Taming the Nook Simple Touch

nook_feat

I recently received the Android-based Noble Nook Simple Touch ebook reader as a gift, which I enjoyed very much except for one insanely annoying issue with it: the Nook comes with two “books” on how to operate the reader which apparently cannot be removed by normal means.

There is no option to delete them from the Nook itself, and going online to check my Barnes and Noble account, it isn’t listed as one of the titles I can remotely manage. Searching around online seemed to indicate that, incredibly, there was really no way to remove these annoying files on my device.

Not one to take that sort of thing laying down, I set out on finding a way to remove these two files without having to go through too many hoops. I present the following method for those who might have found themselves in a similar situation.

Please Die

Live Booting

Plugging the Nook into your computer via the USB cable simply exposes one of the internal partitions as a USB mass storage drive, but it doesn’t allow you to modify the files stored in the protected partition of the device (where purchased ebooks from Barnes and Noble live). To get access to the protected storage on the Nook, we need to boot it up into another environment that will ignore the file permissions set in the standard Nook firmware  This is a bit like using a Linux live CD to mount a drive and bypassing the normal user permissions.

Luckily for us, the Nook Simple Touch inherits one of the best features from the Nook Color; it will let you boot directly to an operating system installed on an inserted Micro SD card, bypassing the internal OS entirely.

It just so happens that some developers have created just that for the Nook as part of the “nst-recovery” project, which aims to bring a ClockworkMod based recovery to the reader. The software in question is called “noogie“, which is distributed as a filesystem image which you write to a 128 MB or larger Micro SD card.

Writing the image and getting it booted is extremely simple. Just find a Micro SD card you don’t mind wiping, insert it into your computer’s card reader, and determine which device node it has attached to. The easiest way to do that is using the command “fdisk -l”, and checking for the disk sizes:

bash$ sudo fdisk -l
Disk /dev/sdb: 252 MB, 252968960 bytes
16 heads, 32 sectors/track, 965 cylinders, total 494080 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x00000000

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1             101      494079      246989+   6  FAT16

The output here shows that my old 256 MB SD card is attached to /dev/sdb, and that there is a single partition on it at /dev/sdb1. Using this method, as long as you know how big your card is, it should be easy to pick out from the lineup.

Now that we know which device node our card is on, we can extract and flash the noogie image file we downloaded:

bash$ gunzip noogie.img.gz
bash$ sudo dd if=noogie.img of=/dev/sdb bs=1M

Remember: Your device node is probably something different. Writing this image to anything other than the intended SD card will result in a “Bad Day™”.

Starting Up

If the image successfully wrote to your card, pop it out of the reader, put it into the Nook, and restart it. After a few seconds you should see the following screen:

noogie bootsplash

If you haven’t already, plug the Nook into your computer and wait about 10 seconds. You should see a number of partitions mount automatically, which are all the different parts of the Nook’s internal filesystem.

Nook Partition Listing

Most of these will have logical names, such as “boot”, “rom”, “data”, etc. In fact, it’s all very nicely laid out if you would like to tinker around with the internals a bit (more on that at a later date). But one of the partitions won’t have a friendly name, and instead your file manager will likely list it by its size, which should be around 300 MB or so. This is the protected partition we want to get our hands on, which we could never see before.

Point your file manager or terminal to this newly mounted device, and you should see a very familiar Unix-style filesystem layout, with a /bin, /etc, /usr, and all the trimmings. Make your way into /media, and then /books, and you’ll see our two previously untouchable friends.

Like sitting ducks…

Depending on how your system mounted the Nook’s partitions, you may need to assume root-level permissions with sudo to get write access to this particular directory; but beyond that it’s as simple as hitting the delete key on these two pesky files to rid your Nook of those infuriating manuals.

Note: Depending on the firmware version your Nook is running, these files may be located in a different directory (though they should still be on the same 300 MB partition). If you don’t see the files under /media/books, try looking at /assets/userguides, or /data/cloud_assets/books.

Once you’ve deleted the files, unmount the Nook’s partitions, remove the noogie Micro SD card, and reboot your reader. Everything will be back to normal once it starts up without the card inserted.

Now that we know how to mount the Nook’s internal storage with writable permissions, there is all kinds of fun we can have. Check back later for more tips and guides on what you can do with the Nook’s internal Android system.


Tom Nardi

Tom is a Network Engineer with focus on GNU/Linux and open source software. He is a frequent submitter to "2600", and maintains a personal site of his projects and areas of research at: www.digifail.com .

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