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The Tato Series: An Interview With Koush Dutta

Sorry it has been so long everyone. Let me tell you, it isn’t like I’ve been sitting on my butt not doing anything. I’ve been working hard! That IRC isn’t gonna manage itself, you know! So I have told a few of you that this was coming, and there was a general excitement. I myself have been excited because it isn’t everyday that the ‘Average Joe’ such as myself gets to talk to the Big Wigs that basically created everything we in the nice ‘lil underground community love and abuse daily.

Koush is responsible for many things. The list seems endless. So instead of me trying to explain and talk about things that I hardly try to comprehend, (I leave it to the Devs) why don’t we just read what the man himself has to say…

Come on in and read.  

Tim-o-tato: Hey Koush! Thanks for letting me set this up! Mind telling us your name and what it is you do for the readers who may not know you?

Koush: Hey, I’m Koushik Dutta. Most people know me for my work on ROM Manager, ClockworkMod Recovery, and CyanogenMod for Droid and Incredible. I also work with the Unrevoked team that was responsible for the NAND unlocks for HTC phones. I’ve also ported Mono to Android, and other random Android stuff (rooting the G1, etc).

Tim-o-tato: So basically you’re one of the most well known names in underground Android Development. You’ve done so much already. How did you first get into it all?

Koush: I was in the Windows Mobile world prior to Android. Did mostly app development on that, and didn’t really get into the custom ROM scene. Windows Mobile started dying off, and I jumped into Android when the G1 was released. As I mentioned before, a coworker and I discovered how to exploit the console shell to get root access on the phone. Shortly thereafter, I wrote the first (crappy) version of Superuser.

Tim-o-tato: That’s amazing. So it’s not like anyone can just jump into this stuff. Where have you learned all these skills? School? Natural ‘gift’?

Koush: The 10,000 hours rule. Do anything for 10,000 hours and you’ll be successful or “world class” at it (Outliers). I’ve been writing code in one fashion or another since 6th grade.

Tim-o-tato: That is what amazes me the most. The age some of you all start out at. My 6th grade experience had nothing to do with Tech stuff. I think Pokemon might have had my attention. Sad I know, but it paid for my candy addiction. Do you come from a Tech-Savvy family?

Koush: Not particularly. My dad is an engineer I guess, but he still looks at the keyboard when he types.

Tim-o-tato: So while doing all of these things (must be time constraining) do you have a day job or are you a student?

Koush: I have a full time job as a software engineer at Kiha. We do Android stuff.

Tim-o-tato: Lucky you. What would you say has been the most rewarding aspect of all your work on Android?

Koush: I really get a kick out of seeing the download counts on the stuff we work on… CyanogenMod 6 had 100k+ downloads within 2 days of release (across however many phones we now support). ROM Manager has 270k downloads. It’s a nice feeling knowing that people appreciate your stuff.

Tim-o-tato: I’m sure everyone MORE than appreciates it. Your work gives added value to a phone(s) that already cost us all a pretty penny in some to most cases. To me that seems like an invaluable thing. What are some things you would like to accomplish in the future of your work?

Koush: A huge portion of users still use forums as their primary way of downloading ROMs. I am in the process of adding a “ROM to Phone” type feature to ROM Manager. Basically, a user is browsing a ROM thread on their computer, decides they want to download it and clicks the link. The link would then trigger a download in ROM Manager on the phone. The other idea I had is to create a home screen app; One that is not based off the AOSP launcher, and that would utilize fantastic 3d hardware found in newer phones.

Tim-o-tato: Now that would kick a**! What device are you yourself personally using these days?

Koush: A Nexus One and an iPhone 4

Tim-o-tato: iPhone4? Please explain this atrocity…

Koush: I just grab whichever one I see first in the morning. But I always grab the N1 if I plan on needing driving directions.

Tim-o-tato: But why do you have one in the first place, I mean.  I’ll admit the games are better…but really?!?

Koush: Yeah, I get that reaction a lot. I’m not really a zealot when it comes to hardware/software, on mobile or otherwise. I have several Windows and Mac desktops/laptops. I have an iPad, I have a half dozen Android phones. I like gadgets, and don’t really have a religious affinity to one or another. At the end of the day, the iPhone has fantastic hardware and software, and it has a lot of features that Android can and should aspire towards. In particular, all the in-window rendering in Android is done in software, rather than using the GPU. You’ll notice that animations and transitions on iPhone are noticeably smoother than on Android due to this. The music app and syncing story is a little sad on Android too. Conversely, Android is much, much, better as a development platform. The language and tools are better, market is better, the openness is better, and I am super excited about the new official MonoDroid product that will be released shortly. Basically, not allowing yourself to see what is good about one platform or another and just being a blind follower, limits you.

