In a prior post I offered a few thoughts on the future of the Nook Color as an awesome Android tablet, and in another I showed you how to root the last version (v1.0.1) of the Nook Color software. In this post, I've updated all the links and instructions for the latest version of the Nook Color software (v1.1), should you happen to have purchased a newer one, or want to start over with the latest version.
Gathering all the pieces you need
The first thing you have to do is track down a Nook Color of your very own. At present, this might be a bit difficult, as most Barnes & Noble stores are sold out, but Wal-mart stores appear to have pretty good stock (at least at the moment). Also, you'll need to pick up a microSD card and an appropriate adapter (like this one) so that you can plug it in to your computer. Most computers and laptops have an SDcard slot (often referred to as a Multi-card reader), but if yours doesn't, be sure to get a USB to SDCard adapter as well (like this one). USB to SDCard adapters may be a little tricky to find in stock at a local store - I've had the best luck at office supply stores like OfficeDepot and OfficeMax. Keep in mind that you'll be using the microSD card to store music, video, and pictures on, so be sure to select one that is of sufficient size. Note that an average, feature length movie (don't worry, I'll tell you just how to encode your own from a DVD below) will require about 800 Megabytes (roughly 0.8 Gigabytes) of space.
Once you get your hands on all the bits you need, go ahead plug the Nook Color into the wall for an hour or so to get it a good charge. While that's happening, we'll want to get ready to root the device by preparing the microSD card.
Preparing the microSD card
Fire up your computer and head on over to the auto-nooter page on xda-developers to download the software we'll need to root the device and make it our own. The instructions on their page will point you to the download, but they are a little sparse on how to actually create the image on your microSD card, so once you have the download, follow these instructions instead:
- These instructions assume you are using Mac OS X Leopard. If you are using another version of OS X, details may differ slightly.
- Determine where the image file was saved when you downoaded it from the web site. Macs usually store downloaded files in the "Downloads" folder, which is in your home folder. Firefox often saves downloads in the Desktop. Move the downloaded image to your home folder and double-click on it once to extract it from the zip file.
- If you have a newer MacBook with an SDCard slot, insert your SDCard adapter with the microSD card in the slot. Otherwise, insert the SDCard adapter with the microSD card in the USB SDCard adapter you purchased, then plug that into one of the USB ports on your Mac.
- Switch to the Finder and open the "Utilities" folder (Go -> Utilities)
- Open "Disk Utility"
- When Disk Utility opens, locate your microSD card in the panel on the left of the window. You will see two items in the list: the card itself ("Lexar" in the example below - yours will probably be different), and the volume that exists on the key ("usb_disk" in the example below - yours will probably be different). Ctrl-click on the volume ("usb_disk on the example - yours will be different) and select "Unmount"
- Close the Disk Utility, and Open "Terminal" in the "Utilities" window
- Type "diskutil list" in the terminal window, and look for your microSD card in the list. The detail we are looking for is which device it is ("/dev/disk2" in the example below)
- Once you have determined which device it is, type in the following: "sudo dd if=auto-nooter-X-X-XX.img of=/dev/diskX" replacing the "X-X-XX" with the actual version of the auto-nooter you downloaded, and the "diskX" with the disk number from step 8. When the command completes, your microSD card will be ready to go.
- Download win32disk imager from https://launchpad.net/win32-image-writer/+download
- Locate the zip file you just downloaded, right-click on it, and choose "Extract" to extract the application from the zip file. Do the same for the auto-nooter zip file you downloaded.
- Locate the W32DiskImager.exe file you extracted, and double-click to run the application
- Select the auto-nooter-X-X-XX.img file you downloaded above.
- Insert your microSD card with any appropriate adapters into your PC
- Click on the refresh button on the right under "Device", and then select the drive letter of your microSD card
- Click on the "Write" button and wait until the operation completes.
- Determine where the image file was saved when you downoaded it from the web site. It should be in the root of your Home folder. If not, move it there and double-click on it to unzip it.
- Insert your microSD card into all appropriate adapters and plug it in to your computer. Most Linux systems will automatically mount the card.
