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Author Topic: Nook'd

Icon 1 posted October 24, 2011 00:28            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
For the past couple of weeks, I've been fiddling with a new toy...a Barnes & Noble Nook Color E-reader tablet. It's actually got a surprising amount of bang for the buck, and it's not only avid readers that should be interested.

Physically, the Nook Color is a 7" tablet, usually held in portrait mode (through it can be turned horizontally; it has an accelerometer to support changing display orientation on the fly). Its hard controls are limited to a power button on the left, volume control buttons on the right, and an N-shaped "home key" at bottom center. On the inside, it's powered by a Texas Instruments-built ARM Cortex A8 CPU and a PowerVR GPU, with 512 Mb of working RAM and 8 Gb of internal flash memory (5 Gb available). The screen is a 1024x600 display by Cypress Semiconductor, with capacitive touch sensing. The networking is 802.11 b/g/n compatible; no 3G option is available, unlike some of the Amazon Kindle models. A MicroUSB port on the bottom edge provides recharging power and connectivity; a MicroSD card slot under a flap on the back provides expansion capability.

The system software of the Nook Color is based on Android 2.2 (Froyo), with a great deal of customization, being mainly built around the E-reader capability. As a reader, it's got a nice clear display, with smooth navigation between pages, bookmarking, full-text search, and decent sharing options (including B&N's new "LendMe" support to allow you to lend out your E-books for a limited time--yeah, I know, but it's better than nothing, which is what was the case before). But it's not just about the books; a Web browser is also available (which looks like the standard Android Web browser), as well as apps. A few apps come with the Nook Color, like E-mail, chess, crosswords, and Sudoku, and you can download others (such as Pandora and Evernote), both free and paid, from B&N's builtin store.

But here's where things get interesting...the Nook Color is easily "rooted" to allow you to load your own apps...or load a "stock" version of Android and turn it into a general purpose tablet. You can even boot and run a different Android system entirely from the MicroSD card...and switch back to the "stock" Nook Color as easily as powering off the tablet, removing the memory card, and powering it back on. This I have done; I have an 8 Gb MicroSD card that boots the Nook into CyanogenMod 7.1, based on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). Other distros exist, but the one Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) distro someone has built, from a set of "developer" binaries, wanted me to "unlock" it and I didn't have the password to do so. Those "in the know" largely expect that a CyanogenMod version based on Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) will be forthcoming soon after Google releases the source, which will be soon after the first ICS devices are available to the public. Details about rooting the Nook Color and building the bootable MicroSD cards may be found here.

Summary: If you like books and want a good E-reader, this is one of the nicer ones. If you want to play with Android, this could also be a good way to go about it. And if you fall into both categories, well, then, what are you waiting for? (Kindle fans: Note that if you run CM7.1 on the Nook Color, you can download both the Nook and Kindle free Android apps, and get the best of both worlds!)

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Icon 1 posted October 27, 2011 17:33      Profile for fs   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I've got one of the first gen e-ink ones and I love it.

Also, major bonus, if you do end up having an technical problem with a short time-frame for solving (like, you know, getting on a plane and flying across the Atlantic) B&N customer service totally understands how important books are.

(As in, they found me a local store that could give me a new-in-package one even though the warranty period for in store replacement had expired, because they couldn't ship me one in time.)

I'm in ur database, makin' moar recordz.

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Icon 1 posted November 02, 2011 21:45            Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The first-gen ones are also apparently rootable (see the link I provided to the NookDevs site for info on how to do so), but the Nook Color is very hacker-friendly.

Apparently, the TI wireless chip used in the Nook Color also contains support for Bluetooth and an FM receiver, but that support is not enabled in the stock Nook software. CyanogenMod, however, will definitely find and use the Bluetooth. (I just now tried it; it offered to pair with my iPhone when I had both of their Bluetooth radios turned on.) No clue about the FM receiver, though; it might not be hooked up at the hardware level.

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