Tim-o-tato: Amen to that. I really couldn’t agree more. I love my *cough* iPod. So may we ask your age, sir?

Koush: 29

Tim-o-tato: Nice. Excited for the big 3-0?

Koush: Not particularly.

Koush: Just turned 29 a month ago .

Tim-o-tato: Oh well you got a year to live it up! Happy belated!

Tim-o-tato: So besides the obvious (CyanogenMod) are there any Devs who you keep a close eye on for releases or work?

Koush: I watch CVPCS’ work. He does good stuff, and we’ve shared a good amount of code.

Tim-o-tato: Agreed. Excellent stuff. So for the people who might want to know; How did you get into hacking the Droid and then writing the Recovery for it? Given your background, was this a pretty easy thing for you?

Koush: I had a Droid fall into my lap at work, and was surprised to see that no one was building from-source ROMs for it yet, so I decided to give that a shot. I found out that AmonRa’s recovery was not open source, and SPRecovery wasn’t very portable to other phones. And I wanted an open source recovery that was a part of the AOSP build (which SPRecovery and AmonRA were/are not). That means, every time you build CyanogenMod or AOSP, it also builds the recovery. It makes porting the recovery to other devices really easy. I think Clockwork is running on around 30ish phones at the moment. I’d done a lot of development in C before, so that wasn’t an issue, but I was fairly unfamiliar with Android’s recovery system.

Tim-o-tato: Wow. A true innovator. Well I myself appreciate all the work you’ve done! So what’s your favorite game for your Android phone?

Koush: I actually don’t play too many games on mobile at all. Though I’m a huge PC and console gamer. The last game I played on Android was Angry Birds, a few weeks ago

Koush: I tend to prefer puzzle type games on phones.

Tim-o-tato: Ahh, I see. What computer games do you enjoy?

Tim-o-tato: Don’t say WoW…unless…you like it. Heh.

Koush: I played WoW for a few years, hah. I quit around 3 years ago though. I’m currently addicted to SC2 and Halo Reach.

Tim-o-tato: Oh yes. Halo Reach. So what is your take on Task Killers?

Koush: Don’t use them, theyre useless.

Tim-o-tato: That’s what they keep telling me

So How many emails do you receive on a daily basis?

Koush: I have 807 unread emails in my clockwork mailbox right now. I have 6500 recovery failure logs from ROM Manager. None of which i’ve read; it’s mostly user error. I just look for recurring failures and see if I can prevent or fix them. Probably on the order of 200-300 a day.

Tim-o-tato: Ay Caramba! Mr. Popular

Koush: Mr. Fix-It-Is-Broken-Or-1Star – ROM Manager has a very loveit/hateit audience. If it works, people absolutely love it. If it doesn’t work (and it is USUALLY user error), they hate it. If you look through the market comments, you’ll see its almost all 1 stars or 5 stars, haha.

Tim-o-tato: Trust me, I fix peoples ROM Manager problems all day long and it’s all user error…Gets a bit excessive. But when I was learning I had the same issues. Live and learn. Like that saying, “You can take a man fishing, etc etc.”

Koush: Exactly. Let me know if you have any ideas on how to prevent user error. IE, recurring user errors can usually be fixed by adding some diagnostics or dialogs.

Tim-o-tato: Usually people just get a “!” and triangle and have no clue what to do. Hah.

Tim-o-tato: So do you have any thoughts on the Android Community as a whole? Likes? Dislikes?

Koush: It’s a pretty cool community as a whole. Lots of collaboration on CyanogenMod and XDA. The users are very supportive of developers. The downside is that there seems to be a constant undercurrent of drama of some sort or another. Unavoidable really.

Tim-o-tato: You’re basically the top of the heap. What is your take on the Dev drama? What starts it would you say? People not giving credit, or donations? Kanging? What do you think makes it so intense at times…

Koush: Well, there are Devs and then there are “Devs”. Between the guys and gals that actually know how to write software, there’s never really any drama that I have observed. A lot of the drama tends to come from kanging, donations, etc. Money and notoriety causes a lot of friction.
I think there’s a different mentality and behavior amongst folks that actually do software engineering for a living, vs. those that just jumped into it to do custom ROMs. The internet makes it really easy to disrespect people.

Tim-o-tato: You could not be more right about the web. Trolls and disrespectful people seem to outnumber the nice hard workers. It sucks at times. But you still gotta love the interwebz.

Well in conclusion, is there ANYTHING you would like to ask the community and the Droid-Life readers?

