Aug 302013

UPDATE: I no longer have a Droid X, so I cannot provide any further live advice. It’s a great phone and I was delighted to own one; I have since upgraded to a Galaxy S4, which is also a great phone. I can’t answer any questions about “What happens when <x>?” and so on that aren’t already covered by the steps below. If you encounter errors, ensure that your initial conditions are identical to what I outline below, and that you followed all of the steps exactly.

This is as much a reference touchstone for me as it is meant to serve for anyone else trying to do this. The information is out there, but the collective community of folks working on this stuff have made it nigh-impenetrable. Hopefully, this little guide will cut through a lot of that.

This information pertains, specifically, to a Motorola Droid X on Verizon Wireless’s network running (initially) Android 2.3.4 with System version 4.5.621.*.

 The word circulating that rooting this phone isn’t doable, or installing new ROMs isn’t possible, is completely false. What is not false is that the phone has a locked bootloader, meaning you can’t just throw any old bootloader on it you please.

  1. The very first thing you need to do is get ahold of and install Framaroot, which is the key piece of software that actually roots the phone.1 (The link is to version 1.6 and works as of this writing. If it doesn’t, click the superscript to get to the actual development thread and download the latest version.)
    1. To do this, just download the APK and save it somewhere on your phone (your Downloads folder, for example). You can either download it directly on your phone by going to the above link in your phone’s browser, or download it to your computer and then transfer it via USB.
    2. Next, enable installation of apps from untrusted sources. Home Screen > Options button > Applications > Unknown sources
    3. Finally, navigate to the place you saved the APK in your File browser and click on it. If prompted, choose Package Manager to install.
    4. You should now be able to run Framaroot. Do so.
    5. When you run Framaroot, you only have a few options. Superuser and SuperSU are two flavors of the same thing: they let you run applications and commands as root. Some people prefer one over the other, but I haven’t noticed a difference yet. Pick whichever you prefer.
    6. There should be one or more “exploits” listed that will allow you to gain root access. Pick whichever you please (Gimli was listed first for me, so that’s what I went with).
    7. Reboot the phone once it finishes.
    8. Go to the app store and download Root Checker Basic.
    9. Run Root Checker Basic and click the Verify Root Access button.
    10. When an app wants root access, you’ll get a prompt that asks for permission. This will (probably) happen now.
      • Usually, it’s fine to say yes if you know what the app is and expect it to need root access. If you ever get prompted by an app and don’t know why it might be prompting, say no!
    11. If all has gone according to plan, you’ll get a green message saying that your root access has been verified.
  2. Having done that, you can now go out and download a bunch of other nifty things.2
    • ROM Manager is a nifty little thing for managing various ROMs. It comes bundled with Clockwork Mod Recovery (CWM), but you won’t be using this particular bundled version for this process. However, you’ll want to use it to Fix Permissions (see below), so grab it all the same.
    • BusyBox remaps a bunch of internal system commands to more common names. If you’re familiar with Linux at all, these commands will all be familiar to you (ls, awk, cat, grep, etc.). This’ll be useful later. You should run this once and get everything set up. The Basic Install (a step that happens once you run the app) should be fine.
    • Titanium Backup is the real king, though. This program allows you to make backups of every app on the phone and uninstall any app on the phone!
      • You should go to the Options > Batch actions... > Backup all user apps and make a backup of everything, then uninstall anything you don’t want (I’m looking at you, V Cast, Verizon App store, stupid NFL game I never played, and so on).
    • SMS Backup+ backs up all your text messages and call log to GMail. This is somewhat optional, and you may have misgivings about storing all of this with GMail given some of the recent NSA garbage, but that’s all up to you. This takes a while, so hook your power cord in and let it run.
  3. As another precaution, I’d also recommend just flat-out copying all of your phone’s content onto your desktop when it’s mounted as a USB Mass Storage device.
  4. Export your Contacts to create a backup of that, too.
    1. Open up your contacts.
    2. Click the Options button
    3. Choose Import/Export
    4. Select Export to SD Card
  5. The next trick is to get around the locked bootloader. You can’t actually do this; instead, you need to use a “bootstrapper.” For a while, this wasn’t available for Droid X folks that had received the final Verizon update push, but that seems to have changed.
    • Grab the necessary APK from here.3
    • Install the bootstrapper APK the same way you installed the Framaroot APK.
    • Once installed, click the first option Bootstrap Recovery
  6. Download Pooka’s revision of CyanogenMod 7, the last version that works on Droid X. (CyanogenMod is up to version 10.2 now, but the DX won’t support it.)
  7. Also download GAAPS for CyanogenMod 7.1+.
  8. Stuff the zip files somewhere on your SD card’s root directory however you prefer to do so (USB, direct download, etc.).
  9. Open up ROM Manager and run Fix Permissions to ensure everything is readable/writable/etc. as expected.
  10. Take a deep breath.
  11. Run the Droid X Bootstrapper and click Run Recovery.
  12. If all goes well, this will reboot your device into ClockworkMod Recovery.
    • You can navigate with the volume buttons. The camera button selects and the power button goes back.
  13. Select backup and restore.
  14. Select backup. This will take some time.
  15. Select wipe data/factory reset.
  16. Go back to the first screen and select install zip from sdcard.
  17. Select choose zip from sdcard.
  18. Navigate to the place where you put the CyanogenMod zip file and select it.
  19. Scroll down to confirm the selection.
  20. Wait.
  21. If all goes well, you should see install from sdcard complete.
  22. Repeat steps 16-21 for GAAPS.
  23. Go back to the main screen.
  24. Select reboot system now.
  25. Cross your fingers.

