Understanding the 2011 OP Firmwares

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Understanding the 2011 OP Firmware

In early 2011, Pandigital (without notice or warning) completely changed the way the WPDN works. The device changed from a closed-platform eReader to an open-platform (OP) Android tablet & eReader overnight. Slatedroid developers had already modified the closed eReader to be an open tablet long before this happened, but there are important differences that need to be understood about the new series of firmware.

With this change came many improvements, and a few perils. Because Pandigital didn't tell anyone this was happening, or why they changed it, a few bricks were created until it was understood. To this day they just slam it in your Novel with no further explaination when you use their PC updater tool, and a full two weeks after they began updating with the OP versions it was finally announced on their web site.

Overall, most seem to feel it is a big improvement over their previous software, and may be setting the stage for their entry into the Android tablet market. HOWEVER... there are some perils caused by this new firmware so be sure to read that at the end of this section.

Summary of Major Changes in 2011 OP Firmware

  • Improved kernel with better wifi and deep sleep corrected (finally!)
  • Improved video with older v1 boards (finally!)
  • User apps now on internal sdcard allowing more user apps than previously were possible
  • As a result, user storage on internal sdcard now half what it was
  • Also, some user apps get confused by this and look to /sdcard for their data, which is the EXTERNAL card. If you get messages about no room on sdcard, or have trouble installing apps, put an external card in. That should fix things.
  • PD closed launcher screen replaced by open Android launcher screen
  • eReader and DRM content ability retained by new B&N eReader app
  • Third-party market called Slide-ME pre-installed
  • Soft keys for back, home and menu included in notification bar

Read about it on the Pandigital web site here

Slatedroid 2011 OP Modified Firmware

There are several modified versions available here that build on the improved 2011 OP firmware. Some have a full set of Google apps with Market, some just have the minimum to run the Market, and some are just OP with various improvements. There is also a set of modular flashes where you can flash the various enhancements in a la carte on top of the stock firmware. You can find more information about these here.

Perils of the 2011 OP Firmware

Now the bad news. There are some bugs in Pandigital's flash process that cause boot-looping, where the device does not think there is a valid bootable image and enters the recovery process, which causes the device to re-flash over and over. We call this a boot loop. Android is designed to enter the flash process if there is no bootable image, but in this case there is a bootable image, and it still loops through the recovery over and over. This is a bug. Slatedroid developers have worked around this bug with their modified firmware and updaters, but there is always some risk when flashing a device.

A sure way to trigger the dreaded flash loop is to downgrade from a 2011 OP firmware to a 2010 version without taking the proper precautions the Slatedroid devs have put together for you. Once you load a 2011 OP image, it is best to stay with any of the 2011 OP firmwares unless you have a compelling reason to go back, and have taken the neccessary steps to safely revert back.

Flash loops are best dealt with by preventing them. If you get stuck in one, there are a couple ways out of it, but the fact that you are in a flash loop may carry additional risk. If you are just flashing an update with no images being flashed, a flash loop is harmless. If you are flashing a full firmware with all the images in it, you are definately at risk of bricking your device. If this is the case, you must be vary careful about how and particularly when you reset your device because you will brick it if you reset it while it happens to be flashing a critical image.

STUCK IN A FLASH LOOP? LOOK HERE.

The other issue caused by the 2011 OP firmwares is the way it re-partitions the internal sdcard. In order to revert back to a previous version, it needs to be re-partitioned back to the way it was before. You should back up all your data before doing that. More on how to prepare yourself to revert back below. Better to just avoid it.

Reverting Back from 2011 Firmware

There are three ways to prepare yourself to revert back from 2011 firmware. They are listed from easiest first, to more difficult last. They all accomplish the same thing, which is to replace some of the critical images with older (safer bug-free) images BEFORE you start the flash process to go back to the old version. The images that need to be replaced are bootloader, kernel and recovery. This puts the device in a more receptive state to receive one of the 2010 series of firmware images.

The methods are:

Upgrading Internal SDCARD with 2011 Firmware

Many questions have been asked about the possibility and the process to upgrade the internal 1gb sdcard to a larger card. Now that the user apps are stored there, the internal storage available to the user has been decreased from 1gb (2010 firmware) to 512mb (2011 firmware). This can be addressed by using an external sdcard, or you can upgrade the internal sdcard to a larger size.

If you have an external SD card already and are happy using it, you really don't need to do this. But if you prefer not to use an external card, and want more storage on the device itself, this procedure works well.

This is only for WPDNs running 2011 OP firmware.

What Type of SDCARDs work?

  • You can use either a regular microSD card, or a microSDHC card. The Novel is new enough that the HC cards do work.

Procedure to Upgrade Internal Micro SD Card

  1. Back up /data/app (user apps) to a folder on PC or on external SD card.
  2. Back up /PD_Novel to a folder on PC or on external SD card.
    1. The /PD_Novel/.adobe.digital.editions folder contains your serial number, ADE activation and device fingerprint used by ADE so it is important to preserve this data if you can.
  3. Power down the Novel.
  4. Open back cover.
    1. Place Novel face down on a soft towel to avoid scratching the face.
    2. Make sure Novel is off and charger is not plugged in.
    3. Grab the large part of the white rear cover (the bottom 2/3) by the sides, and pull down (towards the speakers) firmly. It will click open about 1/8". Do not pull too hard - just enough to get it to pop open. Lift it out of the way.
  5. Replace internal micro SD card with a new larger card.
    1. Locate internal micro SD card next to battery connector. Release it by sliding the metal bracket towards the top of the Novel about 1/8".
    2. Lift the metal bracket up, and shake the SD card out.
    3. Put the new micro SD card in, paying attention to it's orientation in the socket.
    4. Slide the metal bracket down, towards the speakers, about 1/8" to lock the new card in.
  6. Reboot the Novel. User apps will be missing (temporarily).
  7. Restore user apps to /data/app folder.
  8. Restore PD_Novel folders to /PD_Novel
  9. Reboot Novel. User apps should be back now, and your new SD card will be used 50% for /data/app and 50% for PD_Novel
  10. If all appears well, put the bottom cover back on by clicking it into place.
At this time there is no solution for customizing the partition sizes of the internal SD card. The system will always partition it in half. There is currently no choice on this, but it is actively being worked on. If you manually partition the card differently, the Novel detects this and re-partitions it back 50-50 so don't even bother trying until a solution is found. If you put an 8gb card in, you will get 4gb for user apps (way too much) and 4gb for books, music, photos and videos, which is much better than the 512mb you started with.

There will be some batch files available shortly to backup the old card, and restore to the new card, using adb. Once they are ready, the link to them will be here. There will probably also eventually be some update flashes to do this, one to backup your existing card, and one to restore it back, for those without adb.

You can also just drag and drop the folders using the PC to move the data back and forth.

This process is fairly low-risk, as you still have your original 1gb card you can put back in if anything goes wrong.

Using Pandigital's Upgrader Application via Windows

  1. Pandigital's Upgrader Application can be found here: Novel.Upgrader.exe (Windows PC Required)
  2. Run the Pandigital Novel Upgrader Application.
  3. When prompted, plug the powered on PDN in to your computer's USB port.
  4. The Upgrader will take you through the process.

Update 2/15/11 (For WPDNs) If you are using Pandigital's upgrader application (latest is version 6.0.0.0) Please be aware that the PD upgrader application now creates a backup folder in my documents on your computer. This backup restores all books and media, but does not save any passwords or user installed apks. If you run into problems, such as exclamation Andy while trying to upgrade via Pandigital, please see this thread for instructions. (specifically reply #4) WPDN:Pandigital FW upgrader now creates backup

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