Things to Do Before and After Installing a Custom ROM

Installing a Custom ROM

Android being an Open Source operating system for mobile phones, offers limitless possibilities of optimization and customization as per your requirements. Half the charm of an Android phone lies in the root-based apps, beautiful mods and patches, and custom ROMs. If you have not rooted your phone yet, believe me you are not getting the most out of it. Rooting offers many advantages indeed but, at the same time it is also a little risky as it breaks into the wall of security build by the operating system.

According to a survey, 80% of Android phone users live happy with an uprooted device and the reasons for this are various- some people think of it as a sort of criminal activity, some are afraid of losing warranty, some are afraid of bricking their phone, while most people do not even know about the existence of a term like “rooting”. If you are one who has enclosed himself in side that great wall of security and have doubt in mind related to rooting, do not forget to read the following article:

Anyways, the procedures like rooting and installing a custom ROM is a bit risky and it’s true, but if you go through it carefully, no harm will ever done to your Android device. People brick their phone because they make some mistake. That’s the way accidents happen! As an Android blogger, I have to root, flash stock and custom ROMs, install mods and patches almost everyday. And believe me all my device are pretty healthy and sound. If you understand things, take precautions, create backups and do things carefully, you’ll never be caught into an uncomfortable situation.

Here are a few tips that that will help you keep things under your control and you will be able to not only keep all your data safe, but also restore your device to its normal condition.

Got TWRP Recovery on Your Device?

Whenever you have to install a custom ROM or mod or mod on your phone, try to be ready for the worst situations. Just imagine you are installing a ROM and your phones turns off in the middle of things due to low battery! You will have to charge the battery with an external charger because your device will not be able to charge the battery because it does not have any ROM that makes this function work. In such a situation, you will not be able to restart the procedure or even restore from a backup Therefore, it very important that your phone is amply charged before you set out on the adventure.Backup Your Apps, Contacts, Messages, etc.

Whether you have rooted your phone or not, always backup your apps, contacts, call-log, messages, bookmarks, calendar entries, etc. The best way is to schedule regular backups, preferably to external storage of your device and your computer. There are some nice apps on google play.

Enable USB Debugging Mode

The term “debugging” is used in connection with development. Putting your Android device in debugging mode prepares it for direct connection with your computer via a USB cable without notification or read log data. Flashing/installing anything that does not come under official method, might be regarded as a development activity. It’s another thing that you did not developed the ROM you are going to install, but still it is a work of custom development.

That’s is why, whenever you perform any such task, it is highly recommended that you turn on the USB Debugging mode from Developer Options under Settings of your device. On Android phones with Jelly Bean 4.2 and higher, the Developer Options are hidden by default and can be made to show by tapping 7 times on “Build Version” from Settings> About.

Further, you should also install the appropriate USB Drivers on your computer as you can need them anytime.Backup Your Phone’s IMEI (Samsung Users Only)

When you install a custom ROM on you phone, sometimes it happens that the folder that stores your phone’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number is wiped. As a result, your phone’s IMEI number is lost it does not receive network signal. To avoid this happen to your phone, do not forget to backup the “efs” partition.

Enter Recovery Mode Easily:

If you are a hard-core Android enthusiast who likes to play with new ROMs and mods every now and then, be careful or you might damage the hardware keys of your Android phone. Since booting into recovery mode of a phone or tablet requires hard-pressing of certain combination of hardware keys, doing it frequently can have a negative effect on the functioning of these keys. I have experience it myself when I had a Galaxy S. Fortunately, there are several apps that can make booting into download, boot-loader or recovery mode very easy without being cruel to the poor hardware keys.

If you have installed a custom ROM, you need not install any such app separately as most ROM developers integrate the boot options in the ROM itself. Besides, we have an vast collection of methods of entering Fast-boot, Boot-loader, Download and Recovery modes on most Android devices.Backup Current ROM (Important)

Being able to install a custom ROM on your Android phone means that you have installed custom recovery like Clockwork Mod or TWRP on your Android device. Well, having a custom recovery on any phone is a great advantage. It can perform all tasks done by stock recovery while adding lots of other useful options.

One such great feature is its ability to backup the whole ROM, custom or stock, on your phone’s internal or external storage. You can back as many ROMs as your phone’s storage can afford. I strongly recommend that you always keep a backup of your phone’s original/stock ROM. Before you install a new custom ROM, always create a backup of your current ROM. Scroll down to the “backup and restore” option and backup the ROM to the internal or external storage of you device. If you select “backup”, the ROM will be saved to internal storage. To save it to external SD card, select “backup to external sdcard” option.

