My Moto G has been nagging me to upgrade firmware

So I did today.

(I was persuaded by the Motorola system updater. Not because it's a lovely looking bit of software, but because it makes nagging an art with its focus-stealing prompt. If you go for the "no" option, your phone kindly reminds you again in an hour every hour, just in case you've forgotten. This is regardless of what you're doing at the time, even if you're say using Google Maps for driving navigation which is quite hideous. Even the option to postpone the reminder for a week or a month would be nice. A rubbish, rubbish, rubbish user experience.)

A simple upgrade is as easy as pressing "upgrade". Because my phone was rooted and encrypted, the upgrade was likely to fail, so I had to restore it to stock firmware first.

However, I wanted to then reroot it so that I could use XPrivacy. This lets you restrict the permissions that apps have. Google did have App Ops in Android which did a similar thing (without quite as much granularity, I believe) but promptly removed it. It would have been good of them to leave it in: it would have removed one reason I have for rooting. Android apps are just far more intrusive in their permissions than they usually need to be.

No, I don't want Twitter's app to access my contacts, thanks; I'm more than capable of finding people on Twitter directly. No, there's no reason for Soundhound to know where I am. No, even if my phone had NFC, I don't want F-Droid to be able to use it.

The assessment here is that one big reason for the removal of App Ops is due to it breaking apps. I disagree with that though. Using XPrivacy, I restrict almost every app and haven't had any trouble.

I can understand that if app permission controls were enabled by default, there's the possibility that it could cause problems for users that don't understand the implications of allowing/denying permissions, but if it was something like the developer options where you have to deliberately enable it, then they wouldn't even know it was present.

Anyway, here are the reference notes I made while upgrading for (the inevitable) next time.

Preliminary setup with Ubuntu

(or your choice of a Linux that has adb and fastboot)

  1. Install (to a live USB, or use an existing install on your laptop)
  2. Enable third party repositories in "Software and Updates".
  3. Do sudo apt-get update.
  4. sudo apt-get install android-tools-adb android-tools-fastboot

Backup data from phone

Copy off any photos, documents or other files you want to save.

If you want to backup your call logs and text messages, Call Logs Backup and Restore, and SMS Backup and Restore work pretty well for me. That said, they do request internet permissions which I block.

Restore stock firmware

Stock firmwares are available here and this post was a useful reference.

Boot into the bootloader using power on and volume down key (or enable USB debugging mode when the phone's on normally and do adb reboot-bootloader).

sudo fastboot flash partition gpt.bin
sudo fastboot flash motoboot motoboot.img
sudo fastboot flash logo logo.bin
sudo fastboot flash boot boot.img
sudo fastboot flash recovery recovery.img
sudo fastboot flash system system.img_sparsechunk1
sudo fastboot flash system system.img_sparsechunk2
sudo fastboot flash system system.img_sparsechunk3
sudo fastboot flash modem NON-HLOS.bin
sudo fastboot erase modemst1
sudo fastboot erase modemst2
sudo fastboot flash fsg fsg.mbn
sudo fastboot erase cache
sudo fastboot erase userdata
sudo fastboot reboot

(sparsechunk files may have numbers 0, 1, 2 - just flash them in ascending order.)


Boot into stock and install update.

To avoid heartache, make sure you check for system updates after you update, and install any further updates before proceeding. Repeat until no update is found. Otherwise, like me, you may discover after rooting again that there are still updates remaining after the first one. In that case, you'll have to restore to stock again :( (I was on 4.4.2, but there was a minor update that didn't change the version before the latest 4.4.4 update.)

Unlock bootloader

Only needed if not previously unlocked; while restoring stock firmware and upgrading, this didn't get relocked.

You need a bootloader unlock code from Motorola's site.

fastboot oem unlock

Boot into fastboot mode: Enable developer mode again in settings:

adb reboot bootloader

Optional: get a copy of the original Motorola logo and do:

sudo fastboot flash logo original_logo.bin

to remove the annoying "bootloader is unlocked" warning at boot.

See CyanogenMod's site for more details.

Install custom recovery

Get custom recovery; I used TWRP.

Get a recent fastboot .img; at the time of writing, was the latest, but didn't work. worked fine.

Install through bootloader using fastboot:

sudo fastboot flash recovery modified_recovery.img

Root the phone by installing SuperSU

Boot from bootloader into TWRP recovery. Reboot system, say yes to install SuperSU.

Boot up, run SuperSU installer; go to Play Store and choose update (not open).

This will probably prompt to install a new binary; the normal install should work fine.

Install XPrivacy

Install XPrivacy installer. Follow each of the several instruction steps that are shown when you run it.

Encrypt and change password again

Create a screen lock PIN or password, then fully charge battery and encrypt.

Change the password using Cryptfs Password so that you can have a separate screen unlock code and encryption passphrase.

(This is another good reason to root your phone. Without this, your encryption password is identical to your screen unlock code. Unless you want to have either:

  • a weak password, or
  • a huge password that you have to enter every time you unlock your phone

you'll need to change it using CryptFS which requires root access.)

Disable all the slow animations

To make Android snappier, disable the animations by enabling the developer options. Go in Settings > About phone, scroll to the bottom and keep pressing build number until it tells you the developer options are active. Now, in Settings > Developer options, you can set "Window animation scale", "Transition animation scale" and "Animator duration scale" all to off.

Restore data, account, messages, call logs

Reinstall SMS Backup and Restore, Call Log Backup and Restore, and restore the backups you made. Reinstall any other apps you want, including F-Droid if you want AdAway and that's everything finally done. No more nagging for updates!