Up Yours Sprint

Minimalism at last

I’ve got about six months to go on my HTC EVO, a Sprint “4G” Android phone that was quite advanced back in the summer of 2010 when I chucked my Blackberry and Lotus Notes shackles and went off on my own.

It’s a nice phone, has a battery life on a par with the life span of some hyperkinetic gnat that hatches, mates and dies before lunch, a big screen, and the occasional ability in the right city to get some fast connectivity via Clearwire’s WiMax technology. I can tether my iPad and Thinkpad to it, thereby sticking it to the paid-WiFi thugs at the hotel and airport, and I can get rid of my digital camera, dashboard GPS, and assorted other electronic bricks in my bag.

The biggest bitch I had with the phone wasn’t with the hardware as much as Sprint’s ass-hatted insistence that I would have their stupid NASCAR app whether I liked it or not. The amount of bloatware junk that was burnt into the phone was staggering, and sure enough, after a couple months, the phone started bleating that it was out of storage space, forcing me to pick away and delete photos, videos, and assorted apps, all the while being unable to kill NASCAR, the NFL, and Blockbuster (aren’t they dead and gone?) from the phone all because Sprint’s CMO paid a big check to sponsor the Redneck Eternal Left Turn known as stock car racing.

So I rooted the sucker. Jailbreak. Got medieval on its ass and followed the handy instructions on how to capture the phone for me and only me (while voiding the warranty). In the process I realized that playing around with Android phones at the command line/super user level is just like those wonderful days of exploration in the early 198os when I got my hands on my first IBM-PC and a copy of Norton Utilities.

I followed the magic step-by-step instructions, mindful that I could “brick” or toast the phone if I messed up. A weird volume-button-power-button-rubber-chicken reboot and I had Root, that exalted state of hack bliss where the hardware and me are one, and not kept apart by the evil carrier.

I installed Cyanogen, the aftermarket Android ROM based on Honeycomb, then overlaid that with ADW Ex, a launcher that let me mess with my icons and other GUI goodness. The result, combined with a minimalist icon set, is a wide open phone that is a lot slicker than the factory model, has tons of room, and still has all the functionality it used to.

Sure, there were moments of debugging — the GPS wouldn’t work until I patched it — but there’s something about getting intimate with one’s hardware to restore my faith in the technical world. Don’t be afraid. Stick it to the man.

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