Tablets for tots
October 22, 2012 9:04 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to repurpose an old Nook Color tablet for some preschoolers. What are my best options? Rooting and installing educational apps? Which apps would you recommend? Staying w/ the stock OS and loading it up w/ kids books? Other options I'm missing?

I have an old Nook Color lying around that I think could be better used by my sisters Pre-K class. How can I best set this up for the kids to take advantage of? Books? Apps? Cyanogenmod? Stock OS? Any resources you've found helpful for this sort of thing? My sister is familiar with iOS tools but can't really help me out w/ Android suggestions. Free or cheap options would be ideal...
posted by pilibeen to Technology (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Nook Color with CM7 is pretty good, and performance is good enough for little guys. You'll have access to Google Play, which gives you significantly more app options than the stock OS.
posted by cnc at 9:28 AM on October 23, 2012

Best answer: The Nook Color is a surprisingly difficult toy to root and mod. People will tell you it's not, but they're lying or they have a small experience pool. I've got like 7 rooted (and mostly modded) devices laying around, and the Nook sent me for loops.

The challenge is that there's the "easy" way to do it, which is booting off the SD card and not affecting the onboard OS at all. Sure, this works, kinda. You get crappy slow read speeds, some random errors, and some things just won't work at all.

The "right" way, the "good" way, is dual or triple-booting the device, maintaining both the original OS and the new OS (CyanogenMod, the modded Honeycomb, whatever.). I do recommend keeping the original Nook OS, because it's really not bad and you get access to the Nook bookstore, which is also pretty good. To do this, you have to make a fancy microSD card, then run it, then repartition the space on the device, then yank the SD card and move crap around on it, pop it back in, install some stuff, etc. That's after you decide what you want to be the "default" OS versus the "you can still get to it" OS.

Doing it the second way gives you a very stable Android tablet that's pretty useful and quick. My personal pet peeve is that the screen WILL NOT power itself all the way off while plugged in. This may sound trivial, but even on low-dim, it gets hot and/or this hurts the battery and/or is just a pain. You can make a shortcut on the screen to turn the screen off, you can press the power button, but it won't turn itself off if it's plugged in.

SO---all that said, you want toddler friendly apps. Remember that the chip in the Nook isn't AWESOME, but it's not *bad.* I'm not gonna recommend specific ones, but rather genres. There are some nifty piano/music apps, there are interactive storybooks, there are some decent alphabet apps, and there are some things like sesame street apps that just play all the youtube videos in the SesameStreet stream. We also like the kaleidoscope drawing app and the other drawing apps as well.

I'm being pulled away to work, message me if you need more.
posted by TomMelee at 9:35 AM on October 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sketchbook Mobile. That app engrossed my niece for hours and hours and hours. She'd sketch, save, start again. It's basically infinite paper and crayons. For younger kids such as your situation, you might want something similar but simplified, but it's a must have app imo.

RE: crappy speeds on booting your NC from the SD card, it all comes down to the choice of micro SD card and what it's optimized for. There's a ridiculous long thread of extensive testing and results, but the end result was that sandisk 8 GB class 2 (or 4 if you must) is the way to go.

The class 6-10 cards are optimized for sequential large writes (taking photos and storing them quickly so you can take the next photo) but an OS is looking for small block random reads. So a 'fast' card is actually painfully slow. I got lucky and of the three cards i had laying around, one tested out fast in the right categories. With that, I couldn't tell any difference at all if I installed to the card or installed the exact same build of CM7 to the internal memory (EMMC). Using one of my 'fastest' cards was a painful experience that I won't regale you with. Just trust me when I say that I feel the pain of anyone else banging their head and wondering how everyone else is getting these devices to perform so well.

XDA has at least two custom roms based off CM7 that were optimized for the Nook that are worth checking out. Mirage and MCROM are the two I'm thinking of. Apparently the last version of CM9 (ice cream sandwich) that was released is pretty much done except netflix doesn't work, so that's an option as well.

Glad to assist as well if you need any pointers/troubleshooting.
posted by envygreen at 10:58 AM on October 23, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks it setup w/ CM7 (dual boot off SD card, seems to run well enough) and a bunch of free educational apps from the Google Play store.
posted by pilibeen at 1:21 PM on December 10, 2012

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