Nook Simple Touch solution to unresponsive touchscreen

If you do a Google search for nook simple touch touchscreen unresponsive, you’ll see a whole bunch of frustrated Nook users. My wife got the original Nook (the one with the e-ink on top and the color touchscreen on the bottom). She eventually upgraded to the Nook Simple Touch and loved it, so I also got a Nook Simple Touch. Both devices have functioned well for months and months (over a year? I forget exactly when we got them).

All of a sudden, this week both Nooks have had their touchscreens turn unresponsive. Everything else worked—the hard buttons worked. I could force a shutdown. I could get the slide-to-unlock to pop up when I pressed the n button. The few times I could unlock the devices, the hard buttons on the side to turn the pages would actually turn the pages. But the touchscreen responding to touch worked only about 1 time out of every 20 times I tried. This was on both devices.

If you read these sad people’s stories about trying to get the touchscreens working again, they’ve tried just about anything: getting replacements from B&N, trying to get B&N to repair it in-store, waiting for a firmware update, charging the device fully, resetting the device to factory settings.

I did try a forced shutdown. I also tried a firmware re-update (just whatever the latest version is available on the Barnes and Noble website).

Do you know what it ended up being? A dirty Nook. That’s right. Our Nooks had been gathering too much dust and other crap. I wiped them both down with an only slightly damp tissue, and they both worked flawlessly!

Lesson learned! If you have a Nook Simple Touch, keep it clean. And when you’re not using it, put it in a protective sleeve.

Rooting the Nook Simple Touch

TouchNooter
The Nook Simple Touch is an excellent e-reader, and I like that Barnes and Noble keeps it that way. The e-ink screen and simple form factor make it perfect for reading books. That said, just for curiosity’s sake, I dove in and rooted the thing.

TouchNooter is an amazing script that automates the rooting process.

Getting it to work
Unfortunately, I had trouble reading directions, so it took me a long time to root. I kept dding the .zip file instead of unzipping it first and then dding the resulting unzipped .img file instead.

After I did that, I also realized that the wireless was off on my Nook, which meant I couldn’t follow the directions and sign in right away, which meant there was some weird bug with signing into the Android Market (I kept getting an error message about the network connection, even after I turned on wireless). I did quite a bit of Google searching. Some people recommended pushing a new Vending.apk file to the Nook via adb, but I couldn’t get adb to recognize the device, even after enabling USB debugging. Turned out the solution I stumbled upon that worked was just adding a second Google account to Gmail. Once I did that, I could magically sign into the Market app with my regular Google account.

e-ink-friendly Apps
There were some apps that quite obviously couldn’t run well on an e-ink screen with a slow processor and little RAM. Others surprised me. I had Google Translate, Flixster Movies, Google Books (once I tried to actually read a book), and Facebook crash or hang on me. Others that I thought would be problematic ended up being fine (Facebook can’t load, but Twitter and Google Plus work all right).

Apps that are definitely great for a rooted Nook are ES File Explorer, Gmail, Opera Mobile, Terminal Emulator, WordFeud, and Words with Friends. The latter two are especially good, since the Nook offers a bigger screen than most phones, and it also doesn’t go to screensaver for five minutes (by default), so you have plenty of time to consider your moves before playing them.

Other tweaks
Swiping left to right isn’t terrible smooth on an e-ink display, so I removed all but one screens on my ADW Launcher. I plopped a power widget on the home screen to toggle wireless on and off easily.

I also set hardware buttons (the top-left for the Back button, the top-right for the Menu button, the Nook key for regular ADW home instead of the Barnes and Noble home—otherwise you get stuck in the Barnes and Noble interface and can’t get back to ADW without rebooting).

Gallery wouldn’t recognize photos off my MicroSD card, so I used ES File Explorer to find my screensaver photo (of my cat) and then used the ES File Explorer image viewer to set that photo as my wallpaper in ADW.

Belated Caveat
If you’ve never rooted an Android device before, most of what I’ve just said will just sound like gobbledygook, but I wish someone else had written all that. Would have saved me a lot of trouble.