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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Rooted My Note 2 and Gone Hawkish

(Besides keeping this as a reference for myself in case my memory bank goes south, this blog post is designed to provide detailed information for potential rooting newbies in mind. Detailed means long, so grab the popcorn. Tip: Caramel-flavoured popcorn is the most yummylicious.)

To make a long story seem shorter than it really is before the story is even properly begun: l rooted my Galaxy Note 2 just now and flashed the Hawkish Extreme ROM on it. And with that, we dive into the fully detailed version. Commence popcorn consumption:

So I finally took the plunge and after plunging into the deep end of the pool (since rooting your Android phone is not a trivial and casual matter, especially if it's your first virgin attempt), I'm happy to report that I didn't drown and is instead happily finding that the water level is actually below head-level. In proper English, my Note survived the process, I can breathe again and I'm liking what I'm seeing :)

According to this blog post of mine, I succeeded in my attempt to making the blogging app l'm using to become selectable for the multi-window feature of my pre-rooted Note. So far, so good, so what, it actually left me longing for even more. The process actually ended up causing me to become like a teenager going through puberty with raging hormones - once you've met the first maiden, you just have to see more of what else is there in the realm of the womenfolk.

Not speaking from experience there, that was just a metaphor and I can be pretty good at lying sometimes.

Anyway, the things that are still lacking with the afore-mentioned method, though successful as it turned out to be, are that firstly, I don't relish the thought of always having to repeat the same APK decompiling, hacking and subsequent recompiling process for every single app that I need for the multi-window feature. It's just counter-productive to do so and thus, justifying the need for rooting and flashing a custom ROM that allows any app to be used in the multi-window like this:

Secondly, I would like to have the ability to zap away all the bloatware that I never use and which I can't uninstall if my phone stays unrooted; like ChatOn, for example. The worst thing about bloatware is that they can run in the background and suck up your battery's juice. Sure, you can disable some of them but still, they take up unnecessary space on your storage which I find particularly irksome. If you never use them, then why allow them to waste resources, right?

I want to take control of what stays in and what goes out of my phone instead of having the whole shebang shoved down my Note's 16GB throat. Rooting gives you the admin rights to do all that with Titanium Backup.

Oh yeah, backups. Wouldn't it be nice if you could backup things like say, your game data before doing a wipe of your phone or factory reset for whatever reason, saving your progress and settings and keeping it all safely retained so that you don't have to start the entire game from scratch after you reinstall it again after the wipe? Titanium Backup can backup any app as well as system data, not just games, and ClockWorkMod recovery can backup the whole shebang like Norton's Ghost program (remember that one when computers ran the world before smartphones?).

Thing is, Titanium Backup can only be used on rooted Android devices. As you should be able to tell, it is a powerful app indeed. Backups can prevent cardiac malfunctions, keep the stress level down and prevent the angry gnashing of teeth that can chew polycarbonate to bits if said polycarbonate happens to end up between the rows of said teeth. I think my metaphors kinda suck.

As it is, the free version of Titanium Backup is adequate enough for my primary needs of backing up, restoring and uninstalling anything I deem shouldn't exist inside my phone. If you need to have the ability to do additional things like freezing any app or converting system apps to user apps and vice-versa, you will need to get the paid pro version (I found another way to somewhat mimick the freeze effect with the Greenify app as well as an alternative way to convert a system app to a user app though. I'll talk about this later as I go along).

Sure, there's Helium (formerly and famously known as 'Carbon') for backups which unrooted Android devices can use but if you choose the free version, you will need to connect your device to a computer for the backing up and the restoration of data.

I don't have to mention how inconvenient that could be given the wrong circumstances; like when there is no computer available around but you happen to have an urgent need for data backup or restoration. And if you dig into the user reviews of the app, the effectiveness of the app doesn't really seem to be that consistent across the wide Android board. When it comes to such matters, relevant apps designed specifically for rooted phones just seem to work much better with more consistent results. Lots of folks swear by Titanium and it's highly regarded as a must-have app for rooted devices.

So the reasons stated above are what motivated me to root my Note 2 followed by flashing a custom ROM on it.

The Rooting Process

The rooting instructions and method I used is this guide courtesy of Zedomax, a respected member of the Android community whom I find to be very Knowledgable and funny at the same time - funnier than S Voice and Siri combined and that's a compliment. The dude cracked me up when I first chanced upon one of his cup noodles unboxing videos.

And speaking of S Voice, I chose not to install it since I prefer this alternative voice assistant. Yes sir and ma'am, this is one example of how rooting and custom ROMs can allow you to have control of what does or doesn't go into your phone.

