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The Android Experiment: Rooting and hacking

Episode nine includes a hissy fit about video editing and a brief introduction to hacking Android
Thu Jan 30 2014, 17:25
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THAT'S IT, I GIVE UP. Not the whole experiment, obviously - I'd be a bit lame if I stopped now with just a day to go, but I mean the video editing lark.

If you've been reading these columns thus far, you'll know that one of my challenges was to edit a video, and I've concluded that it can't be done. Or at least, it can't be done with the quality to which I would be happy putting my name. Of course, I'm willing to be proven wrong. If there are any Android developers out there who think that their video editing software makes the grade, then by all means get in touch. But three different Android video editing apps have had my money and none of them have proved satisfactory.

However that's by the by, as I promised to deal with the issue of modding phones today. One of the great joys of Android is the fact that it is so easy to manipulate, customise and bend to your will.

I'm a rooter. For the uninitiated - and Apple fanbois - rooting is a bit like jailbreaking, but gets you far more access. You essentially are giving yourself and any app you install access to areas that ordinarily it shouldn't go.

Why would you want to do that? Because that's where you can really explore what Android is capable of doing. Take an app like Titanium Backup - perhaps the most famous of the "root" apps. Among many other functions, it is capable of taking a complete image of your phone, or any app you put on it, so if you screw up, you can go back to that exact moment in time, like a restore point in Windows.

To go further, you can install an app like Clockwork Mod, which will allow you to install completely different ROMs than those that come with your phone. Often it will extend the life of your device by offering community written versions of the latest Android version that the manufacturer doesn't offer. Go to XDA Developers and find your device so you can see what's available.

XDA Developers is a community of millions of members who thrive on getting as much as they can out of their mobile phones, mostly Android. Go visit and say hello. Tell them I said hi.

Just remember that once you root your phone, your warranty is null and void and neither I nor The INQUIRER take any responsiblity for that, or anything that might happen to your mobile phone.

Regular commenter on these columns Ziffster1 has suggested several ways that hacking might help my frustration at the lack of multitasking windows in Android. The one that is most intriguing is the Xposed Framework, which is an installation with a series of modules that hack the Android system to do different things. However, given that I'm using loaned equipment, I can't really do that, of course, though I might investigate on my own at a later date.

As I started to write this column news emerged that LG has released a software development kit to allow developers to make "floating" apps more easily. I'll be watching that with interest.

The downside of rooting your Android device is perhaps obvious - the security of your device is left exposed and any malware that gains access to root privileges can do anything with your phone - not just harvest data, but actually control it remotely. At a more benign level, some popular apps will stop working. TV apps including Sky Go and TV Catch Up will stop working, and you can forget doing any online banking for obvious reasons.

My advice is to get a cheap second-hand device and experiment with that, without compromising the safety of your everyday phone.

I've already mentioned that I'm moving house this weekend. But I'm organising it with military precision, courtesy of a Sony Smartwatch 2 and a Bluetooth headset. So, for the last regular column, I'll be looking at how Android and I manage in a crisis. Then, next week, I'll round the experiment up and try to draw some conclusions. I already think I need another couple of months to explore everything properly, but I won't be able to do that.

It's not too late to come to me with questions and challenges. Use the @INQ Twitter address with the hashtag #INQAndroid on Twitter, or the Disqus comments below.

You can find the previous episodes of The INQUIRER Android Experiment here:

Prologue - We introduce the experiment.

Episode one - We learn that this won't be a walk in the park.

Episode two - We explore all things musical.

Episode three - We nearly give up, but then release a chart topper tune.

Episode four - We answer some of the questions you've put to us.

Episode five - We decide that when it comes to Android, size matters.

Episode six - We realise that life without multitasking is a pain.

Episode seven - We talk about the hardware that made it possible.

Episode eight - We look at more of your questions and challenges. µ

 

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