Rooting Android Part 1: Samsung Galaxy S II on the block

Summary:The festive break presents the technically inclined with challenge and opportunity. The challenge is that petty annoyances with wayward IT can seem much more significant during those long winter days where normal work is absent.

The festive break presents the technically inclined with challenge and opportunity. The challenge is that petty annoyances with wayward IT can seem much more significant during those long winter days where normal work is absent. The opportunity is to use that free time to do something about them. The combination can be seductive - and dangerous.

So it was with my new Samsung Galaxy S II phone, my first non-HTC smartphone and a thing of beauty. In almost every way, this is a lot of fun: it's fast, it's light, it has lots of memory, the Gingerbread UI does its job and gets out of the way, the screen is big and beautiful. What's not to love?

Samsung Galaxy S II

Two things. First, my network. T-Mobile finds it a good idea to annoy its customers by installing intrusive and pointless software. One in particular, TopApps, is a bit like having an advertising hoarding as a retinal implant, in that it keeps suggesting bits of crapulous software. It's a door-to-door salesman who won't go away; even if you ignore it, T-Mobile keeps pushing out updates that you have to keep denying. I don't doubt that for certain demographics, this is an effective and profitable approach. I am not that demographic. I wanted it gone from my sight and my phone.

T-Mobile wouldn't let me remove it: that, I find baffling. And extremely annoying.

Secondly, perverts have ruined my smartphone. There are people who get their kicks by surreptitiously photographing other people in ways that are not generally considered acceptable. To prevent that, some governments have passed laws that say you cannot silence digital cameras: if you take a picture, there has to be a loud noise. I doubt very much that this has seriously inconvenienced a single voyeur, but it certainly gets my goat. Especially since, with an app called Lapse It, my Samsung take really good time-lapse video with almost no effort. You can leave it pointing out of a window to see the evening slide away — if only it didn't make a sound every ten seconds like a donkey eating an apple.

I spent a while over the Christmas break trying to find solutions to both these problems. There was only one. Rooting.

Android's blessing and curse is that it's open. If you really don't like something, you can almost always fix it, or find someone who can. The downside is that the carriers get a lot of freedom to muck you about. Rooting, where you install new system software that lets you bypass that mucking about, is the blessing that undoes the curse — although you do have to get it right, or you run the risk of turning your phone into the eponymous brick.

But that wouldn't happen. After all, I had plenty of time, plenty of experience, and plenty of motivation. I sat down with a large glass of Old Thought Provoker, a glint in my eye, and Google.

What could go wrong?

Next: things go wrong

Topics: Emerging Tech

About

Editor, ZDNet UK. Ex technology/technical editor of ZDNet UK, IT Week, PC Magazine, Computer Life, Mac User, Alfa Systems, Amstrad, Sinclair. Micronet 800, Marconi Space and Defence Systems, and a dodgy TV repair shop in the back streets of Plymouth. Can still swap out a gassy PL509 with the best of 'em.Dear Reader - contact me via our m... Full Bio

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