Aug 20 2012

Root your Kindle Fire using Linux

So, you have a Kindle Fire, and it’s spiffy. You can read books (from Amazon). You can watch movies (from Amazon). You can get cool apps (from Amazon). So, basically, as long as you’re happy with the offerings that Amazon is providing, you’re good. No need to do any sort of crazy rooting nonsense.

But…let’s say your friend goes and gets something like a Galaxy Tab, with access to a mythical source of tablet goodness called the Android Market. You look at the stuff your friend can get on his (or her) tablet, and suddenly you’re majorly bummed. Why can’t you get all that cool stuff on your tablet? Why are you locked down to play in Amazon’s cute little walled garden? That’s not fair!

If you’ve reached this point, then you should strongly consider rooting your Kindle Fire and (proverbially speaking), urinating on the electric fence that Amazon places between you and your proper enjoyment of your tablet.

Okay, so maybe that is a poor choice of metaphors. Moving along.

But wait! A word of warning. A few words, actually. Rooting can be dangerous! You will void your warranty, no doubt about that. Also, you will no longer be able to use Amazon Prime video. Finally, there is the slim, but real, possibility that you will ‘brick’ your device and render it unusable. Is it worth the risk? Well, it sure was for me, but you have to make up your own mind, and I don’t wanna be blamed if stuff goes wrong for you.

Still with me? Sweet. Glad you manned up, son. So, how are you gonna do this crazy thing?

Well, if you have Windows, there’s this all-in-one tool called “Kindle Fire Utility” that pretty much does it for you. Stop reading this and go check it out. Save you some time. G’wan, go ask Google about it.

Wait, what’s that? You’re running Linux and you want to do this? Well. You Linux guys are supposed to be smart, right? You figure it out for yourself. Haha, I kid, I kid. Okay, so you can do this under Linux. In fact, I’m running Ubuntu right here. I’ll try to relate to you the path that I took, so hopefully you other Linuxians out there can root your own Kindle Fires.

Now, I know you’re itching to get started, but I’ve got two write-ups that you should read. The first, Kindle Fire for Beginners, is a basic overview of rooting your Fire, and about the relationship between various utilities, bootmodes, partitions, roms, etc. are going to play out. It also explains how Kindles can get ‘bricked’, and how this can (usually) be corrected.

The next write-up that you should look at is a how-to on rooting your Kindle Fire, running firmware version 6.3.x. We’re going to be following this guide pretty much, but with a few notes for Linux.

Okay, you’ll need some tools to do the rooting. Again, we’re referring to the above linked guide for the actual procedure. I’m only going over the Linux-specific details.

  • ADB – This is the Android Debug bridge. It lets you send debugging commands to your Kindle over a USB cable (you have one, right?). It is part of the Android Developer Toolkit, which you can freely download. Make sure you get the Linux version. Now, in order for ADB to work, you either have to run it as root, or modify the udev rules to make it accessible to you. Instructions for that can be found here. Also, when you use ADB with the Fire, make certain that you are not in the file transfer mode on the Kindle. Hit the ‘disconnect’ button if it comes up.
  • Fastboot – This is a command-line tool that can interface with your Kindle when it is in fastboot mode. Yes, the mode and the tool have the same name. Not confusing at all, right? Anyhow, make sure you have the right version. If it doesn’t have an “-i” flag, you don’t want it. For some reason, a lot of the download links out there go to older versions. You can try this link. You will have to run fastboot with root permissions, unfortunately. :(

A few notes…

  • Read over everything before you start. I’m serious. There’s not that much stuff to read, but you’ll spare yourself a lot of heavy breathing if you read the linked articles. Also, go through the steps on the how-to and make sure that you understand everything.
  • When you download the images for twrp2 and FIREFIREFIRE, make sure that they’re the correct md5sum. Especially the bootloader, FIREFIREFIRE. If you flash this wrong, you’ll be up a creek. And that creek is brown.
  • You’ll notice lots of the articles link back to This is Android rooting central. If you get stuck, you can go there for help. Just remember: Use the right forum, search first, then ask.
  • After you get root, you can just leave your Kindle at that, install Android Marketplace and use the Kindle more or less vanilla with free installation privileges. Or, you can do what I did, and flash the ROM. If you do this, you can find instructions easily enough (you’ll use the Team Win Recovery program), but choosing a ROM might be tricky. I eventually went with Glazed ICS. Just be aware that flashing the ROM wipes out pretty much everything on the device. You’ll have to install the Amazon App Store app and re-download any previously purchased apps (they’re stored on the cloud for you.) Also, if you want to read your Kindle books, you’ll need to install the Amazon Kindle app.

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