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ROM Dev Spotlight: Vaelek of VaelPak ROM for HTC EVO

Vaelek-rom-dev In this installment of ROM Dev Spotlight, G&E’s new series that shines a steady stream of light on a developer who creates fantastic custom ROMs for the HTC EVO 4G, we’ll get to know more about Vaelek, the guy behind the popular VaelPak ROM.

But before he sits down to answer the questions that make up half of this Q&A, Vaelek tells me an amusing story behind the name of his ROM.

“To date,” he says, “everything I’ve put out has gone by the name VaelPak. Many people have asked what the name means. As you already know, I go by Vaelek. A lot of devs just name their ROMs after themselves, but I didn’t want to do that. I was checking the mail one day back when I was still working on v1.0. and got one of those Valpak coupon mailers and thought, hey, VaelPak. The rest is history.”

History in the making, I say. Read the entire Q&A to find out more about Vaelek below.


Which ROM are you using on your EVO right now?

A development build of VaelPak 3.2 RC2.

If you weren’t using your own ROM, which/whose would you be using instead?

There is rarely a day that goes by that I’m not working on the ROM in one way or another. There have been more than a few nights that I fall asleep at the keyboard and wake up in the morning only to get right back to work. Because of that, I don’t get much time to even keep up with what others are doing.

The only other dev I’ve actually conversed with is myn, so if I had to pick another dev’s ROM, I would probably go with his because I know he puts a lot of time and effort into it.

What do you do for a living and when do you have time to make ROMs?

I am Tier 2 technical support for a large insurance company. Most of my free time is spent either working on the ROM or working out issues in my head or thinking up new features. The work is never done!

My wife, we’ll call her MrsVaelek, has been very supportive of this project.

How long have you been making ROMs? What other devices do you develop for?

I put out my first release in August of 2010, shortly after I got my EVO.

I don’t have ROMs available for any other devices right now, but I have made small contributions to the ViewSonic GTablet ROMs and will likely have something for the Motorola Xoom in the near future.

Why did you decide to create an EVO ROM?

I got my EVO (also my first Android phone) in June of 2010. I had tried just about every ROM available and decided none of them had or did what I wanted, so I started working on my own.
If I own a device that can be modded, it’s just in my nature to do so. I have been a developer at heart for many years now and was very frustrated with what could (not) be done with the iPhone when I had that. Android opened the door to many things, and I took full advantage of that.

What are your future plans for VaelPak?

I have been working on 3.2 for a while now, which is currently in RC2.

My number one drive other than stability is customization. The VaelPak Settings app in my ROM offers a huge amount of customization, many things not found on any other ROM. A lot of my focus has been toward adding new features to that lately, specifically in the Theme Builder.

Other than that, I am eagerly waiting for HTC to officially release their Gingerbread update so I can get to work on the next big thing. Right now I’m not so much planning new features as I am making sure I have good documentation of everything I’ve done to date so I am ready for the Gingerbread release.

How do you decide when a ROM is ready to be released? In other words, when is it “done”?

When I start out on a new build, I make a list of items I want containing:
  • Things I absolutely want in it or bugs that need to be fixed
  • Top user requests that I know can be done with minimal difficulty
  • Things I would like to have but involve much more work
For the most part I consider it “done” when everything from the first 2 bullet points is complete and proves to be stable. By the time you download my newest release, I am likely already working on the next update.

Do you have a general schedule for when you like to create and release updates?

I do not have a release schedule. I release betas as I have them for those who want to help out in finding bugs. RCs are released when major changes are complete and mostly stable, and finals are released when the work is done.

What are the hardest and easiest parts about developing?

The hardest part is that HTC does not open source much of its code at all (even things they should be).

Many hours have been spent on reverse engineering the stock ROM, examining ROMs from other devices, and figuring out just how to make the changes I want to make, reading through hundreds upon thousands of lines of seemingly meaningless code at times. Many days are spent attempting things that turn out to be total failures and just get scrapped. As more people come on board, it is also difficult to balance time spent on the forum with time spent working on the ROM.

I’m not really sure what to say about what the easiest parts of developing are. Everything has varying degrees of difficulty; if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Other than the community, what are the best and worst things about creating ROMs for the EVO?

One of the worst things is having to work with a closed source system. I try to please everyone and have a level of customization that is for the most part unparalleled, but whenever something changes, there is always someone who doesn’t like it. So trying to keep everyone happy can be a bit daunting.

It is also quite frustrating when I’ve just finished a major update and HTC releases an update of their own, sending me back to square one.

I know you said “other than the community,” but other than making my phone do what I want it to, the community really is the best thing. The members of my forums have really come together and helped me to make VaelPak what it is today through feedback, testing, and dreaming up new features for me to work on.

What do you want non-devs to know about creating ROMs that you think they don’t already know or understand?

Developing a quality ROM takes many, many hours of dedication. That one must-have feature that you get with my latest release might not seem like much to you, but in some cases may have taken 100+ hours of my time to accomplish.

Many people complain about having to wipe and set everything up again when new releases come out that can’t simply be flashed over an older version. Yes, it is annoying, but what mo st don’t realize is that for every 1 time they have to wipe and start fresh, I had to do it 50 times in order to deliver my end result.

What are the best and worst parts about the current EVO software?

I hate to keep repeating myself, but the worst part is how closed the source is for HTC’s software. I’d have to say the best part is the fact that when compared to other languages, Android’s apps and framework are 10 times easier to mod.

Sense or AOSP? Have you always felt this way?

I love AOSP because it is fully open source.

My ROM would be AOSP for sure if all the proprietary HTC parts were fully working on it. I don’t like Sense, and I always rip out the maximum amount of it, keeping only the bare essentials for features to continue working. My ROMs always have a mix of Sense and AOSP elements.

Will you be making ROMs for the EVO 3D or EVO View?

No current plans for the View, but I will almost definitely be making a ROM for the EVO 3D when I can get my hands on it.

Thanks, Vaelek!

So long and thanks for all the fish! And the interview!


Follow Vaelek on Twitter: http://twitter.com/vaelek
Donate to Vaelek: http://bit.ly/VaelPak-Donate 
Vaelek’s website/forum: http://vaelek.com/

ROM Dev Spotlight is a new Q&A series that showcases developers of HTC EVO 4G custom ROMs.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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