Koush: How happy are you guys with your current launchers? Would users be interesting in buying a new non-aosp based premium launcher? And what’s the #1 problem with current launchers?

Tim-o-tato: That is a really good question…If LauncherPro had a damn infinite looping feature I would crap myself. I wanna thank you SO much for your time Koush!

Koush: No problem!

Tim-o-tato: It has been a real pleasure to have the opportunity Maybe if youre not to busy we can see ya around Droid-Life sometime

Koush: I read the site regularly!

Tim-o-tato: Thanks again Koush. I really appreciate it.

Koush: No problem, thanks!

Tim-o-tato: Talk soon!

______________________________________________________________________________

It’s always very relieving when I realize that most of these guys are very down to Earth, just insanely smart people. As before mentioned, he started in 6th grade. Makes me seem like I’ve basically got no chance….*plays tiny violin*

But enough with the sob story. I’m going to be hitting the streets even harder now for interviews and inside info on today’s Android developers, but not just underground, I’m going to the source! Google Corp! If you or someone you know is a Dev and want a shot at getting your story posted for all to read – Email me! timotato @ droid-life dot com.

-Tim-o-tato

Discover what makes Koush tick by following him @koush | Read my past interviews with todays top Devs!

  • Clgraham86

    I really don't have an issue with redraws…but I am only using a G1 with stock 1.6…mainly because my phone won't read when it's plugged into a computer…(I know…wrong thread but anyone have any fixes for that?) I am using ADW right now, and it suits me well. Great customization, minimal lag.

  • ohshaith55

    if possible, maybe like a launcher without a grid on the homescreen what so ever. as an option, of course. but i mean even my friend's LG dare (just a good non-smartphone) has the ability to pin things to its homescreen wherever you like.

  • gingersauce27

    a brand new launcher that is fast and really customizable would be amazing.

  • http://twitter.com/zaiger Brian

    Launcherpro > ADW imo

  • Chris.Go

    Where's the PODCAST? I can't read and need audio please. Maybe a whole new market for you?

  • Picodroid

    Launcher suggestions, not necessarily anything I'd personally use but could see many people using:
    Windows' style icon sorting, views (icon size) and arrange options (auto align to grid, no grid, etc)
    Windows style interface in general. Have a user bar at the bottom with the app tray icon, then your a dock similar to a Quick Launcher, and then a spot for running apps. Hell, maybe even use a similar “pin to bar” type thing for that quick launcher.
    For the love of god, if it's at all possible make the notification bar color and transparency editable. I understand a launcher app may not be able to modify the standard notification bar, if that's the case, I'm assuming you can just not use that one and build one in your launcher with all the same (possibly more, better) features.

    Also, I don't know if it'd be possible but maybe an application or built-in part of Andriod that gives you a setting to have your finger act like a cursor. So instead of clicking on every touch it allows you to slide a cursor around. May a gesture to activate it when you want it, then when it's on you double tap for a single click. That'd be great for those with phones that have no optical track pad or track ball.

  • Stephen D

    I would be very interested in a new launcher. I love LauncherPro but the more the merrier. If it had GPU acceleration, it would absolutely fly on my phone(Galaxy S) with it's GPU. The redraws are what need fixed. They drove me nuts when I had my Droid. This phone doesn't ever re-draw, but if I go into the LP settings and restart it, the redraw is very slow.

  • MansterRock

    Koush…You are the man! Love your work and would gladly buy any new launcher you come out with. The biggest issue for me is launcher redraw time. I am down to a minimalist 3 screens on LauncherPro. Which I found removes the redraw problem. When I press the home key it should be immediate. Also Profiles so that that I can customize the look and save it and switch as I like without spending too much time each time i choose to switch.
    Infinite Loop is a nice to have, but not a necessary. Also would like the abilitiy to not have any wallpaper. Just a black background.

  • Mikehen08

    I would love a 3D launcher and something that is just more visually appealing than other launchers (something similar to SlickUI). I cant imagine not using LP because it is so much faster than the stocker launcher on the DX and it has all of the customizable features.

    Koush- If you make one I would definitely buy it because of all of your hard work on all of the other great apps

  • OMJ

    I would love to see a launcher that is simple a not so bloated like a lot of the current launchers are. Some thing different not based off the normal launcher2 would be nice.

    The only thing I can think of that I would like to see completely different than the current launcher2 approach is the landscape app drawer.

  • Paper-Cut

    I'm pretty happy with LauncherPro. I don't have any issues with redraws, as a few people below have mentioned.

    Also, unless I'm mistaken, I could have sworn that Android didn't have the support for hardware graphical acceleration yet. Wasn't that pushed back to 3.0?

