I’m parring down my outdoor essentials for a wild idyllic summer of writing, climbing, living! in the BC Coastal mountains, my favourite mountains of the world. I may love (obsessively) my notebooks and pens (extra fine, 0.18/0.28mm!), and all of my mind mulling, brainstorming, dredging from the deep couldn’t happen without them, but, frankly, my handwriting sucks. My hands cramp up after squeezing just a page of writing through my death grip on a pen. The bulk of my composing is best typed right directly. My macbook, beautiful as she is, is a power hungry beast that’s more a weighty liability than writing tool in the mountains.
I recently bought an e-ink reader, a Nook Simple Touch, because of its crazy low power consumption and, a Nook specifically, because underneath its B&N facade lies a familiar Android just waiting to be freed. For the little energy that it does use, I have a wood-burning usb-powering BioLite CampStove.
As of this week, I can now type on my rooted Nook with a usb keyboard. The process was not hard in retrospect but decoding the oodles of forum pages and ignoring the many other tantalizing mods took many non-writing hours. In case it benefits anyone, here are my detailed notes to rooting and installing the driver and app to set up the Nook with a usb keyboard.
Creating your own e-ink writer
You will need
- one Nook Simple Touch (the colour Nook has a different process) whose warranty you’re willing to void
- a 128 MB or larger micro SD card, suggested class 6 or higher (the speed rating), that you can completely erase
- a means to read/write to the micro SD card directly (not via the connection with the Nook)
- a USB keyboard, preferably one without lights to draw more power
- an OTG adapter, USB male microB/female A — to adapt the larger USB cord from the keyboard into the little USB port on the Nook — I used this one
- ADB software on your computer — only need platform-tools folder within SDK, can install manually without entire SDK.
- various files: Nook OS 1.1, TouchNooter, two binaries, uImage and uRamdisk, and an app USBMode 1.7.
Procedure with links to details
Please read through everything, including links to more detailed instructions, before beginning. You should be comfortable with Terminal (in linux/mac os x) or command window (in windows). My intent was to share the process and links that are otherwise scattered across the interwebs. Good luck!
- Backup if desired (only need noogie.img and follow steps 1-8). Alternatively, you can always reset to factory settings to revert to the B&N unrooted state (it will update to the latest OS automatically).
- Reset your Nook to factory settings. Method 1 should suffice unless you’re restarting from a rooted Nook (I need the tedious manual reset to roll back to an old OS version). This is necessary because the rooting is most stable for a slightly older Nook OS version. Log into B&N if you want their market enabled — apparently you won’t be able to after rooting.
- Update the Nook to version 1.1 (current is 1.2.1). Simply place the Nook OS 1.1 zip file in the root folder of your Nook through a USB connection to your computer.
- Backup your Nook again if desired — to a different backup file! (to save the previous two steps should the rooting and/or patches not succeed).
- Root your Nook with TouchNooter 2-1-31. This comes with a minimal app set: Gmail, access to Google Play, etc. The link provides many details.
- Connect with ADB via USB cable (two lines of code, first may wrap to next line):
$ mkdir -p ~/.android && echo 0x2080 > ~/.android/adb_usb.ini && adb
$ kill-server && adb devices
You should see your Nook serial number and device.
- Patch the two binaries, uImage and uRamdisk in the USB host pack (in the boot folder) that 1) allow ADB wireless communication (this is how you modify the OS and apps on your Nook from your computer) and 2) enable USB hosting (allows the Nook to talk to your USB keyboard). Install USBMode 1.7 app to toggle USB hosting via ADB. The $ denotes a prompt in the terminal on your computer; # denotes the prompt within the adb shell:
- $ adb shell
- Wait one day for Google Market to work (mysteriously required).
- Install your favourite Android text editor — I use Jota (the plus version isn’t compatible) — and webrowser (the one included with rooting doesn’t really work) — I use Opera Mobile. The easiest is to push them onto your Nook (mine is called simply “phone” in Play) from your computer.
# mount -o rw,remount rootfs /
# mkdir /boot
# mount -t vfat /dev/block/mmcblk0p1 /boot
$ adb push uImage /boot/
$ adb push uRamdisk /boot/
$ adb install UsbMode-1.7.apk
$ adb reboot
I may look into rooting etc from the latest Nook OS (1.2.1) but this version seems to work stably. Til then, this setup works just fine for me.