04
Feb
Capture

There's been exciting news floating around the blogosphere today of a "working" beta of CyanogenMod 7 for the Galaxy Tab being released. Just one caveat - it isn't really CyanogenMod 7.

Before I go onward with this rant, I want to make it crystal clear that I have nothing personally against the developer who ported CyanogenMod 7 to the Galaxy Tab, people like him (or her, of course) are part of the reason I love Android. But they're also part of the reason I have become increasingly frustrated with the custom ROM community's professionalism and ethical standards at large. Let me explain.

Identity Crisis

In the beginning, there was Android - an open source, easily accessible operating system available to the masses. Then, there were inevitably community-sourced custom builds of Android. From this genesis, CyanogenMod, Fresh (well, from Sense, too), and other wonderful ROMs emerged. Well-known mods like these are run by teams of developers and programmers who take pride in their software as a representation of their hard work and professional reputation.

So what happens when someone decides to take that software and repurpose it for a device it wasn't intended to run on? Bugs. Missing features. Crashes. Bricks. Not always, of course - some off-label versions of CM7 in the wild work mostly fine (as one of our own writers can attest to), but more often than not, these ports can be a bumpy ride.

When you call something "CyanogenMod 7 Beta for Galaxy Tab," I immediately have one question: Did the CM team actually do this port? No? Then it's not CyanogenMod 7 for anything - it's repurposed open source software put out without the support of the original developers. I don't care how it looks, what the build number is, or who the kernel author might be - it's not CyanogenMod 7.

I won't put words in the CM team's mouth, and I don't know their official positions on these very unofficial ports - but I can't imagine they jump for joy when a clearly unfinished and buggy ROM with their name attached to it lands on the XDA forums. Considering the extreme stability of the "pre-Alpha" nightly CM7 builds I use on my Nexus One, this Galaxy Tab port's arbitrary use of the word "Beta" is irresponsible and misleading. If anything, it's a beta of an alpha.

Unsupported Means Unsupported

What happens when an inexperienced user downloads this and ends up bricking his $600 tablet because he flashed the ROM incorrectly? You think he's ever going to use a piece of CyanogenMod software again? Probably not, even though the CM team is clearly not at fault. When he asks on their support forums for help only to find he's one of fifty people aside from the developer actually using this ROM, do you think he's going to get quick and easy answers? I don't mean to sound patronizing with the rhetorical questions, but these are legitimate concerns.

The first-blush response of many supporters of ROMs like this is "So what? You don't want it, don't use it." For those of us that know our way around XDA and Android's recovery menus, this is true. It's the people who aren't familiar with these things that get the short end of the stick. When some Galaxy Tab owner ends up bricking his device because he didn't follow the instructions explicitly, the community's helpful (though maybe futile) responses will be intermingled with pop-shots from the peanut gallery of "learn to read." The ROM community expects a level of expertise and knowledge that far exceeds that of the average user, even if they are usually quite helpful.

Better yet, if this person can't even find a place to get support after downloading the ROM from some blog's hyperlink, or attempts to fix the device simply fail, who does he fall back on? Manufacturer support? Do you think Samsung's going to send back that re-flashed Tab before it gets a credit card number? How do you think this makes Samsung feel about the custom ROM community? There's a reason manufacturers are concerned about locking down bootloaders and recovery images - nobody wants an angry customer, even if that anger is misdirected.

Reputations Aren't Open Source

This is of course the worst-case scenario. But think about it from even the standpoint of missing features and bugs. If you designed and built an engine for a particular group of cars, you'd probably take pride in that creation. Let's say you're generous and decide to make the basic schematics public, even though you specifically alter the design for those models of cars you mean it to go in. You want people to take an interest in your work, and you want to work with other professionals to make it better and broaden its applications.

Someone downloads your schematic and builds your engine and sticks it in a huge truck, mounted at an odd angle so it'll fit. The truck now has so much horsepower that the wheels always spin from a stop, the gas mileage is abysmal, it's even more nose-heavy, the A/C doesn't work, and the brakes don't stop it as quickly. You're OK with this - until you see this guy has put your name all over it, with maybe a passing implication that you didn't build it, and is distributing it on the pretext that it's your design.

When someone calls you up and tells you your engines are terrible and ruined their truck, only to find out you didn't actually build the engine in question or approve it for that purpose, are you going to be very happy with the guy that built it? How do you think your reputation would be affected? Should the guy who built have thought twice before making his version of it available to the public without extensive testing?

