100_6557I’ve recently been given free reign on a Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch eBook Reader 1.2.1 with wi-fi. Naturally, the first thing I want to do with it is make it do more than just read books. This means rooting the device, which is to bypass the manufacturer’s lockouts in order to access the underlying operating system. To do so, I followed the guides for NookManager and NTGAppsAttack, so that I could install apps from Google Market (Google Play for old versions of Android.) This guide also gave me some tips, solutions, and leads that helped me get my nook where I wanted it.

Making under-the-hood changes

After rooting the nook, I also performed some battery-saving measures, which mostly involved removing applications that are not needed on the device, like phone services and media apps. I used this guide:

Guide/HowTo/Tips’nTricks – The perfect Nook Simple Touch Setup w/ battery optimization

Given that this is my first time rooting – or even seriously interacting with an Android device, I don’t know how to use the Android development tools that some of these guides assume you’re familiar with. However, Android is just another Linux distro, and I know enough of the Linux command line to get by.

To make the necessary changes to my Nook, I installed the app “Rooted SSH/SFTP Daemon“, which allows me to SSH into my nook and run commands as with any Linux box. Once in the shell, it turns out that the /system directory, where most of the changes need to be made, is mounted read-only. I remedied this by using the “mount” command to find out what device was mounted on /system, and remount it with write permissions like so:

mount -o remount,rw /dev/block/mmcblk0p5 /system

Once this is done, you can also use various utilities to make changes, or just do them in the shell like I did. For example, editing egl.cfg:

cd /system/lib/egl
cp -a egl.cfg egl.cfg.bak
echo "0 1 POWERVR_SGX530_125" > egl.cfg

Don’t discard the backup that you were told to make in the guides! I recommend making an additional backup of your .apk files instead of deleting them, just in case you want to undo changes. There is enough room on the existing filesystem to do this comfortably.

cp -a /system/app /system/app.bak

My active /system/app list

I went a little further than the guides in clearing out my /system/app directory. Here is what I kept, and a short description of why, if I know what it does:

  • SetupWizard.apk – needed for Google Market, may be safe to delete after it’s set up
  • DownloadAdmin.apk
  • GoogleCheckin.apk – needed for Google Market
  • Home.apk – Needed for the “read now” button on the status bar to work
  • ApplicationsProvider.apk
  • com.jlsoft.inputmethod.latin.jelly.free.apk – Jellybean keyboard
  • CertInstaller.apk
  • CryptoServer.apk
  • DownloadProvider.apk
  • DrmProvider.apk
  • GlobalSearch.apk
  • LatinIME.apk
  • Library.apk
  • MediaProvider.apk
  • PackageInstaller.apk – needed for installing packages
  • ReaderRMSDK.apk – B&N reader
  • Settings.apk
  • SettingsProvider.apk
  • SysChecksum.apk
  • PackageInstaller.apk.orig
  • GoogleApps.apk – needed for Google Market
  • gtalkservice.apk – needed for Google Market
  • MarketUpdater.apk – needed for Google Market
  • Vending.apk – needed for Google Market

Other tweaks and gotchas

There were a few issues that I struggled with, so I’ll summarize some problems I had and how to fix them.

  • Using NookManager to remove the Barnes and Noble apps made it impossible to use Google Market. I don’t know why, I didn’t do enough testing to isolate the offending file. However, I found that I could remove most unwanted apps with the instructions in the power-saving guide.
  • If Market seems to get stuck on one screen such that you can’t install anything, try uninstalling it, which in actuality only uninstalls any upgrades – it goes back to the stock version which will re-upgrade itself, hopefully in working order this time.
  • Something that I deleted removed automatic installation of apps from Google Play on my PC. I have to “install” them, then go to Google Market on the nook, scroll to the bottom of the “My apps” list, and the app will be there to click and install.
  • Trying to change the wallpaper was a source of endless frustration. This is because Gallery is broken on a rooted Nook. If you want a correctly-scaled and uncropped background, install the app “Image 2 Wallpaper“.
  • I changed my keyboard to Jellybean Keyboard by installing the app, then using SSH to copy the file /data/app/com.jlsoft.inputmethod.latin.jelly.free.apk into /system/app. I had to reinstall the app (no idea why), and I could then use it to change my default keyboard.
  • I found that copying .apks back into the /system/app folder after I had deleted them sometimes caused the nook to become unbootable. It seems they don’t load in the correct order, and it causes a conflict. I don’t know how to fix this, I had to restore from my NookManager backup.
  • The “mv” command gave me fits when copying between filesystems, so I had to use “cp” and then delete the original.
  • To get the best battery life, I have found that it is better to open up the B&N E-reader and then let the screen time out on its own, rather than use the sleep/off button on the back. For some reason, the button doesn’t seem to truly put the Nook to sleep, leaving it to burn battery when I think it’s off.

Apps I’m using

Other than the aforementioned, you may be interested in the apps I’m using at the moment to make my Nook look as it does. The first seven on this list you can see in this article’s photo.

My Nook wallpaper, modified from cover art for The Tyrant's Parable

My Nook wallpaper, modified from cover art for The Tyrant’s Parable

  • ADW.Launcher – Replaces ReLaunch, gives it the Android-like interface look
  • Opera Mini – Lightweight and feature-adequate web browser
  • K-9 Mail – Straightforward IMAP email client, works with Shanock.com mail
  • Fast notepad – Simple text editor for typed notes
  • Draw! – Simple freehand drawing utility, for handwritten notes and doodles
  • Classic Calculator – Scientific calculator, same layout as my trusty Casio fx-260
  • Advanced Task Killer – one- or two-touch process kill, based on a whitelist
  • SearchMarket – mentioned in the guides, a requirement to install apps from within the nook, due to broken Google Market search
  • Battery Doctor – Shows battery stats, charge, time left, has a process killer (same as ATK, above), and a startup app manager. But it’s ugly, so I don’t use it on the desktop
  • Terminal Emulator – Because I’m a nerd