CyanogenMod 6.1 Upgrade

Cyanogen logo, blue Google Android on a skateboard with a swirl around it

CyanogenMod Logo

As regular listeners of Linux Outlaws will know, a few months ago I got myself a shiny new HTC Desire smartphone. It runs Google’s Android operating system which was the main selling point for me because it’s Open Source and Linux-based. I got the phone on contract from O2 UK and it came with their stock Android 2.1 ROM installed. This has all of the customised HTC Sense UI stuff. Essentially it’s just little interface changes and additions which HTC obviously feel are needed. I never really had any issues with Sense but many people tell me they find it problematic and slow. I was very happy with the OS and the hardware. That was until I realised O2 were going to take forever to release Android 2.2, months after HTC had already released a new official 2.2 update. The geek in me couldn’t live with that, knowing there was a newer firmware available and worse, knowing that other people were already using it! I’d heard much talk about custom flashing ROMs and onto handsets but never done it myself up to that point. So a few months ago I installed CyanogenMod 6.0. I had wanted to write about it properly at the time but was just too busy, we discussed it in detail on Linux Outlaws 167 though.

Recently (Dec 6th) CyanogenMod 6.1 was released and I decided to upgrade my phone. It’s still based on Android 2.2 and not the freshly released 2.3 but you can’t blame them really. Android 2.3 (codenamed Gingerbread) is literally a couple of weeks old at this point, and the source code was only released mere days ago. It’ll take time for Cyanogen and the gang to start building on the code. I’ll tell you a bit about the upgrade process in a minute but for now I should fill in the gaps by discussing the install process I took with version 6.0. The upgrade was almost exactly the same.

Installing:

The Android reboot screen with recovery selected

Reboot Screen

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “will this void my warranty?”, the simple answer is I don’t know. While you are flashing new software onto your phone you’re not changing the hardware in any way, breaking a SIM-lock or doing anything else. I took many backups of the stock firmware before making any changes, as far as I can see if I just restore one of those backups before sending it to HTC there shouldn’t be a problem. How would they know anything was different? As I say, this is not a definitive answer so you modify your handset at your own risk. Now we’ve gotten the scary bit out of the way let’s get on with it.

Step 1. – You have to root your phone and I did this with a tool called Unrevoked. It roots the device and also replaces your recovery boot with the Clockwork Recovery Mod. Unrevoked is aimed at HTC devices. I just downloaded the Linux binary and ran it on an Ubuntu system. It fires up and then waits for you to connect the phone via USB. You do have to make sure you’ve enabled USB debugging mode for this to work as well.

Step 2. - I downloaded Zip archives for CyanogenMod and the associated Google Apps from the wiki, verified the md5 sums and transferred said files to the SD card in the phone.

Step 3. - To continue the process I rebooted the phone into the new recovery mod. Holding down the power button on my Desire brings up a menu with “reboot” and then “recovery mode”. I backed up the current image to the SD card with the options on the Clockwork menu, it’s pretty simple and definitely recommended before making changes.

Step 4. - Next I installed the new ROM using the “install zip from sdcard” option and immediately also installed the Google Apps zip on top, you just repeat the process a second time. If you don’t do this you won’t have Gmail, Android Market to find apps and many other things. A lot of people fall foul of this but it’s really easy to get the Google App, just be sure to download the appropriate version listed in the wiki. Cyanogen was prevented from distributing these apps by Google for licensing reasons.

That’s it you’re installed! You should now be able to boot into CyanogenMod.

The process for upgrading from 6.0 to 6.1 was the same as described above, I just skipped step one because my phone was already rooted.

Brief Thoughts On CyanogenMod 6.0:

I ran CyanogenMod 6.0 for about 4 months before upgrading and found it very good. I liked the many features Android 2.2 brought, all complemented by the added custom tweaks. I have to admit though stability was a slight issue for me with 6.0. I found the phone would freeze occasionally and removing the battery was the only way to reboot it. I’ve talked to other Android users who tell me they’ve had the same problem with their official ROM. So it may not be fair to lay the blame with Cyanogen. Let’s get on to talking about the real new release though, CyanogenMod 6.1.

Running CyanogenMod 6.1:

The status screen on my phone showing the Cyanogen version

Status Screen Showing Cyanogen 6.1

I upgraded to 6.1 almost immediately after it’s release and I’m really glad I did. Since then I haven’t had a single crash (touch wood), the speed and stability have really taken a leap forward I’m pleased to report. As mentioned earlier I upgraded using the same process I had to initially install CyanogenMod and I’d expected it to wipe my current settings. When I rebooted the device though I was pleasantly surprised to see all my preferences survived and I didn’t have to do anything to make it feel like home again. Checking the firmware version revealed I was definitely on 6.1. Everything looked the same at first glance, that was until I pulled down the notification widget and noticed the new wi-fi, bluetooth etc toggle switches. I wasn’t sure about these at first but actually I’ve started to use them a lot. They’re handy. I particularly like using the “silent mode” button to quickly enable or disable sound.