For many, these are questions of personal philosophy, ethics, and experience. Some may say it's just part of open source, and that bad software doesn't get used and dies off, while experimentation benefits everyone because good changes find their way into the project's source code.

That's great in theory, but the average person couldn't care less about experimentation or the larger scheme of things - they want something that works, and often it's the reputation behind the name on the ROM that they're looking at. The average user doesn't know or want to know about the difference between alpha, beta, or nightly - when they read "CyanogenMod for X," all they're concerned with is finding the link to the ZIP file and the instructions.

Regardless of the "flash at your own risk" disclaimers, when someone sees CyanogenMod attached to a ROM's title, they expect the stability and polish that CyanogenMod is known for to come with that software - not someone's incomplete, homebrewed technical exercise. I'm not saying don't make them, I'm saying stop calling them something they aren't, and community members, maybe take note: ROM developers like Geek For Me and Cyanogen don't publicly release any compiled build until it's suitable for everyday use.

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Grift

    Cry moar. It's FOSS. You're supposedly a law student, have one of your professors explain the Apache license to you.

    • David Ruddock

      Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should - but thanks for the truly insightful comment.

    • llunved

      Most FOSS projects actually try to protect their names because of this. It's called trademark. Try to publish your own hacked version of Apache under that name and see what happens...

  • Bryan

    I agree with you in spirit however:

    1) This really isn't "hurting" Android, as most people don't run custom ROM's. And for those that are technical enough to get in trouble, well, they really shouldn't be playing around in the first place.

    2) The burden of what to call a particular derivation of an open source whatever should be up to the sites that report it. Yes, perhaps the creator should rename it and label it as "from cyanogenmod source" but not everyone will do that. I think the blogosphere should be labeling it correctly as a hack of cyanogenmod, not a full supported cyanogenmod release. Truth be told, some places would just call it full on CM7 to get page hits, regardless of what the developer calls his/her project.

    3) I'm not sure projects like this hurt cyanogenmod, as they are the real innovators for the ROM community. The people in the know will follow them, and as such they will be on the front lines. So regardless of someone less technical having a "bad impression" because of a botched ROM they loaded, people will keep coming back.

    • David Ruddock

      I think CyanogenMod generally keeps an open mind about these ports, but they're also very careful to maintain a list of "supported devices" and not release anything until it's ready for prime time. I'd say these homebrewed variations do have the *potential* to hurt CM's reputation, but have not yet done so in a significant way.

      As for hurting Android, the development community is the most vocal of any towards manufacturers and carriers - it only takes a few reports of bricked phones a month running custom software to keep manufacturers developing methods of locking down Android.

      Thanks for the well thought-out comment!

  • Darius_bd

    .
    You're a bit astray. The title is misleading as it sounds like you're against modding. But you're not against it, even if it's really lousy quality - you're against misappropriation.

    With that in mind, your rant shifts, as no one wants an average user to flash a new rom in their phone. That's why everyone says RTFM for those with problems in XDA. That's why CM couldnt care less if there are stupid kids doing things they dont understand and bricking their gadgets (which surely their daddies will be soon replacing with another load of cash).

    Flashing kustom mods it's only for those with the required knowledge, and for those who dont have it, they can just whine about their phones not working as it really doesnt matters.

    So, the only hurting here is that dude taking the CM name for a lousy mod. Not the mod itself. Not kiddos modding and bricking their phones.

  • http://NONE NiteX

    I agree with the author, unlike Grift.
    Grift, you are correct, there is nothing wrong with taking someone else's open source, modifying it to do what you want it to, and sharing it with other people.
    It is a little unethical to continue to call the software in CM7 beta, it's almost like claiming that you're contributing to CM development when you're really not. However, calling your rom MY LEET ROMZ (based on CM7 nightlies) is relatively okay, IMO...

  • Muhammad

    I totally agree with you, you don't repay devoted coders "CM Team" by messing up there ROM and releasing it under the same name. People should have some more professional courtesy and respect.
    I hope whoever did this to correct his/her mistake.

  • christopher

    I see the point of the article, but I don't 100% agree - if you run a custom ROM, you ARE risking impending doom with your device. Before you flash anything, you should know what steps to take in order to fix it. Now, the forums are a great place to learn, and I would HIGHLY suggest anyone to do some research before they starting messing with their phones software.

    And when I say research, don't always be the first to flash a custom ROM unless you know repair the phone in a worst case scenario. Let more experienced people flash it, see what they report, and then decide.

