It’s been a very long time since a ROM developer spotlight was done on Good and EVO. It’s past time to break the year-long hiatus, sit down, and speak with a developer who’s had a number of ROMs reviewed here on Pocketables.

Alex Cruz, a.k.a. Mazda, is a founding member of Team D.I.R.T. (Developers In Real Time), and he had some time yesterday to answer some questions I had. He will also answer any questions you might have in the comments.

To start off, for people who don’t know you, who are you?

I’m a 29-year-old Navy veteran who lives a regular life. I have a beautiful wife, two smart boys, two dogs, and a hobby. My hobby, of course, is making ROMs for Android. I also enjoy helping others whenever possible.

Tell us a bit about Team D.I.R.T. and your involvement with it.

Team D.I.R.T originally was just two guys (Kommodore Heinz and me) with one ROM (Mangoed Chicken Se7en). Kommodore Heinz and I started this dev team because we had a bad taste in our mouth after our departure from another dev team. We wanted to set the standard and be THAT TEAM! We had huge expectations and an even bigger hunger to learn.

We knew we couldn’t meet our expectations alone so we recruited and learned from the community’s best. Guys like Tommytomtoe, Preludedrew, and some others helped us in answering all our questions and even some tough love!

We went after a lot of developers but knew that having an “A List” group of guys wouldn’t do it. We had to recruit individuals that not only set the standard within the Android community with their work but also shared the same values as us.

Fast forward about 9-12 months into the future, and we’re now 14 guys with over 25 ROMs spread out over a number of devices.

My involvement in Team D.I.R.T is the same as the next guy next to me. Unlike other teams where you have a TOP DOG or a self appointed leader, we consider ourselves equal and vote on everything that impacts the team and it’s image.

What things have you directly developed, and what have you assisted with?

I’ve developed quite a few ROMs for the EVO 4G and the EVO 3D. ROM ports such as AOKP, Codename Android, Paranoidandroid, RemICS-UX and CM10 are just a few. I have assisted a few developers in ROMs such as MIUI, AOKP Jelly Bean, and, yes, even Sense-based ROMs.

What devices do you have / work on?

Oh wow, I think I don’t have enough time to name all the devices I have, considering some don’t power up anymore. So I’ll just name the ones that do power up. I have the EVO 4G, EVO 3D (CDMA), Galaxy Nexus (GSM), Nook Color, Inspire 4G, and LG Thrill.

For right now, I only work on a couple of those devices. I only work on the EVO 4G and EVO 3D, and unofficially I make ROMs for my wife on her Inspire 4G. I will start developing for the Galaxy Nexus and join up with my teammate Savoca, who already has a ROM (Strike X) on the Sprint version of the Galaxy Nexus.

What are you working on now?

Although most have known me as a porting dev, I’ve started to get my feet wet and build roms from their source. As you know, I had an AOKP Jelly Bean port on the EVO 3D (CDMA) and recently build it from source. Right now, I’m in the process of fixing some minor issues and giving it even more customization.

I have to say it’s been real fun since building AOKP Jelly Bean from its source, and just the entire learning experience. Guys like Preludedrew, Tommytomatoe, and JMZtaylor really don’t get enough credit in my opinion. They have really been good
friends and have helped me through this ROM!

What challenges do you normally face?

WOW! Without going into personal details, I would have to say my daily challenge within the Android community is dealing with hypocrites. What I mean about this, is seeing developers preach open source 24/7/365, but then hide their very own to their ROM.

Working with developers like Preludedrew and Tommytomatoe have really been a great. They have influenced me to do things the right way, and that “sharing is caring.” What that means for those that don’t know is that if you care about the development of the community, then you share your work.

After all, isn’t the fact we’re open source what makes us better then Apple?

What do you do for employment, enjoyment, and refreshment?

Unfortunately, the contracting company I was working for really pissed off the U.S. Navy and didn’t have their contract renewed, so that meant that we were all given a severance package and showed the door.

Well, living in northwest Florida, you can’t go a few weeks without spending time in the great outdoors. I love to spend days with my wife and kids either camping or fishing. Yeah, I’m not a total geek…

Looking for any employment in particular?

Right now, I’m looking for administrative positions, since that’s what I’ve done in the past, but it’s looking like I might have to venture out to other fields.

As a team, is D.I.R.T. working on anything interesting / anything upcoming expected?

We usually work together on all of our ROMs, whether that’s providing general help to each other or actually having a hand or two in a ROM, but we do have something in the works.

We’re working on a Team D.I.R.T signature ROM. Right now, it’s nothing to write home about, but we should have something out hopefully before the world ends (Mayan calendar joke).

What’s your favorite non-D.I.R.T. ROM?

I have a few that come to mind when I think what’s my favorite non-DIRT ROM. What comes to mind is CM7, VirusROM REVOlution, MikFroyo, and Paranoidandroid.

Those ROMs, at one point or another, were TOP DOG and made me feel like I was using something one of a kind! I still flash back, believe it or not, to CM7 just to get that cool school feel!