If everything worked, you’ll boot into CyanogenMod 7! Go grab Titanium Backup from the Market again and use it to restore any apps you want. Restore your contacts using the same method you used to export them earlier.


  1. Framaroot development thread []
  2. XDA thread on what to do post-root []
  3. RootzWiki thread where this bootstrapper was released []
Aug 222011

Cannot run out of time. There is infinite time. You are finite. Zathras is finite. This…is wrong tool.

I have many, many projects that capture my interest. Writing is foremost among them, but so too are home improvement projects, costuming, digital art, web development, programming, learning to play the guitar, and so on. I often lament that I simply don’t have enough time to do all of that and my job and spend time with my wife and spend time with friends.

But that’s really a load of crap, isn’t it?
Continue reading »

Jul 152010

Today marks the release of the Droid X, the latest and greatest Droid phone carried by Verizon. It’s a Motorola product, as was the original Droid (but not the Droid Incredible, which was created by HTC). Since my two year Verizon contract expired at some point in June, and Cody and I want to get on the same phone plan, it seemed like a great confluence of events — we’d renew a contract with both of us on it and get a pair of Droid X’s in the process.

Then I wake up to see a Slashdot post in my RSS feed that links to an article mentioning that the Droid X has what amounts to a “fuse” in it that will “blow” if you attempt to alter the base operating system.

If the eFuse failes to verify this information then the eFuse receives a command to “blow the fuse” or “trip the fuse”. This results in the booting process becoming corrupted and resulting in a permanent bricking of the Phone. This FailSafe is activated anytime the bootloader is tampered with or any of the above three parts of the phone has been tampered with.

There are two obvious reactions to that: “Those bastards!” and “Wait, what?” A little detail for those who may not recognize what that’s saying. At some point, Motorola’s going to stop supporting software updates for the phone. So what happens, after that point, if you want to get the latest Android update? If you’re the basic user, you’re out of luck. If you’re tech savvy, though, you modify (hack, mod, root, etc.) the phone so that you can download and install the latest update. What this is saying is that if you try to do that, your phone will lockdown and simply fail to work.

In essence, Motorola has placed a “bomb” in your device, the device that you own, that will cause irreparable1 harm to the device if you use it in way they don’t approve of. This is different than locking down software, which is bound by EULAs and so forth. When you buy hardware, you own the hardware. Period. If someone messes with your hardware, that’s a crime. Cue the class action lawsuit.

However, this may actually be bullshit. Here’s a later comment from the Slashdot article:

It’s not even clear if this information is real. TFA [] links to a forum post [] which doesn’t seem to actually contain a source of the information (the OP states it’s a mix of “hard information” and “conjecture”). Said forum post then links to the eFUSE wikipedia [] article, which lists Droid X as having an implementation of eFUSE. However, if you look at the Droid X wikipedia page linked to from there, you’ll see the original is what is cited for the eFUSE inclusion bit.

People love a good conspiracy and reading malice into any large company, so this particular fact has been mostly overlooked. In a few days, more information will probably be available, either confirming or refuting the allegations. But even if the allegations are true, there’s hope:

eFuse is an IBM brain child, and they have it in several of their RISC products. The XBox 360 has one in its xenon (ibm power pc) processor. The Texas Instruments OMAP processors that motorola chose for their droid x are using the eFuse technology. The statement that it is not reversible via software is bull, once you figure it out, you can set up a JTag interface (as any serious modder will do anyway) and then you can reverse the eFuse bits and try your mod again.

All the same, Cody and I are going to give the Droid X a few days to accumulate reviews before we decide whether or not to buy. The reality is that neither of us is likely to mod our phone, and by the time the phone reaches its EOL2, we’ll almost certainly be ready for new hardware anyway.

  1. Irreparable by you, anyway. []
  2. End Of Life; when a developer stops officially supporting something []
Apr 202010

As mentioned yesterday1, I designed a new folder schema2 in the hopes that a simple, logical, planned hierarchy would make organization and maintenance easier. I started moving files this evening. This is no small feat when it involves around half a terabyte of data3. Fortunately, all of the path-critical stuff4 moved without any complaints.

