This page is all about device-hacking. Certain obsolete eReaders of old can be further hacked for incredible functionality. The Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G, the Barnes & Noble NookColor, and the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch (all obsolete now, sadly) can be “jailbroken” or rooted and put to use almost effectively like tablets.

Some quick links to navigate this gargantuan page:


Glossary

You may encounter certain terminology in your endeavors to gain administrator access on your own device(s), so I’ll mention some briefly in my own words (sorted according to relevance, not to the alphabet):

Rooting or jailbreaking means to obtain administrator (a.k.a. “root”) levels of access to one’s device—perhaps at the cost of one’s corresponding warranty, although one can usually reverse the process without a trace and thus regain the warranty. Amazon Kindle e-readers run off of the Linux operating system, while Nooks run off of Android OS. These Nook devices mentioned above are particularly restricted by B&N to only specific B&N-related functionality, which is quite a pity because they would probably sell a lot more if they granted accessibility to Android apps and games. Rooting grants such accessibility, and more!

Stock is an adjective that refers to anything that is/was official/default/originally on the device as it was initially purchased, from factory state. For example, many users would agree that, in general, stock web browsers are poor web browsers.

ROM stands for Read-Only Memory, which is basically the device’s software. For example, in the case of the NookColor, one can completely replace the stock ROM with CyanogenMod (which is a very popular ROM with different builds for dozens of Android devices) or another ROM… or one can keep the stock ROM and operate a different ROM via the SD card. One could also build a partition inside the device’s EMMC (Embedded Multimedia Card)—which is the internal software—to house both the stock ROM and an alternate ROM.

Firmware: the original, or stock, ROM/software that comes with a device.

Recovery image or recovery is a piece of software that can load a ROM image from the SD card and flash it into the internal ROM, according to Google. ☺

Flashing a ROM or .zip file means to install it by unconventional means, usually directly through SD card.

.APK is a filetype native to Android, which is an operating system (OS, like Windows Phone or iOS) made by Google; an APK is an Android package (the installation file to an Android app).

Overclocking/Underclocking: These words refer to how much you “clock” a CPU (use more/less battery to make it run faster/slower, respectively). One particular comic jokes about how an absurdly overclocked CPU can cause it to catch fire (which actually can happen, but is extremely rare, and is hinted at the device’s increasing heat that becomes obviously noticeable leading up to it, as well as directly displayed warnings from more sophisticated devices).

Lastly, bricking a device means to permanently ruin its functionality, which renders it about as useful as a brick. This usually implies that the device will never turn on, regardless of its battery charge, and that it can be re-purposed via gravity.

E-readers

The rooted devices showcasing their awesomeness in this blurry pic.


Amazon Kindle Keyboard

The Kindle Keyboard, also known as the Kindle 3 (and sadly discontinued in 2013), is an unbelievable device in its 3G configuration; a Reddit post of mine about it explains why (at least, up until T-Mobile had announced free international data in dozens of countries worldwide!). The MobileRead forums’ Comprehensive List of Kindle Hacks/Modifications show how to “jailbreak” it (a term which really should be “root,” but seems to have been derived from the popular iOS term).

Notable features of jailbreaking include custom screensavers and fonts and the downloading of any file directly onto the Kindle via WiFi, as well as certain games and other normally inaccessible functions.


Nook Rooting: General Overview

Each of the Nook devices below will require:

  • ($) any formatted, spare micro-SD card of Class ≥4 (and preferably ≥2 GB), with
  • ($) a micro-SD card reader for a computer to write to it (micro-SD cards usually come with a reader, which look like a normal SD card or a USB dongle with a slot for the micro-SD to be put in);
  • the free program Win32 Disk Imager; and
  • individually corresponding files, whose links I provide below.

Here’s the gist of what you’d be doing: you’d be downloading the recovery image—which installs ROMs—and a .zip of the ROM itself, that .zip of which you’d never actually extract. You’d use Win32 Disk Imager to write the recovery image onto a blank SD card so that, when the SD card is inserted into the powered-off Nook, the Nook will boot into the card’s recovery (a.k.a. installer) when powered on. But before doing that, you’d drag the ROM’s .zip file onto the SD card, so that when you’ve inserted the card into the Nook and powered it on into the recovery screen, the ROM can be selected by the recovery to flash it. (In the method given for the NST v1.2.1, the ROM is automated; no .zip is needed.) And then it is recommended that the SD card be dedicated to being used for that Nook, because the device will need an SD card to download almost any file via WiFi.