- We need to find out what disk the system assigned to the card. To do so, open up a terminal (usually under "Accessories") and type "mount" followed by the enter key. In the list of disks that appear, you should see your microSD card at the bottom, listed as "/dev/sd*1" where * is probably a,b,c,or d.
- Next, unmount the microSD card by typing "umount /dev/sdX1" (replacing "X" with the letter you saw in the list on step 3)
- Finally, type in "sudo dd if=auto-nooter-X-X-XX.img of=/dev/sdX" followed by the enter key, replacing the "X-X-XX" with the actual version of the auto-nooter you downloaded and "sdX" with "sd"+the letter you determined in step 3. When the command completes, your microSD card will be ready to go.
WHEW! That was the hard part. The rest is pretty easy.
Setting up your Google account and linking it to YouTube
Before you can root your Nook Color, you need to do a few preparatory things. First and foremost, make sure you have a Google account for yourself and that you can log into it successfully. If you don't have an account, the easiest way to get one is to go to http://gmail.com and click the Create Account button.
Once you have a Google account and have confirmed that you can log in to it, you need to link it to a YouTube account. To do this, go to http://youtube.com and click "Sign In". Note: If you have never created a YouTube account before, DO NOT click the Create Account link, as this will add extra steps to the process.
Log in using your google account name and password. If you already have a linked YouTube account, the next thing you will see is a typical YouTube screen. If that is what you see, you're all set and safe to proceed to the next step. If you don't, the next screen you will see will ask if you already have a YouTube account. Follow the instructions to link and/or create a linked YouTube account.
Rooting the Nook Color
By now your Nook Color should be fully charged. Go ahead and turn it on and follow the getting started tutorials, using your Google account to register the device. Once the device is all registered and ready to go, feel free to spend a little time getting comfortable with it. When you are ready we first need to make sure it is running the latest software. Tap on the up arrow at the bottom of the screen and choose "Settings". Once in Settings, tap "Device Info", then "About your Nook Color" and check the version number. If it is not "1.1" it must be upgraded before we can proceed. Follow the steps described on the Nook Color Software Update site to update your Nook Color. DO NOT proceed until this is complete!
Once this is all done, hold down the power button and wait until the Nook offers you the option to shut down, then choose "OK" to shut it off. Turn the nook over and open the "Nook" flap to insert your microSD card. Turn the Nook back over and plug in the USB cable that came with it. There is no progress meter or indication that anything is happening, so all you need to do is be patient - the device will reboot itself when the rooting process is complete. Note: I have heard from a number of people that occasionally the image process for the microSD card doesn't take on the first try. If your Nook Color doesn't reboot itself, try re-doing the "Preparing the microSD Card" section above.
Once your Nook reboots, a few simple steps will complete the process:
- Upon boot unlock your screen.
- At the Android Welcome Screen skip Sign In.
- Enable Location Services when given the option.
- Connect to Wifi and launch Gmail from "Extras".
- Sync your Gmail Account and Exit. (If it fails to sync that is fine.)
- Open up Market and Accept Terms and Service.
That's it! You should now have a rooted Nook Color that's all your own. Be sure to erase the microSD card, as your Nook Color will re-root itself the next time it reboots if you don't. To erase, go to Settings, then "Device Info", and tap "SD Card".
Making the most of your Nook Color
Once you have a rooted Nook Color, the possibilities are endless. The following tips will improve your experience and help you make the most of it.
SoftKeys is the program that enables additional buttons on your Nook Color. To understand why the SoftKeys application is necessary, you must understand that regular Android applications expect that you will have 4 buttons on your device: Back, Home, Menu, and Search. The Nook Color, however, only has a Home button (the "n" button at the bottom of the display). So, we need a way to mimic those other buttons, which is what the SoftKeys application does.