People have asked me what new features I’ve noticed but beyond the ones I’ve discussed I can’t really say. The custom media player has seen some enhancements which I like. Other than that the biggest improvement for me is the stability and performance, worth the upgrade alone. The ability to send mail from multiple accounts in Gmail was a nice update, I was really missing that on the phone. This was a Google app update though rather than a CyanogenMod thing. There’s a dizzying list of changes listed in 6.1 here, so if you want to find out more please have a look. It is also based on Android 2.2.1 which adds a few changes.

Conclusion:

Notification Dropdown Showing New Toggle Switches At The Top

New toggle buttons on dropdown

I’ve been asked whether I’m happy I moved to CyanogenMod and the answer is easy, yes! I’m very happy and now that the few stability issues from 6.0 have been addressed there’s really nothing bad to say about it. The main reason I changed was to get Android 2.2 and I’m not sure I would have been motivated enough to jump otherwise, I’m glad I did or I would have missed out. I expect there’ll be a new CyanogenMod based on Android 2.3 long before O2 UK or indeed even HTC get their arses in gear and roll it out. I’m really impressed with the work Cyanogen and all the other contributors do in making this software, hats off to all concerned.

There are many many custom ROMs based on Android and now that I’ve realised how easy it is to change I may well install some others. I would encourage people to experiment and try something new, it’s really not that hard. If I can do it so can you. Flashing a ROM only takes a matter of minutes so what have you got to lose? Just be sure you have plenty of backups before you go exploring and there’s nothing to lose. Restoring a backup in Clockwork Recovery is simple and quick, I tested this.

If you do use other custom Android ROMs leave a comment and let me know what they are, what’s good about them,  and why should I try them. Just in case people are wondering I don’t have a backup phone, this really is my day-to-day phone. I like living on the edge and it’s really not that daunting.

If you try out CyanogenMod 6.1 let me know what you think of it.

About Dan

Hi I'm Dan, I'm the nutter who creates the content here and oversees things. You can read more about me on the biog page if you like. Thanks :)
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16 Responses to CyanogenMod 6.1 Upgrade

  1. YaManicKill says:

    Great review :-) glad to see some reviews back up, hope it continues. We have missed them.

    Couple of points:
    1. Yes, flashing will void your warranty, but you can restore it to stock. Taking a backup won’t work, but you can use OpenRUU with a stock RUU to restore it to stock. I did this when I had to send my Desire back (with water damager) and they didn’t notice, or didn’t care. So thats good.
    2. Check out the lock screen gestures. Allows you to do tasks with a gesture on the lock screen. Very very cool.
    3. There are a number of little tweaks, like they have added in elasticity with kinetic scrolling (where it bends back a bit at the end of a list, and flicks back)
    4. One of the benefits of having Cyanogen is they put loads of little extra features in. Like the api to automatically switch between 2g/2g-3g, and loads of other little things. Makes life so much easier.

    Great review :-) glad you like Cyanogen 6.1, next up 7.0 (based on Gingerbread) :-P

    • Dan says:

      @YaManicKill – Thanks for the info. I was sure there was a way to restore your phone back to factory settings and send it back. Good to hear that someone has done this and had success, while it may actually be against the warranty agreement. If there’s a hardware fault then I think they should honour any guarantees. Though I’m sure the HTC legal department would not agree with me.

      Can’t wait for CM 7.0 yes but I don’t blame the team if they want a break first. It’ll be good to see what they do with it :)

      • YaManicKill says:

        I agree that they should, and Fab isn’t sure he agrees with me on whether or not it is against EU law for the manufacturers to do this, but if they can find a way out of fixing your phone they will. It does not affect anything, but if they can say it will, then that doesnt matter. However, you may be able to fight it if we can find an EU law against it. Not sure though.

        I’m sure they will have a break, but as far as I know they are already working on it.

  2. Sazius says:

    Very nice article! Do you know if the device will be usable if one doesn’t install the Google Apps? I don’t own an Android phone, but I have been thinking about getting one… I was thinking about using Cyanogen but not installing the Google Apps to minimise the number of proprietary apps :) There is at least a Free app store replacement already: http://f-droid.org/repository/ — but is Cyanogen/Android otherwise very much relying on the Google Apps?

