Flashing your ATT Tilt with cooked ROMs

So, my love affair with the Nokia E71x phone has ended albeit rather prematurely and unexpectedly. An accidental blow to the screen of the E71x phone rendered the device unusable and I have had to awaken the ATT Tilt that I owned & didn’t really like. Windows Mobile 6.1 has some nice features (threaded SMSes is just one of them), but it was boring. I then decided that I had nothing to lose by checking out the XDA Developers website. The XDA Developers forum is “the largest Internet community of smartphone enthusiasts and developers for the Android and Windows Mobile platforms”. This is true.

What is also true is XDA Developers is where people go to get creative with the software/firmware that is shipped on their mobile devices. In my case, I went to XDA Developers because I wanted to see what other ROM alternatives were available for the my ATT Tilt (commonly called Kaiser). Again, I had nothing to lose in the sense that this was a secondhand phone purchased cheaply and if I ended up ‘bricking’ the phone, I would simply go out and get a cheap $30 phone. If I’d purchased this phone at full price (~$250), I’m pretty sure I would be even more hesitant to do a thing like messing with the ROM, etc. Nevertheless, I was determined to make sense of the instructions on flashing the ROM on my Tilt 8925. The next couple of paragraphs will talk about my experience using the XDA Developers’ site and how I’m now running a Windows Mobile 6.5 based ROM on my plain ole’ ATT Tilt. I won’t define all the terms I’m using, but as you read the XDA website, you’ll come to understand. As usual, your mileage may vary and I refuse to be held responsible for you not doing your homework!

  1. For flashing your ROM, the first thing you want to do read this thread for getting a good overview of how to use the website, read the Kaiser FAQ and then, read the F.A.Q to understand what you are getting into. Just read it, digest the information and don’t start installing stuff just yet. Read & re-read worst case scenarios; Read the troubleshooting F.A.Q and decide if you are willing to live with bugs on your phone, constant tweaking, an unstable ROM or a bricked Tilt.
  2. Next, browse the Kaiser Cooked ROMs wiki to see the plethora of ROMs available. Read the threads on whatever ROM you have decided on and take notes of version numbers of items like the recommended HardSPL and the recommended Radios for that particular cooked ROM. Read the F.A.Q.s for the ROM you have settled on and make note of any special issues particular to that ROM. PS: I made a newbie mistake here by not reading the F.A.Q.s for the ROM I went with and discovered certain issues after the fact. Read on. 🙂
  3. Then, head over to the F.A.Q. for newbies and read it. If you can recite the steps you need to flash a basic ROM, you are making good progress and possible ready. Make sure your phone is fully charged and that you have downloaded all the necessary files.
  4. What does “downloading necessary files” entail? If you read the F.A.Q. for newbies, you would know. In a nutshell, HardSPL, ROM and/or Radio. It all depends on what instructions come with the ROM you desire so desperately. :P. In my case, I decided on the ROM by twopumpchump (the ROM chef) called TPC Elite ROM v11 Mega which is a Windows Mobile 6.5-based ROM. I made sure I had that ROM downloaded.
  5. However, it’s all easier said that done. I confess that I did things a bit differently that caused some problems later on. My ROM recommended a different HardSPL than was listed in the newbie FAQ (HardSPL 3.29 in the newbie FAQ vs. HardSPL 3.34 for the TPC Elite ROM v11 Mega) and it also recommended a different radio BUT my first flashing worked! I followed the newbie FAQ’s instructions to the letter and it worked, but I wasn’t entirely happy because my device was sluggish. From reading several threads, I knew that there were fixes I needed to apply like the Tilt keyboard fix for ATT Tilts that were flashed with cooked ROMs based on the HTC ROM, etc. Not using the recommended Radio can cause sound and camera issues although these items were working ‘fine’. Not one to leave things alone, I decided to ‘upgrade’ the HardSPL from the flashed v.3.29 to v. 3.34 and ‘upgrade’ the radio to the recommended radio for the TPC Elite ROM v11 Mega. Things went a bit hairy from then on.
  6. Again, I followed the instructions for upgrading the HardSPL from the newbie FAQ, but in retrospect, it didn’t work, but I didn’t realize it at the time. Then, I upgraded the radio by following the instructions from the newbie FAQ and that went smoothly. I decided to confirm the changes and checked my SPL version after upgrading my radio and saw that the HardSPL was still on version 3.29. So, I attempted to re-do the upgrade to HardSPL 3.34 and I got the dreaded R/G/B Screen (you’ll see the startup screen and the letters (R G B with some numbers), but the screen doesn’t progress beyond that). I didn’t attempt to hard reset the phone and soft-resetting the phone did nothing. This meant that my phone was on the verge of becoming a pretty brick. This is the thread for solving your-phone-being-stuck-at-bootloader issues. I didn’t start throwing the kitchen sink at my phone. Without panicking, I read the entire thread and found that one comment in particular stood out to me because it was the simplest and most relevant for my phone’s issues. My phone was booting up (yay), didn’t boot into the OS (boo), didn’t boot straight into the bootloader tricolor screen (yay!) and I could see the RGB letters with the numbers (yay!!). The solution was simple:
  7. It was the post by the member called -888- and the instructions were simple:
    • Disconnect the phone from the computer or charger
    • Go into bootloader mode (camera button + reset with stylus)
    • It will show the tricolor+white screen, SPL version on the top and “Serial” at the bottom.
    • Plug in your USB cable.
    • If the “Serial” will change into “USB” at the bottom, you are most likely ready to fix the problem. When I saw this change, I knew everything was going to be alright.
    • You are now ready to flash your device with the previous ROM or if you changed your mind, a newer ROM or if you’re tired of the uncertainty, the stock ROM. 😛
    • Follow the instructions for flashing the ROM on your device and you’re home free!

