Escaping the black screen of death on a Samsung Galaxy S – flashing a new rom with Heimdall on Ubuntu

This post has been amended on the same day it was originally posted.

Following my post this morning about the multi-platform android flashing tool Heimdall (an open source alternative to Odin for Windows), here’s my report on what happened when I tried to reflash my phone. As attentive readers will know, I use a Samsung Galaxy S i9000. Previous to today I was not using Samsung’s stock rom, preferring instead Darky’s Rom 9.3. The aim this morning was to upgrade to Darky’s Extreme Edition 10.2, which is based on Android Gingerbread 2.3.4. Gingerbread is most up to date version of Android. It is blazingly fast on the Galaxy S. If there’s time today, I’ll be running some benchmark tests to see how the phone performs but first let me explain the day’s excitement because my journey to Gingerbread has not been without fear.

Please note, that all that follows requires a rooted android phone. Root access allows you to do wonderful things to your phone. Chances are that the phone you got from the phone company is not rooted. There’s plenty of explanations of how to root phones online. This post is not concerned with the business of rooting your phone. I’ll deal with that another day. For now, you’ll have to read up on that elsewhere.

Odin began life as the software used by Samsung to put their firmware onto their phones (that link is to Odin 1.3). Some sneaky employee leaked it to the wild. This allowed hackers to put alternative roms onto the Galaxy S. Many of these rom developers complained that Odin was ropey. Thus Heimdall was developed. This took some time because, as you would expect, Odin was not open source. It had to be reverse engineered. This challenge was overcome and Heimdall is by all accounts better than Odin. Naturally, it is free. I followed my own advice and read and read and read. I learnt quite a bit and when I was I sure that I was ready, I set Heimdall up on my machine, which runs Ubuntu 11.04 (a version of linux).

Next I used a very useful android app called Titanium Backup. This app lets you take a backup of all your apps and data and store them on your external SD card. Backing up everything is a batch process, which is an option you can reach by looking at the general menu settings in Titanium Backup. Titanium Backup is free, by the way.

I use ADW Launcher for my home screens. This changes the way the phone’s interface behaves. It’s much better and more user friendly than the standard method. I saved the home screens configuration via the phone’s general settings.

Then I downloaded Darky’s Rom 10.2 Extreme Edition to my machine. This is where things started to go awry. I was sure that I followed the instructions on this page. Except that clearly I couldn’t have done because careful reading of that page reveals that it relates to a tarball and not a zip file. Also it deals with Darky’s Rom 10.1, not 10.2. With computing attention to detail is everything. Heimdall failed to transfer the files properly and my phone seemed to freeze. After about 30 minutes I took the battery out and turned the phone back on. Uh oh, I got this screen, which I had never seen before:

Black screen of death

This did not look good. Of course, I did not know that it was the so-called Black Screen of Death. Discovering its name was an ugly moment. I went to tell my wife that I had bricked my phone. She asked what that meant. I explained that it meant that my phone was now of very limited value: it was as about as useful as a small plastic brick. That familiar sinking feeling, which accompanies all those moments when I’ve authored my own misfortune, came flooding in. I kept reading.

A light appeared in the shape of the information that it was sometimes possible to get back from the Black Screen of Death. I kept the faith. I pressed and held together Volume Down, Home and Power. I waited. After a few seconds the screen went completely black. I released the Power button. Bingo! The Downloading Screen appeared… I was saved, according to the literature. Keeping my phone plugged in, I read furiously. Somewhere I read that another Ubuntu user had had the same experience. He speculated that he hadn’t set Heimdall up properly on his machine. He thought that he had been tweaking his machine a bit too much. Hey, I’ve done that, I thought.

I decided to proceed on safe ground only. I didn’t want a bricked phone. I dug out an old Windows XP laptop. I downloaded Odin 1.3. There are later versions but the instructions I had found related to 1.3. I followed the instructions on this page slavishly. Odin sprang into life. It was immediately obvious that something positive was happening. When my phone rebooted successfully, I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. Success! One more reboot and all my home screen icons came back.

Titanium Backup brought back all my apps without the tedious business of having to download them again. I restored my home screens. Now for some benchmarking tests….

… actually that flashing was completely buggered. I sloped off to an appointment, came back, stopped at the chip shop and had another go with my Ubuntu machine. This time I slavishly followed the instructions on this page and it seemed to work…

… next I went to the Swype website to obtain a beta copy of that groovy touchscreen input system, which blows tapping a shiny screen out of the water. Okay, bad analogy I know – these things don’t do well in water. Swype beta installed perfectly.

Now I’m wondering whether the problems I had before related to backing up system data from a previous version of Android. The market seems to be working okay. The power widget is working okay. Perhaps it is time to leave it alone for tonight… famous last words… it is blisteringly fast too…

3 responses to “Escaping the black screen of death on a Samsung Galaxy S – flashing a new rom with Heimdall on Ubuntu

  1. Pingback: DarkyRom 10.2.2 – the best operating system for the Samsung Galaxy S | Scrapper Duncan

  2. Hi there
    Thanks for the help. I left my ph hooked up to my computer overnight to charge and the screen was black in the morning.
    I knew it was still working as it is the modem for my internet and I could look up solutions and found your comment re holding down vol. button +home +power nd it worked! Still don’t know what happened in first place tho. Thanks again

  3. Pingback: My 10 most read posts over the last year | Scrapper Duncan

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