Monday, January 2, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwich on Droid 2 Global

    Today, I took the plunge and tried a custom ROM for my Motorola Droid 2 Global. Yes, it is an older phone and yes I am eligible for an upgrade in 10 days. With this being the new year, I figured, what the heck, lets go for it.
 
    The ROM I used to try this was provided by a person going by the handle "bikedude880" on the Rootz Wiki forums. I can't say enough good things about this person (I don't know if bikedude880 is male or female, nor does it really matter). His/her hard work has paid off and we now have an (almost) working version of Google's Ice Cream Sandwich for the droid 2 Global by Motorola.

    Let me start with the what I did to try to protect my phone from damage.

    First, I rooted the phone (That actually happened months ago). Then I installed the "Clock Works Rom Manager from the Android Market along with a "Bootstrap Loader" I also found in the Android Market. The purpose of this was to backup my current setup completely so I could recover it if I needed too. That was the idea anyway.

    Next I downloaded the custom ROM image and the Android 4.0 Google Application that would be needed. I also took the time to download the "ADB tools" from google. If you don't know how to use these then please learn or DO NOT TRY THIS. The use of these tools are a necessity should anything go wrong. If you have never installed a custom ROM before, or have never rooted your phone before, then please find someone who has some idea of what they are doing before you attempt anything like this. You can brick your phone, making it nothing more than an expensive paperweight.

    At this point, I was ready. I renamed the "ROM" to "update.zip" and the Google Apps file to gaps-4.zip and copied them to the root directory of my SD Card on my phone. Next I used the clockwork Rom Manager to "flash" a recovery file to my phone's internal storage. The next step was to use Rom Manager to "Reboot into Recovery Mode". I waited.

    The phone restarted into the recovery mode as planned. I selected the "update.zip" and installed it. This process took around five or six minutes as it worked its magic. I was so excited to get Ice Cream Sandwich on my phone that I forgot some very basic, yet very important steps.

    Not only did I forget to install the Google Applications the phone needs, but I also failed to wipe my "Dalvic Cache" and I forgot to tell the "Recovery Software" to wipe my phone of all user data. This last part is also known as a "Factory Reset". These steps are extremely important, as I found out, the hard way.

    One restarted, I was greeted with a beautiful display of colors as the boot animation started. Thats as far as the phone got. It was stuck in a boot loop. After many failed attempts, I finally got the phone to boot in the factory recovery mode. It is extremely limited compared to the one provided by the Rom Manager software. It did however, include an option for "Factory Reset". I selected it and crossed my fingers as I restarted the phone yet again.

    It worked, sort of. I did have access to the phone, but none of the basic application where there. I hadn't installed them yet, and the factory recovery mode just wasn't going to be able to handle the job. This is where ADB comes in. I could find no way to mount the SD Card on my Mac, the USB Drive option just wasn't there. I figured it must be in the Google apps that I had failed to install. I used ADB to "push" the Rom Manager APK file to the download directory of the SD card from my Mac. I was glad I had taken the time to install it again.

    A few more restarts later and I had an (almost) working copy of Ice Cream sandwich. The entire process took several hours, mostly because of mistakes by me. So what didn't work? Audio. Of any kind. A phone is not much use if you are unable talk to or hear the person on the other end. I played with the menus, got Bluetooth to work and even connected my wireless router. It was fun and the UI was fairly snappy. It looked much better than by old setup. Ice Cream Sandwich is so far ahead of Gingerbread in both ascetics and ease of use I can't even begin to explain how much I liked it. But alas, a phone, even a smart one, is not a phone without audio. It was time to restore my previous install of Gingerbread. This release is still in pre-alpha and not ready for primetime yet.

    That's when the Clockwork Rom Manager let me down. It simply would not restore any backups I had made. I suppose I should have tested that particular function before proceeding. That's what get for assuming software should always work. Try as I might, I could not make this work. I was stuck with a not yet fully functional operating system on my phone. Or was I?

    Once again, Google was my friend. There are files out there called "SBF's." These are great and allow you do preform a true "factory reset" on your phone. But, there are some files you will need first. You will need the proper drivers from Motorola, the actual SBF file from your carrier and for your specific model of phone, and you will need software called "RDS Light" also from Motorola.

    I have placed all three files in a zip file [here] in my public dropbox.com folder for easy download. It is important to note that using an SBF file is an absolute last resort. This will reset your phone to point of "new in the box". Everything else is wiped out.

    Fortunately I have windows installed on my Mac. I use Parallels Desktop as a Virtual Machine so that can run windows only application on it. The Motorola software and the Motorola Drivers or both Windows only software. The SBF file itself is ONLY for the Motorola Droid 2 Global, not the Droid 2. It will not work for the Droid 2 at all. Had it not been for this, I would have been stuck.

    To do this, you restart your phone and hold both the up and down volume keys on the side of your phone. This will boot you into a special "boot loader" screen. Make sure you have the drivers and software installed before plugging in your USB cable to your phone.

    Next, make sure your phone is listed in the Motorola Software. You do this by selecting the "View Device" button. Next, open the SBF file from the Motorola Software. Once you can see stats for both the phone and the SBF file, you are ready to start. The entire process takes around 20 minutes so be patient.

    All in all, it was good experience. My wife wouldn't say so as I have been up all night trying to get my phone working correctly again, but I have enjoyed it. I will continue to monitor the great work being done by bikedude880 and those that are aiding in the effort to bring Ice Cream Sandwich to the Droid 2 Global. Of course, all of this would have been for nothing should I upgrade in a couple of weeks to a newer phone. A phone that already has Ice Cream Sandwich installed. Then again, that costs money.