computers: trying to update HTC Evo 4G

I bought an excellent Moto X phone, just before Motorola cut the price of the wooden back 75%, and shortly before Google sold them to Lenovo.

That leaves me with a 4-year old HTC Evo 4G, at the time absolutely the best phone I could buy. The battery doesn’t hold a charge for very long, but otherwise it’s in perfect working order. Its flip-out stand is still fantastic. So I leave it at home plugged in to a Jambox to play music and listen to internet news radio.

But… it’s run out of room. The applications on it have filled up its built-in storage, even after I moved as many as I can to its removable SD memory card, even after uninstalling many of them. What sucks is Sprint filled it with crapware that I can’t remove, it’s “baked in” to the system software. The lack of room means I can’t install updates to Google Play, YouTube, and Google services, so Google Play has stopped working. Now even calendar sync is failing.

It’s open source though, right? I should be able to install a free version of Android that doesn’t have the crapware and gives me more control over what it stores. As a bonus, I can run a newer version of Android; HTC stopped updating this thing years ago at Android 2.3.5, while Google has released Android 4.4 and is about to release Android 5.

It’s a great theory. Open source software FTMFW! Except:

  1. HTC never supported installing other system software on the phone. (Which itself is ridiculous, it’s my device.) Instead hackers have to figure out some way to “root” the phone by exploiting bugs in it. This is the same thing the bad guys do when they trick you into opening corrupt Flash movies and Microsoft Office files, but here used for good instead of evil.
  2. Although the core software that runs the phone is the open source Linux kernel, many pieces of the software on the phone are closed-source. The radio, the graphics, the Wi-Fi are all bits of binary code. So they don’t run with the latest version of Android and nobody can make the minor changes required to update them.
  3. The fine hackers who figured out how to do this have moved on. The guides to rooting and installing other software are years old, the forum is inactive, nobody has built newer software or updated the instructions.

The result is even if I can follow the 17-step jargon-filled nearly impenetrable instructions and find all the old programs and bits and pieces I need, I’ll still be running Android 2.3 from 2011.


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