The Android Army invades! (Part 1) : Robot spares

4/28/2012 9:16:38 AM

Install Android on all of your devices


Description: The Android Army invades! (Part 1)


Project Goal

Android everthing!

Install Android on to a non-Android device. Our main example is going to be the HP TouchPad but the tools and techniques apply to a whole range of devices.


HP TouchPad or suitable device

Devices come and go, so new and relevant devices will change over time. We've chosen the HP TouchPad as many people snapped these up cheaply in mid-2011.



This is the chosen build of Android. As Android is open source anyone can create their own version and CyanogenMod has built up a reputation for stable, well-supported builds that cover a wide number of devices.


We've reached that tipping point, the green Android army is on the march. Not even the beautifully crafted armour of Apple's worshipped products can protect it from inevitable defeat. While Android may not be as slick as Apple iOS, BlackBerry Tablet OS or even HP WebOS (and not forgetting Windows Phone 7) its open source nature has won it many resistance-style friends. These digital counter-insurgents are happily undermining other OS opponents by sabotaging their devices with Android installed packages. Blasting open their defences and letting in the droid shock troops.

It's the open-sourced nature of Android that has enabled it to proliferate so widely, but it's the touch-friendly interface that has had it so eagerly embraced by so many. This has enabled anyone that wanted, to direct their intellectual powers to porting Android to any device they want.

This has lead to disgruntled owners of Android devices that have waited a few months too long for OS updates to create their own updated builds. Owners of devices with outdated or dead operating systems - such as Windows Mobile - have devised builds of Android of their own. While people who just fancy the damn challenge have done it for perfectly functioning devices, such as the iPhone BG.

Robot spares

Description: HP TouchPad

For this example we've picked the HP TouchPad, there was a lot of noise about this in mid-2011

HP announced it was dumping its WebOS division and there was a fire sale on its only tablet the HP TouchPad. This runs WebOS, which, while in itself is a fine OS, has very limited third-party app support. With the death knell sounded for WebOS the challenge was on to create a working build of Android. The renowned hacker group, CyanogenMod took up the challenge and delivered a working alpha in a month.

So how do you go about replacing the OS on a device? It's just like replacing an OS on a standard PC but with the added complications of gaining the right access to the original OS; having the tools to inject a replacement boot-loader; and having access to a replacement OS with the correct drivers in place. Sounds tricky, doesn't it?

Thankfully the internet is a vast and varied place, inhabited by helpful and intelligent types. Sites like and host communities of avid Android fans, dedicated to creating builds of Androids for specific devices.

These gals and guys have created an armoury of tools that people can easily reuse for a host of devices.

Jargon Explained


The bit of software that's initiated at power-up, which in turn starts the OS load sequence.


Gaining 'root' access to a Linux system or device, enables you to install anything you wanton it including a new OS.


Apple's system on a chip application of the ARM processor architecture.



Missing a pillar

Three basic pillars are required: a copy of the target OS for the device; a system to inject this onto the device; and a boot-loader to kick start the device with the new OS. The injection stage is interesting as it usually hijacks the manufacturer's built-in firmware upgrade or recovery process. Most devices provide a low-level recovery mode that involves holding down a combination of hard buttons as it's turned on. With the HP TouchPad this is the Volume Up button. For other devices, such as the iPhone this is initiated via the software itself.

Beyond that initial process, of course, a build of Android is required, ideally but not necessarily with all the device drivers in place. As with Windows, lacking a driver doesn't necessarily break a device but renders that part - be it the GPS, Wi-Fi or audio for example -useless or in other cases semi-functioning or often functioning but lacking power-saving features. If you jump onboard a part-done build you'll often find such issues.

Last, the boot-loader kicks the whole thing off. For some devices, usually those that cannot be flashed, this is a one-time process that has to be rerun each boot. The HP TouchPad gets the best of all worlds as it can be partitioned and have a multi-OS boot-loader installed called Moboot.

You won a brick

Do be aware there is a chance of bricking your device. We strongly advise backing up your data and any files on it. It's well worth fully charging the device beforehand and leaving it plugged in as well. Once the 'upgrade' is initiated don't interrupt it, even if nothing seems to be happening.

Once Android is in place there can be issues with Android Market and it will often need installing separately, but we cover that in part 2. On some devices it may also block many apps as the device isn't correctly recognised. This can often be fixed by clearing and force stopping the Google Services Framework and then the Market via application settings.

Beyond this there's a world of Android enjoyment to be had. The Android 4.0 source code has been released too, so we’re expecting a slow update for many devices to the tasty Ice Cream Sandwich.

Android eats an Apple

The Android craze has even managed to reach the heights of touching Apple itself with a group porting Android for a selection of Apple iPhones and the original iPod touch.

The has successfully developed a working Android build and system for installing it on the original iPhone, iPhone 3G and original iPod touch. With the deepest of respect for them this is utter madness, but we're sure they'd say "This. Is. Android!”

It’s not something we'd do; taking one of the most expensive handsets on the market with probably the most finely tuned hardware/OS match, to be replaced with a generic OS build. As an intellectual undertaking that's another thing. If you've already jailbroken - that's rooted in Apple speak - your iOS device then this could be something you're interested in. Word on the street is an'A4'version is in the works and that would open up Android for the iPad, new iPod touch and the original iPhone 4.

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