I knew there was a community out there that had hacked the Android Operating System in order to gain full access to the UNIX based OS, like enterprising hackers had jailbroken the iPhone and iPod Touch, but I had no interest in doing it to my own phone. There were no advantages to my Droid usage, until I saw the app to tether my Droid with Wifi.
Root is the administrative account on a UNIX machine. A root user on a computer is someone who has full access to everything on it, unlike most user accounts, which have limited access to certain files to protect the machine from intrusion and from stupid user error. Usually a person who is designated the system administrator has this level of access to set up and maintain the system.
Tethering is the act of taking a cellphone (or other internet connected device) and using it to connect a computer to the internet. By running a cable from the USB port of a laptop to the mini-USB charging port on the Droid and running an app like PdaNet (a $24 app that has a free crippled version). Wifi tethering would be similar, but would allow you to use the phone’s built-in wifi to act as a wireless access point. In addition to the lack of wires, the other major advantage of the wifi tethering is that it can be shared by multiple people at once.
I was looking at a video by the Pegshot Action News Network about their trip down to SXSW and they showed the Wifi Tethering app being used to send the videos of their trip. This intrigued me, so I searched it out and installed it on my phone. Unfortunately, the app required root access, so my descent into the world of rooting the Droid began.
After a little research, gaining root access was easy. To do it, follow these steps:
- Download the superuser-update.zip
- Rename the superuser-update.zip to update.zip
- Connect your phone to your PC and Mac and mount it (drag the header down once you connect and tap the bar that says mount)
- Copy the update.zip to the SD Card. Do it at the top folder and not any of the other folders you see when you open the folder on your desktop
- Eject the phone and shut it down
- Hold down the X key on the keyboard and turn the phone on
- Select run upgrade from menu and follow prompts
When the above steps finish and the phone restarts, you will have root access. Unfortunately, even after these steps, I was unable to run the wifi tether and had to install another piece of software in a similar way to install the wifi tethering, but it also installed other software like Live Wallpaper and some 2.1 features, plus it gives the ability to delete system software that may not be used, like Corporate Calendar and E-mail.
- Download DMUpdater
- Rather than listing out all the other steps, follow this great tutorial that has images and steps thru everything far more detailed than I would, and with screen shots.
If you go to your apps, you will see Wifi Tether is now in your app drawer. Launch it and press the wifi emblem on the center of the screen to start tethering. Press the allow button to let the app have root access to execute. Be sure to go into the menu, enable encryption and change the password before using it in public. As an experiment, I launched it unprotected in a cafe and on a train, and both times random people connected to it very quickly.
The rooted Droid gives me access to a lower level of the system that apps can now take advantage of. I have not installed any additional apps that require root, but I have the opportunity now. The advantages to rooting the Droid are five screens instead of three (but your default apps are on the second screen while the third screen is the default screen and you may want to move them over), Live Wallpapers that allow your backgrounds to move (I use the Nexus One background but have on occasion used the Google Maps as my background) and the aforementioned Wifi Tethering. An IM client, brightness controller, and a news and weather app that includes a nice, small weather widget that I like to keep on my home screen.
There are downsides to rooting the Droid. Although I had no problems, the potential to make your phone unusable is a possibility. The directions above do include a backup for your phone and the menus from the zip files do have a reset to factory default option. The phone also feels a bit less responsive at times to me. I don’t know if it is something that has gotten better since I powered off the phone and turned it back on or if it’s just something I have gotten used to. The rooting does not seem to have any specific detrimental effects to any of my installed apps, but unlike iPhone jailbreaking, none of the apps were deleted nor do they need to be reinstalled afterwards.
The Wifi Tethering has also given me a nice side benefit of being able to listen to Sirius XM on the road. If you own an old iPhone or iPod Touch, you can connect to the Droid via wifi and run the iPhone’s Sirius XM app to listen to programming such as Ron and Fez on XM 202 and Sirius 197.
Overall, the advantages to me of rooting the Droid are limited so far, but the Wifi Tethering makes it worth it. I am able to get work done on my laptop as I ride the train now and to me that is the best use of my time as I travel. Everything else on the phone seems to work well and look forward to checking out what other apps I can play with with my rooted Droid.