My parents came to visit this past weekend. With them, my mother brought me a bluetooth headset that she originally purchased for herself, but never used. Having used it today to chat with her and my dad on my drive home from work, I have to say that I’m impressed. It’s a pretty awesome device for something so small. And I admit: tapping my ear and saying “Call <x>” to make a call makes me feel pretty futuristic. There are still some problems in the whole voice recognition department5, but that’s par for the course.

Speaking of technology, and coming to the actual observation that prompted this post, I walked by the living room just now where Cody was watching Glee. She had her laptop set out in front of her as she watched. After a few incidental thoughts about how curious it is that we, as a society, are no longer content consuming media in one form at a time, I thought back to an article I read many years ago regarding the integration of humans with their electronics (i.e. cyborgs). The author of this article proposed that we were already cyborgs; it was just a matter of degree.

We are often tied to our computers. The Internet is the conduit through which many of us communicate, inform ourselves about current events, and educate ourselves about the world6. Many of us now depend on computers as part of our ability to execute our profession successfully. Many of us depend on computers for the existence of our professions7.

None of this is to say we would be non-functional without them8, but rather that they are thoroughly entwined with our day-to-day existence. With that in mind, will actual electronic-body integration be all that remarkable a thing? A technical achievement, absolutely. But will it truly revolutionize anything? Or will it be just another progression from room-sized computers to tower PCs to laptops to netbooks to smartphones? It’ll be hard to get smaller than the current smartphones9 without impairing their usability. The only place left to go is in — inside your head, integrated with your eyes and ears, etc.

But is that really all that different?

I am, as it may be obvious, not someone who is particularly intimidated by technology’s progression. I think it does far more good than harm10 and it’ll only get better. Sure, there’s always risk, and as the technology advances, so too does the risk. Risk doesn’t mean danger, though. It just means that you stand to lose or gain in varied measure.

The other day, I had a narrative scene pop into my head11 wherein a group genetically/biologically “perfect” humans squared off against cybernetically-augmented humans. The face off was more or less a pissing contest, and went something like this:

“We are pure and perfect. Your capabilities may infrequently exceed ours, but at least we don’t have machines defiling our bodies.”
“Yeah. Too bad for you on that one.”

I think that sums up my feelings.

  1. Okay, technically this morning. []
  2. The plural for schema is schemata, not schemas, by the way. []
  3. Admittedly, I probably don’t need to have half a terabyte of data just sitting around on my disk drives, hence the effort to organize. []
  4. Mainly, my internal home webserver that I use for proofing out ideas before they go live []
  5. “Call Home.” “Did you say…Send a Message to Voicemail?” “…no.” []
  6. For good or for ill; that’s not really the topic I’m addressing []
  7. I certainly wouldn’t be a technical artist without computers. The position wouldn’t exist. []
  8. Though, admittedly, much of our modern society relies on computers for smooth operation. []
  9. Without some kind of virtual projection technology, anyway. []
  10. It’s the anti-religion! []
  11. This happens quite often. If I recorded every one of these scenes, I’d have volumes of material. []

Fun with Telemarketers

 Posted by at 14:52  No Responses »
May 212009

I’ve been receiving the obnoxious car warranty scam calls for quite some time. I added the number they call from to my phone’s address book so I would know at once that it was them calling. I accepted the most recent two from them. The first time, I asked them to remove me from their list. The second time, which came the same day, I demanded that they remove me, lest I go to the “authorities.”  Later on, I read about how the FTC is investigating this very scam, so I felt pretty good about life.

Then, I started getting calls from the same number, but with a different pitch.  However, since it was the same number, I treated it as the same bunch.  Here’s how our first chat went.

“Hi, is this Ryan?”
“Who’s calling please?”
“My name is Anthony from Specialty Travel.  Our records indicate you bought an Orlando Disney vacation package a few years ago and never took the vacation.”
“Aren’t you people being investigated by the FTC?”
“Excuse me?”
“Aren’t you people being investigated for scamming by the FTC?”
“…THIS IS THE KGB!!!!” <click>

I relayed this story to my coworkers, who had overheard my end of the conversation, to much amused and astonished laughter. Today, they called me again! After exchanging some pleasantries, the following:

“How often do you get a chance to travel?”
“Oh, about every other week or so.”
“I mean travel outside of Boston.”
“Yeah, every other week or so. Cross-country.”
“Cross county? That’s gotta take more than a week. Do you fly?”
“Man, that’s gotta do some great things for frequent flyer miles.”
“Ohhh yeah.”
“Well, I have an Orlando vacation package for you. How does that sound?”
“Well, to be honest, it sounds like a scam.”
“A scam? It’s not a scam.”
“Yeah, it is.”
“It’s not.”
“Come on. We both know it is.”
“Well, how do you feel about what Orlando did to Boston? Was that a scam?”
“Eh, I don’t really follow sports.”
“Yeah. Kicked the Celtics’ ass.”
“Say, are you guys still with the KGB?”
“The KGB?”
“Absolutely. <click>”

I’m honestly starting to enjoy it when these guys call. It’s entertaining, at the very least.