Unbricking an Android Tablet

This whole thing began innocently. D-Rock had picked up an Arnova 9 G3 tablet, and wasn’t satisfied with a few things. I wasn’t satisfied that he bought an off-brand tablet, at a truck stop, for 300% its value without asking me for advice, but that is a different story. Maybe truck stop tablets are mostly great…I don’t know. I suspect most are like the Arnova 9G3: shit.

So, the main two gripes were
1) No Google Play
2) Screen finicky at best

I figured I could have both knocked out with three steps
1) Update firmware
2) Get root
3) Push Google* apps over ADB

Things got complicated by the fact that Arnova’s support site doesn’t include firmware for this device. I’m guessing that is intentional, as the factory method of deploying firmware updates involves placing an updated image on the root of an SD card and updating via recovery. That would be nice, but the Arnova 9 G3 has a bug wherein entering recovery mode spawns a black screen. That’s it…a blank screen.

My Linux machine wasn’t seeing the tablet as a USB device while in ‘recovery’ mode anyhow, so I couldn’t mount and do a dd command. Sort of shit out of luck for my normal way of doing this.

The next resort was to blow the cobwebs off Katie’s old XP laptop and install some software to flash new firmware via Windows software. Not my wheelhouse. I located a custom firmware allegedly compatible with the device, installed some drivers, and started flashing via the Rockchip Batch Tool. Midway through the flash process, the firmware push encountered a driver error. The result was the device being stuck in the killer ‘recovery mode’ screen…aka just a blank, bricked $350 paperweight.

Since the firmware was in a borked state, the reset and power buttons were useless. My last thought was to attempt to create a short in order to get the device to reset, and in turn for the XP box to recognize the device with a new set of drivers. Here’s to that…

opening arnova tablet

access granted

I managed to locate contact points that did the trick…a small click and the device showed up as new hardware. I manually selected the drivers I tracked down, and bingo

bricked tablet

login gained

Up and at ‘em. The flash worked this time around. Worthy of mention, it worked with a nearly dead battery. I was lucky not to brick the thing again…not having a recovery screen makes stuff like that tough to gauge.

The screen seems to work a lot better with the new firmware and without the bloatware. One for two. Also, two for two

play store onarnova

play granted

Let it go on record that this is the last time I intend to work on an Arnova device. Luckily, the camera was functional, allowing me to leave Derek some custom wallpaper:

*REDACTED*

Stop buying electronics at truck stops, D-Rock. Just don’t.