Hot Rodding Amazon's Kindle Fire Touchscreen Tablet: New Home Page, Android Market App, and Rooting the Fire
Amazon Kindle Fire Straight Out of the Box
Do not read this article. At least, not unless you have a Kindle Fire (or thinking about getting one) and are considering:
- Changing the front end
- Rooting your Kindle Fire
- Installing the Android Market.
If you'd rather learn the tech specs, go here:
If you want a hands-on review (based on my first week of owning one), go here:
If you're considering modifying your Fire beyond Amazon's recommendations, then you've come to the right place. Keep reading!
Koi Live Wallpaper
I Want a Swimming Koi Wallpaper!!
Well, I said I wasn't going to do it. I like Amazon's Kindle Fire as is. It runs smoothly, the controls are intuitive, and I've really enjoyed it.
But I'm a gadget guy. I kept looking at that front screen, and thinking... it'd be nice to get rid of that history carousel.
Then I'd look over at Monique playing with her Viewsonic GTab, and see her cool Koi Fishpond Live Wallpaper. It's got a background with Koi swimming around, and when you touch the screen, the water ripples and you feed the fish. How cool is that?
The lure turned out to be too irresistible... I just couldn't help myself.
The Need for ... Everything!
So, I guess I should have known. If I can fiddle around with the software, I probably will. Let me make this absolutely clear, though:
The Kindle runs nicely and is very easy to use as is. Straight from the box. There's no powerfully compelling reason to modify it, unless you just like to tinker with it.
My downfall is the urge to improve. I don't just want a Kindle, I want a Kindle Fire. And I don't just want a Kindle Fire, I want a souped-up Kindle Fire!
The Kindle Fire History Carousel Update I'd Like To See
That said, here's what happened...
Like I've mentioned in the last hub, Aldiko took care of my one real complaint. But I still had a couple of "wouldn't it be cool" wishes. First, to reduce or get rid of the history carousel.
Really, Amazon, give us the choice, please! I don't mind it showing on the home page, but let me, the owner, choose what part of the page and how much screen space to give it.
And maybe give it a little intelligence regarding what gets shown. If I transfer 200 books from my computer to my Kindle, I really, truly, don't need all 200 books showing up one after the other on the Carousel. Maybe Amazon could 'group' sets of similar items that were referenced in sequence? I'd be fine with it if it just had one icon for all those books, with a label that read "added 200 books".
Go Launcher Ex
My New Wood-themed Home Page
Go Launcher Ex: A Whole New Home Page for the Fire
I don't know. Those are just random thoughts about something minor to me. Still, I googled the subject, just to see what other people are saying. Found a how-to website that showed me how to install Go Launcher Ex, an alternate launching app.
That was an excellent solution, and I didn't even have to root the Fire. As a matter of fact, I have NOT set a default launch app. Now, every time I hit the "Home" icon, I can choose if I want to go to the stock Kindle Fire home page, or the Go Launcher Ex home page. (If you're not familiar with it, it looks pretty much like the standard Android interface. Since the Fire is a tweaked Android, it's a pretty easy change to make.
Now it's MY choice... Standard Kindle, or Android Kindle. And I can choose either, every time I tap "Home".
(If you'd rather NOT choose each time, you can easily make Go Launcher Ex the default. Go Launcher Ex was originally available for the Fire on Amazon, until Amazon decided they didn't like the competition. Now you have to get it elsewhere.)
Looks even better horizontally:
Screenshot of my Fire on the Android Market
Kindle Fire and Android Market
That should have been it. Now even the minor carousel quibble is controlled by me. But I started looking at what else Go Launcher Ex can do. Like wallpapers, themes, and Live Wallpapers. Remember that cool Live Wallpaper Monique has on her GTab? The Koi that swim around? Go Launcher Ex can do those!
But Amazon for Android won't allow me to put that stuff on my Kindle. Finding them to sideload is possible, but a lot of hassle. The obvious solution? Mod my Kindle Fire to run the Android Market App. Then I can run other wallpapers and themes, plus have access to more apps than I'll EVER need.
