Monday, September 30, 2013

Are rooted and customized roms (android) secure?

I have rooted and installed custom roms on just about every android device I could get my hands on when I started to realize - how do I know if these custom roms are not installing a key logger in there or some type of malware or spyware? What about the rooting part?

Quick answer to my own question is I don't think so- I really don't think the developers would be interested in my FB, gmail, etc and what would be the incentive? It doesn't make a lot of sense. Plus the code is open source so if the code does contain something nefarious, other developers would have already pointed this out. Still, I wasn't sure so I figured I'd do some research just to be safe.

As for the rooting part, some would say that rooting and installing custom roms are completely different - I think while technically true, they are more like two sides of the same coin. You have to root to install a custom rom but you can root without installing a custom rom - but what would be the point.

So what's the verdict??

From my own experience - all my rooted devices are working and are working much better than the stock roms that came with it. stock roms come with a multitude of apps (bloatware) I don't need nor use but I cannot uninstall. Every time those bloatware apps asks for an update and I update, I swear my phone gets worse. If I don't update, it gets worse still. I couldn't even answer the phone because the screen would freeze!  I have not ran into those issues ever since I rooted and installed a custom rom. I also ran some AV scans on my phone and found no malware - no weird emails, no weird banking stuff - so far so good.

From what I have researched so far??

Yes and No. Confused?? let me qualify --

Well first, let's look at the rooting part. From what I have learned, data is simply not safe on rooted phones. Let's say you lost your phone and some asshole decides to power it off and take out the sim so you cannot locate it. Boots your phone into recovery, connects to it via adb, and dumps all your data to an .IMG file. He can repack it, flash his phone and now he has all your information. Sounds easy?? well its not. Well first, they have to have your phone - second the technical skills required to pull this off is staggering - you need a guy who is a resident XDA/rootzwiki developer and even then, its highly doubtful someone can pull it off. Technically it's possible but what's the point? You can encrypt your phone (android has this feature built-in) but it can still be cracked using freezer attack - freezer attack actually freezes your device to extract the encryption key from your RAM. Simply put, rooted phones are not safe but is it something you should worry about? Unless you have some wikileaks worthy stuff on your phone - No and if you do have that, don't put it on your phone.

What about apps? Apps that require root access cannot simply gain root access. You have to allow it. Apps in the google play store are scanned by google anyway

As for custom rom part - It depends on the ROM. Cyanagenmod, Paranoid Android, Slim Bean have widespread use and reviewed by many so I would consider it safe. These ROMs are based on Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and since it's open source, hundreds of developers see it and if there are any viruses or malware cooked in, it would have been found by now.  If anything, custom roms are safer than stock roms - what do I mean? Because of built-in apps like CarrierIQ. Security Researcher Trevor Eckhart explains

Here's the article from engadget 

Evil stuff ain't it?? The only way to protect yourself is to install a custom rom!

What about google apps (gapps) and the play store? Are they safe? First, let's understand what gapps is. Due to licensing restrictions, custom roms do not come with Google's proprietary apps (youtube, play, talk, etc). These apps are closed source and comes directly from google. If it has any sort of malware in it, it would be Google not developers doing it. Developers are simply taking google's apk and packaging it to "Google-ify" your device. 

So there you have it - is it safe to root and install a custom rom? Yes and No - but I think the benefit outweighs the risk. So bottom line, do your own research and decide for yourself if it safe to root and use custom roms. Happy rooting!

Friday, September 13, 2013

How to root B&N Nook HD +

Well here it is - this is the device that got me interested in this rooting business. You can turn a $150 nook HD+ device to full blown Android device ala Nexus 10. Nexus 10 starts at $399 so rooting a nook was very enticing. Although B&N is getting out of the tablet business, I think it's a good value. By the time this gets old, there would be a new ipad, nexus, galaxy tab anyway so why not? at $150, why not?? Don't take my word for it though, here's a cnet review

Modifying or replacing your device's software will void your device's warranty, lead to data loss, hair loss, financial loss, privacy loss, security breaches, or other damage, and therefore must be done entirely at your own risk. No one but yourself is responsible for your actions. Good luck.

If you are a noob (newbie) like me, you can brick your phone/device and this more than likely voids your warranty. So If you feel that you are not ready to lose that device, don't do it. Proceed with extreme caution. You have been warned!!

Let's get started shall we..

