In this installment of the ROM Developer Spotlight, we talked with SinisterTensai, a.k.a. Robert Mish, a developer of custom ROMs on the HTC EVO 4G LTE, as well as the original EVO 4G. Robert will be taking any questions from you in the comments section, too, so if I haven’t covered anything, feel free to drop him a line.
So, to start out for those who don’t know, what ROMs do you work on?
I’m affiliated with Team DIRT. Prior to joining, I led a team by the name of Team XTC. We merged with Team DIRT a few months ago. Prior to all of that, I was a part of Team-Nocturnal.
What’s your programming background?
Well, a long time ago I was a member of a forum-based website that had Flash games. That website is gaiaonline.com. I got my start in PC programming, modifying “scripts” or packet data in the Flash-based environments via a packet editor. Fast forward a year or two, and I found myself still exploiting but via au3 – a scripting Windows-based programming language. I dabbled in some other languages such as Lua, Visual Basic, and some minor C++. From late 2007 to 2010, I learned a lot from doing this, but it’s one of those, “I rather not talk about it too much,” kind of things.
What do you do for a day job at the moment?
I’m currently a student at a local community college in my area. As for “jobs,” I freelance from time to time as a web developer, computer repairer, and also “The Android Guy” (only for friends, though).
How did you stumble into the EVO world?
Well, this is a long story. When I first started out with computer programming to exploit a website, I sought guidance from a friend of my sister’s father, who at the time was the director of IT at a local social events business.
I was just starting high school and was eager to get an Android device. I knew nothing about the “root world,” but Gregory (the father of my sister’s friends, who I was also partially working for at the time), suggested I root the device. I asked, “What does rooting a device mean?” He showed me a few projects he had been working on – ROMs, apps, kernels – and I was eager but slightly afraid to root.
He finally convinced me, and I rooted the device. He also introduced me to XDA, and suggested the first ROM I used – Warm 2.2. After about a month or so, I got the hang of recovery flashing updates, etc., and I found a nice little app by the name of Ninja Morph. I started to change up the Warm theme from green to red via the application and ended up releasing a theme mod for it.
With fellow users of the ROM and themers on XDA, I started learning the ropes, so I initially released my edit. A week or two later, I released the theme Warm Blood. Gregory had suggested I name it “Warm something “and the red color I used was a blood red color, so that happened. He informed me of IRC, and I found myself constantly in #HTC_EVO on Freenode.
Understanding the theming process really aided me in my first ROM, but we’ll get to that.
CIUI’s the EVO 4G MIUI with WiMAX isn’t it? What was that like when you released a fully functional MIUI? I seem to recall people claiming it was a theme and not a ROM.
CIUI was my first AOSP rom. I started the project because I was a fan of some of MIUI’s features and wanted a more stable ROM like it. I thought, why not use CM? At the time the EVO was a supported device, so I got to work.
Long hours looking at raw XML files and comparing it to MIUI’s, I cross bred the both into the ROM that came about.
At one point, I had abandoned the project to pursue MIUI ICS, but came back with a new version that was overhauled.
People still call it a themed ROM, but in truth it’s three ROMs Frankensteined together: CM7, ShenduOS, and MIUI.
When I first released the ROM, I was nervous and proud at the same time. I wanted to set a new bar for development on the EVO, and I believe I did so. It was a fun experience and got me some press.
However, as for being a fully functional MIUI, it was not. I could never pull off such a feat on my own, nor did I have the resources to create such an intricate system for users (e.g. themes). I gave what I could. People can say what they want about it. I develop for myself first and foremost. That’s it. But I also like to share, so I release.
What other ROMs or apps have you worked on?
My first ROM (Sinister ROM) was a Sense-based ROM based originally off of the Mikfroyo stock release. I sped it up a bit, themed it to resemble Espresso Sense, and cooked in mods over the different versions. The ROM had nine in all, from Froyo to GB. From Sense 1.0 up to 2.1
I’m now working on Sinister LTE for the EVO 4G LTE. I’m bringing Sense back in a new light on this one. My old tricks for speed and performance are still working.
This ROM is the current one I’m actively developing. I will say that Sense 4.0 is way different than the Sense I’m used to. The ROM is currently in version 2, and I’m working on things for version 3 as I type this.
Why should anyone use your ROMs over anything else?
They shouldn’t! Try every ROM on a device! I know I do. Find a ROM that you like, but never stick to just one.
I guess, to answer the question, I want the best out of the software on my device – stability and features, not to much of either, but a nice balance. I will say my ROMs are unique. I don’t just plop something out for release.
If you have any doubt or fear of flashing one of my ROMs, I’d say try it. You can always backup your old ROM and restore it, but I don’t think you’ll be doing that.
I’d say this now (and have in the past) – I’m not forcing you to try my ROM; that’s’ up to you. I develop for myself. I may not cook in features you want, but bloating a ROM up with tweaks and too many mods is bloat, no matter what you say. If you doubt my ROM is stable, feature rich etc., I tell you to give it a try before you form a biased opinion.
What are your favorite ROMs by other developers?
Oh, there are so many! If I had to pick one, I’d look for the underdog ROM – those devs who really spend time on their work, and it goes unnoticed. Each ROM out is a work of art, and I like to try all of them then make my own based on what I find annoying in other builds.
On the OG EVO classic: Warm 2.2 (some ports like mokee, miui, joyos, etc.). I change ROMs with my mood. There is no overall favorite for me.
What do you think new people coming into the forums, rooting, etc., need to know?
Always make a nandroid backup before anything! Read through the op (original post); it’ll help you when you run into problems.
For those too fearful to root, I think Mazda said it best – “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!” And the most important of all don’t be afraid to ask in thread or message the developer.
Besides working on ROMs, what do you do for fun?
Socials with friends, going out from time to time. I’m an avid reader. Books are my escape. I enjoy some of the local club scenes in my area, but mostly when I have free time I spend it with my girlfriend, who is very supportive of my hobby/addiction to Android.
Have your development efforts “paid off” in your mind?
Yes and no. Yes in the sense I find enjoyment out of it. No, as in I’m not too E-famous.
Then again, I enjoy it too much. I’m young and have a future ahead, and I’m not sure what I plan to do. I will forever be an Android user and hacker/developer.
Do you see attempting to turn your development work into a full time job, or is it more just a hobby? Would you do it for pay?
Funny you mention this. I’ve worked in the field before. I’ll say this – I’d like to, but not developing applications. I want to actually work on the software on the device, not some application.
What developers do you think just don’t get enough credit?
The developers who devote time to their releases. Any one can take a base ROM and theme it, advertise it right, and get praise. But if you want a real ROM, go with the underdogs. The herds will lead you to complete rip-offs – Kangs, and worst of all, bad software.
I see it too often – ROMs with some mods and hoards of users swearing on it, yet it’s just a base with some tweaks. But this is a touchy subject; I’ll stop here before I start writing a blacklist of developers.
You’ve probably been around long enough to see some crazy developer fights and drama. What do you think are the things that most often lead to these problems? Any suggestions for people to not get into them?
Ego, childish temper tantrums, and- hate to say this – but the user base. I guess people let fame get to their heads.
The important thing to know, is this: We do it for fun, nothing else. If you find yourself expecting something, you should quit.