have reloaded my nook simple touch about four times now. Some of it is very good, some of it isn’t so hot. The nook can be a $50 tablet in addition to being an e-reader, etc. If you combine it with a phone that supports tethering, it’s truly a neat piece to have. My one gripe is the android 2.1 OS on the device tends to seriously underperform. At first I thought it was the eink display and then I figured out it really is just that crashy. The nook was developed to be an e-reader and not much more.

So why root it? For one, it reads books really, really well. If you root it, you now have access to Google Books, Google Market, Amazon AppStore, Amazon Kindle Books, Kobo and just about anything else you could want. In addition to all that wonderful crap, you can install Google Reader, which weirdly enough doesn’t support offline reading, and whatever PDF viewer you want. The stock B&N one is pretty good, but I’ve found for older PDFs, Documents Easy Viewer is essential and also lets you view office documents in 16 shades of glorious gray.

Note that the process I used roughly followed the lifehacker article, except that I’ll link to the newest versions of things. You can follow the LH version, just keep in mind you’ll end up about one version behind everything. It was dated pretty much the moment it was written. You should seriously install dropbox first on your nook, it makes the rest of this much easier.

Before doing anything, sign in with your google account and register the device. You must also have a youtube account married to your google account. You will not be prompted after you root it to register and I haven’t figured out how to get to the java object controlling this process and this is why I reloaded my nook several times. You have been warned. Register the device first.

If you follow the lifehacker article, you have more customization with the nook because you’ll be using touchnooter. If you want to bang out this entire process in one flash but don’t mind having any customization, use SalichaNooter. Finally if you really want to hurt yourself, consider minimalnooter. You should read all three of those first posts to know what’s going to happen with each of those ROMs. They’re all fairly interrelated. I went the touchnooter route and that’s what this doc will cover but I ended up customizing it to SalichaNooter’s standard before even knowing about the other ROM. Oops. The big difference is Salicha’s ROM comes with the ADW theme out of box.

Before you do anything, update the firmware. (Current as of this writing). Throw the ZIP into the root directory of the nook when mounted to your PC and then unmount the nook and put it to sleep. It will reboot. You should be on 1.1.2. You will know if you got there because the display will be faster and wifi will actually work. You want wifi working first.

Step 1:¬†Download the touchnooter rom. Use a high quality SD card (go buy one). If you’re using a mac or Linux do something like dd if=touchnooter of=/dev/sdb bs=1M and you windows guys are probably screwed.

The nook will derp around for about 10 minutes then it will turn off again. Remove the memory card.

Step 2: The nook will boot and prompt you to sign into google. You did configure wifi before you did this, right?

Step 3: Open up NookTouchTools. I map my right hand buttons to “options” and “back”. You can actually hit “options” from the menu bar up top but it tends to be glitchy and not display. I make my “n” button map to “home”. When you hit it, it will prompt you to use ADW Launcher or the B&N bar (I forget what it’s called). I set mine to the B&N bar. Observe the right hand side. You will very faintly see an arrow. This is ButtonSavior. Tapping it will always launch ADW from the “home” icon.

Step 4: Open NookColorTools, uncheck and recheck the “allow non market apps” checkbox. Not sure why but it gets screwy quickly if you don’t.

Step 5: Open YouTube, sign in (if prompted). For whatever reason until you sign in you can’t send apps to the nook from google play.

Step 6: Install the eink debug app from this thread. You have to register to see and download attachments. I prefer the regular one. This changes the screen to monochrome, which is really nice for reading text and scrolling it. This is important in google reader and opera.

Step 7: Install opera mobile. Not the one from the google market. Use that link, it goes to my dropbox. It will install Opera Mobile 12.0.2, which is the last version. Using the eink toggle gesture and opera you get that buttery smooth scrolling. The opera baked into the ROM is too old and does funky stuff. Alternative: Install Maxthon.

Step 8: Install vending.apk (google market) to enable updates. Again that’s the known-good version from my dropbox. You want updates.

That’s it. You now have a fully functioning nook tablet and ereader which will work with all the stock stuff (including in store lending) and also read email, read RSS feeds and view PDFs.

Is it an ereader? Is it an ipad? Also: 3D Movies

There’s a few trends I think are interesting at the moment.

IPad – people are starting to realize that the apple app store is isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I think it’s directly due to the influence of the droid, which lets you run unsigned code. If I were apple I would do a full court press on the fact that (up until release 2 anyway) the droid was crashy, slow, and wouldn’t run applications equally. They’ve gotten their crap together, but the early adopters paid the price. The early adopters always pay the price, and this is especially true of apple, which is why I’m surprised they haven’t thought long and hard about throwing that stone. “Hey look, apple has it’s shit together, droids the new guy just trying to be apple. If you got burned by your early adoption experience, why do it again?” I’m guessing it’s because apple assumes the ipad/iphone is entrenched via contract, but lock in only helps you in the beginning when you’re looking to protect your head start. Once there’s competition, especially competition which prides itself on being open, lock in becomes a trap. On Star is a good example of this – because the lock in is complete on both sides of the fence, no-one has challenged On Star despite ODBC and cellphones being ubiquitous. OS X is built on open standards and trying to lock it down is why the jailbreak bit is so high profile.

Amazon Kindle versus the Nook – Both of these are dead out of the gate. The pricepoint is high enough that anyone interested in it realized they could buy a low end iphone/ipad (see above) and get the app from the apple store. Those of us with droids or whatever already rip books to PDF. They industry won’t cop to it but they basically tried to legitimize piracy of printed materials the way the MPAA legitimized MP3s but they tried to do it without the lawsuits. With little deterrent effect and high price of entry, the ebook is a nonstarter. Add to the fact that PDFs can be shared as many times as you want and are basically free and the next pricepoint becomes the used book on half.com. Trying to take away the used book via lock in when the old method was to take away the used book via “updated material” (see most college courses) and there’s no reason at all to buy one of these. This is why the kno boggles my mind. Not only is it trying to compete in a struggling market with a poorly thought out economic drive but it’s neither a computer nor an ipod while being as expensive as either one.

Speaking of Piracy – the 3D thing boggled my mind as to it’s popularity up until one recent idea – AVATAR was done in 3D and James Cameron, despite being a thieving bastard, isn’t stupid. He steals tried and true scifi ideas, because he wants a sure fire way to make money. Why take the risk on 3D when it means making the most expensive movie ever? Maybe someone else was footing the bill. Someone else like the MPAA. You see, it’s a lot cheaper to help pay for 3D filming versus a giant legal team of dubious effacy. Not only that but lawsuits are pure deterrent, and people don’t like being threatened. The idea here is to replace the paddle with a carrot on a stick. Instead of saying “videotape our movie and we’ll track you down and sue you”, they said “look at this gee wiz new technology”. What they left out was that a videocamera cannot film a 3D movie.