First you'll need the following

  • Nook HD plus obviously
  • microSD Card (at least 4GB but I would recommend 8 GB) - $6 in amazon for an 8GB sd card
  • another microSD card 32 GB to put in the microSD slot for later use - optional but I bought one anyway because its cheap ($20 in amazon) 
  • Recovery - I use clockworkmod  (CWM)
  • Custom Rom (Cyanogenmod)
  • Gapps (google apps)
The rooting process cannot be simpler

  • Download the files
  • Create a bootable SD Card and install recovery
  • Backup stock rom (optional but recommended - just in case)
  • Install CM 10.2
  • Install gapps
On my nook, I decided to use CM 10.2 - which is the latest and greatest (Android 4.3). Running bleeding edge comes with issues since it has not been thoroughly tested - but its been working well for me so I use it. You can use an earlier version if you like - just download the CM version and corresponding gapps - the steps are the same. With that said, go ahead and download the following files
Now, to create the bootable SD card

  • unzip the boot image file (about 4 GB)
  • unzip the win32diskimager and run the Win32diskimager.exe. Choose the boot image file and let it complete
  • Access the sd card to make sure you can read files (you may need to remove and re-insert your sd card)
  • Copy the CM 10.2 zip file to the micro sd card
  • Copy the CWM Recovery zip file to the micro sd card
  • Copy the Gapps zip file to the micro sd card
Now that we have a bootable SD card, we are ready to backup your stock rom
  • Power off you Nook
  • Put the bootable sd card you just created in the micro sd card slot (bottom of the nook, there should be flap you can pull out)
  • Power on your nook. You should see the 'Cyanoboot' logo on the screen on boot-up
  • Once you are in CWM recovery, use the volume buttons to move the cursor and the n (nook) button to select and the power button to go back.
  • Select 'backup and restore', then 'backup'. CWM will now start to backup your stockrom to the micro SD card. The backup files will be in the clockworkmod folder.
Now that you have a backup, we can start to load our custom rom
  • Select 'wipe data/factory reset' then follow the prompts to finish
  • Select 'install zip from sd card' then 'choose zip from sd card'. 
  • Select and Install the CWM recovery
  • Select and Install the CM 10.2
  • Select and Install Gapps
  • Remove the micro sd card
  • Reboot your Nook
That's it folks - it is really that easy and it works! Your nook should start booting to Cyanogenmod 10.2. If you bought the 32 GB micro SD card, you can insert that in the micro SD slot and place your ebooks and movies there. 

All the credit goes to  XDA developers - particularly verygreen who did most of the work here. Also kudos to Scott Rosenquist whose youtube video inspired me to go ahead and purchase the nook hd+ then root it. In fact, this tutorial is based on his tutorials - I just use CM 10.2 

Screenshot of my Nook HD+

Saturday, September 7, 2013

What's wrong with the Levi's 501 Jeans?

Profit not Quality never goes out of style..

I guess its the profit is more in style these days!

I don't really like shopping for clothes, I find a brand I like and comfortable and tend to stick with it. Levi's was always the brand to go to. I never had to try them on - I just bought my size and it was perfect fit every time!  So I was out with the wife one day and saw Levi's 501 jeans on sale. I got so excited that I bought 2 pairs of Levi's 501 jeans - didn't even try them on as I never had when buying Levi's so I didn't expect this one to be different. 

My wife washed it and I was excited to wear them - I noticed something different with the fabric. It looks great but it feels different. It seems to be a little "thin". Levi's 501 jeans were always very comfortable to wear but I was finding this one a bit uncomfortable. So I tried the second pair, it's worse - it doesn't fit very well and its the same fucking size jeans!! 

I started thinking that this was all in my head and that I just needed to "break them in". So a few weeks passed and nothing has changed and its gotten me really irked. What the fuck?? Am I too old for a pair of 501's now? Was it just me? Is it all it my head - I mean it's Levi's 501 jeans its over 100 years old! Every pair I bought in the past was perfect!

I did a little googling and to my surprise, it was not just me! People all over are complaining about this iconic product! The symbol of quality - "Quality never goes out of sytle" my ass!! Other people have the same complaints as me! Here's the reviews from amazon

"Not as good as it used to be", "Levi's has gone downhill", "Worst pair of jeans ever bought" - I mean the list goes on and on - and its not just amazon reviews -it's reviews from Levi's very own website as well

And to make things worse, on of the belt loops break - not even a month wearing it. Fucking assholes! Way to ruin an american classic! Now I have to find another brand of Jeans!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Renewing your HTC mytough 4g slide (HTC doubleshot)

How to Root and Install ICS (Android 4.0) on your old t-mobile mytouch 4g slide (HTC doubleshot)

Before we start, please read the...