Do you have any words of advice for new developers?

Take your time and do things right the first time around. Don’t try to rush things because of proceed pressure. Always remember to credit and thank individuals that have helped you, no matter what!

I’ve often seen people say, “Well I’m not going to thank this person because I don’t like them,” when in fact you should always give credit, whether you have a good relationship with them or not.

Finally, the one piece of advice that has helped me the most: Do things because you want to! If you’re not having fun with all of this, then is not worth it! The moment you start acting like this is a job and demand a buy for flash, then it is time to move on to something else.

Have any advice for those thinking of rooting?

DO IT! Being unrooted is like being on a highway with no speed limits but your car has a governor on it. Being rooted takes that governor out and lets you do things that you couldn’t do before!

Things like flashing custom ROMs (firmware) with as much customization as you want. Anything from applying themes to installing apps that your carrier restricts you from. You can have it all! You know all that bloatware that’s slowing your phone down – gone if you wish! Again, DO IT!

 Why should someone try your ROMs?

Attention to detail! My ROMs, along with all Team D.I.R.T ROMs, provide that attention to detail. What this means is that we pay attention to the little things. We don’t rush a ROM because people in the forums demand things or set deadlines for ourselves. We make sure things are done right the first time around so we don’t have to pull a ROM 15 minutes after release. With our ROMs, you will get support unlike any other. If something is broken, we will take responsibility for it and fix it if we’re able.

Most developers slap a donation link up (I’m not sure if you do or not). One of my favorite developers of all time claimed to have purchased some beef jerky and half a Mountain Dew with what he made. What could you purchase, if you’ve made anything off of donations?

Yeah, I have a donation link on my XDA profile, but most people don’t really donate just because I never mention it or require people to donate for this or that. I think if someone was to donate, I would put it towards a newer phone or something to help me develop better ROMs, like more RAM for my computer…

Can you explain your process to someone who doesn’t know how any of this is done? (i.e. What tools do you use, how do you compile and test, something to demystify how this is done.)

A lot of what is done in the Android community when it comes to ROMs is done with several different tools. Tools like ApkManager and Apk Tool are vital for someone starting out. These two tools help you decompile, compile and edit system and regular apks inside a ROM. This is important for those that want to theme a ROM, or maybe add a certain modificaition to give your ROM that extra WOW effect.

Another key tool to use is the dsixda android kitchen. This is what is normally used to modify shipped ROMs, or add your spin on someone else’s custom ROM. Then there’s tools like Tommy’s Android Utility that are an all in one type of tool. This tool has it all when it comes to helping someone that’s starting out in the Android community.

I personally use is Apk Manager, APkTool, Notepad++, Beyond Compare, Virtuous Ten Studio, Photoshop and terminal in Ubuntu.

What are your thoughts on the cult of personality ROMs, the ROMs that have every single mod incorporated into them, and developer wars  (i.e. the 2011/2012 kernel wars that nearly destroyed the EVO 3D).

I honestly love to see ROMs that have tons of features built in. A lot of developers may say this hurts the community, but I think they help raise the bar. They also prevent users from flashing 10-20 different zips AFTER they flash a ROM to get a ROM the way the user wants it.

The war that took part between the developers of the EVO 3D, in my opinion, was something that should have never happened. What I mean is, it should have been handled differently and in private. I’ve been in the community for roughly three years and I’ve never seen or heard anything like it. Developers of any kind shouldn’t fight among themselves because it hurts the community, but they’re human and they’re going to disagree on things from time to time. Hopefully, the staff for these forums have set new guidelines on how to deal with situations like this.

Do you notice differences between the EVO development crowds and others?

OH, YEAH! I don’t know what it is about the EVO community, but has a different vibe. I’ve noticed that in other development crowds, they tend to set limits on what they can and can’t do. In the EVO community, it seems like anything is possible!

Who I like to call the Debbie-downers said we couldn’t get Sense 3.0 on the EVO 4G, that was done! They said, well you got Sense 3.0 but you can’t get  Sense 3.5. Well, that was done! They said, well you got Sense 3.5, but there’s no way you can get ICS going. That was done! Then they said, well you got ICS, but it’s never going to be stable enough for use. Well, that was done! Recently, they claimed that Jelly Bean could never run on the EVO 4G. Well, thanks to preludedrew, that was done, too!

The developers in the EVO community are truly one of a kind!

Is there anyone out there not getting enough attention who’s doing active development and whom we ought to look at?

I think there’s a lot of developers that don’t get the attention they deserve, whether that’s because they don’t want the attention or someone has taken credit for their work.

But to name a few, I think developers like the_plattypus, JMZtaylor, and Preludedrew don’t get enough attention in the community! Between those guys, they’ve really changed a lot in the community, with not only their skills of bringing ROMs alive, but also helping their peers make their ROMs better, really making the community a lot better overall!

HUGE fans of those three right there!

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If you have any questions for Alex, drop him a note below in the comments. You can also follow him on Twitter.