Friday, September 23, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tablet Rooting (and Stuff)

Let's be serious - I've had the damn thing for months now.  Nothing left to do but root the device (and stuff).

Actually my decision was based upon rooting my original Droid, boredom, an app that flatly refused to uninstall, and the desire to break something beyond recognition.

I became an unwitting fan of Slacker when I discovered the Jeff Beck channel.  I became a detractor of Slacker when I noticed the application was always running for no practical reason I could divine.  No matter how many times I killed it, it came back like a good zombie (ten points for the gratuitous zombie reference).  So it had to go.

I tried uninstalling but Slacker was having none of this.   Don't ask me why but for the first time in my three year Android experience, an app claimed it was uninstalled and remained available.  I got so frustrated that I let this be the final shove toward rooting, as Android refused to let me simply delete the app from its directory.

Rooting, by the way, has come a long way from the days of my original Droid.  One was required to perform all sorts of technical and command line gymnastics to root back then.

Let me pause to say a nice word about the HTC Sensation 4G.  This little speed demon does whatever I want and quickly.  I can't come up with many reasons to root it.  I wish I could say a nice word about its provider, TMobile, but I can't think of one.  Eight years of solid service from Verizon and then my company switched to TMobile.  Arrrrrrrrrgh!

I looked around a bit for different sets of instructions on rooting and settled on this page.  There's no point in going through the minutae, as the site has step-by-step instructions.  The important prerequisites here are that the tablet is running Gingerbread and is the correct model (else you'll do Bad Things to it).  Updating from pre-Gingerbread is certainly doable but is beyond the scope of this entry.

You will need to download three files to accomplish this: Odin (sends file from pc to tablet), the correct Samsung USB drivers, and the rooting file.  Links are provided.

NOTE:  this procedure requires Windows.  While there's probably a way to do it with a real operating system (or a Mac), this was the path of least resistance for me.

You install the USB drivers, run Odin and point it to the root file, put your tablet into download mode (power and volume down buttons), then GO.  You'll know almost instantly whether it worked or not.

This method of rooting does not destroy data (but a good back up is always recommended).


Now you can use all of the marketplace apps that require root.  Titanium backup is a long-time favorite which won't run without root (all programs I mention here are free from the market).  After you install, make sure to allow superuser permissions and tell it to remember this.

Here is where the real fun starts.  Titanium gives you an exhaustive list of everything on your tablet/phone.  It will allow you to back up each and every app and also to delete them.  Since I decided to fly blind for the most part, I made sure to back up everything I wanted to delete first.  The app will also allow you to schedule backups.  There are a few valuable features available in the paid version; you should check it out.

Because you are rooted, you have an awful lot of power.  In fact you have the power to completely mess up the device if you're not careful (so be careful, ok?).

Having said that, there are several ways to recover if you manage to brick your tablet.  Google is your friend but with the rooting comes Clockwork, which can back up and restore your device for just such emergencies (user generated or not).

Slacker uninstalled permanently, via deleting its files.  You could always browse the files but rooting allows you to modify and delete the important ones.  Try not to delete any really important ones, ok?  One of my greatest joys here, after Slacker, was deleting the social media garbage that accompanies most if not all devices.

To save you some time, here's a list of apps I deleted (remember: Tmobile provider, ymmv):

  • AllShare
  • Android Live Wallpapers
  • AngryGPS
  • ChocoEUKor
  • Pulse
  • Digital Frame
  • DRM Content
  • DRM Content Launcher
  • DRM Protected Content Storage
  • Feeds and Updates
  • Kobo
  • Live Wallpaper Picker
  • Maps
  • Mobile tracker
  • Mobile tracker settings
  • Music Visualization Wallpapers
  • News & Weather
  • Perso
  • Readers Hub
  • RoseEUKor
  • SNS 1.0  (social/Facebook)
  • SNSAccount (Facebook)
  • Social Hub
  • Talk
  • TwWallpaperChooser
  • Y! Finance Clock

Less fine print:  My idea here was to make the tablet a lean, fast machine, completely without crap I don't use.  The device will run fine without all of the above apps.  If you like blinky lights and flashy wallpapers, adjust your pruning accordingly.  While there are still a few apps I need to research, this is the great majority of them.  Again, Google is your friend (or better yet, Ixquick or Duck Duck Go, which don't track you).

If you're like me, you'll want to disable any of the tracking, GPS, or location-based features.  Yes, I know they're terribly neat and awful convenient, but they're not called tracking for fun.  And no, this won't stop a determined law-enforcement agency from warrantless spying, but it will make things that much more difficult for them.

After you're rooted you can also experiment with overclocking.  This is where you can make your device faster (or slower to save resources) with software.  I used an overclocking widget, available in the market, with my original Droid.  I installed it on the Galaxy but have to experiment a bit more with it before I can recommend it.  It had some nasty side-effects which may take it out of the running.  Research is best before overclocking anyway, so my screwups work for your benefit.  Then when you're done, you can overclock your home pc [insert evil laughter].

Go for it - you'll enjoy the power and freedom to set up your device the way you want it.  If you have any questions, ask!

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