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ROM Manager Makes Device Maintenance a Pleasure

By Patrick Nelson LinuxInsider ECT News Network
Jul 6, 2012 5:00 AM PT

ROM Manager Makes Device Maintenance a Pleasure

ROM Manager Premium, an app from ClockworkMod, is available for US$5.99 at Google Play. If you've been getting into flashing ROMs on your devices, you're familiar with the palava that goes with it: booting to recovery, swapping cards, adb, fastboot, renaming zip files, and the rest of it.

ROM manager

ROM Manager, from ClockworkMod, the recovery software maker, claims to largely alleviate the kerfuffle by providing a one-stop app that launches and automates many of these tasks. It also provides safety nets, like backups, to help mitigate problems.

If you've rooted your device, the next step down the hacking road is to flash a replacement ROM. Why? Because it's there. It's like Everest.

If you've flashed a new ROM, you'll need to keep it updated, revert to the original in the event of a problem, and so on. I've recently been taking a look at ROM Manager Premium, and how it can automate the required tasks.

What Is a ROM?

For the uninitiated, a ROM in the phone or tablet environment is an assemblage of operating system, drivers and apps. It's similar to what you'd get if you compiled a bios, OS, drivers and productivity suite onto one chip in the PC environment.

Enthusiasts have taken it upon themselves to create ROMs that are largely better -- in terms of speed and other benefits -- than the ROMs issued by the phone and tablet makers.

The ROMs are continually being updated, often daily and posted publicly for all to share and contribute to. Hence, the new hobby: collecting and flashing ROMs.

I've written about manually updating the ROM in your mobile device before.

The App

First, you must be rooted if you want to use ROM Manager -- or indeed flash ROMs at all.

ROM Manager Premium installation is from the Google Play store, and it's necessary to install and keep plain old regular ROM Manager, as the $5.99 ROM Manager Premium is simply a license overlay.

Premium Version?

Absolutely. The premium version provides "Check for ROM Updates" functionality.

This means you can stay within the app for the entire updating process, and don't have to scour forums for update leads -- not in itself a bad thing, just time consuming.

Proceed With Caution

Beware though, because the ease with which you can flash a ROM with ROM Manager requires you take a cautious approach. New ROMs should be researched.

As always, some major elements within many ROMs don't work on some phone configurations. For example, a certain radio on a certain network may not function. So, back up the existing ROM first. This is easy with the app.

Standout Features

ROM Manager includes a front end for the Clockwork Recovery image. It features Nandroid backup, adb shell, mount USB storage, and file browser.

ROM Manager's recovery and ROM management functions allow for a one button press to flash the prerequisite ClockworkMod Recovery; reboot into recovery, that you'd use in a manual management situation; install a ROM from an SD card; download a ROM; and check for ROM updates.

Its backup and restore functions include backing up the current ROM. Utilities include fixing permissions, which can be laborious manually; and partitioning the SD card.

Uses include flashing experimental ROMs, old ROMs and managing ROMs.

Bonus features include a tethering app and flashing ClockworkMod Touch, a new release of the ClockworkMod recovery staple. Touch is not as widely compatible as the staple.

Using It

ROM Manager is not going to work on all devices. Some devices don't have a supported ClockworkMod Recovery for flashing within ROM Manager. In those cases, you will have to manually find and install a ClockworkMod Recovery, because it's required.

Even if you have a functioning ClockworkMod Recovery installed, some devices don't have ROMs that can be updated. For example, stock factory ROMs. You'll have to install a custom ROM first.

In a test, I used it to upgrade a 7.1 CyanogenMod to 7.2 on my Nook Color e-reader. The operation was simple, and I was able to perform it entirely within the app, rather than the usual card swap-out, renaming the zip file, and so on. It cut that maintenance time significantly.

In Conclusion

If you've gone the custom ROM route, ROM Manager Premium is a fabulous product that automates and streamlines maintenance.

It is ideal for those who don't eat, sleep and breathe code, and file naming conventions -- or don't choose to be around command line.

It would be interesting to see Web-based, hyperlinked contextual help down the line. It's not a deal-breaker, but could be a logical next step for ClockworkMod.

I recommend the Premium version because of the update monitoring functions, and because ClockworkMod has made a significant contribution to this fascinating new hobby, and should be remunerated for it.

Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.

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