Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The State of the Nook

I've already mentioned how I think the B&N Nook Color is the best, most cost efficient tablet out there right now. At under $200 (if you get a brand new one on eBay, or even a factory refurbished one), you get a device that can run Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) remarkably well, and even a hacked version of Honeycomb.

What I want to describe in this post is the further steps you can take to get more out of your Nook.

Step 1: get a better ROM
Whatever phone or tablet you get, you can safely assume the OS installation (commonly known as ROM) you got with it contains some stuff that you could do without. Whether it's stock applications that your mobile provider tries to push on you, or some OS features that they locked out "for your own good".

For Android, there's no better alternative ROM then CyanogenMod. Not only does it free your Android, it also add extra features like themes, CPU overclocking and various widgets. It's supported on almost 30 devices (find out if yours is on the list) and installed with the aid of a micro SD card, that all devices support. It does requires some expertise to install, but the site contains step-by-step guides.

I came across Maurice Mongeon's blog, dedicated to improving your Nook. This particular post discusses how to deploy a CM nightly build and he has several other helpful ones, including instructions on how to restore your Nook to its original state (nice if you intend to return or resell it). Not only is the blog helpful, but Maurice helped me to fix some issues and even recommended some great apps to get more out of the Nook. Thanks Maurice!

Step 2: get some apps
Here's a list of apps I currently have on my Nook, all of which you can get from the Android Market (with the exception of Netflix, see note below).
1. Utilities
    1. ES File Explorer - best file manager
    2. Gemini app - task manager
    3. Gemini Task killer widget - cleans memory with 1 click
    4. Dropbox
    5. PocketCloud - VNC client
    6. Terminal Emulator - terminal into Android
    7. ConnectBot - SSH client
    8. Titanium Backup - backup all your apps and settings
    9. Wifi Analyzer - find the strongest signal
    10. Speed Test - test Wifi connection speed
    11. Shark - network sniffer
    12. Keepass Android - password vault
    13. Hacker Keyboard - full keyboard, with all special keys and TAB
    14. Battery widget - see battery % on main screen
2. Hacks
    1. ROM Manager - install new ROMs
    2. Battery Caliberation - calibrate battery after ROM installation
    3. Nook Screen Recalibrate - after every ROM installation
    4. Nook tweaks - speed, audio and USB host
    5. ClockSync - atomic clock synch for WiFi
3. Media
    1. CNN
    2. Aldico - multiple format book reader
    3. ACV - best comic book reader out there
    4. Nook - well, you did buy a Nook :)
    5. Kindle - Amazon's book app
    6. Evernote - share notes across devices
    7. MoboPlayer - media player
    8. Pandora - music service
    9. Tunein radio - bettr than an FM receiver
    10. HD wallpaper - get a new one every day
    11. Netflix - stream movies from Netflix
    12. IMDB
    13. Youtube
    14. Amazon MP3
4. Social and shopping
    1. LinkedIn
    2. Gh4a
    3. Google+
    4. Twitter
    5. Meetup
    6. WootWatch
    7. Amazon
    8. eBay
    9. NewEgg
    10. Wiki Encycloopedia

To use Netflix on your Nook, follow these easy steps:
  1. Download the app "Nook Color Odds and Ends"
  2. Select EMMC>fix netflix and reboot the device.
    This basically will change the device name in you Nook's props file to a device Netflix supports
  3. Download the Netflix apk (currently 1.2.2 - search for newer ones)
  4. Run it and log in
  5.  If you like doing things manually, or understand how things work, read this article.
Step 3: get some hardware
Like all other tablets, the Nook is great for consuming media, less so for producing media. Well, not anymore.

App #4 on the "Hacking" apps list allows you to turn on "USB Host" mode. What it means is that with the help of a simple USB plug (less than $3 on Amazon), you can connect any USB device (keyboards, mice, cameras) to your Nook.

I already had an HP wireless media keyboard (got it for less than $20 3 months ago). It has a built in mouse, a tiny USB connector and several multimedia shortcut keys.

Finally I got a tablet stand to prop up my Nook - and Tada! Instant mini laptop.
The Android OS supports keyboards and mice easily, and even some of the multimedia keys (volume, start/stop) work in some of the apps.
This album contains photos of all pieces of hardware mentioned.

I actually managed to write this post in the Android Blogger app on the Nook, and upload photos from my phone. My favorite use for the Nook right now is taking notes at meetups and classes directly into Evernote. I can always access and edit them later on my laptop.


Carl - said...

How do you go with updating your blog on an Android based tablet? I'm currently toying with the idea as I find my self travelling more and more. It's becoming really difficult to update my travel blogs and comparison websites.

Traveling Tech Guy said...

I actually prefer using my laptop. The Blogger app on Android works well, but on my laptop I can add images and video and edit them.

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