Barnes & Noble NOOKColor

I have an obsolete NookColor (“NC”) (discontinued in Dec. 2012) that came with firmware 1.2.0, and have at separate times installed both CyanogenMod for encore (“encore” is CM’s codename for NookColor) versions 7.2.0 and 10.1.x on it. I have succeeded, as well as failed and recovered, in this process; it should be noted that Nook devices (at least the two I mention on this page) are known to be very generous towards newbie rooters, since they always boot from the SD card first.

For NookColors on firmware v1.2.0: to install any CyanogenMod ROM for encore/NookColor (as well as to recover from a failed root attempt), follow the guides in this thread. (See my Reddit comment on step 2 if step 2 is confusing.) I think this process is the same for v1.4.3 NookColors, though I have never used a NookColor beyond v1.2.0. Here is a direct update file from B&N to bring a v1.2.0 unit up to v1.4.3, if such a file is so desired.

Afterwards, one user strongly suggests installing CPU Manager or No-frills CPU Control and changing the I/O scheduler to “noop” for maximum performance.


Barnes & Noble NOOK Simple Touch

The Nook Simple Touch (“NST,” or “N2E”: NOOK 2nd Edition, sadly discontinued in February 2014) deserves rooting whenever possible, because while the original software is retained in the exact same form, rooting also enables very accessible Internet access, SD card maintenance, and installation of virtually any app compatible with the NST’s primitive version of Android 2.1—ironically including the Amazon Kindle app! Commit brand sacrilege by reading Kindle books on your Nook.

I have successfully rooted a B&N Nook Simple Touch on v1.1 and v1.2.1. I have also majorly failed in the rooting process multiple times in both versions (once to the point of a device being unusable), and I also once accidentally formatted the entire Nook while intending to format an SD card while both happened to be connected to my computer at the time. I successfully restored them back to both factory state as well as rooted conditions, so there should be no worries about this process, as long as all the devices are fresh; naturally, no years-old SD cards should be used here, and so on.

Ways to brick (permanently ruin) a Nook Simple Touch (click to expand/collapse):
  • Run out of battery during a rooting/recovering process (keep it charging while you tinker)
  • Use a micro-SD card lower than Class 4 (it must be at least Class 4)
  • Write an .IMG file directly to the Nook instead of a micro-SD card (only write to the card)
  • Use the Nook while powered on as the SD card reader during such a writing process (you must use a dedicated card reader)
  • Use ClockworkMod Recovery‘s “restore backup” function to restore a backup made with CWM (ClockworkMod) Recovery version RC1 or earlier (but this is an obsolete problem, as no one currently reading this page should have ever touched a pre-RC2 version).

Un-rooting/Recovering from a failed root attempt: Format your SD card completely and use it with the Touch-Formatter to restore it to the pure factory state of firmware v1.1. Do not perform the usual built-in factory-reset method by holding the lower side buttons after powering on, nor should you use “factory.zip” in the NookManager’s restore section; these methods will not completely eliminate ReLaunch/traces of the rooting process.

Post-Rooted Notes/Steps (click to expand/collapse):
Things to do:

  • Always allow Superuser permission for any app to properly function if such a request pops up.
  • The two system files “Phone.apk” and “TelephonyProvider.apk” are unavoidably installed through the rooting process, but users have observed them to cause battery drain, because they cause the Nook to constantly search for a cell tower signal—and Nooks have no radio hardware! So, to abolish this problem, change their file extensions using a root browser like ES File Explorer File Manager, or my personal suggestion of ​NextApp, Inc.’s FX File Explorer, in conjunction with its File Explorer (Root Add-On). In FX File Explorer, navigate to the system/app folder and use the app’s corner options to mount that folder as read/writable. Then find the files “Phone.apk” and “TelephonyProvider.apk” and rename their “.apk” file extension to some other jargon to disable them (many articles suggest renaming the extension to “.old”), or simply delete them if you can/want. (By the way, FX File Explorer also includes a basic, local text editor!)
  • Open the app drawer and find the Nook Touch Mod Manager, to reconfigure the actions of the device’s four physical side buttons. I recommend setting the right two buttons to Volume Up and Down (as some apps use them in volume-unrelated ways), and the left two buttons to Back and Menu (which are useful for any app that goes into full-screen and hides the status bar). You may also want to convert one of these modifiable elements into a shortcut for Nook Clear Screen, but this app doesn’t work in conjunction with (and is also pointless given) FastMode2, which is mentioned in the section below.
  • Multiple people claim something goes awry with the power button after the 1.2.1 rooting process, and that instead of pressing it to put the device to sleep, one should let it automatically go to sleep on its own (configurable down to as fast as 2 minutes in the stock settings).

