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GUIDE: In the beginning... There was ROOT

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By skri11a, Senior Member on 7th May 2009, 06:48 PM
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7th May 2009, 06:48 PM |#2  
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Lightbulb GUIDE: In the beginning... There was ROOT
So you’ve got a nice, shiny, new G1 and you’ve been hearing about all the amazing things you can do with it but you “MUST HAVE ROOT”. As far as you know, you’re not a plant (although you may feel as smart as one at this point) and beyond that, you have no clue what any of the terms or concepts mean in context.

Well, I’m bored so I’m going to try and clear some things up.
There are a lot of threads that cover each of these things but I’m going to try and put as many basics into one post as possible. Hopefully it can be a perfect start for n00bs and good reference in lieu of search for others. Please feel free to correct any semantic (or blatant) mistakes I make.

I’ll keep the glossary here and update terms as I add to this post:

Android OS - Like Windows Mobile but based on Linux, using a Java based front end.

Linux - Open Source operating system used instead of Windows XP/Vista, Mac OSX etc... it's free (as in beer).

Open Source (From Wiki) – Free and open source software, also F/OSS, FOSS, or FLOSS (free/libre/open source software) is software which is liberally licensed to grant the right of users to study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code.

Root (as in access)- root is like the administrator account on a windows machine (also referred to as su, or superuser). It allows you to have complete access to the underlying OS of a linux or *nix based machine. For the G1, it allows for the use of themes, native backup functionality, manually selecting which apps can utilize root access, auto-rotate screen, multi-touch in browser, moving applications/caches to the sd card etc...

Root (as in location)- the 'root' of a folder or drive is the top most area of that location. In windows, C:\ is the 'root' of your hard drive. The 'root' of your SD card just means you haven't moved into any subfolders.

Shell – (also heard as terminal, bash, command line) This is a loose definition, but it’s basically a command line to run specific actions against the OS.

Bootloader – the SPL and IPL of a flash based device. See jashu’s description here.

SPL (Secondary Program Loader) - You get to the SPL by holding the camera button while powering on your phone. This is where you flash NBH images. See bootloader above.

Recovery Mode - Holding the 'Home' key while while powering on the G1 will take you into Recovery Mode. From here you can perform a NANDroid backup, wipe your phone, access a command line and of course, flash your phone with an file.

RC## (or release candidate) – In context to the G1, it is an official release of Android from T-Mobile meant specifically for the G1 (not ADP).

ADP (Android Developer Phone) – A Google specific (or carrier non-specific) version of the G1/Dream that has root access by default and is meant for developers writing apps for the G1, or Android in general.

ADP vs. RC## - Neither RC’s or ADP versions are tied to their respective hardware. With the right bootloader, you can flash an ADP image to a G1 or an RC image to an ADP.

JFV1.## - Is a specific Version of a JesusFreke ROM. JesusFreke is a developer on this website that has graciously spent his time to modify the G1 OS to allow us to have root access to our phones. This gives us the ability to explore and modify our phones via a command line.

Cupcake – a development branch of the Android OS that contains many improvements that was merged into the master build of Android and is currently being released to new phones as Android 1.5.

Nandroid – a utility, accessible through Recovery Mode, that allows you to backup your phone and restore to the exact condition at backup.

Apps2SD – Applications moved to your SD card instead of internal memory. Some people like the extra room, some people don’t want to hassle with the partitioning.

Partition – just like the partitions that separate cubicles in an office, a partition separates parts of a drive.

File system – there are many. It’s basically a specific way of organizing data on a partition. FAT(32) is generally windows, ext2 is generally linux. This is not a hard and fast rule, just most common in context with what you’ll see here.

Scripts – scripts are text files that contain a list of commands to perform. Instead of typing each command out multiple times, a script can be run that will initiate all steps listed in the script.

Android SDK (System Developer’s Kit) – This includes all tools (sans fastboot) that a developer needs to create applications for the G1. It also has tools for interacting with the phone via a command line (ADB).

ADB - is a part of the SDK that allows you to run commands against the G1 in lieu of using the terminal on the phone itself.

Fastboot - is a tool used to flash system images (.img files) to the G1 from a command line on your pc. IMG files are created when you do NANDroid backups and official images can be downloaded from HTC as well. To get to fastboot mode on your phone, hold the back button while powering on.

When T-Mobile first released the G1, they left a bug in the Android OS that allowed anything typed on the keyboard to be passed on to a root shell running in the background. This really was a major flaw and needed to be patched. Unfortunately, when they patched it, they really patched it. RC29 was the last version that still had root. With all versions RC30 on, it was removed. It completely denied us any hope at modding our “open-source” phone.

Somehow, the base image for RC29 (dreaimg.nbh) was leaked and some enterprising developers were able get access to the bootloader and return an updated G1 (RC30+) to RC29 and use this to regain root.

Somewhere along this road, Google released the ADP (Android Developer Phone), which has root enabled and uses a specific SPL (EngineeringSPL) that was the base for the modified HardSPL that most of us use now. Nandroid was included to allow us to back up our phones and shortly after, JesusFreke modified RC30 to keep root and still provide the fixes and improvements that came with it.

