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April 30, 2011

Interview with Pershoot, Android Kernel Hacker

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Here at New Tablet Reviews we are big supporters of the work done by the hackers out there. In particular, the Android community is incredibly impressive with the quality, scale and progress of their custom roms, Kernel hacks and the like. Today we are taking a moment to bring the first of hopefully many interviews of the people hacking, modding, building and improving these roms. In a lot of ways they increase the base functionality of the device, as well as prolong the life of our aging gear, which is something the manufacturers seem to ignore.

Today we are interviewing Pershoot.  Pershoot was recently mentioned in the WSJ and Engadget for his achievements with overclocked kernels for Android tablets and phones alike.  You can find and follow his work on his website: droidbasement.

New Tablet Reviews:  Hello, Pershoot. Thank you for the interview.  Lets get this started.  What was your first computer?

Pershoot: Timex Sinclair.

New Tablet Reviews: What was the OS, RAM, etc?

Pershoot: Check it. [Opens website]

Release date July, 1982 Discontinued 1983 Operating system Sinclair BASIC CPU Zilog Z80A @ 3.25 MHz Memory 2 KB

New Tablet Reviews: Was it a gift? Did you know you wanted a computer when you received it?


Pershoot: Man, that brings me back, wow. Not really, my parents just got it.

New Tablet Reviews: So it was a family computer?

Pershoot: Yea, I went to library and got a ton of basic books and typed in lot of programs. [laughs]

New Tablet Reviews: What did you use it for? Gaming? Programming in basic?

Pershoot: Programming. I was like 6 or 7, maybe 8.

New Tablet Reviews: Nice! We had a Commodore Vic20 around that time.

Pershoot: I got a C64 right after that.

New Tablet Reviews: Lucky guy!

Pershoot: I also had a IBM PC XT 300 baud modem on the C64, Kiiiid!  [laughs] BBS!

[Ed Note: BBS is shorthand for a bulletin board service where users dialed into a host and posted on a bulletin board]

New Tablet Reviews: We tried programming a role playing game that would randomize the outcome and a dice role, so I could simulate Dungeons and Dragons on the thing. It would always default to the first outcome though.

Pershoot: [laughs] Then I dropped off the map with PC’s.  I got my real first computer that I bought in ’97.  That was a PC. I saw internet for first time in college on my friend’s PC. I had a ‘puter in my hands since around age 7.

New Tablet Reviews: Pre-AOL.

Pershoot: We used to log in to BBS’s and leech. My buddy Herman ran one with his 9600 baud.  Herman was in a cracking crew.  They used super snapshot. I didn’t jump on the WWW until after college. I used VAX and Blurt systems back in the day, VAX in college. The internet is (relatively) new for public consumption.

New Tablet Reviews: We got hit on by some girl in our computer class on VAX messaging. That is pretty old school.

Pershoot: [laughs]

New Tablet Reviews: We did see a lot of potential in the internet, email etc. back before they called everything “the cloud”!

Pershoot: Yeah, man. I don’t know what I’d do without internet  I don’t think I could function properly. It is sad but true.

New Tablet Reviews: You would leave the basement.

Pershoot: [laughs]  Well more often, yeah.  My lifestyle would be different that is for sure.

New Tablet Reviews: One thing to give up: TV or Internet?

Pershoot: [expletive] TV!  I never watch it.

New Tablet Reviews: Ask our girlfriends what they think.

Pershoot: I only watch it when my girlfriend comes over. But if there was no internet.. could I give up TV?

New Tablet Reviews: When did you really start programming | Hacking whatever you want to call it?

Pershoot: I started with Linux in the late 90’s.  Maybe 98/99 or something. Herman gave me a CD called Redhat Linux 5 and I installed it. I was hooked. Meanwhile, I was learning Solaris at the time from my day job at dot-com and that paved the way for my Unix/Linux gravitation. I was setting up a lab in my house all with Linux. I had multiple PC’s, a mix of Windows/Linux, etc.  You know, the router, all that jazz!

New Tablet Reviews: Can you name the dot-com?

Pershoot: It is probably better that I don’t mention it.

New Tablet Reviews:  Our first distro [*Ed Note: Linux Distribution] was Corel Linux.

Pershoot: Nice!

New Tablet Reviews:  It took a while to figure out Startx.

Pershoot: I remember I taught you a few key commands!

New Tablet Reviews: And that root was admin. You were busy kicking the Gentoo tires for a while when I migrated to Debian and Ubuntu.

Pershoot:  Yup, I definitely was.

New Tablet Reviews:  We didn’t have the patience to sit for a day while it compiled the build.