Reading through the entire rooting process actually seemed more involved and complicated than when I actually went ahead and did it manually, so I was pleasantly surprised when I completed the whole process in like just 5 minutes or so. I actually went "That's it?". It probably was due to the fact that this was my first rooting attempt and in order to make sure that I wouldn't screw up and brick my phone, I went through the guide and the video slowly and meticulously, concentrating on and remembering every important point.


In a nutshell, a custom ROM is a modified and optimised version of the operating system which brings extra stuff and functionalities while trimming away the fat of bloatware you don't need. There are lots of ROMs for the Galaxy Note 2 out there and I chose Hawkish Extreme because of the reviews and what it brings to the table which you can read about here if you haven't done so earlier up-top.

If you are rooted and would like to flash a custom ROM, you have to make darn sure first that the ROM you are flashing is specifically for your device's model (there are different models of Note 2s). Most ROMs cater to multiple models (as in the case of Hawkish Extreme) and as long as your model is one of the multiple models supported, you are on the right track. I imagine it would be easy to get all excited and hyped up to flash a ROM when one gets intrigued reading about the features it offers and forget to check if one's model is supported by that particular ROM. So watch it.

Flash a ROM on a wrong model and chances are, you end up bricking your device.

Sure, you can unbrick your device by trying things like flashing the device's stock ROM back on it but it takes a lot less effort to read things carefully than trying to resuscitate a bricked device. In the case of the Note 2, you can find out your device's model by going into:
Settings ⇒ About Device and looking at the Model Number.

The Multi-Window

Hawkish Extreme is supposed to allow any app to be used in the multi-window and it comes with this app called 'Multi-Window Control' (alternatively called 'Multi-Window Manager) which manages just that. Or so I thought. Initially, l was thinking that only the apps which are placed in its 'Added Applications' section can be summoned into the multi-window panes but eventually, I discovered that things are actually not just that simple.

Let me use the following short numbered point forms to explain this more easily to avoid confusion and going on mass murder mode on my own brain cells:

  1. Any app placed within the 'Added Applications' section of the Multi-Window Control will appear within the Multi-Window panel on the left when you launch the Multi-Window, ready to be dragged onto the screen.

  2. Apps not added to the 'Added Applications' section will not appear within the Multi-Window panel on the left when you launch the Multi-Window BUT, they can still be opened inside one of the two Multi-Window panes on the screen along with another app.

Point 2 above might cause a bit of confusion but just in case it does, I'll use the following scenario to clear away the fog:

Let's say I've placed the PicSay Pro app in the 'Added Applications' section of the Multi-Window Manager and I didn't add the Dictionary app. So when I launch the Multi-Window, I'll see PicSay Pro inside the Multi-Window panel but I won't see Dictionary.

So far so good? Ok, let's say I launch the Dictionary app by the usual clicking-on-its-icon method. Dictionary will then be launched full-screened, right? So what I do next is to open up the Multi-Window panel on the left and drag PicSay Pro onto the screen already displaying Dictionary. What happens next is this:

If I drag PicSay Pro to the bottom pane of the screen that's already on Multi-Window mode, it appears in the bottom pane (as in the case here as according to the photo on top). If I drag it to the top pane instead, it appears inside the top pane as it should.

Therefore, the conclusion here is that any app can really be used in the Multi-Window irregardless of whether they have been added into the 'Added Applications' section of the Multi-Window Manager. Adding them in just makes them selectable and launchable via the Multi-Window panel on the left instead of having to launch them by going to the Home Screen or App Drawer and clicking on their icons.

However (oh gosh, more possible confusion?), you can still launch unadded apps right on the screen without having to go find and click on their icons :)
How? Well, via the Note 2's Quick Command feature that you summon by swiping the S Pen in a vertically upwards motion on the screen while holding down on the S Pen's button.

Once the app is launched via Quick Command, just drag in an app from the Multi-Window panel and you will have both apps running in each pane. If 2 other apps are already opened, one of them will be replaced by the newly launched app depending on which pane was pre-seIected when you launch Quick Command.

Note that the method mentioned above works when one of the apps are already selectable from the Multi-Window panel. But what if you want to launch 2 apps which you didn't add into the Multi-Window panel? Is there a way to circumvent the situation? Yes indeedy, as I've found out for myself by experimenting around:

Let's say you have app A and app B which you didn't add into the Multi-Window panel and you would like to multi-task on both of them. After you have launched app A, drag in any pre-added app from the Multi-Window panel and launch app B using Quick Command after making sure that the pre-added app's pane is the currently selected pane and there you go, app A and app B one on top of the other.

