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How to Turn Your Nook Color into an Android Tablet with Ice Cream Sandwich

Molasses crinkle cookie and cinnamon ice cream sandwich
[This is a guest post by Eric Bubar, an Assistant Professor of Physics in the Department of Biology and Natural Sciences at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. He can be reached through Twitter (@ebubar) or on Facebook.--@jbj]

I previously wrote how I converted my Nook Color into a usable iPad alternative.  Over the holidays, though, I was hoping to find a full-blown tablet under the tree.  Alas, we settled on a new TV instead of new tablets, and I was left with just my Nook.  The experience is nice overall, and I still used my Nook every day as a tablet, but I just had that itch for some new tech that needs to be scratched.  The release of Android 4.0, dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) , has only made this more maddening–a frustration I share with many Android tablet owners, as the operating system is only slowly being released.

Happily, some very clever work by the guys over at xda developers (the very same who gave us CM7), are now working with Ice Cream Sandwich, which they’ve dubbed CM9.  Once again they have proven their ingenuity and have shoehorned ICS onto the Nook Color.  This is more or less the full experience that I really need for a tablet.  The slightly phone-like interface and occasionally annoying smaller app icons from CM7 are gone.  The Nook Color has been reborn as a viable 7” ICS tablet!

All my go-to apps are still here.  I have QuickOffice installed for reviewing my powerpoint lectures, Dropbox is still there, Read-It-Later backs up online articles for me to read while commuting on public transportation.  Most importantly, my Comixology comics and zombie-fighting plants are still fantastic looking.

Perhaps the most enticing aspect of this ice creamy new Nook world lies in the scrollable widgets.  Gmail and Google calendars (which worked fine on CM7), are now a joy on my “new” tablet.  I can now set a homescreen with a resizable and scrollable gmail widget so i can see my emails at a mere glance without having to open an app.  The same holds for my calendar.  No app opening needed.  An entire homescreen is dedicated to my schedule.  Such widgets are extraordinary in their simplicity and I wish iOS would allow a similar approach (because tapping an icon to get into my email is so annoying – first world problems…).  These are arguably minor tweaks, but they have made a huge difference in how I can use my Nook and should help me avoid a new tablet purchase in the near future.

I should note that my ice cream sandwich runs on a microSD card, just like my previous endeavor, leaving my warranty intact.  (See Amy’s followup post on dual-booting from the microSD card.) In fact, the process to get this up and running is exactly the same as I linked last time (link is updated with ICS specific instructions!).  For a mere $220 you too can have a nice little ics tablet ($200 for the nook color, $20 for a memory card-although the nook color is regularly available for a mere $150). I think with this newest android update ICS has a lot of great things going for it (i’m looking at you scrollable and resizable widgets). It’s still not as easy as iOS and it doesn’t plain “just work” like most of Cupertino’s offerings, but until Android tablet prices drop a bit more (which they undoubtedly will) my ice cream sandwich Nook Color is a treat worth tasting.  

Will you be trying this flavor on your Nook?  Do you want to try and just need some guidance?  Let us know in the comments below!

Photo “Molasses Crinkle Cookie and Cinnamon Ice Cream Sandwich” by Flickr user Jessica Merz / Creative Commons licensed BY-ND-2.0.

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