Apps to download:

  • Directly install (via USB cable or SD card) SearchMarket onto the Nook to be able to search through the Android Market (direct .APK link), because the built-in search engine doesn’t work.
  • Many users suggest downloading No-frills CPU Control to change the NST’s hardware profile governor to “ondemand” to have the device automate its own underclocking & overclocking. Additionally, change the I/O scheduler to “noop”; the first post in this thread explains what Android governors are, the second post in this thread explains what I/O schedulers are, and these two threads agree that the NST should run off of a “noop” I/O schedule governed “ondemand.” You may wish to set the max MHz to 300 if you want to underclock (potentially stifle) performance in favor of increasing battery life, but some processor-hungrier apps may freeze or cause the entire NST to freeze at such a low MHz value.
  • Download and install FastMode2.apk, a no-screen-flash toggle-style app that will appear in your NST’s app drawer (optionally uncheck the “Fast eInk update” checkbox in ReLaunch’s settings when using it). I suggest using FastMode2 for apps that perform a lot of screen-flashing, like real-time games; I have been successfully able to play Cut the Rope, the tower defense game ZDefense, and the RPG Symphony of Eternity using FastMode2 (the original FastMode is for pre-1.2.1). I’d be happy to post a video showing my NST running such apps if requested.
  • You can download an alternate keyboard that has superior auto-correct (and probably more easily accessed keys) and switch to it using NookColor Tools 0.2 in conjunction with a file manager that has root access; I’ll describe this process using FX File Explorer (which is a free app that I mentioned earlier above in this section). You’ll have to find any Android 2.1-compatible keyboard; I have successfully used a back-port of the Ice Cream Sandwich keyboard; a suspicious, GPS-requiring-yet-very-capable back-port of the Jellybean Keyboard (which is misspelled as “Jelly Bean Keyboard”—three words instead of two); and the impressively modifiable Multiling O Keyboard + emoji.
    1. Download and install NookColor Tools 0.2 (yes, onto your very non-NookColor Nook Simple Touch) as well as whatever Android 2.1-compatible keyboard you can find.
    2. Open FX File Explorer and navigate to data/app (in root mode via the root add-on); find the keyboard’s .APK file, and cut that file to the clipboard using the app’s corner options.
    3. Navigate to the system/app folder, mount that folder via the corner options as read/writable (if it is not already mounted as such), and paste the .APK there.

    This act of setting it as a system app should allow NookColor Tools to recognize it and switch to it; restart the Nook, then open NC Tools and you should be able to use it with no problem. If it still doesn’t show up in the list, you may want to find the APK and just open it again (re-install it even after moving it into system/app), and that should fix it.

    WARNING! One of the generic “Settings” categories in the options of NookColor Tools caused my NST to automatically format incorrectly back to stock immediately upon touching it, which left vestiges of the rooted state still lingering around (which required Touch-Formatter to revert to stock v1.1). Don’t get too curious, but every option above the 3-4 multiple “Settings” options are fine. (For the record, I believe it was the second “Settings” that killed it. And I’m not curious enough to attempt poking at the remaining options underneath!)

