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Free Software for a rooted NOOKcolor

Wednesday 8 December 2010 - Filed under Default

The NOOKcolor from Barnes & Noble is an Android tablet computer that’s been turned into an e-book reader with the capacity to show pictures, store contacts, browse the web and play some video files. B&N has released an SDK and plans to compete simultaneously with the iPad and Kindle with this one device when they add a Google Marketplace app. That’s supposed to happen early next year.

All this is very exciting but it’s not why I bought it, I bought it because the NOOKcolor had been rooted, or modified to give its owner near complete control over the software. It also helped that others posted videos that showed some of the things a rooted NOOK color could do. So, within a couple hours of my purchase, I had rooted mine(thanks to the nookdev team!) and was off to load it with games and apps.

Finding these packages is tricky and for someone used to Synaptic, this process feels like an unsettling scavenger hunt. One must read wikis and forums to navigate the many places where the apk packages are available. After trying unsuccessfully to get many of the apks I wanted, I went and asked some free software friends who pointed me to F-Droid. F-Droid is an “app store” of sorts with the sole purpose of distributing free-as-in-freedom software to Android devices.

Among the apps I’ve grabbed from F-Droid are:
* Tiniest Open Source Violin – it’s just what it sounds like
* androidVNC – lets me view my desktop’s screen using the VNC protocol
* gvSIG Mini Maps – Similar to Google Maps, allows me to use multi-touch to move around many different map sources
* Jamendo – Download free music from the free culture crowd
* StatusNet – a client for and other microblogging sites

After loading up what I wanted, I looked for more. I learned of a couple of other lists of free software for the Android platform at and (the second of which I will probably help extending starting with this post). You can also search places like Google Code and github for other free software Android apps. Here are a couple more I’ve loaded from their Google Code sites…
* daap-client – I can listen to my entire music library that’s hosted on my server
* android-vlc-Remote – allows you to control VLC(the awesome media player) on another computer and even browse for files to play via HTTP

Of all the apps I’ve loaded I would say the daap, VLC, and gvSIG are my favorites. It truly is an exciting time so check out the NOOKcolor… it’s only $249 and the hacking opportunities are endless. It’s also a great front where the software freedom battle can be waged early and with great impact on the quickly growing mobile and tablet markets!

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2010-12-08  »  David Sterry

Talkback x 4

  1. FDroid
    11 December 2010 @ 3:23 pm

    Very interesting. I kind of object to buying a device that you have to use tricks and loopholes to root, but I guess as long as you know it can be done beforehand there’s nothing to lose.

    Enjoyed your YouTube video of this in action too, thanks for sharing.

  2. Jac
    11 December 2010 @ 9:26 pm


    I have a rooted nook color and I installed FDroid but i cannot install any of the apps directly … i get the “blocked” message. Did you d/l the apk’s and install with adb? If not, is there some kind of special technique that you used to install?


  3. David Sterry
    12 December 2010 @ 11:34 am

    @FDroid Thanks for the dent on the video and I agree. It’s not without some reservation that I buy a device that must be rooted. The fact that it’s built on a much larger percentage of copylefted than a certain other tablet which shall remain nameless gives me some hope. Still there is the issue of non-free drivers and firmware that we’ll probably always be trying to resolve. For now, I’m hoping FDroid and free software make it onto the radar for more users of Android devices. I’ve been heartened by the amount of free software that’s already available for the system.

  4. David Sterry
    12 December 2010 @ 11:35 am

    @Jac When I rooted it, I was sure to go through the steps to make the system partition writable so that may have helped. For more I would consult the NOOKcolor rooting link above and visit #nookcolor on freenode if you need more help.