Modifying or replacing your device's software will void your device's warranty, lead to data loss, hair loss, financial loss, privacy loss, security breaches, or other damage, and therefore must be done entirely at your own risk. No one but yourself is responsible for your actions. Good luck.
If you are a noob (newbie) like me, you can brick your phone/device and this more than likely voids your warranty. So If you feel that you are not ready to lose that device, don't do it. Proceed with extreme caution. You have been warned!!

In my previous post, I talked about rooting the HTC mytough 4g (HTC Glacier). Its still working so I decided to root my wife's HTC mytouch 4g slide (HTC doubleshot). She was always bitchin' about how her phone was so slow, freezes up, and how much of a piece of shit it was and that it was time for her to upgrade. I made here a bet I would root her phone and if she was not happy, I would buy her an iphone. She agreed but with conditions

  • phone won't freeze
  • phone would be stable - no weird stuff will happen with the phone
  • she would be able to use the phone to make calls, send text messages and take pictures
With a lot of money at stake, I could not afford to fail - literally. Luckily, this was much easier than the mytouch 4G so let's get started. 
As with the previous post, the task list is as follows.
  1. Unlock your phone
  2. Flash a recovery Image
  3. Create a backup of your existing Phone
  4. Flash your new ROM (this is your android) - but get a stable version
  5. Flash your new Google Apps (including play store)

Unlocking your t-mobile mytouch 4g slide (HTC doubleshot)

For this task, you would need 
  • HTC Drivers
  • HTCDEV account
  • USB cable for your phone
  • adb.exe, fastboot.exe, adbwinapi.dll (all found in HTCDEV)
  • Windows 7 (or 8) but I did mine on Windows 7
Follow these procedures
  • Ensure the HTC Drivers are installed on your PC. HTC Drivers can be found on the SDCARD that came with your phone (HTCDrivers.exe).
  • Create a folder in your PC anywhere (I suggest in c:\ so easier to get to). You can name it whatever you like e.g. c:\android\ . This will be the repository of all the files you will need (adb.exe, fastboot.exe, adbwinapi.dll, rom updates, images, etc)
  • Get yourself an HTCDEV account by going to  Register and obtain a username and password. 
  • Once registered, login to and click on "Unlock Bootloader" then click on "get started
  • Choose "mytouch 4G slide".
  • Click on "Begin Unlock Bootloader" and follow the instructions. 
  • Instructions are straightforward and if you follow them to the tee (or T - don't know which one is correct) , you will be able to unlock your phone
Flash a recovery image for your t-mobile mytouch 4g (HTC doubleshot)

Now that you have unlocked the phone we can now flash a recovery image. There are a lot of recovery images out there but I use clockwordmod - it seems to be the most stable and for me, the easiest to install. Let's proceed.
  • Go to
  • Choose the mytouch 4G slide recovery - versoin recovery-clockwork-
  • Download the recovery image to your c:\android\recovery-clockwork- and rename that file to c:\recovery.img (makes it easier to type later on)
  • Go to bootloader - adb reboot bootloader
  • fastboot flash recovery recovery.img
  • fastboot reboot
You have now flashed a recovery image.

Create a backup of your t-mobile mytouch 4g (HTC doubleshot)

Now that you have your clockwordmod recovery image, you can now create a backup of your phone. Let's proceed
  • Go to bootloader - adb reboot recovery
  • Choose backup and restore
  • Choose backup
You have now successfully created a backup of your existing phone. The backup will be placed in your sdcard in clockwordmod folder. Copy this folder to your PC so you have a backup of your stock rom. You can now restore to your stock rom in case you need to. 

Flash your new ROM for your t-mobile mytouch 4g (HTC doubleshot)

Now that you have a backup, we can now flash a new ROM. There are many options out there on the net. The one I have been using is from CM - Their latest official stable version for the HTC doubleshot is CM 9.1 which is Android 4.0 (ICS). There are unofficial ports CM 10.2 even but one of wife's condition was no weird stuff - no gremlins so I chose the most stable version. You can choose other versions and you can find them in xda develpers. You can now choose whatever ROM you like but I chose the official CM 9.1 release.

