Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Android Thunderbolt and Verizon

So, my ancient cell phone having started death throws, I went to my Verizon store (with whom I've had service for years) and started looking at "smart" phones. I was particularly interested in a droid phone as opposed to an iPhone or a blackberry. I'm suspicious that if RIM can't make a big splash with QNX next year, they're history. And I really want to do some app development but the idea of being forced into the Apple iTunes marketplace just pisses me off. So I went with a Droid phone. It helps that App development for Droids is in Java and although I like to talk about developers being language agnostic, my most extensive and recent experience is in Java.And as I looked at them, I ended up buying the Thunderbolt. Mostly because the screen size is bigger than the other non-pad phones.

So now I have a Thunderbold and a brand-new 2-year contract for voice and data from Verizon. I have some minor gripes about the phone. I think the touchpad is too sensitive for my fat fingers and I'm always mis-dialing. The blue-tooth voice recognition is a continual source of entertainment and not accurate for me at all. And the battery life just plain sucks (though the salesman did warn me about that). But my biggest gripes are a) that the phone comes preloaded with a pile of app that I have no interest in, and b) that connecting the phone to my laptop causes a pile of messages about installing the Verizon media application on my laptop.

The bloated list of installed apps is particularly troublesome. I can't un-install them in any normal way. I'm told by my (many) nerd friends that I need to "root" my phone and then, as super-user, I can remove the apps I don't want. Well, it may come to that. But I don't feel like I should have to hack my phone to make it into the device I want. And the idea that Verizon is intentionally burning my data plan so that all these apps can "phone home" regularly is seriously insulting and may in the end cause me to switch carriers.

The Verizon Media application is also irksome, though a problem that I could solve. After getting warnings and requests to install this every time I plugged my droid into my laptop to charge it, I went ahead and let it install. After that, it inconveniently launches when I log in.  I have enough crap on my laptop that starts when I log in - it already takes too long! So after it installed, I went out on the web and found a Windows (yes, my laptop runs Windows, Vista no less) NO-OP program (http://joenord.com/apps/nop/index.html). Essentially a program that does nothing. I then copied that into the media center install directory, renamed the media center (verizon.exe) and then renamed the nop.exe to verizon.exe. Voila, it doesn't launch anymore.

Next up - rooting the phone.