We talked with Jim Weiler aka Vaelek back in early 2011 in what was the second Developer Spotlight on Good and EVO. It’s been 20 months since we’ve had him here, so I figured it was about time to bring him over to Pocketables.
Jim first came on my radar for the original EVO 4G ROM VaelPak (Sense) and his VaelPak Gingerbread ROMs. Both were daily drivers for my EVO for months.
Ok, for those who don’t know your works, could you tell us what you’ve done so farm and what you’re working on now?
I moved to Android after a year of fighting with iOS development with no real results. About a month later, I had released my first EVO 4G ROM, and a month or two after that, I had my first app in the market. I’ve been hooked since. Most of my work has been on the VaelPak EVO ROMS, both for EVO 4G and EVO 3D.
I got fed up with XDA and started my own site over at vaelek.com, and recently moved it over to androplasty.com. It started as just a support forum for my ROMs, but has since turned into a community of some very friendly and helpful folks, yourself included.
I also did some work on Virtous Ten Studio, which is a really awesome tool every modder should have in their toolkit.
Explain what V 10 studio is, and what you can do with it.
That could almost fill an entire interview in itself. Basically, it is a Visual Studio-like layout for decompiling, modding, and repackaging Android apks and jars. It has a built-in one way Java conversion, so you can see the decompiled smali code in a more readable format.
It has a help system that will show information for using virtually any smali function just by hovering the mouse over it. I’ve never used it, but it has the ability to work with M10 files from newer HTC ROMs. It has way too many features to talk about them all here, though. The website for it goes into much more details.
Where are you from, and where are you now?
I’m from Madison, WI, and have lived in central to eastern Wisconsin my whole life. For a few years now, I have been in a small town east of Madison.
Why the move from Vaelek.com to Androplasty?
Vaelek.com has been a number of things over the years. Before I started the forum, it was a blog that sat idle for the better part of a year or more. I had a few domains already, and not wanting to buy another one, I decided to just use that.
After a while, the members started diverging to other devices, and since we had built a nice community already and had a lot of knowledge sharing going on, I started expanding the forums to cover devices that I didn’t do any development work for. They basically ran themselves.
The move to Androplasty was in line with that expansion. If we were going to expand to include many devices and general Android topics, along with starting sort of a blog site to go with it, I wanted something that wasn’t just my name. I brainstormed on it over a weekend, and came up with some pretty clever (and some really lame) names. I had the TV on and someone said “angioplasty,” and I though hey, “Androplasty.” I registered it, and here we are.
There’s been a number of migrations already, and there is one more in the coming days when I switch it over to VBulletin (made possible through member donations), that will, among other things, allow me to integrate the articles with the forum and structure everything more like I’ve wanted to.
Do you have any plans to return to the EVO realm for ROM development?
My primary focus will obviously be on whatever device I’m currently using, but I do still have both my EVO 4G and EVO 3D and may revisit them. My ultimate goal is still to create an AOSP code base that can be built for every device I own.
What phone and ROM are you running right now?
I’m currently running a Sprint Galaxy S III, with a lightly modified stock LJ7 ROM of my own. Technically, I suppose you could call it VaelPak SGS3 pre-alpha. I’m not sure of the TouchWiz equivalent to “Senseless” or “non-Sense” … I’ve had some issues, but am also slowly getting set up to work on AOSP for it.
What do you do for fun that’s entirely non-Android related?
For a geek, I’m all about nature and primitive survival methods. I have every episode of every survival-related show I know of, and I love watching all those boring Discovery/Science Channel/History/BBC documentaries. I take about every chance I get to go camping, and try to make the area as remote and undeveloped as possible.
I’m also into photography. Last year, I finally got a nice DSLR and have been honing my skills there. I’ve got lots more to put up yet, but I’ll put a shameless plug here for the gallery I just created at 500px.com/jimweiler (click “sets” to see the rest).
The final big one would probably be music. Back in the day, I was a part of a “tracking” group (MultiSync Productions), and we made a few music disks, as they were called, of songs that were sequenced on the PC. Every now and then, I still dig out the Behringer MIDI keyboard and go dig up my old copy of the unfinished Fast Tracker 3 beta.
Where have you camped or survived?
Work and (lack of) money keep me fairly close to home. The furthest I’ve gone on a camping trip was a few years back when my wife and I took a trip to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky for a week. I usually go to state parks because the rates are cheaper. I’ve been to most of the ones in Wisconsin, except for the far north. My favorite area is a toss up between Door County at the tip of the peninsula and Wyalusing state park on the Wisconsin-Iowa border. I usually go with my wife, so there is some compromise as to the degree of “roughing it” there can be.