Some notes after flashing and now playing with my TPC Elite ROM v11 Mega (I’m very specific about the ROM I’m using because as you’ll see, there are a LOT of ROMs out there):

  1. I would recommend you pick a stable or popular ROM like the Windows Mobile 6.1-based ROM (Sleuth v3.0) or select from the TPC series. The idea is to pick a ROM that has a healthy community and a place you can start troubleshooting from like a FAQ.
  2. I would recommend you pick a Lite ROM because those come with the least amount of utilities/tools ‘cooked’ into the ROM. That way, you are free to install and uninstall things as you like. Picking a ROM with all sorts of bells and whistles is nice until you are tired of the apps and want them gone. The solution to being able to tinker with a fully-loaded ROM is ROMs that are UC-capable i.e customizable by the user. It sounds a bit technical and I’m sure I’ll delve into it at some point, but for now, I’m recovering from the near-death experience of flashing my Tilt, nearly bricking it and recovering. lol.
  3. When going through the initial set-up, don’t setup your PIN right away. The issue I faced might be specific only to my WinMo 6.5-based ROM after I installed a CAB that reverted the new honeycomb-style menu of WinMo 6.5 to the old WinMo 6.1 menu. I was unable to turn off this PIN lock feature afterward and uninstalling the CAB file didn’t NOT remove the old WinMo 6.1 menu so this goes on to my next tip:
  4. Be careful of CAB files you install that change things around like the CAB file I installed in TPC Elite ROM v11 Mega which changed the QuickMenu layout from the honeycomb-style introduced in Windows Mobile 6.5 to the old layout in Windows Mobile 6/6.1. I was unable to find the Setting for controlling the PIN lock and discovered that I was unable to revert back to the honeycomb style by simply uninstalling the CAB file. So, I solved the issue by hard-resetting my phone and skipping the PIN part.
  5. A lot of the downloads are from sites like RapidShare, MediaFire, 4Shared, etc. They have download-number limits so plan accordingly and don’t go download-crazy. 🙂
  6. Learn how to hard-reset, soft-reset, get into the bootloader, use Windows Mobile Device Center options, etc.
  7. Make sure your Antivirus software and firewall is temporarily turned off during the ROM Flashing. Don’t run programs on the computer or accidentally disconnect the phone. You don’t want a pretty brick, do ya? 🙂

Overall, I’d say the process was nerve-wracking but doable. I’ve never flashed a ROM before until 2 days ago. If I could do it, you’re more than capable. The awesome thing I’m finding out is that once you’ve flashed your device ONCE, all you need to do to get another ROM flavor on your device is follow the flashing procedure for ROMs! As I write, I have moved away from the TPC Elite ROM v11 Mega to a stripped down ROM based on Windows Mobile 6.5. The more I use Windows Mobile 6.5, the more I think it’s not so bad. 🙂

Here is the current ROM of the month: ahmedfikry’s light ROM v23549 and it’s fast & responsive. You may have to go through a couple of ROMs to find that sweet spot i.e. the right balance of included/baked apps vs speed & performance of the OS. Right now, I’m absolutely glad I made the decision to flash my ATT Tilt’s ROM. Flashing your ROM is a great way to breathe new life into a device you’ve become bored with. Enjoy and I look forward to reading your comments!