On my Nook Color install, I found the default configuration of SoftKeys to be less than ideal, so the first thing you'll want to update the SoftKeys settings. To do this, go to Extras and tap on SoftKeys, then tap the Tools button (next to the magnifying glass) at the bottom of the screen. Once there, uncheck the "Run service" checkbox at the top (unless you like the annoying, floating back button to be constantly on your screen). Next, scroll the page up until you can see the Physical Home Button settings, and tap on "Home Button". Change the setting to "Single Tap SoftKeys, Double Tap Launcher" so that the SoftKeys will appear automatically when you tap the "n" button just once. Incidentally, the "launcher" referenced here is just the Home screen with the books on it.
Once that's complete, you'll find it far easier to use your Android apps. Whenever you feel stuck, press the "n" button and select one of these buttons - typically the Back (arrow pointing left) or Menu (series of horizontal lines that looks, well, like a menu) to figure out what to do next.
Must Have Apps
There are a few apps out there that you must have to round out your Nook Color experience.
First off, you must go to the Market on your Nook Color and download Angry Birds. Not only is it a great game, but it really shows off the Nook's screen. All of the graphics appear super-crisp and sharp at 169 ppi screen. Other great games include Bubble Blast, Labyrinth, and Flight Frenzy.
Social media types will want to install the official Facebook and Twitter apps, or perhaps something like Seesmic, if you like to have all your social streams integrated into one app. Bloggers will appreciate the Wordpress app, among others. Be sure to check the AppBrain site for the latest and greatest.
But the one that every Android user should have is Doubletwist. Doubletwist is like iTunes for Android, including a desktop app for your Mac or PC and a player application for your Nook Color. The desktop app connects directly to your iTunes and iPhoto libraries, as well as any music/movie folders you might have and enables easy syncing of your content to your Nook Color. It will even automatically resize your un-protected videos prior to syncing (although there is a better way to deal with video below). And if you install the optional Airsync app on your Nook, you don't even have to plug it in to sync your content. Your Nook Color and Doubletwist app on your desktop will just find each other. Doubletwist also connects to Amazon's music store, so you can download all the music you might want directly.
The last must-have app is Handbrake, which you will use to encode video on your desktop machine. Handbrake enables you to convert video from a variety of formats, including direct from DVD, into a format that the Nook can easily play. The trick with Handbrake is figuring out what settings are best for a particular device. Lucky for you I've already done this for the Nook Color. Note that Hadbrake will not convert any videos that you have purchased on iTunes, as these are copy protected and only work with Apple devices.
When using Handbrake to encode video from a DVD or other (un-protected) video file, set Handbrake up as follows:
On the main page, set the Video Codec to "MPEG-4", check the "2-pass encoding" box, and set the "Average bitrate" to "1000", as you see below:
Next, click on "Audio" and set the first track to a bitrate of "128", then disable any other tracks you see:
Finally, click the "Picture" button and set the width to "512" (the height will adjust automatically).
Press Start and your video will encode. When it is done, plug your Nook Color into your computer using the supplied USB cable, and copy the video to your microSD card.
Please note: Some DVDs (Disney is particularly notorious) employ some particularly intrusive copy protection techniques that Handbrake can't overcome. For these, first force quit Handbrake, then get an app like RipIt, which will enable you to get a stable version of the video files off the DVD prior to using Handbrake.
A note about the Nook Color's built in launcher (Extras)
The Extras (which is the Barnes & Noble Launcher application) does not automatically refresh the application list after you install a new application from the Android Market. You can always launch downloaded applications from the Market app, but what you'll really want to do is restart the launcher app so that it will refresh its application list. The easiest way to do this is to reboot the Nook by holding down the power button to power off, then power back up. Or, you can install a Advanced Task Killer from the Android Market on the Nook Color.
If you decide to install Advanced Task Killer, you'll need to change a few settings to get it to do what we want. Once installed, launch Advanced Task Killer, then tap the menu button, followed by Settings. Scroll the page up and tap "Security Level", then set to "Low". I also uncheck "Show Notification" because I don't like having an advanced task killer icon in my notification bar, but that's up to you. Press the back button twice to close Advanced Task Killer, then re-open it. You should now be able to see com.bn.nook.applauncher in the app list. Hold your finger on com.bn.nook.applauncher and select "Kill" from the menu that appears. The next time you open Extras, it will reload the launcher and refresh the list.
