Going Blu

The battery on my second Nexus 5 is cycling about every other hour now; that is two hours of battery life just sitting in my pocket with GPS, wifi and bluetooth active.  If I’m listening to podcasts that life drops to about an hour. This qualifies as pathetic battery life in my opinion, and not at all what it was when I bought the phone or what it was on my first Nexus device. On Nexus devices the battery is wired in, so replacing the battery isn’t a simple switch-out process.

The power button which failed on the first Nexus 5 is also failing on this second device. It’s already acting squirrelly, shutting down abruptly and/or opening the camera (the default function when you double-click the power button) it went into bootloop today, a clear sign that the time to switch to a new device is now, not later. I managed to get it to stop looping by whacking it a few times (the last ditch effort of any engineer worth his salt) but I really, really need to work on getting the only other smartphone in the house up to speed if I don’t want to spend a few hundred additional dollars buying a phone I like.

The only other smartphone in the house? A Blu Energy X 8 gigabyte phone. I refuse to call the two iPhone 4’s that we still have smartphones. They’ll work in a pinch, but I’m not going to willingly start using one unless I have to. And I don’t have to if I can make the Blu dance and sing to the tune I want rather than the tune that Blu installed on it. Getting that to happen means swapping out the OS or ROM as the programmers refer to them, and that means rooting the device and getting a recovery mod working on it.

Rooting is the first hurdle. I’ve been down this road before. I’m inclined to suspect every program that offers to root my device for me, because I know that rooting the device is a violation of most software contracts, voiding the phone’s warranty and essentially placing you at the mercy of the sick sense of humor of the programmers who prey on the uninformed who enter their domains.

Doing some searches for rooting on this device reveals that there are no clear tried and true methods for getting from where I am to where I want to be. Blu’s are simply not that popular of a phone, and they go through a pretty frequent cycle of promoting whatever new thing they’ve come up with, giving it a new name and loading it with new hardware. Pretty much the way every other hardware manufacturer does. But this particular phone has a good battery life. I’ve kept it running for longer than a week on a single charge, so it should be able to handle heavy use and not require charging more than once a day. It is the low overhead (8 gigs onboard memory) that is the problem, and the only way to solve that is to alter the OS. Rooting is a necessity for this to occur.

There are several websites that come up the first time you try to do a search for root. Getting root access or rooting is a throwback label to the Unix orgins of Linux and the most popular OS on the face of the planet today, Android. Root access, also called Superuser or SU, means you can control all functions of your hardware directly, which also means you can permanently screw up all sorts of things that you don’t even know are in your computer without even realizing you are doing it. This is why system administrators jealously guard their access privileges. You never know when some random user might try to reformat every hard drive linked to a network or maybe just deny everyone access to them. If you have SU access, you can do a lot of damage to your information at virtually the speed of light. It is best not to go doing random things just to see what happens.

The fact that several websites come up right away, offering to root my device for free, is the first warning sign for me. The existence of these sites means that a lot of people are allowing these companies access to their information and not even thinking about what granting someone access to their information means. They just want their devices to work the way they want and they don’t care who profits from knowing the minute details of their lives.

I decided to try Kingroot first, because I had run across that name several times in the forums. With a healthy dose of skepticism, I created a testing account on Gmail for the purposes of accessing the Google play store during this phase of the process. Kingroot did manage to successfully root the device on the third try, which was a good sign. As soon as I had it booting stably with root access, I installed Malwarebytes from the Google Play store and had it do a full scan, just to see what I had signed up for. As I suspected there were several pieces of malware currently installed on the system, two of which came pre-loaded with the OEM software that Blu shipped on the device.

Getting root access, and keeping root access are completely different animals. This is especially true when you have rooted your phone with software that wants to make sure it stays on your phone. It tends to keep you from replacing its SU binaries, requiring you to come up with creative ways of digging it out of your system.

porting to new device? For TWRP and LineageOS? Possible for me to do?

I now needed to find a recovery mod and firmware for the recovery mod to install onto the system memory. Almost immediately I discovered that the world in Android had changed in the few years since I last tried this.


Editor’s note. I got this far in the process of rooting the Blu phone, and not much farther. I did get root access and then I promptly deleted parts of the Blu installed software without making sure I had a rom I could install on the phone in place of its original programming. It is still sitting in a box at the back of my desk here in the office, waiting for me to finish screwing around with it. Since it was a cheap phone, and since I didn’t need the phone after we changed from Ting and got new phones from T-Mobile, I’ve never bothered to revisit the problem of installing a new rom on the cheap Blu phone and running it through its paces. My lack of interest in this challenging programing problem should prove that I’m really not that much of a programmer at heart.

Author: RAnthony

I'm a freethinking, unapologetic liberal. I'm a former CAD guru with an architectural fetish. I'm a happily married father. I'm also a disabled Meniere's sufferer.

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