    After all, the beauty of Android is that you get to decide in the first place.

  • Bryan

    Maybe you would feel safer with an iOS device...

  • robbie

    I'm sorry, but your rant is off on all parts. Using cyanogenmod gives no more risk of bricking as any other custom ROM, or rooting at all. So you're point on that is completely irrelevant is this article.

    Secondly, cyanogen has actually called people idiots for saying what you said about "identity." He puts the source on github for the exact reason that you're now calling "bad." The post on xda gives correct credits and also informs that it may be buggy. Hell, its in giant, red letters at the top of the post. Everything broken is clearly listed as is everything that works. If people can't read a few paragraphs I have no pity for them if anything happens to their phone.

    Third, are you really being serious? If its built straight from cyanogenmod source it is cyanogenmod. Calling it something else without and true enhancements is THEFT. As well as this, ignorant people will always be ignorant. If they choose to do no research on cyanogenmod then that falls on them. I'm sure cyanogen doesn't care that some idiot is calling him a bad dev because he/she failed to read the post TELLING people the ROM is buggy.

    You have some good points. All of these are POSSIBLE. But then again so is a meteor made of gold landing in my yard and these certainly are not killing Android. Custom ROMs are what makes Android truely better than all competition. So if someone builts cyanogenmod from source and spreads it to new phones and starts developing it to make it run correctly... thiss will kill Android? Because its buggy?

    I'm not trying to sound mean, but you're way off.

    • http://androidpolice.com Jaroslav Stekl

      The problem here was that many sites were making it sound as if this were some official CM build for the Galaxy Tab. That it isn't, and that's why David said it's misleading.

      • robbie

        Websites claimed that official cyanogenmod was released of the galaxy tab and he posts this rant without ever reading the said thread? I hope this isn't a career for him, ha ha.

        Like I said, all good points, but not good enough to really matter at all, MUCH less kill Android.

        • David Ruddock

          I've read the thread, thanks, and no, this is not an official release. There is zero mention of it on the CM forums, and the author makes it rather clear in his changelog that this is a solo undertaking.

        • robbie

          Sorry, David. Misread the guys post I responded too. Sorry for any confusion and incorrect conclusions.
          My response was wrong, but fact of the matter is this article is not to argue wether its official or not. I believe the title says "....why its hurting android."
          Its not. Plain and simple. Its actually helping.

  • don h

    So I guess that Google and cyanogenmod better rename the Linux kernel since they may taint the name if something goes terribly wrong with one of their builds. If I decide to build and distribute xchat on a certain distro, does this mean I must rename it also? Come on man, get real here. If they build cyanogenmod from source to run on a toaster, its still cyanogenmod software. It may not be an *Officially supported build* but it is still cyanogenmod.

    • three_pineapples

      Exactly. Way over the top article here.

      It is cyanogen mod because it was built from CM7 sources, and it has the CM7 features.

      Often projects like these are the start of a supported device. Do you really think cyanogen maintains the code for every supported device himself? Of course not.

      Each device has a list of developers who maintain that device tree. If this ROM author/compiler manages to get CM7 running well on the galaxy tab, he'll likely become the maintainer for an official CM7 device branch.

      It's almost like you expect ROM developers to magically appear out of nowhere, with a fully working CM port that is officially supported by the CM team...

      Honestly, how to you think the people who maintain CM7 builds came to where they are now?

  • James

    The truth is that 95% of XDA members are tossers and pirates.

    Yes, that's the truth, deal with it!

    • anothertmobilemda

      yarrgh, i be not a pirate!...(oh wait, i am)
      flashing roms is like building computers. don't do it if you really dont have a good grasp on the theories
      @david r.......nice article
      viva la xda....

  • Nick

    I get what your saying, but I as well disagree. Any shot at trying to improve android (no matter how half baked) is still an attempt which I appreciate. I don't just jump into trying to install a new OS on my laptop without knowing a little of what I'm doing. However USERS are to haphazard and flash first ask questions later. It in my opinion is most certainly not a Developer problem, but a user issue. As far as no support, I have always found both the Windows Mobile and Android communities more than willing to help. This is coming from an extremely impatient person (clicking refresh every 2 minutes after I post a question on forums). As far as your last paragraph, I hate to say it but if you don't understand Alpha, Beta, Nightly, etc. you have no business flashing any Rom to your phone. End users do your research first flash later. If you a beginner don't flash anything where there isn't atleast 10 pages of forum post to read through first.

