Back in the earlyish noughties, I got my first ever proper smartphone, the Nokia N70. Running Symbian OS, I could multi-task, browse, download and install applications that let me complete many tasks I would usually need a computer for. Later I upgraded to the N95 8GB, also running Symbian OS.
Even when the iPhone came out I was happy with it; it was cheaper, far more open, allowed for multi-tasking, and generally seemed to suit my type of use-case. When it came round to upgrading again last year, Symbian OS was already beginning to look outdated. Although I quite liked iPhones and what Apple were doing, at the time there was no multi-tasking, the camera was pants and even though buying the phone outright would be comparable to other new phones at the time, on contract you ended up paying a hefty lump of Apple tax. Fortunately, Google were also making leaps and bounds in the market.
I got my HTC Hero, complete with Android 1.5, and immediately fell in love with it. This was a great phone with a great mobile OS. Sold. However, after a few months my frustrations started to grow. Google were constantly developing and upgrading Android. It wasn’t long before 2.1 was released and a buzz of excitement started spreading. HTC, however, decided they would prefer me to buy a brand new phone to get a later version of Android. This, to me, was unnacceptable. The search began for a hack to get 2.1 working.
Up until a month or two ago I didn’t find a way, but since then there seems to be a flurry of progress. Today I am installing the latest version of Android, 2.2, bundled in a hacked HTC Rom. We have VillainRom to thank for this, and oh how thankful I am. At first the method of getting your phone to install custom ROMs, especially when you have custom firmware from your network provider. My phone is on Three, and I needed to go through the goldcard method first. But once you know how, it’s really far simpler than you think.
There are loads of tutorials on the internet, but I found the one at VillainRom to be the best — probably because I was using one of their ROMs. Once you have run the goldcard method you downgrade with a HTC Hero RUU. Once this has run you are ready to move on.
Next up you need to flash your phone. I like to use Amon Ra’s custom recovery image, along with Flashrec, an Android app that will flash your phone with the aforementioned recovery image. I use Astro file manager to run the Flashrec .apk file and install it, and once it’s running it’s just a case of hitting Backup Recovery Image, then putting in the name of the custom recovery images (i.e. /sdcard/recovery-RA-hero-v184.108.40.206.img), pressing the Flash Recovery Image button and waiting for confirmation of a successful flash. At this point your phone is ready to install a custom ROM!
I am using FroydVillain 1.3.0 from the guys at VillainRom. After downloading this and copying it over to the root of the sdcard, you need to turn it off, then boot by holding down home, then power, until you see the custom recovery screen. In here you must first wipe all the existing data from your phone, so go down to Wipe and go through each of these options, happily wiping away. Then go back to the main menu and choose to flash zip from sdcard, choose your 1.3.0 custom ROM zip and then watch the pretty white text scrolling up your phone as it magically installs Froyo on your phone. Once it is done, reboot and you will be greeted with an amusing VillainROM animation. Hurrah!
Why update to Froyo? Well, there are genuine reasons besides just wanting the latest and greatest software. Believe it or not, this version runs lovely on the Hero, despite not having the Snapdragon 1Ghz processor like other Android powered HTCs, but the extra features and functionality you get are well worth the time and effort to get it installed.
One of my favourite features is Google’s built in sync program. Once you boot and give Google your credentials, it will automatically grab your Wifi passwords, Apps, and lots more without having to do anything. This is really handy when you’re always installing new custom ROMs ;). You also benefit from a few added extras from the VillainROM team, such as Launcher Pro, Superuser access, WiFi tethering and more.
The good thing is that if you don’t like it or are worried about using a custom ROM, you simply stick your offical HTC Hero ROM back on. Not that you’d want to do that of course. They ought to get their act together or I might never buy another HTC ever again.
One final thing to note is the VillainROM team and friends can be found on IRC in the #VillainROM channel on Freenode, and are always happy to help, chat and accept donations :D
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