There is a link below for the ROM and GAPPS (google apps and play store) which you will need. Download both and save to your c:\android then copy both files to the root of your sdcard. Both links are in the forum but I have included them below. If they no longer work here, download it from the directly. 


Now that you have the ROM and GAPPS, you are now ready to flash your new ROM to your phone.  
  • Boot your phone into recovery again - adb reboot recovery
  • Choose wipe data / factory reset
  • Choose Yes - - delete all user data and wait for it to complete
  • Choose Install zip from sdcard
  • Choose zip from sdcard
  • Choose This will be your new ROM which is based on CM 10.2 Android 4.3. Wait for it complete
  • Choose install zip from sdcard again
  • Choose zip from sdcard
  • This time choose your gapps  This will be your google play store and google apps.
  • Reboot your phone
Most tutorials will then tell you that the process has been completed. Upon reboot and you see the CyanogenMod logo, then great it's working. Chances are though, the mytouch logo will appear and it will not do anything. It is just stuck there. If this happens to you (it did to me), you have to flash your boot image. To do so, follow these steps
  • Boot your phone to bootloader again - if you are already stuck on the mytouch logo screen, you will have to take out the battery and hold down the down volume and power at the same time to get into your bootloader. 
  • Connect your phone to your laptop via the USB
  • Extract the file boot.img from and place that file to your c:\android directory
  • fastboot devices // verify that the device is detected
  • fastboot flash boot boot.img //  boot.img is the file you extracted from the rom you downloaded
  • fastboot reboot // reboots your phone
You should now see the CyanogenMod Logo (looks like a robot cat) on it. Congratulations, your phone is now running CM 9.1 with Android 4.0 ICS. Next time your phone reboots, it will recognize the new boot image and you now have a new phone!

My wife has it running for about a week now and so far so good. No major issues found just yet and according to her the phone responds pretty fast. Battery is a little suspect but it has always sucked from the beginning so I just bought a new battery from for $7.99 and that solved that issue. She says that the battery now lasts all day - even better than the original one. This cheapest phone upgrade I have ever done!! Oh and wireless tethering works too!

Credit goes to all the programmers of clockworkmodCyanogenmod,and rootzwiki. Also thanks to Goo.IM for hosting the gapps and the roms and whoever the developer who ported . Creating these ROMS I am sure took a very long time and then they have to host them so we can download it - please donate if you can. They don't force you to donate but if you can, please do so. You can find their donation buttons on their respective sites. Enjoy!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Stop Chasing the money and Start Chasing the Passion

Been reading Tony Hsieh's book lately - delivering happiness - and its a good one. He said something that really hit home - stop chasing the money and start chasing the passion.

I was reminded of Tim Ferris' 4 hour workweek book and the path I started in finding my muse - and even though I think I get it, I am now starting to think that I still don't get it. I didn't get the message the first time and although I think I get it now, I will probably lose sight of the target again. What am I babbling about?? I have been chasing the money too much and not chasing the passion. I tried to create several niche websites but then I was writing about things I really didn't like. I was interested in the creative process - specifically, the technical process but I was more interested in the revenues that it would potentially generate. After doing much reading and actually doing less and less, it got too boring for me. I figured, the muse was not there. Finding topics that people would like (trending) and then researching it and writing about it was not my thing.

When Tony's company (link exchange) got bought out by microsoft, he was required to stay for 12 months to "vest in peace". He realized that he had all the money that he needs yet he wasn't happy. Simple things made him happy. Building things made him happy - basically, being happy as it turns out was about enjoying life. That made me think of my own happiness and think about the times when I am happy. And like Tony, simple things made me happy - building things, making things, figuring things out, learning something new and travelling was when I was most happy.

I was talking with a buddy of mine the other day and I asked him if he thinks Tim Ferris would be proud with what I have done with my mini-retirement and what I do now, he said something interesting - he said that Tim would probably consider me "new rich". Looking back, from where I was back in 2008 to where I am now, I am doing great! Mini-retirement was a risk but it was well worth it and I am even a better position now. I am still learning from people like Tony - be happy!

Anyway  lesson learned today was stop chasing money its a fools errand and start chasing your passion. Find your muse - again! Hope it sticks this time.