  • NuLL.n.VoiD

    First, if anyone is willing to take the jump and root their phone, they already are willing to assume some risk. If they go into it blind, then caveat emptor.
    Second, xda is NOT 95% pirates. It's loaded with newbies. As long as they announce that at the beginning, the majority of responses are going to be helpful. We all had to start somewhere. Only the self absorbed nut jobs leave them hanging. The true opennes of the mods is what makes Android the best choice for an OS. Cyanogen loves to see the copies, as long as they give proper credit and say that the port is based on them. The article is off base. Sorry.

  • Bill

    What is this guy going on and on about?

    1. If you don't know how then don't play with custom roms.
    2. Always get the CM rom from official website.
    3. If you don't follow 1 and 2 above, and get your device bricked by unofficial roms then you deserved it.

  • the man

    did the guy even mention that it is a port or anything? I am using a cliq on cyanogen 6 which is a port.

  • boriqua2000

    they should trademark the name "cyanogen mod" so that no one else can use it.problem solved.

  • Rufus

    Thanks for sharing. What irks me the most is that I can follow the instructions "to the T" and even keep the XDA sites open, but still soft brick my phone when I use a custom rom. Why? Lots of instructions and comments are written not from the beginner's perspective, with missing--sometimes even confliciting--information, mis-ordered steps, or just plain ambiguous statements. The good thing though is usually someone comes along when you cry for help on xda or other forums. :) Still, I love android and xda!

  • Ken

    You are, what we would call a 'wanker' here in the uk. Are you talking about Paula version on modoco, who happens to know what he is doing - if so have the guts to say so.........

  • http://www.contractremovalservices.co.uk philicibine

    I tweeted cyanogen about this very subject the other day... I said.. "doesn't it piss u off.. all these kanged versions out in the wild before you released anything??"

    His reply was "its open source at work!"

    So maybe... this is the idea!?? ... maybe if some of the kangers actually contributed to the source.. we would get support for even more devices! (Hard to imagine I know!)

    Cyanogenmod for ur phone... for ur fridge... for ur car... FTW!!!!!!!

  • Lee

    This is why I stear clear of hacks/mods/etc. I installed Ubuntu on a laptop that had gma500 and some one released custom drivers which worked until one set of Ubuntu updates screwed up every thing. I also used to have an unlocked iPhone, but got tired of updating it because it would wipe out my data,and I'd have to resync, and one time it nearly bricked it, and I had to go through a lengthy and scary procedure to fix it.

    • ken

      More fool you for using an iPhone!
      Sad........

      • Lee

        Not that it's any of your business but this was the 1st gen iPhone before android existed.

  • Mr Slave

    This was a total display of ignorance by the writer.

    the definition of open: “mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git://android.git.kernel.org/platform/manifest.git ; repo sync ; make” – Andy Rubin

    cyanogen
    @
    @RampageGails79 if someone wants to step up and maintain it, sure. as of right now it's not supported yet.
    16 Jan Favorite Retweet Reply

    cyanogen
    @
    @philicibine nah it's opensource at work. I'm happy that people like CM enough to run wildly unstable versions :)
    9 Jan Favorite Retweet Reply

    cyanogen

    I just *love* seeing commits on Github where the only thing changed was the removal of a CM reference or author name.
    29 Oct Favorite Retweet Reply

    You really should not drink before you post up articles like this. Especially about something that is so near and dear to peoples hearts like CM. There is no line this is a blurry area where he supports whats happening because A: thats how to get new devices supported, B: thats how to get new devs on the team, C: He would rather have his name attached to his work, D: He just won't support anything that is not official from the CM team.