Of course, you will need to have already programmed beforehand the gesture commands that launch the unadded apps within Quick Command. But then again, you can also launch Quick Command to create the gesture command right on the spot without having to exit any opened window pane. This is just one of the many ways that shows why the S Pen of the Note 2 is so useful and productive.


So, did I encounter any hiccups after the rooting and ROM flashing? Yeah, two hiccups. Both got rectified in the end though.

So I was happily surfing the Net on my Note when I decided to stream some broadcasted music from the radio stations, so I fired up TuneIn Radio and the streaming failed. Thinking that there could be Gremlins in the air screwing up network connections, l decided to try again later when I move to another location on my way home.

Later, I arrived at that other location and tried again. Same situation. Thing was, I could still surf the Net smoothly on my browser and I began to get bugged by this nagging feeling that something was wrong. So I launched WhatsApp and Line to test the messaging connections and both apps failed to connect to their servers. Time to feel the icy fingers of panic slowly creeping up my spine.

Thank goodness that I was still able to surf the Net and access Google. Apparently, the ROM changed my phone's APN. In the end, all I needed to do was to select my phone's APN back to the proper one. That was all I needed to do and it was just a simple one-touch selection solution using my finger, no biggie. Here's how you access your APN selection on the Note 2:

Settings ⇒ More Settings ⇒ Mobile Networks ⇒ Access Point Names

If you don't know your APN, Google for it first. If you still can't find the proper information, just try each of the APNs until everything starts working normally again. No harm will be done to your device if you choose the wrong APN and I promise your device won't explode in your face.

Second issue encountered: Hawkish Extreme allows you a selection of different kernels and I had no issue after flashing the stock kernel, it was all good. However, after I've decided to try the Perseus kernel and flashed it, the volume of my music played on the Music Player became all soft, muffled and screwed up even at max volume. I read that disabling the equalizer on Noozxoide which comes with the ROM should rectify the problem but I couldn't be bothered to since I decided to flash back to the stock kernel, after which everything became A-Ok once again.

These are the only 2 issues I've encountered and they all got easily ironed out in the end. I didn't come across any other hiccups so far and I'm happy with the current state of things.

Pleasant Surprises

I've stated my reasons for why I've decided to root my Note and what I wanted to achieve out of it. Just like winning the grand prize of a lucky draw and later discovering that it also comes with shopping vouchers which you didn't expect to be bundled together with the grand prize, I discovered extra benefits and functionalities that I enjoy following the rooting process.

Remember what I've mentioned up-top regarding the mimicking of the app-freeze function of Titanium Backup as well as the conversion of system apps to user apps using an alternative free method? Actually, I feel that I should blog about these things in their own separate blog entries for the sake of better organization and facilitating an easier way to sift through this blog site to find the relevant information. So I'll just briefly talk about it here using Google Maps as an example in a nutshell version:

Google Maps is a system app on the Note 2 that runs constantly in the background and apps that run constantly in the background when you don't need to use them can suck up battery juice unnecessarily, just like a vampire that can't tell when it has sucked up more than enough blood and its whole entire being is about to explode.

There's this free nifty app for rooted Android devices called 'Greenify' that automates the hibernation of user-selected apps when they are not in use. Launch those apps and they will be automatically hibernated again after a while when you are done with them and closed them. Hibernating apps that you only use periodically is better than outright freezing them. Thing is, Greenify only allows user apps to be hibernated for the sake of safety - If you don't know what you are doing and hibernate an essential system app, you could screw up your phone.

In the case of Google Maps, what I did was that I uninstalled it using Titanium Backup, then downloaded it via the Play Store and reinstalled it back onto my Note and thus, it now becomes a user app instead of a system app. Greenify can thus auto-hibernate it for me now when it's not in use.

That was the nutshell version and Greenify is not the only useful app for rooted devices I've found. I'll expand on their details in their own separate blog entries, so don't finish up all the popcorn just yet and stay tuned.

Dear Samsung, your Galaxy Note 2 is one heck of a swag productive device deserving lots of love but since you are not anal-retentive Apple, I think you have forgotten to give us the freedom and the choice to change how the ringtones of our incoming calls behave. I dig that ascending ringtones have their usefulness but not everyone will jump in fright at ass-kicking Rock music playing at uniform volume.

Oh yes, when I receive phone calls now, my ringtone plays from full volume under this ROM instead of jumping suddenly from soft to loud like before, which was something that grated my nerves because I sometimes missed hearing those few seconds of soft ringing when I was in noisy environments. By the time I heard the ringings and proceeded to pick up the call, the callers would sometimes hang up right when I was just about to answer the call and that was Irritating.As.Heck.

