Posts in this series
- Android on Kobo Touch – Part 1
- Android on Kobo Touch – Part 2
After a while of not using it anymore I suddenly found my Kobo Touch again during a short burst of cleaning like a madman. I decided to look around for some news on getting Linux running as this had been quite the hot topic right after the Kobo Touch got released (which effectively stopped my cleaning in its tracks). After a bit of fiddling around I can now proclaim that I am proud of owning a Kobo Touch running Android! I will try to list below all the steps I had to take to get it running as I had to read around quite a bit to get all the pieces of Information.
Before you get excited
The first thing you need to do is check they version number of your Kobo Touch. It should be printed on the bottom edge (where the usb port is located):
So for me this is Version N905B, which is a pretty important detail, as this determines if you will be able to run Android on your Kobo without the risk of bricking it.
If you got this model you may not be able to get Android running on your Kobo. Reason being, that this model of the Kobo Touch is the first one that got produced – it has it’s internal memory chip soldered onto the board. This means that you wont be able to create a bootable sd card to simply replace the Kobo’s internal memory. It seems to be possible, that you can flash a working Android image directly onto the Kobo’s memory chip, but this comes at the risk if making your Kobo unusable if something goes wrong.
This is the model of Kobo Touch I own which is the first version that has been manufactured with a microSD card slot instead of the soldered chip. If you got at least this one, feel happy and proceed, although this model still requires a little tweak.
This model is the successor of the N905B and it seems that it uses a different kind of microSD card slot as well as a different display, but operates just like the N905B.
Here is a list of things you will need:
- microSD card
- at least 2GB , the more space you have, the more applications you can install and the more books you can take with you
- watch out for the sd card speed class! the speed class specifies the sd card’s throughput, which may be of concern for you because, if you sd card has a higher speed, it finishes data operations faster, which in turn positively affects how long you can hold out with one charge of your Kobo’s battery
- for more information on speed classes consult this wikipedia articles.
- something to remove the back of your Kobo, most people recommend a guitar pick, but I didn’t need one, it’s really easy to open the Kobo
- 3-4 fingers
- microSD card
Operating system image
Because the Kobo is not supported by default, what would be needed to get it running with Android would be kernel changes, a port/implementation of drivers for the kobo hardware as well as some configuration changes and maybe some additinal apps to make Android actually usable on the Kobo because as a device it is missing some key points Android deviced usually ought to have, i.e 3 buttons on the bottom instead of just one (more about that later).
As far as I’ve learned the current Android images available are based on the Android of a german ebook reader, the Tolino Shine, which is running Android 2.3.4. The Tolino Shine is very similar to the Kobo in terms of hardware, which is most likely the reason for choosing this Android version for the Kobo. It may be possible to get a more up-to-date version of Android running in the future, but it currently doesn’t seem that anyone with the appropriate skills is trying to make it happen.
Now for the differences in available images: there are 2 main contributors that have released working images for Android on Kobo:
Both of them have worked with the previouly mentioned Android version and fixed some quirks as well as added some functionality.
In this thread, the user embryo has collected some information about this topic, but it still is mostly a collection of links and forum excerpts, which is why I am trying to collect some structured information her.
The following images are currently available:
- Marek Gibek’s Image v1 (basic android, little usability)
- Marek Gibek’s Image v2 (improved version, many apps and usability tools)
- Marek Gibek’s Image v3 (better e-ink refresh for reading mode)
- Angors Image v1
- Angors Image v2 (for dual boot)
those links are from the linked thread above and can all be found on the same forum, distributed over several threads. I’ll maybe try to get all the information in one place, but first things first.
I went with Marek Gibek’s Image v3 (the 3rd link listed above) because I didn’t get Angor’s dual boot image running and Marek Gibek’s Image v3 looked the most appealing regarding usability. You can choose an image to your liking, but the following steps will be based on the 3rd one and may differ for a different image.
After you have downloaded the 3rd linked image, unzip it somewhere, as this is just a compressed archive for downloading convenience – the real image is inside.
Tweaking the image
If you got a Kobo Touch with model number N905B you need to tweak the Android image a tiny bit. All images provided by Marek Gibek are for the N905C model, which uses a different display. That’s why we need to change the HW_CONFIG file included in the Android image. HW_CONFIG is a kind of library file that lists all the hardware your device is made of. This is used by the operating system to determine which drivers to load. Because the N905B model uses a different display than the N905C, we need to adjust it, otherwise the touch input wont work.
To change HW_CONFIG, you need to open the first one of the tools listed under ‘preparation’, the HxD hex editor and proceed like this:
- Start HxD
- Click ‘File → Open…’, navigate to your unzipped image file and close the window by clicking the OK button.
- Press Ctrl + G, a small window appears
- Write 80017 inside the textbox, make sure that the ‘hex’ radion button below is checked, press OK
- The editor’s cursor position should now be located in front of the 2-digit block ’08’, replace it by writing ’00’, the digit block should now be red
- Save your changes via ‘File → Save’, this will create a backup copy of the original image before saving the changes.
With this little change the image is ready to be used for your Kobo N905B.
Making it bootable
Open the second tool listed under ‘preparation’, the Win32 Disk Imager. This tool seems to require adminsitrative privileges, so you may need to start it via ‘Start Menu → Programs → Image Writer → Win32DiskImager → right click → run as administrator’ and do the following
- click the folder-button, navigate to your unzipped (and maybe tweaked) image file and close the window my clicking the OK button
- insert your microSD card into your card reader, and select the corresponding device from the dropdown located to the right of the folder button
- click the ‘write’ button, this will copy the image to your memory card and may take a few minutes
- when the process is finished, close the application
The used Android image is made for a 2GB memory card. If you used a bigger one, 16GB for example, you should increase the data partition to take up the rest of your memory card’s available space. To do this open the 3rd tool listed under ‘preparation’, the MiniTool Partition Wizard and follow these steps:
- look for your device (you can identify it via the drive letter)
- on the last partition do ‘right click → Move/Resize’, a new window opens
- drag the box on the left all the way to the right of the gray bar, close the window by pressing the OK button
- do this again for the second partition
- for the first partition, open the Move/Resize window again, but this time, do not drag the box around, but expand it to the right by dragging the arrow located on the right size of the box all the way to the end of the gray bar, close the window
- apply changes made my clicking the ‘Apply’ button in the top left corner, this may take a few minutes again
- after the process hast finished check out your memory card via the ‘Remove Safely’ menu in your taskbar
- pull out you memory card from the card reader and put it somewhere safe
Run boy, run!
Now the first milestone, making it run:
- make sure your Kobo is properly shut down
- remove the back of your Kobo touch – watch this teardown video if you want to see how to get it open, should be around 1:10
- locate the memory card slot at the center of the board
- if you got a N905B
- with the usb port facing towards you, the kobo laying face down in front if you, you need to push the silver clip which is covering the memory card to the right, about 2-3 millimeters
- now you can raise the silver clip to the right, underneath you see the memory card sitting lose
- pull out the memory card and put it somewhere safe
- place your memory card in the slot
- if you got a N905B, close the silver clip and move it to the left until its in a fixed position
- use the power slider to power up your Kobo, the LED should be lighting up blue, then green, an android pricture appears on your screen, followed by the boot screen and finally start screen
- close the back of your Kobo