I’m not sure where it all started, but eventually, LucidREM released a modified version of JesusFreke’s ROM. This made moving applications to SD painless and freed up system storage and now we can have 32 flashlights and 62 tip calculators installed all at once.

Apps2sd has been the bane of many peoples existence. It requires you to partition your SD card in to separate file systems (FAT32 to remain compatible with windows computers as a mass storage device and ext2 to maintain compatibility with the underlying linux OS of the G1). It also requires you to move your apps to the SD card and then create symbolic links (similar to a windows shortcut) from the internal location pointing to the SD card. Lots can go wrong in this process and that’s why LucidREM, MartinFick, MarcusMaximus04 and others have created tools to help simplify the process.

Now of course, to achieve any of the things you want to do with the G1, you have to interact with it. There are at least 2 main ways to do this. Some prefer to do everything from the phone itself using a terminal, while some prefer to use their PC with the phone connected via USB. Others avoid both of these, as best they can, and use other peoples apps or scripts anywhere they can get away with it. This is why you may find many different explanations of the same goal.

In order to interact with your phone from a pc, you need the Android SDK, which includes ADB. ADB is basically a linux shell that communicates with the G1. It is easier to copy and paste from threads and insert commands without worrying about making typos. It also requires it’s own bit of hoops to jump through (unless you use a mac or linux ;)) and sometimes scares people away. It is highly recommended if you plan on hacking at your phone with any regularity.

Of course, there are some sadists (I once was one) that like to type line after line of code on a tiny keyboard and use the terminal directly from the phone. This is fun and it makes you feel 1337, but it also leaves a lot of room for error. Remember, you are a root user now, and any mistake you make can be potentially huge.

Well, that’s all for now folks. Please feel free to add, subtract, reorganize, correct anything I’ve said, in the comments. Also, I’ve tried to add links to any relevant threads and sources that I used in making this… this, whatever you wanna call it.

Thanks to everyone in this community for doing what you do. We are all geeks and enjoy doing this stuff. It's good to have so many talented people taking an interest in Android and the G1 in general. It is open source communites that keep technology interesting and exciting.

Thanks to Haykuro, TheDudeofLife, all the theme devs, and all the big players that I didn't reference in this post. Oh, and SolemWishing for the Timeline! It helped, thanks!
7th May 2009, 08:50 PM |#3  
Senior Member
Austin, Texas
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Awesome post for nuubs. This should be permanently stickied!
7th May 2009, 10:38 PM |#4  
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Very cool. a couple terms you should add:

Recovery mode

(including what key strokes you need to hit to get into spl and recov. modes)
7th May 2009, 10:58 PM |#5  
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Thanks for the feedback!

I added SPL and Recovery... let me get my facts straight on fastboot and I'll add that tomorrow.
7th May 2009, 11:23 PM |#6  
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I don't know if it is the right place for it, but there seem to have been lots of question about "radio" or more specifically "radio update".
7th May 2009, 11:39 PM |#7  
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San Antonio, Tx
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I feel smarter already.

I particularly found the file system explanation useful, i put it together that fat32 and the other were the two partitions but didnt realize which was for cpu. Not ready to attempt but definitely closer (although Im not even sure if I want to partition i have no need for all that space at this point) It doesnt affect performance does it?
8th May 2009, 03:00 AM |#8  
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Agreed. Good stuff. Definitely noob required reading material.
8th May 2009, 03:20 AM |#9  
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Yes, indeed a very nice guide for the beginners. Hell we ALL started that way...i remember when I first got this phone ~6 months ago (no root), and there was almost nothing about it, no support, no add-ons, no hacks, nothing. It was boring, and for me I was coming from a motorola (motomodders?), so going to something that was far superior but didnt have community support made me almost cry.

Though look now, 3 months later the market was filling up and being abundent of new stuff to play with (I didnt even try rooting for a while, until it became a lot more well-known [fixes and the likes], and themes became a necessity because they started to get really good), and now 6 months later people are hacking away figuring out soo much stuff about it. Amazing work everyone, seriously.

Something good: It all starts at the roots .
8th May 2009, 03:59 PM |#10  
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Well, I added info on fastboot and exceeded my 10000 character limit. Now I understand why so many people reserve the second post. lol...

I'll make some changes so I can add info about the radio, however the link to fastboot explains the radio fairly well.

Thanks for the feedback everybody, I hope this helps some people out.
8th May 2009, 04:24 PM |#11  
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Originally Posted by skri11a

So you’ve got a nice, shiny, new G1 and you’ve been hearing about all the amazing things you can do with it but you “MUST HAVE ROOT”. As far as you know, you’re not a plant (although you may feel as smart as one at this point) and beyond that, you have no clue what any of the terms or concepts mean in context.

When i read those lines i knew that this post would be worth reading

It was a really nice n00b guide, though ive done some WiMo flashing so some of the terms sounded familliar i certanly learned a thing or two

I would say it should be stickied and put on the wiki - oh and perhaps list it in alphabetic order, it would make it more usefull as a "I dont understand this term so ill just look it up"-thread...

Perhaps you can get a mod to give you post #2 & #3

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