That sounded like a minor thing but I appreciate having better reaction time now with uniform ringing volume. I still let callers with private numbers and caller IDs rot though, I'll just ignore their calls and usually let them ring on while enjoying my ringtones if it doesn't disturb anyone else.

What About Official OTA Updates?

Now that I've rooted my Note and flashed a custom ROM on it, I won't be able to install official Over-The-Air updates, which was the main concern I've had and the reason why I held back on the rooting and ROMing until now. The good news is that ROM creators habitually take the latest official updates and incorporate them into their ROMs which you can then flash.

Advantage? You can usually receive these latest updates from your ROM creators faster than unrooted devices get their official OTAs - since your rooted device is no longer under the mercy of update delays caused by the inevitable red tapes of your carrier - Samsung releases their update files on their updates site, ROM creators download them, incorporate them into their ROMs, release the new version of the ROMs, you then grab and flash them. Done. All these while the carriers take their time to do things like testing to see if each of their bloatware are compatible with the new update and who knows what else.

That being said..


Here, catch.. Rooting voids your warranty. There's usually a catch to everything. My Note 2 is an imported international set not SM bondaged to any carrier and the only warranty I have is the one year software  warranty informally given to me by the shop's boss from whom I bought my device from, so I'm free to do whatever I want with my Note. I just have to take care of and fend for myself for the most part but I like the independence and my device is rocking in great condition. I intend to keep it that way.

By the way, rooting and flashing ROMs and kernels is not illegal, it just voids your warranty. So if you happen to think that my this here blog site is into shady business, kidnaps aliens, eats H.P. Lovecraft books for breakfast or anything else ridiculously drastic like that, I'm sorry to disappoint you. But don't let that put you off and please don't think that I'm boring and leave yet, I'll try eating kernels for breakfast to entertain you, ok? So stay.

Now where was I? Ok, everytime you root and flash your device, a flash counter inside your device records the number of flashing attempts. If it doesn't read 0 when you send it in for warranty purposes, your warranty won't be honoured. That's how they determine if your device qualifies for warranty.

However, rooting and the process of the flash counter happen to be reversible and you can reset everything back to default stock status. If you are venturing into unfamiliar territory, I'd advice you to make sure first that you know how to find your way back to where you started, so here's your compass:

I've mentioned this already and I'll say it again: There are multiple models of the same phone out there, so make sure you find out if the ROM you are interested in can be used on your own model. If you don't and screw this up, you can brick your phone. They call it 'bricking' because a bricked phone becomes as useless as trying to use a brick for a phone. Well, not exactly completely useless since you can still use a brick to knock yourself over the head for being careless.

Oh yes, one more thing: some ROMs take away the S Pen functionalities, so be sure to read up on their details before proceeding.

I did mention that I was surprised at how quick and easy the entire rooting and flashing processes were for me. It was actually like child's play. However, simplicity can make you let your guard down all too easily, so my final advice here is that you stay on your toes and follow the entire rooting instructions to the dot if you choose to root and flash. If you are not sure about a certain step, stop. Re-read the whole thing again until you are absolutely clear about how to proceed. In fact, don't even start the process if there's even just one single step you are not sure about.

It's actually too easy, but be safe and not sorry. Take things at your own comfortable pace with the understanding that you are taking your own risks and I shall not be held responsible should something go awry, yeah? This innocent little blog post is just to relay information in the most innocent way.


Well, to sum things up here, if you pay attention to details and are clear about things, your rooting and flashing process ought to be a smooth ride allowing you to enjoy the benefits of your rooted device. But is it really necessary to root your phone? Afterall, the Note 2 already kicks butt straight out of the box.

That, my friends, depends on whether you wanna kick butt using your own rules and with stronger legs that can kick further with greater reach or whether you find it already more than adequate to do the kicking within set pre-defined rules and limitations.

If you are finding the idea of the former scenario mentioned above to be more appealing, just remember to have goals and objectives for the plunge before taking the plunge. I'm saying this because I've come across folks on online forums who have the following opening lines to their posts that read: "I just rooted my phone. Now what?" You will join their ranks if you do things without reason or pre-defined goals.

Rooting is an optional thing that is not for everybody. Some need it because they want more control and the ability to do more but not everybody needs the extra stuff. Your mobile needs should determine your decision on this. But if you root, know what you are doing and exercise user responsibility for yourself, you place a lot of power over your device in your own hands.

Remember Uncle Ben from Spiderman? He said: "With great power comes great responsibility."

Uncle Ben must have been a rooted Android user.

-De Lion Speaks

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