    • Dan says:

      @Sazius – I can’t really say how usable it is without Google Apps because I’ve never tried really. I believe others do use the mod without any of the Google stuff quite happily though. You wouldn’t be able to use Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar, Android Market and other things. The main loss to most people would be the official marketplace for apps, as you say there are new Free Software replacements and I know the Replicant folks are working hard on improving it. I’ve heard F-Droid lists the licenses on all apps in their market which is a cool feature. If you don’t need or want connection to Google apps and you’re happy to install stuff manually form APK files you should be ok. I haven’t done it myself though as I’m hooked on the proprietary Gmail and maps.

  3. sorin7486 says:

    Can’t wait for the Galaxy S version :(

  4. Azmodie says:

    Great review Dan, I have a T-Mobile HTC Desire. had it partially rooted the old fashoned way (before unrevoked was released) and before full root of the htc desire was possable. (S-OFF). eg. initially the security feature of the bookloader stopped you from accessing /system except whilst in recovery mode. so i recently fully rooted with http://alpharev.nl allowing me to boot a chroot ubuntu distro http://androidclone.com/?page_id=2.

    although i have to agree it takes the Mobile Operators ages to update the handsets. some handsets. I’m running Oxygen 2.0 Beta-RC1 (based on android 2.3) http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=829734 and have to say its the smallest fastest rom i have ever used. which also includes few intresting tweaks including te oxygen rom/theme updater and the zeam homescreen.

    all in all i have found most of the amazing work the custom rom guys do to be imense.

    @adamg_xda has done some amazingly fast work on android 2.2 (defrost//Oxygen 1 rom ) and then android 2.3 (Oxygen 2.0).

    props to all the developers at both xda-deveopers and modaco.com.

    all the best and happy rom flashing

    p.s. updating to oxygen 2.0 beta-rc2

    • Dan says:

      @Azmodie – Oxygen sounds really interesting. Especially if it’s based on 2.3, I might give that a whirl over Christmas. Thanks for the tip :)

  5. realsiriusly says:

    Very nice review Dann! :)

    The CyanogenMod 6.1 rom is on my list of mods to try, however, I do like the sense interface and since purchasing my desire, I have stuck with the LeeDroid rom ( recently updated to 2.3b):

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=768703

    It has been totally stable, not once crashed and the latest version seems to make my phone snappier with lower battery consumption.

    The beauty of rooting your phone is having the opportunity to try out the many varieties of roms, also keeping the software current without waiting for the networks to take forever to provide upgrades.

    Another great advantage is using a rom with the apps2sd add-on which allows apps to be installed on an ext3 partition on your sd card rather then the phone’s internal storage which, sadly for the Desire, is very minimal.

    Looking forward to Gingerbread being incorporated into future roms!

    regards :)

    • realsiriusly says:

      Oops sorry I meant Dan of course! …getting mixed up with a fellow Linux podcaster! ;-)

    • Dan says:

      @realsiriusly – Sounds like LeeDroid is another ROM I’ll have to test out then. So far that’s LeeDroid and Oxygen (adds to list). Thanks and no worries about the name mis-spelling, what’s an extra “n” between friends :)

  6. James says:

    Dan – thanks so much for the guide – it helped me a lot in putting cyanogen 6.1 on my CDMA HTC Hero (with slight process differences, easily located in forums)… :)

  7. Lejoni says:

    Hey Dan. The HTC Desire only have 415MB of ram available to the user with the HTC rom. and not much more than 200MB of that is free after a cold boot. What are those values for cyanogen?

    • Dan says:

      Haven’t tested those values yet but I will try to do so and get back to you. It would be good to have stats.

      • Evgeny Kuznetsov says:

        Well, I installed CyanogenMod 6.1 on my Desire, logged in into Google account (thus syncing all the contacts and calendar stuff), then installed the apps I used to have (not all of them, mind you) and ended up with 10 MB of free space, which is 12 MB less than I used to have on stock firmware with all the software and the data in place (and I reckon I haven’t recovered half the data by then). Looks like stock firmware wins this round.

        I’ve restored HTC firmware for now, since I was amazed how much better was the Sense dialer compared to the stock one anyway, but I’m glad I tried it (even if only to find I don’t like it). I may have problems updating OTA in the future (having the device rooted, I’ve read some guys had problems with FOTA updates), but that problem I’ll solve when I encounter it. And I’m planning to find some custom ROM to get rid of HTC bloatware that comes with standart one anyway.

        So thanks again for your review and your support!

        • Dan says:

          No problem, glad you got it installed easy enough. It’s not too hard is it? I haven’t had any problems with free memory, perhaps I have less apps installed. There are other slimmer firmwares, and even new ones based on Android 2.3 already. I quite like distro hopping on the phone as well as the laptop :)

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