MultiROM: Must-Have for Nexus 7 Tinkering

April 16th, 2013 Leave a Comment

I have a new toy, a Nexus 7, which is why I ran across the device offline issue in Android 4.2.2.

The N7 ships locked, which seems a bit odd, but no biggie. This will be a development device for me, and once I got it unlocked, the fun began with MultiROM, which allows the N7 to boot from different ROMs stored locally or on attached media like SD cards or USB drives.

As I’ve said before, Android modding is a bit of dark art hobby; you always run the risk that you’ll brick your device or lose all your data. So, having the ability to boot experimental ROMs side-by-side with each other and your base ROM, is huge, especially given how many mature Android ROM projects, e.g. Cyanogen Mod, and new projects are spinning up this year, e.g. Ubuntu Touch, Firefox OS, Tizen, Jolla Sailfish, etc.

Installing MultiROM is a relative breeze, despite how the xda thread looks. In my experience, all xda threads look that scary. Anyway, you just download and flash a recovery image, MultiROM itself and whatever kernel your base ROM is running.

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Once you’ve got MultiROM, you can add other ROMs, i.e. the cool part.

I went for the Ubuntu Touch 13.04 preview because it seems the least buggy. Firefox OS looks like it needs some time, and the others are well behind that.

The great thing is that xda’s members will eventually get around to whatever it is you want to try.

Anyway, for Ubuntu Touch, I followed the xda thread instructions, and soon was kicking the tires. If you’re wondering, Ubuntu Touch is still rough, but it definitely looks and behaves like Ubuntu, which I’ve run on a laptop for many years. All the swiping takes some experimentation and learning, and on the first boot, the keypad wouldn’t open.

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It looks nice though, and I’m stoked to try future builds.

Back to a sweet feature of MultiROM, it supports external media, key for the N7, which does not have an SD card. The secret is a USB-OTG cable like this one, very cheap and super useful. OTG apparently means “on the go”, if you’re wondering. It’s just a micro USB adapter into which you can plug a USB stick or your SD card of choice, via any card reading adapter.

Brilliant stuff.

You’ll need the right format on the USB partitions, and although I haven’t tried this yet, Anthony (@anthonyslai) showed me MultiROM running a ROM directly from the OTG cable. I didn’t notice any lag in performance, but there probably is a degradation, albeit a small one.

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So, now I can not only test out new ROMs and save space on my N7, but I have a portable image that I can boot from Anthony’s N7 or really anyone’s N7 with MultiROM installed.

Slick.

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