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Old 05-05-2008, 09:00 PM
Rocco Augusto
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Default Homebrew ROM Updates Over The Air via AppToDate?

"Microsoft has built Windows Update into the OS and nobody uses it, and everybody blames everybody else for the fact that today, we still can't keep our devices up to date without tethering with a PC... While the people who supply us our devices decide who takes responsibility for deploying our updates, and as scores of users take to trying 'Cooked ROMs' to get the features they want, why not develop an OTA (Over The Air) update method of our own? It sure is possible using the work already done by others on custom bootloaders, and the work i've already done with AppToDate."

I was incredibly excited when Windows Update was announced for the Windows Mobile platform. Logic fooled me into thinking that if Windows Update was being included with our new devices then Microsoft most have cooked up a plan to issue us system updates without the need to flash our devices - and risk something going wrong and bricking our handsets - or even distribute updates to software packages like Office Mobile or Live Search Mobile. Unfortunately at this moment in time I cannot think of anything that was distributed via Windows Update at all. This is why I love the idea behind AppToDate. The whole concept behind this application is so simplistic and beautiful that I am completely baffled as to why a system such as this is not included with our handsets!

As the video above shows it is perfectly within our grasps to issue complete system upgrades over the air without the need to connect our devices to our computers. Personally I would never feel comfortable upgrading a device in such a way, but it can be done!

For years we have been spoon-fed excuses as to why it takes so long for updates, if they are even released for our devices, to actually make it into our handsets. When I worked for AT&T my favorite excuse was that "it takes a really long time and a lot of effort to develop a ROM that works with our network." With the recent boom of cooked ROMs becoming more popular with Windows Mobile users the community as a whole is realizing that it doesn't really take as much time and resources as we have all been led to believe. If a small group of volunteer developers can cranks out a somewhat stable upgraded OS for our devices in less than a few months time, can someone please explain to me why it is so difficult for a company like Microsoft, AT&T, Samsung or any of carrier or device manufacture with actual financial resources to do the same thing?

Now at Smartphone Thoughts we in no way shape or form encourage the installation of cooked ROMS, but they do exist and we do receive news on them often. More and more users are starting to turn to these ROMs because they know it is most likely the only way they will ever get a software update for their handsets. Now I can sort of understand from a business standpoint why some of the older devices do not receive new OS updates. I respect the fact that carriers need to push out new handsets and by limiting the number of devices that receive updates they in turn force users to upgrade their phones for the better mobile experience. However somewhere along the line someone forgot to mention to the carriers that while a lot of users would love to upgrade their devices, they cannot do so until they are eligible for an upgrade. In turn the customer end up being punished for being... well... the customer.

Maybe it is time that Microsoft and the carriers got together and took a long hard looks at programs like AppToDate as well as the all of the recent chatter about cooked ROMs and realized that it is time to do something about this clunky situation. Isolation has always played an important role in evolution and Windows Mobile users for years have been extremely isolated as far as software updates are concerned. Microsoft has taken the first steps by including the Windows Update software into its newest editions of the Windows Mobile software and now it is time to take that next big leap and actually use it. If AppToDate and the slew of recently released cooked ROMs have shown us anything it is that the technology is well within our grasps and there is no reasons that things have to be as difficult and frustrating as they are now.
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Old 05-05-2008, 10:00 PM
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While I'm not completely comfortable with an OTA update, I like the idea. I have a Wizard and HTC & the Carriers pretty much indicated they had no interest in providing us any major upgrades. HP did the same thing with the iPaq line a while back and lost a customer. It would take an awful lot to get me to use another HP PDA just because they decided it wasn't worth the time/money to support a device barely one year old. Don't even mention those who had just bought a device one month prior.

I appreciate the ROM cookers just because we do get to extend the life of our device beyond what the carriers would want. I can't really justify plunking down $200-$400+ every time I want the newest OS. I don't do it with my PC (despite the cost of Vista) and don't like the idea of needing to buy new hardware just to get a new OS. It's not about drivers - we've pretty much proven that. It's about profit. However, I think they'd get more profit by releasing updates and charging a small fee for them rather than trying to milk us for the cost of a new device.

Add in the fact that if I weren't already a customer I could get a new PDA for virtually nothing as opposed to the premium I pay for already being a customer and it's just insulting. I know that there are deals out there now to get a new AT&T Tilt for < $150. I, as a customer, need to cough up at least $150 just to get a refurb unit.

Now, I realize that there is the overhead of developing and supporting new OS versions customized for your service. However, I think that the ROM cookers improve the process greatly by getting rid of so much of the junk the carriers put in and also by taking some of the great freeware developed for WM and bundling it into the ROM itself. That saves us space later because we don't have to install it. It also provides some great functionality out of the box. This is something that the carriers really can't do because they'd be forced to provide some form of support for that software. Getting a cooked ROM, we take on the risks for having that software installed and using it, much the same as if we had installed it ourselves.

I really like the idea of being able to update without being connected, especially with those trying to update using a Vista machine. However, I'll also be a little scared of trying this out just because it could brick my device and getting it back isn't a trivial task if it's even possible. Still, I hope that the cookers aren't completely shut down. They provide a valuable service that we, as valid customers, can't get elsewhere. I look forward to following the progress of this service - it looks interesting and I may actually give it a try at some point when I'm feeling adventurous.
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Old 05-05-2008, 11:54 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 32
Default ROM Update "away from home"

While I appreciate the point of the video, it is easy enough to achieve such a Radio ROM upgrade now, provided you have an Internet connection (wifi or 3G) and an SDHC card with enough spare space. Also, different device brands have different requirements for SD card types that the bootloader will read.

It is more tedious with a full ROM upgrade because the nbh file is so much larger, but still the same routine. Download data cost is high too.

The real problem lies in the OEM section of the ROM. This section contains the files specific to the device and is initially supplied by the manufacturer as part of a ROM. It is this section that the manufacturer must update after Microsoft has released an OS upgrade of the kernel. For example, WM6.0 > WM6.1 requires a re-written OEM section before a new ROM is ready to flash.

For those with free devices (ie. not tethered to a specific carrier), this is still possible, but way too much trouble for a manufacturer and even revenue-threatening for them since the customer will defer purchasing a new device for a period. Still, the manufacturers could implement this and charge a reasonable fee for the download access. (BTW, this concept is the anithesis of the iPhone business model, so I can't see an economic revenue driver for WM device manufacturers - why should they, when their arch competitor doesn't and has no intention of ?)

For devices welded to specific carriers (ugh ! what a horrible idea), there is no incentive to do this at all, and a positive disincentive in the cost of managing the inevitable stuff-ups that large numbers of customers will perpetrate.

Conclusion ? ROM cookers are here to stay. I believe that the manufacturers actually loosely monitor the cooked ROM's (easy to do) because this supplies them gratis with a fertile source of innovation and beta testing with feedback.
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Old 05-06-2008, 01:05 AM
Ed Hansberry
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I'd feel more comfortable updating this way versus the flakey USB connections now used.

Microsoft, the OEMs and carriers should be embarrassed. Kudos to this group for showing them up and beating them at their own game. MS and the carriers didn't even bother providing DST updates via WU.
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Old 05-07-2008, 02:21 AM
Joel Crane
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Posts: 202

I'm impressed! I wouldn't be afraid to use it. What exactly is a "Radio" ROM?
Joel Crane
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