Android L Exploits, Insights and News

Android Lollipop Easter Egg

First, the bad news: If reputable sources prove to be correct then the Android 5.0 “Lollipop” OTA update has been delayed, and won’t be rolling out to Nexus devices until Wednesday, November 12th. Those devices include the Nexus 4 and 5 smartphones and Nexus 7 and 10 tablets.

Now, the good news: With Google posting factory images and source code for this latest version of Android we’re learning a lot more about it—and yes, it’s mostly good news. Added bonus: The first new Nexus on the market has already got root. Woot!

Source Code & Factory Images

The source code for Android 5.0 has been pushed to AOSP (Android Open Source Project). This means that OEMs can start building 5.0-based firmware for their devices, and XDA devs can do the same. One thing that’s going to make life easier for the XDA crowd is a discovery by Jean-Baptiste Quéru, the former Technical Lead at AOSP, now working for Yahoo. From his Google+ account:

There’s a hidden gem in Nexus 9, which was announced by a short sentence in the middle of a reply in a long mailing-list thread: “No proprietary binaries are needed for Volantis. The proprietary vendor binaries are on a separate ‘vendor’ partition.”

Up to this point custom ROMs have only been quasi-legal in terms of their adherence to open source licenses, only because proprietary blobs (like cellular radios) needed to be included in otherwise free (as in “freedom”) firmware. Now that these blobs reside on a separate partition, they don’t have to be included in homebrew firmware at all.

I take this to mean that ROM-makers will no longer have to worry about reverse-engineering camera drivers and cellular radios. But I could be wrong on that.

Also, a factory image for the Nexus 9 tablet is now available for download from Google, which could come in very handy if something goes wrong with Chainfire’s patched kernel and root.

We Have Root

Nexus 9 owners can now enjoy root access via some new device-specific tools by XDA superstar Chainfire. Though the Nexus 9 ships with an unlockable bootloader there is as of yet no available custom recovery for the device, so rooting it isn’t as easy as flashing a superuser zip—at least not yet. Remember too that “Volantis” (as per its listing on Google) is the first 64-bit Nexus on the market.

If you’re getting a Nexus 9 (or already have one), there’s an especially helpful tutorial on how to root it at Liliputing.com

SD Cards FTW!

Remember back in the Gingerbread days when Android didn’t treat removable memory cards as second-class citizens? According to Android Police those days will soon be back. Google tacitly admitted at I/O last summer that what they call the Storage Access Framework in KitKat was a bust when it came to external memory. Here’s what happened next:

With the release of the L Developer Preview, new APIs were added to allow apps to request access to directories owned by other providers. Now that Android 5.0 Lollipop has been finalized, these APIs have been improved and even offer more capabilities than before, and they do it in a very user-friendly and secure way.

This is pretty great news, and one more reason why I’m excited to try Android L on November 12th!