So, you want an e-ink tablet?

If you’re like me and look at a computer screen all day, the last thing you want to do is come home and look at a computer screen.  So, you go for a tablet like the iPad or Galaxy Tab, but it has the same type of computer screen.  So, last week, I went out and modified an e-ink e-reader to be a generic 6-inch Android tablet.

So, the logical questions are: How is it done? Which e-reader is it?

Barnes and Noble have released a new version of the Nook, called the Nook Simple Touch.  For an e-reader, it has some nice specifications.  It has a touch-screen e-ink Pearl screen, which is not only crisp but is capable of doing partial-screen refreshes without flashing the entire screen.  Even though it leaves some artifacts on the screen, it provides a fast enough refresh.  Secondly, it has a similar processor to the Nook Color: an 800MHz ARM Cortex-A8.  Lastly, just like the Nook Color, the base operating system is Google’s Android.  Therefore, it is fairly easy to gain root access to the OS and install Android applications along side the basic Nook applications installed by default.

To get started, you need a few things: a microSD card and the Android SDK installed on your computer.  The SDK is available at:  . Once both of these are secured, the guys at NookDevs have posted directions that I’ve followed and which worked very easily.  It took less than 20 minutes to complete the process, and on the surface nothing changed.  WARNING, this will likely void your warranty and don’t expect B&N tech support.  Also, I am not responsible for any bricked or broken Nooks–take these instructions at your own risk. The NookDevs instructions are here: http://nookdevs.com/NookTouch_Rooting.  After writing the SD card, you only need to follow their steps 1-13.  Once this is done, connect the Nook to the same wireless network as the computer.  The Nook’s wireless IP address is available under Settings -> Wireless, touching the name of the wireless network in the list.  It’s in the form xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx, usually 192.168.1.x on a private network.

Now, the fun part: getting some applications running.  There are a few that I will recommend.

  1. ADW Launcher.  Available at http://code.google.com/p/adw-launcher-android/downloads/list.  Download the standalone version, which right now is ADW.Launcher_v1.2.0_standalone.apk.  This is a handy little launcher, and one that quite a lot of cell phone manufacturers use as the default.  It is a handy way of running apps.  Nook Touch’s “home” button doesn’t actually go home, but anytime the Nook is powered on, it will ask which application to run, ADW Launcher or Nook’s default Home.  The nook software can be switched to at any time by pressing the n button and choosing any of the options.
  2. K-9 Mail.  Available at http://code.google.com/p/k9mail/downloads/list.  Just download the latest version.  This mail client is fairly straightforward, but it is open source and free.  It needs to be launched, but can be done so from the ADW launcher.  One nice feature of the Nook is that it still allows for notifications, even under the Nook software.  Therefore, when a new email is received, a notification will pop up on the upper status bar.  Touching it will take you to K-9 mail to read and respond to the message.
  3. Opera web browser.  Available at http://www.opera.com/mobile/download/versions/.  Choose either Opera Mini or Opera Mobile for Android to get the .apk link.  Opera is a nice small web browser, but it also has the Opera store, which allows you to download and install applications on the Nook, instead of needing to push them over from your computer.  So, the first thing to “buy” for free is the Amazon AppStore app, which gives an even greater access to apps without the actual Android Market being installed.

So, how to get them working.  First, follow the instructions with the Google Android SDK to install the default (base) platform tools.  Once done, you’ll have a platform-tools directory with the adb executable inside.  From linux or Mac OS, open Terminal and cd into the directory, then let the fun begin. From Windows, use the Command Prompt, and cd into the directory.

[The rest will come tomorrow]

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