This March I went alone to Buckhorn State Park, hoping to get a hike in a wilderness site, but unfortunately they didn’t have them open for the season yet. I just strung up a hammock and never did take the tent out of the car. It’s true what they say about vivid dreams sleeping in the open air. I had a site on a lakes edge, and at one point I woke up and was convinced the lake was somehow flowing right under me. The main bummer from that trip was when I pulled out the camera to discover that the memory card was back on the table at home.
Aside from that trip, the most “survival” I’ve ever really had was many years ago when I went on a 2 week canoe/camping trip up in the Boundary Waters when I was in the Boy Scouts. I’ve made figure-4 deadfalls, and can start a fire with flint & magnesium in my sleep. Next summer, I hope to try my hand at various friction fire methods and snares using only natural materials.
Along with straight up camping, I also like to go to state natural areas. They are basically (usually) hidden pieces of land that are public and completely undeveloped. Few people know they are there, and they get very few visitors. One of the last ones I went to was about two hours away and after hunting around for it for over an hour, I found the “entrance” – marked only by a thin strip of plastic tied on a tree branch. It went down what felt about 200 feet into a totally concealed canyon with a small river at the bottom. Places like that I may eventually take the hammock out to, and next summer I hope to try my hand at some friction fire methods.
Some day I hope to be able to go out to Yellowstone for a couple weeks. Unfortunately, most of the *really* cool places are typically not in the US and a bit out of my reach.
Did you manage to retrieve the old code to VaelPak for the EVO? I seem to recall you had a server crash of immense proportions.
That was a sad day. I was doing a fresh Linux install and had compressed and backed up all the source. After I had the new system up and running, it turned out that the file containing the VBGB AOSP source got corrupted somehow. I tried a number of methods to repair it and was able to get back bits and pieces, but the majority was never recovered.
What do you do for a day job?
Since August 2006, I’ve been working at Paragon Development Systems. We are basically front lines IT support for a number of other companies. About 2-3 years ago, I was moved up to Tier 2 and assigned exclusively to one client. There has been talk of moving me into more of a development role at some point in the future. I’m not sure where the line is for how much I can talk about, so I’ll just leave it at that.
How did you first get involved in the root world?
For me, it was really a no-brainer. Before I moved to Android, I had both an iPhone 3G and 3GS, and immediately jailbroke them. When I got my first Android device (EVO 4G) it was only natural that I rooted that, as well. I get the reason that devices don’t ship unlocked or with root abilities, but as both a developer and someone who wants to do as I please with something I bought, I refuse to be limited to using my device only in the manner allowed by the manufacturer, or to be chained to the typically sluggish update schedule when the community (or myself) is already ahead of the game.
What is your advice to people who are considering rooting or new to it?
It all comes down to the device, really. The number one piece of advice would be: DO YOUR HOMEWORK first. Every rootable device should have a step-by-step guide out there for it. Ask any questions you might have, and if you aren’t very tech savvy, have someone who has done it before walk you through it. I’ve rooted or flashed ROMs hundreds of times now, and still managed to brick my Galaxy S III to the point it had to be sent in for JTAG service, simply because I wasn’t paying close enough attention.
Some devices are difficult or virtually impossible to brick (like the EVO), while others can be very touchy. Some will have a 1-click root tool, and others might have a 25-step process you have to do from the command line. And of course, anyone that wants some help and has no idea where to begin, feel free to head on over to Androplasty.com and you will always receive friendly advice, as opposed to some other forums which I won’t name here.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just that I want to thank the members of Androplasty for shaping the site into what it is today. Phones come and go, but I’ve met some very cool people, and some of them have gone from clueless noobs (no offense to the clueless noobs out there) to forum advisers in a short time.
My ultimate goal since day one has always been to “teach a man to fish”. I’ve always said I work better solo than on a dev team, but the truth of the matter is, the forum is my team. Whether they’re helping with themes, discovering hacks and tweaks, doing testing, getting the word out, or just being there to support the work and other members who need help.
Some developers and teams (and their fanboys) out there are just totally unapproachable, never respond to PM’s, barely read their own threads, or are just down right rude to noobs, and their response is always “google it” … That is something that has never and will never be a thing at Androplasty from myself, or any other member. Since its inception about four years ago now, I have only had to step in one time and shut down a thread that got out of hand, and the ban-hammer is still mint-in-box.
As far as any non-ROM future works I might have in store, I still plan on attempting to take the idea of the Vaelpak Theme Builder and turn it into something that is populated by community themes and functional on a variety of devices and ROMs.