Pershoot: [laughs] Yup! I was a young ‘un back then. Now I just want my Ubuntu.

New Tablet Reviews: …so we went .deb for instant satisfaction.

Pershoot: No need to build everything from scratch.

New Tablet Reviews: We still prefer Debian based distro’s.  As a matter of fact we just installed Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) yesterday to try out Unity desktop. It is a radical change. Much respect.

Pershoot:  CM7 boots.

New Tablet Reviews:  Awesome. We’re skeptical of it on a tablet. How are the tab tools?

Pershoot: CM7 rocks!  With the new status bar on the tabs, it just needs video acceleration to be fully functional.  It’s being worked on.

New Tablet Reviews: For those who don’t know you what is your role in the Android Community?

Pershoot: I roll out custom kernels for various devices as of current: HTC vision (tmobile g2), HTC passion (Nexus One), Viewsonic Gtablet/Malata Zpad (harmony). In the past HTC Dream/Sapphire (tMobile G1/MYtouch) was also on the list.

New Tablet Reviews: Are there any considerations you make for the hardware when building? More specifically what do you look to achieve in a tablet vs phone? Battery life? Speed stability etc.

Pershoot: Battery life, speed, stability, all of the above both get the same consideration as speed/performance.

New Tablet Reviews: What is your proudest achievment so far in your custom kernels? Other than making an Engadget shout out article?

Pershoot: Completely turning around the Viewsonic GTablet. It is usable now and performs very well. At stock, it was sluggish, not so responsive, power button bugged, etc.

New Tablet Reviews: Cyanogen Mod 7?

Pershoot: This applies to their stock froyo build too.

New Tablet Reviews: I was just wondering what you personally ran on it.

Pershoot: Just having the kernel goodies amps it up. I run CM7.  I assist in maintaining the build with bekit.

New Tablet Reviews: Excellent.  How do you feel about CM7 on a tablet vs Honeycomb?

Pershoot: I haven’t had much experience with Honeycomb, but I like CM7. The latest additions by mad-murdock make it nice on a tab like device.

New Tablet Reviews:Which additions are those?

Pershoot:  Tablet tweaks such as the status bar on bottom.

New Tablet Reviews: We only put CM7 on the Nook Color two days ago.

Pershoot: Time for you to flash more often! [laughs]

New Tablet Reviews: We do our phones about once a week now. It has become something of an addiction.

Pershoot: Yup. crack flashers! [laughs]

New Tablet Reviews:  I concur. The next question is a bit more broad about the tablet industry. We’ll jump back into the dev world in a few. Apple vs Android vs webOS vs RIM PlayBook QNX vs Win Mobile 7 . Tell me why you picked Android and perhaps what you like dislike about the other OS’s. What are your feelings on Apple, iPad’s and iOS?

Pershoot: I picked Android because its mostly open. I can freely modify, build and flash. For Win7, the concept is nice (innovative thinking), but MS is no stranger to mobile and has not succeeded thus far. We shall see what comes of it. Apple, they are great with design, marketing, aesthetics. It works well in a closed ecosystem. But if you don’t fit in to that mold, it can get frustrating. It depends on if you like to modify OS vs app development. Even in app development, the approval process can be a downer on Apple. Also the need to rely on iTunes, is basically a shackle. Some call it a god send, most probably call it a shackle. [laughs] Depends on who you ask!

New Tablet Reviews: We are horrified when I see that an iPad needs to be chained to iTunes. We had to help a friend restore an iPhone 4 the other day and it was very frustrated that just a reimage and then all apps would pull back down from the cloud. We flashed our evo just to show her how archaic it was. We’re currently testing an iPad 2 and felt incredibly frustrated setting it up for the first time. You cannot take it out of the box and go live. Android does that bit very nicely.

Pershoot: Yea, dudes.

New Tablet Reviews: In a lot of ways webOS is open too, have you looked into it at all?

Pershoot: Nope.

New Tablet Reviews: We had a palm PRE first. Loved the UI; it is brilliantly thought out, and very consistent. We look forward to what Matias Duarte will be able to do with the UI in Android, in the next iteration.

Pershoot: They kind of had their shot. webOS looked good, but didn’t take off.

New Tablet Reviews: The phone itself and keyboard were way too small.  It was the hardware that was a disappointment.

Pershoot: I am not so sure they can revitalize it.

New Tablet Reviews: HP is putting it on all desktops by 2012. That may help a bit, but too little too as it seems the playing field is maturing and narrowing down. So who do you see taking third place in this battle?

Pershoot: There’s a third? [laughs]

New Tablet Reviews: [laughs] OK. Back to the world of modding and hacking. Do you think Google is doing right by the community in holding off on Honeycomb source code?