Getting 'Fire'd Up: Installing Android Market isn't as easy as I'd have liked
Notice I didn't say 'the easy solution.' That's because it's kind of an extended bit of work. First you have to root the Fire. I was kind of hoping to avoid that. Amazon doesn't prevent modders from rooting, and all the other stuff... they just don't encourage it. For instance, if your Kindle Fire is rooted, you can't download streaming movies through Amazon. For me, no big deal. I don't anyway. Even if you do, the solution is to Root the Fire, install Android Market, then unroot the Fire. Once you've gone to the trouble of Rooting it, Unrooting is very easy. And the Android Market will continue to function, even once you've Unrooted the Fire.
Let's not forget the covers:
I'm not a Super-Geek
After you've decided to root it, there are several steps, software to download and install (on your Fire and on your computer), files on your own computer that have to be hand-edited, and apps you'll need. Honestly, it's not so much that it's ... hard... but you have to be pretty tech-literate, have a lot of patience, be able to follow detailed instructions, and figure out what 2 and 2 are all by yourself (because sometimes, there's nobody around to help!)
Okay, maybe it was hard. For me, anyway. I'm not a super-geek. Just an ordinary run-of-the-mill, guy next door who loves computers, kind of geek.
The Links You'll Need to Modify Amazons Kindle Fire
Anyway, if you're still interested after all that, below are the most critical links you'll need. I used information from each of these pages at some point. Plus, there are several links within those pages that you'll have to use along the way.
(This one is useful if you're having trouble with the "echo 0x1949 >> "%USERPROFILE%\.android\adb_usb.ini" line.)
Just for the record, as a computer geek of only average standing, I found the above guides to be anywhere from 'easy' to 'reasonably hard'. Even when things weren't going as well as I'd hoped, these guides did a good job helping me figure out what to do.
On a scale of 1=easy to 10=very difficult, if modding Moniques Viewsonic GTablet was a '10' difficulty, this was a '5'.
Don't toast your Kindle!
Bear in mind, I'm pretty certain making these changes voids the warranty. Also, any time you mess around with "That which Amazon has decreed", you're risking your entire system. (Odds on this one are pretty low... I haven't heard of anybody actually messing their Kindle up... but I'm certain it's possible.)
Just remember- there's always a risk, no guarantees, and if something goes wrong, it's entirely your own responsibility. If you're not willing to take the chance, just stay with the stock Kindle Fire. It's a snappy little system already!
My Kindle as an Android
Now you can drive your Kindle Fire on the Android side of the road
At this point, if you've taken the plunge and made the changes, you can now go on the Android Market and get all kinds of cool stuff. One of the first apps I got was a "Super-Man Cartoon" player; It played the very old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. (I know these cartoons have attitudes that can be offensive in today's society, but the animation quality for the time is seriously outstanding)
That aside, I also found a bunch of live wallpapers, and a theme or two. After doing all that work, I went to Go Launcher Ex's store (from the Kindle) and downloaded a bookshelf theme/wallpaper that looks like a wooden bookshelf. Now my hot-rodded Kindle Fire has a background very similar to the stock Kindle Fire background. Stealth mode, anyone?
In Stock Kindle Fire Mode:
Amazon Kindle: When is a Fire not a Fire
All this has given me an unusual conflict. The Kindle Fire has a very unique and identifiable look-and-feel. Not to mention, it's a lot of fun to use.
After a lot of work, I've turned it into a tablet that... looks and acts... just... like... everybody else's tablet.
Only, with the touch of a finger, it turns back into the regular Kindle Fire. Like a Super-hero with a secret identity!
If you need to SEE it, here's a video guide:
I just wanted MY Kindle to be cooler than the next guy's Kindle!
I can do some things better in Kindle Fire mode.
I can do some things better in Android mode.
It looks cool in both modes.
In the long run, all I've done is customize it to be MORE functional, in a manner that pleases me. I didn't HAVE to. I didn't even plan to. When I wrote the previous hub about my first week on the Kindle Fire, I even stated that I had no intention of modifying it.
Turns out, I just couldn't resist. Excuse me, I have to go play with my Kindle Fire now.