All backed up ROMs are saved on a folder called “clockworkmod” on your device’s internal or external SD card, depending on what location you chose while creating the backup.

It’s is always better to store the backed up ROM on the external storage because sometimes the phone is caught in a bootloop, or the screen goes into a frozen state, or you may experience lags, or anything, and decide to reset/wipe your phone to get it back to normal. In doing so, all data stored on the internal storage is deleted. In certain situations you might have the opportunity to backup your data but in some cases you might not be able to do that.

How to Restore a Previously Backed up ROM:

As I said earlier, you should always keep a backed up copy of the rooted stock ROM on the external SD card of your phone. If the phone does not have an external SD slot, you can save the backup to the internal SD card (not safe though). If you frequently flash an AOSP, AOKP or CM based ROM, always keep a copy of the Google Apps flashable zip saved on your phone.

So if you installed a custom ROM and you are having problems with it or you just want to go back to the previous or any backed up ROM, do this:

Boot you phone into CWM recovery mode“wipe data/factory reset”“wipe cache partition”

Then go to “backup and restore> restore”, select the location (internal or external) of the backup.

Select the file and confirm your choice by selecting “yes”.

So, this was a detailed tutorial to help you land safely whenever you install a ROM. I have tried to be inclusive but if feel that something is missing, do not forget to share with us via comments. I believe the tips given here will prove useful to you.

Retrica for Android – Best Photo Application

Retrica for Android

There surely are a huge number of apps putting funky retro filters on your photos, but must of them focus on editing after the photo is taken, rather than doing it on the fly. Retrica is a camera app best known for the wide range of neat and artistic filters that are applied live as you take photos, and lets you easily share them anywhere afterwords.

By having this particular feature Retrica offers the user a whole new dynamic of photo shooting by instantly changing filters, rather than laboring tweaks later. For a lot of people this is a more fun and spontaneous experience. Read this review of Retrica, another nice choice in a market full of camera apps.

Retrica is a simple app with an easy to learn interface. The interface itself is composed by a shutter key on the bottom, accompanied with some quick settings buttons to add vignetting, a shallow depth of field effect, simple border and timer. The aspect ratio is also manually changeable between 3:4 and 1:1, along with the option to use a multi-panel effect that captures photos on a custom interval and stitches them into a collage.

The most intimidating thing about Retrica is obviously the pile of filters it offers, accessible in the bottom right corner of the interface. You can either select the filter manually, or a random button can do it for you. Filters are grouped in categories like “elegant”, “chic” and “retro”, with each of them containing a number of different filter looks. You can tap them to instantly see how it looks before you tap the shutter button. Another option available is to change the intensity by using a slider along the bottom.

And that’s about it. The fact that you get a live preview of what your picture will look like in the viewfinder is the real draw here, and it’s an important one. I never noticed any slowdowns while the filters were being shown, which would be a deal breaker, and pictures turned out just as they looked before I hit the shutter key.

When a photo is taken it will take some seconds to process the image and than you can directly view it in the gallery portion of the app, which in fact is a very simple one. You can’t delete or share multiple images. There is no option of post-precessing and you can only share or delete the photo after you tap the shutter button. Of course you can share it out to another photo app to edit it further, but this is not very user friendly.

Considering how thick the filters are laid by default and the fact that you have to think about the composition since the beginning, it doesn’t need much of an effort to work out a nice looking photo. We should be glad the developers stuck to their guns and kept things simple, since from my experience I didn’t need to further edit the photos coming out of Retrica.

Another easy to do thing is turning off geo tagging of photos and the watermarking of pictures with a “Retrica” logo in the bottom right corner. A funny thing about Retrica is the pro version which except additional filters, comes “free of ads”, while in fact I have never seen ads in my time using the app. If you plan in using Retrica for a considerable amount of time, I believe the price of $1.99 for the one-time payment “Pro Upgrade” is a reasonable price.

The casual mobile photographers will find Retrica exciting for the variety of filters and the occasional spontaneous collage, but the more “serious” photographers will find it lacking compared to the apps they are used to using. Of course Retrica is not the only camera app that can add live filters out there, but it sure is one of the few that is well know for the quality it serves and keeping the photo exactly as it looks before you tap the shutter button.