  • http://twitter.com/ayman07 Ayman

    Let me ask you something, do you own a Galaxy Tab? Are you a developer? There so much I disagree with, I dont even know where to begin. If you owned a galaxy tab then you know its nearly impossible to brick it. Everything can be fixed. You act like a regular consumer has the RIGHT to flash a custom firmware and expect everything to be working 100%. Ive used cyanogenmod's firmwares in the past, nexus, mytouch, etc and even his work isnt perfect. You dont have any room to talk about this. He is using cyanogenmod code therefore it is cyanogen. Its not the developer's fault if stupid android sites want to call it a port to the tab from cyanogen. Androinica made that mistake and I corrected them and thats why the article says "via" cyanogen. What do you expect? You want me to go purchase a galaxy tab for everyone single person of TeamDouche so they can port me CM7? Get real man. Android development is only as strong as the number of developers who have them. No devices for the developer, no work. We should be lucky that technomancer took the time to make this port. You said you read his post, so you know this has nothing to do with cyanogen or teamdouche, so how is it his fault if he is giving credit to the team. If he uses the CM source and doesnt credit it, then he is at fault for stealing. I dont understand you idiots sometimes. We should just appreciate what he is doing for us. I have been running CM7 for a couple weeks now, even before the public beta and I understood that there were issues but I did it anyway. A regular consumer doesn't give a rats ass about flashing custom firmware. You think my dad cares about flashing a ROM for his vibrant? Get real man. If you are intelligent enough to make it to XDA forums then good for you. If you made it to XDA then your really not a typical consumer. Even people who use the "official" CM complain about problems. You have no right to diss a hard working dev or his work; he didnt even ask for a single dime! This really rubs me the wrong way. If cyanogen doesnt want people using his source or his name then tell him to stop bitching and port one over for the Tab. I do have respect for the guy, he has done a lot, but dont put your stuff online and then complain when its not working how YOU want it to. Im not gonna buy him a galaxy tab; im still paying mine off. So unless he gets one and some others from teamdouche also get one, they should help the dev who took this job on alone instead of complaining. Rant. Over.

    im not even gonna bother re-reading this, it was a rant so i know i made some grammatical errors...screw it.

  • Chad

    I think this is spot on. Just getting my first Android phone (yeah I know I've been in the dark ages!) and been looking at well firstly rooting then CyanogenMod 7 for the HTC Desire HD. I come from a fairly techie background, have dabbled in some Linux bits and pieces so appreciate both that you're getting open source support for "free"/donations and the frustrations that can arise when things don't work as they claim. You get used to reading comments sections in their entirety before starting anything... but if you've taken the plunge and it's horribly buggy it turns people away who could, possibly, help.

    I'm going to see how I get on with the standard sense ROM first, but I would like to give this a go... I just don't fancy a brick.

  • EDGAR

    I have a rooted Droid A854 and I tried to install cyanogen mod 6 from rom manager and now my phone just keeps showing the cyanogen mod screensaver and none of the buttons work. It's been that way for an hour now. Any ideas? I've tried to reboot and nothing.

  • djw39

    I would think that if someone simply ports CM7 to an unsupported device, and distributes the resulting ROM without crediting the Cyanogen Mod 7 team which did 99% of the work, this would be highly objectionable.

    You're between a rock and a hard place if you do this: if the ROM works, you've committed theft by not properly crediting the developers; but if you do credit them, and the ROM doesn't work correctly, they will be angry with you for destroying their reputation. There's no easy solution to this problem.

  • http://www.cmsgs.com atinm

    Sorry if this is late - I only just saw this. But given that I'm a significant contributing developer on CM7 support for the Galaxy S line of phones (which happens to include the Galaxy Tab - but we're not actually doing that port, *that* is someone else), I have to respond.
    How do you think new devices get supported by CyanogenMod?
    It is by developers like us, who take CyanogenMod source, do the hardware support for the new device, send up merge requests for review by the core team, these merge requests are approved and merged into the main CM github trees until everything is supported and the device becomes officially supported.
    We are doing the port for CM7 to Galaxy S. We are not officially supported, *YET*. And when we are, we'll be exactly the same. Given that CM is an open source project, this is *how* we go through the code/test/release cycle. We aren't a company that can only put out finished products. So you see the alpha, beta etc designations on places like XDA. If people aren't actually reading the warnings, that's on them. We will continue to put up test releases because that's the only way our code can get tested and improved until we are fully supported.
    Please learn something about development before putting down the very developers who bring you CM support on new devices.

    • http://xda copenhagen

      atinm said it best. I also contribute but for the hd2.. everyone pitches in and everyone benefits. without the initial pitchin, new devices would take forever to get added to cyanogen's list of supported devices. the best advice to the author of this article would be, if you don't like what you see, stop looking at it.

      But thanks for the well thought out rant.

  • http://www.androidrose.tk/ AndroidRose

    i agree with you....

  • rarv

    I tried to flash Cm7 three times on galaxy tab.. spent a lot of time messing. Also tried two different methods of flashing the ROM but could never get past the boot screen.. In the end I gave up and returned to the stock OS.. I really wanted it to work but at this point it seems too unstable for me. Maybe I will try again when a more stable version is released but not sure now since I'd rather not go though the same debarcle again.