FAQs about typing & navigation on rooted NSTs v1.2.1 (click to expand/collapse)
  • I can’t access the Market; the server connection times out and the app closes.
    You didn’t get through the NTGAppsAttack steps between #s 9-10 or 16-22 fast enough. Turn off your WiFi, and then—in ReLaunch’s app drawer—hold your finger over the Market icon, then uninstall updates. Get as far away from your WiFi source as possible, then turn on WiFi and the Market. Go through whatever steps it asks you to, then download any free app as soon as you can (you can always uninstall it later). If it still doesn’t work, do it again. And again. (Just don’t uninstall the Market itself! Only uninstall updates to the factory version.)
  • ​​I can’t copy nor paste.
    You somewhat can if exclusively done within the web browser Opera Mini; hold your finger on text boxes after taking focus off of them for crude full-copying and replace-pasting. If you want full clipboard capabilities, download and install Multiling O Keyboard + emoji (and its English plugin), which is capable of this. Once set up, swap quickly between keyboards by holding the space bar.
  • The window flies by in Opera Mini when scrolling.
    Stabilize the scroll by taking a moment to leave your finger resting still on the screen before lifting your finger off after a drag/slide.
  • Typing a question mark right after a lowercase word capitalizes that word. Typing a colon right after a space (for example, when I want to type an emoticon) moves the colon before the space.
    Neutralize the invisible auto-selection by pressing the left then right arrow keys (to the right of the space bar), in that order.
  • I can’t type in the Google Voice nor Google Talk apps. I also can’t seem to open the Google Talk app without responding to someone’s existing message via the status bar.
    The stock keyboard won’t type in these apps for some reason; see the lowest bullet of the “Post-Rooted Notes/Steps” section to go about downloading and switching to an alternate keyboard. Alternatively, text by visiting the mobile Google voice page on a web browser. As for Google Talk being inaccessible on its own… I have no idea what to do there, too.
  • Scrolling in messages in the Gmail app and articles accessed via the News and Weather app is weird.
    This is an odd one; horizontal scrolling seems to be normal, but vertical scrolling is inconsistently inverted. Also try mobile Gmail.
  • I can’t search in the Gmail nor Google Voice apps.
    Search on their corresponding mobile websites using a web browser. By the way, searching in Google Maps works.
  • I can’t scroll down while editing a Gmail draft.
    Try adding a lot of line breaks (press Enter a lot) near the bottom of the screen and then delete them to visually push the text up. A more tedious alternative method is to repeatedly alternate between setting the cursor at the end of the bottom-most-visible line, and pressing the stock keyboard’s right arrow key (east of the space bar) to push the cursor to the next one. Or just be willing to lose the quoted formatting and edit in mobile Gmail.
  • I can’t zoom in when reading PDFs.
    Even when rooted: without any other changes, the Nook Simple Touch lacks multi-touch capabilities (so for any web browser or PDF viewer lacking +/- buttons, don’t expect any functionality beyond whatever double-tapping yields!). Multi-touch seems to be available through this process, though I didn’t use this to acquire my own multi-touch. Mine came about by flashing install-kernel-usbhost-176.zip (in guevor’s post) via ClockworkMod Recovery RC2. Reader (the stock NST PDF-reading app) can’t zoom at all, even with multi-touch (I tested this); users have documented their success with APV PDF Viewer, though I can personally vouch for Documents To Go and its commercial Full Version Key (which I legitimately acquired for free as a FAOTD back in 2011!).
  • I want to type with a physical/real keyboard.
    Flash guevor’s “install-kernel-usbhost-176.zip” file whose link I provided in the bullet above, and then run Host through Renate NST‘s UsbMode-1.7a.apk. This will allow the NST to recognize input from an externally attached USB keyboard through its mini-USB port (so you’ll need to buy an OTG adapter for the keyboard, too).
  • I set ReLaunch to always open whenever the “Home” button is pressed, but I’ve changed my mind; how do I clear defaults for an app?
    Both Android Tuner Free and the launcher ADW.Launcher (which I and other users vouch as superior to the stock NookManager launcher, ReLaunch) have built-in app managers that can clear defaults for any app (as well as force-stop and clear caches & data). ADW.Launcher’s app manager is accessible in its most-upper-right corner button. (Of note: ADW.Launcher’s default label color for app names is white, so darken the text colors in its options menus.)
  • What notes do you have about the keyboard and opting for a different/physical one?
    The stock keyboard has limited auto-punctuation correction; it adds apostrophes to contractions, such as the word “don’t”; it capitalizes lowercase i’s after a space; and it replaces the first space of two spaces in-a-row with a period. The Shift button also automatically activates upon new line breaks or at the start of new sentences in many apps. See the bottom bullet of the “Post-Rooted Notes/Steps” section above about switching to a different on-screen keyboard. As for a physical keyboard: take a look at this thread documenting the file “install-kernel-usbhost-176.zip” (which can be flashed on a rooted NST 1.2.1 via ClockworkMod Recovery, which is the same recovery that can be used to restore a bricked Nook back to stock v1.1). It supposedly enables the use of a physical USB-connected keyboard or other USB-compatible devices (such as a flash drive) if you have a micro-USB adapter, though I have not personally tested it. Do note that this .zip file will automatically install FastMode, which doesn’t work on v1.2.1, even though the rest of “install-kernel-usbhost-176.zip” seems to be configured for v1.2.1. Just uninstall FastMode afterwards in favor of FastMode2, which works on v1.2.1. That same .zip also seems to enable multi-touch on the Nook.
  • If any app keeps reverting to portrait mode when you’re looking to stay in landscape, you can force the Nook to stay in landscape via Rotation Locker. Make sure you memorize the text in its screenshots, since the NST seems to fail in displaying text in certain apps from time to time, including this one—though it otherwise works perfectly)
  • I want to set a PIN lock.
    If you know your way around ADB (Android Debug Bridge), check out this thread.
  • I can’t find an app that you mention here.
    Contact me and I can send you a direct .APK file of the app in question.