Optional - Speed up your Nook Color to 1100MHz
The Nook Color is pretty fast as it is, but it's processor can be tweaked to offer even more speed. The following steps are a little more tricky, but if you feel comfortable so far, give them a try:
Part 1: Download all the files we need, copy them to the Nook Color, and install an app we need
For this install, we're going to need an application called Rom_Manager, and a couple of zip files that contain the updates we want. Download the following files on your computer:
Next, plugin your Nook Color to your computer using the cable provided by Barnes & Noble. The Nook should automatically mount both its internal storage and the installed microSD card under My Computer (Windows), Finder (MacOS), or Nautilus File Manager (Linux). Locate the two files you just downloaded and copy all three files to the microSD card on your Nook. The microSD card is fairly easy to identify, it will be the removable device that IS NOT named "media". For example, on a Mac, the microSD card will probably be names "NO NAME" (unless you renamed it somewhere along the way). Once you have copied the files, eject both the Nook (media) and microSD card properly (check your operating system's online help if you don't know how to do this) and unplug the Nook.
Now we need to install a file manager app, so that we can find the files we just downloaded on the Nook. I like OI File Manager for this. On your Nook, tap the up-arrow at the bottom, then Market, then the search button (at the top - looks like a magnifying glass), and search for "OI File Manager". Install the app once you locate it. When this is done, either restart your Nook (hold down the power button and power off, then power back up) or use Advanced Task Killer (see above) to kill the "com.bn.nook.applauncher".
Now that that's complete, you're ready to get started installing the update.
Part 2: Installing ClockworkMod Recovery and the Faster Kernel
ClockworkMod Recovery is an excellent backup/installation tool for Android. We'll use it to back up our current configuration - just in case something goes wrong - and to apply the update to the faster kernel. ClockworkMod Recovery is installed using the ROM_Manager application we downloaded earlier. Follow these steps on the Nook Color to install:
- Tap the up-arrow at the bottom, then Extras, and then tap on NookColor Tools
- At the top, you will see a checkbox titled "Allow Non-Market Apps. If it isn't already checked, tap to check it. If it is checked, tap to uncheck it, then tap to check it again. Trust me, this sounds silly, but I have seen instances where the box is checked, but the Nook doesn't seem to know it :)
- Next, tap the up arrow at the bottom again, and tap Extras, followed by OI File Manager
- Locate "ROM_Manager.apk" and tap to install it.
- Restart your Nook or kill the launcher app again, so that ROM_Manager will appear in Extras
- Tap the up-arrow, then Extras, then ROM_Manager
- ROM_Manager should download the latest ClockworkMod Recovery - when it is done, tap Flash ClockworkMod Recovery and follow instructions
- When this is complete, hold down the power button for a few seconds, then power down your Nook. Once powered down, press the power button to reboot your Nook and wait for it to boot normally
OK, now we're going to reboot your Nook Color into recovery mode, which will probably be unlike any you have ever seen. While in recovery mode, the touchscreen is not used - instead, we'll use all of the buttons on the Nook to navigate. The volume up/down buttons go up and down in the list, the "n" button selects an item, and the power button goes back to the previous menu. Follow these steps to install the update:
- Tap the up-arrow, then Extras, then ROM_Manager
- Tap Reboot into Recovery
- Once in recovery, press the volume down button to select "install zip from sdcard" and press the "n" button to select
- Press the volume down button to select "choose zip from sdcard" and press the "n" button to select
- Press the volume up/down buttons to select kernel-1100mhz-omap3630.zip from the list, and press the "n" button to select
- Choose "Yes" to install, and wait for the install to complete
- When done, press the power button to go back to the main menu, select "reboot system now", and press the "n" button to reboot
When the system reboots, the upgrade will be complete, and your Nook will be faster. There is one quirk to be aware of with this kernel: on first boot, the touchscreen will be very slow to respond to touches. When the lock screen first comes up, briefly press the power button to turn the screen off, and wait for 30 seconds or so. Then press the power button again to turn the screen back on, and all will be well.
Last Step - Enjoy your newly liberated Nook Color!
Posted by Jim Klein |