The Fifth Column: Optimus ROM
Foreword: Hi guys, Cavie here. Please welcome a brand new columnist to the site, still shining bright from his time as the Silver Surfer and ready to get down and dirty with all things tech. You can expect a column from Ebrahim every two weeks from here on out.
I was always a fan of Open Source software. So when I upgraded to an LG Optimus Black recently, the first thing that I did was to try and find the latest and greatest custom Android software that I could install on it which is CyanogenMod. At the time that I received my phone, there was no final release of CyanogenMod for the Optimus Black and I was not interested in installing unstable software on my brand new phone. With this in mind I decided to install the Marvel ROM
The major difference between the vendor supplied software and the aftermarket software is that you can customise your Android experience to your heart’s content on the latter. With Marvel you have the option of installing as many or as few applications as you like with very few limitations. Compare this to the original LG flavoured Android 2.2 (Froyo) on my phone which contained a number of LG branded applications which I could not uninstall. I even upgraded to Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) but this simply degraded my phone’s performance.
In order to install custom firmware on your phone, you need root access which is like having Administrator rights on your Windows PC. Once you have root access you can uninstall any application and also manually customise and theme your phone without any vendor-imposed limitations. The advantage of using an aftermarket ROM is that all of the vendor bloatware has been removed which essentially means that you can focus on customising your phone rather than having to tediously remove unwanted software one at a time.
My biggest challenge was in trying to root my phone. LG as with all vendors are not keen on you making unauthorised changes to hardware that you own — go figure! This means that with each successive software update they add new security features to stop you and I from customising our phones. In order to get around this, I had to install a patched firmware update which allowed root access. The downside of this method is that I had to backup all the data on my phone because the update essentially did a factory reset and deleted all my data and settings. This was not a serious problem because my phone was new and did not have much data on it. In order to install the ROM, I used ROM Manager and installed the Marvel ROM from my phone’s memory card. I have been using the Marvel ROM for a few months now and aside from a few minor bugs it works beautifully. The final release of CyanogenMod is now available for the Optimus Black and I am very tempted to install it but I am not keen on having to backup and restore my phone from scratch again.
The major attraction of CyanogenMod is that it is built from the ground up to be more stable and feature-rich than vendor supplied software. It also differs from other custom software like the Marvel ROM which focus more on removing the vendor bloatware and having a more appealing custom theme. A very important note is that you will void your phone warranty by installing a custom ROM on it. But if you need to send your phone to the vendor for repair, it is possible to restore the factory software but don’t forget to backup your data and format the memory card.
My Android adventure is going very well so far. My list of must have software includes AdAway for those pesky in-app adverts, Call Blocker to stop your ex from harassing you, ProxyDroid to sort out your NTLM authentication problems and Titanium Backup to ensure that you can backup your data and settings before installing the latest and greatest custom software. The only game that I have installed on my phone is Tower Defense, which as the name implies is a tower defense game with a fiendishly simple game mechanic but is utterly engrossing at the same time. Once I find some time to install CyanogenMod on my phone, I will give you a full review of it.