As I have earlier said, not everybody will like and be fond of Retrica, but considering the fact it is free to use, I would encourage everyone to give it a try and see if they can find the photography style that suits them best.

Newest Androids Will Join iPhones in Offering Default Encryption

android encryption

Default encryption is no longer the preserve of only iPhones. Google will join Apple in offering this technology in its new Android phones running on Android L. This feature will provide the much needed extra layer of protection consumers have wanted for some time now.

This development is good news for Android users who got concerned after they read about some of the apps on the Android system being prone to hacking and compromise of data security.

Android Always Had Encryption:

It is interesting to note that Android has been offering optional encryption on some of its devices released in 2011 but most users are not aware of this feature and have not turned it on. Google perhaps did a poor job educating consumers about this facility and now hopes to redress it by ensuring encryption happen automatically. The user does not have to activate it. Thanks to this, only somebody who knows the password can gain access to the data, videos, pictures and messages that have been stored in these phones.

Through this move, Google has ensured its phones will have the same level of security as Apple phones. Now thanks to this encryption security layer, even law enforcement would not be able to gather evidence stored in these phones, despite having a legal search warrant for it.

Law Enforcement Officials Peeved:

This encryption feature has however not impressed law enforcement officials who are peeved at it, saying it will make their task all the more difficult in solving crimes quickly. Now even with a search warrant, they would not be able to gain access to the data in a phone. Users and advocates of consumer privacy are happy this feature is now an automatic one with Android phones.

Those in favor of this encryption say that consumer privacy is of utmost importance and this will benefit the majority of users who are law abiding. This development should not be seen as retrograde only from the perspective of law enforcement and they would have to find other ways of data retrieval.

Google Can Now Claim Android Is Safe:

Until now, only Apple could claim its iphones were absolutely safe and secure. Now that Google has introduced this feature, the already competitive smart phone market will witness tougher competition and Microsoft too will have to do something similar if its Windows phones have to compete with these two majors.

There are still some differences though in the manner such encryption would be handled by Google and Apple. While Apple has total control over the hardware as well as the software for all its devices and would therefore be able to upgrade its older gadgets quickly, Google would have to depend on its OEMs to ensure quick distribution and upgrade of the Android L on its devices still running on older Android versions.

By the looks of it, Google would have to wait for a much longer time to ensure all its devices are encrypted and that gives Apple some more time to tout its security feature.

How to flash a custom recovery (like CWM or TWRP) on Android

flash a custom recovery

If you have decided to take a trip to the land of custom ROMs and Android hacking in general, you’d need to take one first step – flash (install) a custom recovery. In this article, we explain what exactly is a ‘custom recovery’, how you install it, and what are some popular solutions.

Let’s start with the fact that every phone ships with stock recovery software. Stock recoveries vary slightly between phone makers, but they are identical in their essence – they allow you to manually flash official updates and clear your phone’s cache. Sounds limited? It is, and that’s why custom recoveries exist.

Custom recoveries that we’ll flash here replace the limited stock ones, adding all sorts of functionality to your phone. Flashing a custom recovery is often a key part of the rooting process, but that is not its only use. Here is a short summary of all that you can do with a custom recovery:

Create and restore a backup image – A backup image makes a copy of all your phone settings, application and app data. Such a backup copy is crucial if your hacking experiments fail – in such cases, you can use the created backup image to restore your phone to a fully functional earlier state without losing any data.

Flash custom ROMs – custom ROMs can completely overhaul the looks and functionality of an Android smartphone, and usually they are the main reason for first flashing a custom recovery.

Important: You have to unlock the boot-loader on your phone before flashing a custom recovery! Be careful!

How to flash a custom recovery:

Now that you know what a custom recovery is and what it does, it’s time to go through some popular names of recovery software. Clockwork Mod (shortened to CWM) and Team Win’s Recovery Project (commonly referred to as TWRP) are the two most popular solutions, and while the two differ slightly, they both have the essential features you need.

Pre-requisites:

USB drivers for your phone must be installed on a computer. You can grab them from the official website of the company that made the phone.

Your phone must be connected to your computer via USB. If you get stuck at some point in the tutorial, a common fix is to try disconnecting the phone and re-connecting it again.