Pershoot: They want to make sure it isn’t a mess before letting it fork off. I’m sure they hacked together some of it to get these initial devices out.

New Tablet Reviews: We have to agree. The naysayers out there that are freaking out and calling the openness a facade seem to be Apple fan-boys, as if they can say that iOS is open.

Pershoot: iOS will never be fully open.

New Tablet Reviews: Would you consider that flawed logic from the Apple camp?

Pershoot: It cannot function currently in an open environment, which is fine, but it just doesn’t work for me.

New Tablet Reviews: It does have some benefits.

Pershoot: Yea. No forks, etc.

New Tablet Reviews: What are your feelings on Sony and their treatment of geohot? How does the outcome effect the hacking community? What about the PSN hack that just happened? What rights does a consumer have to the hardware that he purchased?

Pershoot: I’m not fully aware of what happens in the PSN scene. It would have been in Sony’s best interest to work with geohot and not just shun him. Coincidence: Sony’s PSN was down and sensitive info was taken from it? Sony should learn about the flaws from the community and not play big arm lawyer.

New Tablet Reviews: Karma?

Pershoot: I s’pose so… Thanks, Sony.

New Tablet Reviews: Their proprietary lock-in and special cables. Byuy a Sony cam, need a Sony PC to connect it to. Then the root kitting and denial of it all.  It says exactly how they feel about the consumer.

Pershoot: Right. They don’t care about the consumer at all.

New Tablet Reviews: Apple is doing a lot of the same currently. It’s a shame too, because I was enamored of OSX.

Pershoot: Like when they took out other OS.  It is not my device, it is their’s. But I paid for it out of my pocket. Ethically it is hard to support a company that does that.

New Tablet Reviews: Well isn’t that what Geohot was trying to do? Restore the other OS option?

Pershoot: He did that a while back.

New Tablet Reviews: Or at least what he was claiming?

Pershoot: The recent hacks give homebrew access and full access to hypervisor.  So root if you will. I’m not sure where it is currently though.

New Tablet Reviews: Have you seen it in action?

Pershoot: I haven’t. My PS3 does only one thing; it plays media from playon every so often. I’m not really interested to hack it like I was when i first got it. Should I roll up some custom kernels for it? [laughs] Overclock PS3!

New Tablet Reviews: You probably have very little time between working and your kernel hacks.

Pershoot: Yep. With Android there is always a ton to do, but it keeps me out of the streets. [laughs]

New Tablet Reviews: So you were serious when you offered to roll up a custom for the Nook Color?

Pershoot: There are OC kernels for it. But if I am lent the device to work on, then I could do that.

New Tablet Reviews: Dalingrin OC

Pershoot: I generally don’t like building for a device I dont own. Unless it extremely similar to a device I already own. Yeah, Dalingrin, fattire have been doing great work with the nook, and mad-murdock too.

New Tablet Reviews: Who would you say are the key players in the Android community? The rock stars as it were?

Pershoot: There’s a lot.

New Tablet Reviews: Obviously Cyanogen, Koush for his Clockwrk mod.

Pershoot: #teamdouche (the duck) rocks!

New Tablet Reviews: The duck, eh… Shout out!  Do you see any standout hardware coming down the pipe for the Android tablet scene?

Pershoot: The dual core scorpion will be interesting.

New Tablet Reviews: Anything you are looking to work on with or purchase … or have the community donate?

Pershoot: Nothing at the moment. Will see what’s up after Google IO.

New Tablet Reviews: So are you going to do some live posts for NewTabletReviews when you’re there?

Pershoot: Sure, I can some blogging.

New Tablet Reviews: Did you look over the itinerary?

Pershoot: Briefly. I haven’t gotten in to the swing of things yet, but i just booked my hotel last week!  [laughs]

New Tablet Reviews: Do you have any applications or secret projects in the wings?

Pershoot: Yup. Going to work out an idea with a friend and see what comes of it.

New Tablet Reviews: Very good. Hopefully we can reveal a bit more on that at a future date.

Pershoot: Yup!

New Tablet Reviews: So any parting commentary? Do you have anything to pitch?  Should we send you hot meals? Hot women? Buy your book?

Pershoot: I envision great things for this platform. I know I’ll keep chugging away and I know many other that will too!

New Tablet Reviews: Excellent. Thank you for the time, Pershoot. We’ll be keeping in touch.

pershoot: That’s a wrap!

[*Ed’s note: In closing we would like to express our amazement, respect and gratitude for the Android community as a whole and the work they contribute freely to the community. Please consider giving donations, or paying for the apps they have developed to keep them healthy and fed.]

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