1. Enable USB debugging on your Android device (here’s how to do it). Connect your phone to a computer via USB.

2. Now, it’s time to open Command Prompt (terminal) and get serious. Don’t worry, all you’d need to do is copy and paste some code in it, it’s not hard at all. To open the terminal in Windows 7, hit the ‘Windows’ key, type ‘cmd’, and hit Enter; in Windows 8, you’d need to navigate to the new Modern UI home panel, and just type in ‘cmd’ there.

Once you open the terminal, you need to change the folder to Platform Tools in the Android SDK. Typically, it looks something like this, but you have to find the exact path where you installed the Android SDK on your computer:

C:/AndroidSDK/adt-bundle-windows-x86_6420131030/sdk/platform-tools/

To change the folder you just copy the above path (as it is on your computer) and put ‘cd’ in front of it, so the whole command would look like so:

cd C:/Android SDK/adt-bundle-windows-x86_64-20131030/sdk/platform-tools/

3. In the terminal, enter the following:adb devicesMake sure your device is listed.

Next, type in:adb reboot bootloaderWait for the phone to reboot in bootloader mode.4. Now, go to the platform-tools directory (a sub-directory of the Android SDK), and open Command Prompt there (you can do so by Shift + Right-click > Open Command Prompt).

In the command line, enter the following:fastboot devicesMake sure that your device is listed.

Finally, type in:fastboot flash recovery FILE.IMGReplace ‘FILE.IMG’ with the recovery you want to flash. We have given you links for CWM and TWRP at the beginning of the article, but if you’ve missed them, you would need to download them now from the following links:

Here’s how that recovery file name typically looks (this is the image for a Moto G):cwm-6.0.4.6-MotoG4.4.imgcwm-6.0.4.7-MotoG-GPE-4.4.imgtwrp-2.6.3.1-MotoG4.4.img

5. IMPORTANT! After you have flashed the recovery, it is crucial that you you don’t just reboot your device. Go to ‘Recovery’ by using volume down to scroll. Don’t scroll using the Volume Up button! In this case, Volume Up serves as the ‘Select’ button. Once you have gone to ‘Recovery’, only then press the Volume Up to boot in recovery mode.

If you don’t follow these instructions, your device will simply re-flash the stock recovery, and you’d have to start all over with the custom recovery flash process.

And voila, that’s it! You now have custom recovery flashed on your phone, congrats!

Note: You can use this how-to tutorial guide to install custom recovery on phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Note 2, HTC One (M8), LG G3, LG G2, Moto X, Moto G, Sony Xperia Z2, Xperia Z1, etc.

How To Display A Photo Slideshow On Your Android Lock Screen

Photo Slideshow

Most lock screens are boring. Sure, you may see the time, temperature, battery percentage, and a camera icon, but that’s it. Why not make it a little more interesting? Thanks to a member of the XDA Developers Forum named wangxing, you can make your lock screen more interesting than ever with a photo slide-show. Wangxing’s new app is called Galaxy Photo Screen Lock. That app lets you “dress up your mobile lock screen and give your fun and love” – according to wangxing himself. I don’t know what “Give your fun and love means” but it sounds interesting. After installing Galaxy Photo Screen Lock, you can customize your lock screen in a number of different ways, including:

  • Add date/time/weekday
  • Add real-time weather forecast
  • Add notification alerts for missed calls and unread messages
  • Add camera shortcut
  • Add flexible backgrounds and choose from 10+ pretty built-in backgrounds
  • Add photos and photo slide-shows to your lockscreen

Obviously, many of these features are similar to the features you see on other Android lock screen apps. The main exception is the photo slide-show feature, which lets you add as many photos as you like to your device. The photos will cycle through one another on your lock screen and appear as a circle in the middle of the screen

As the name suggest, the Galaxy Photo Screen Lock is designed for use on Galaxy devices. It has specifically been tested on the Galaxy S3, S4, and S5.

However, wangxing explains that the app will likely work on other devices and encourages users to download the app and try it out.

BUT WHAT ABOUT SECURITY?

Of course, the problem with this app is security. Some people are extremely concerned about Android security. In the unlikely event that someone steals your phone, they could view your photos on your lock screen.

If that’s not a concern to you – and you have a remote wipe feature enabled – then a lock screen photo slide-show shouldn’t matter.

Additionally, since you specifically choose which photos can appear on your lock screen, this shouldn’t be a problem – don’t add any photos that include compromising personal details.

You can download Galaxy Photo Screen Lock from the Google Play Store for free.