  • Catalyst

    Would definitely pay for a launcher that had zero redraws and one thing that would be nice is to be able to save the home screens you set up. Launcher pro does save most everything but widgets. Adding that in would make it nice for those who are rom flash addicts as myself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patfactorx David Pat

    YOu da aman Koush

  • palomosan

    The Man behind the revolution

  • Cooljoe255

    I am not a fan of launchers at all.. I have tried them.. but I hate lag with a passion.. I would rather have a dull plain looking phone than a phone that has the slightest lag.. I use sapphire 1.1.1 and love it.. its probably the fastest rom I have used with the amount of extras..

    but I cant see myself using Launchers ever again!!!

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/IOYAXDXUOW2GBWVLAKGMO2NXAA Nik

    I'd like an HTC sense skinned launcher. Or, at least some aspects of it. Blur skin gets boring.

  • RoadsterHD1

    Can you give us an ETA on the Koush launcher? When will it hit ROM manger? or the Market.

  • RoadsterHD1

    I forgot to mention that I use ChevyNo1 SS4.7 ROM and it has a feature to hide apps in script and after hiding the OEM launcher my redraws went down.

  • RoadsterHD1

    First I would like to say, Nice touch adding his picture….. I would definitely buy Koush's launcher. I personally would like to see a launcher that DOES NOT REDRAW after using a memory intensive application, or when the D1 runs out of the little memory it has. My wife has a D2 and has twice the memory the D1 has and redraws are really not an issue with hers. I know task killers are of no use BUT when the D1 runs real low on memory, killing a few task in the background seems to make it run real smooth again. I guess the major issue with the D1 is home screen redraws. I've stopped allot of things like profiles on setCPU, titanium back up's schedules, ROM mangers scheduled back ups etc… and this really helped my redraws, including su (enter)
    echo ro.HOME_APP_ADJ=1 >> /data/local.prop (enter)
    reboot (enter)

    and still get redraws but not as much. LPP is the best launcher out there in my opinion because of the customization features and widgets. Can you make one that's fast, no redraws, and customizable? I'll pay for that in a heartbeat. I think that if it can work well on droid 1 with the little memory it has it will work on ALL other phone.

  • Mr. Joe

    I just want my launcher to make people go wow. Hopefully slick UI can do this

    • PigHeaded

      You really need that kind of approval from people with a phone? Wow, sounds like you have bigger issues than some launcher issue.

  • TheDrizzle

    Nice interview. Thanks for all the hard work Koush.

    If you could make a luancher that doesn't redraw every danged time we hit the home key that would be great.

  • http://twitter.com/chongo2515 Andrew Razon ツ

    remove the o from his last name.

  • http://twitter.com/daoist KMFT

    What's the #1 problem with current launchers?

    Slow redraws.

    Solve that, save the world.

  • Cave

    Wow, great question about the launchers….Launcher Pro is incredible, and it runs REALLY well on my Droid. As a whole it's great, just a few more customization features would be killer, and more skinning features. If any other developers care what us peons want, this one wants more skinning ability! Oh, and any other ways to change typefaces for specific uses would be nice…..but not just stock typefaces.

  • Nemisis

    I love these posts. As a beginner Android Developer (one published app, hoping to do more), I find these interviews extremely interesting. A lot of what these guys do simply amazes me.

    Regarding his question: Yes, I would definitely be interested in another launcher. I use LauncherPro and have loved it ever since I started using it. However, there seems to be more and more re-draws, regardless of my settings. So, definitely a thing that would persuade me to move from LP to another launcher is better memory management. (I've noticed ADW doesn't seem to redraw as much, but I just can't part ways with some of the features of LP).

    Some other features: I like the idea of infinite looping. Editing the homescreen like ADW does is nice. Scrollable widgets. High Customization. One thing I would also like to see is “profiles”. By this, I mean give users the ability to create profiles for different situations (e.g. a “Social” profile will have Facebook/Twitter widgets etc; “Hardcore” would have max screens, many widgets, etc). And the “non-AOSP” launcher aspect intrigues me. I like the stock launcher look, but would be interested in seeing what a creative person can come up with.

    • PigHeaded

      I gave up on launcher pro. a speedy launcher with no screen redraws is more important to me than customization. I even tried the samsonite trick and it helped a little but not all.

      Since then, my best combo is liquid frozen yogurt with adw with samsonite trick. I'm running this rom with a p3droid kernel set to 600 and I have yet to see a single redraw in 3 weeks.

  • memnoch73

    Nice job Tim another good interview. Keep it up!!

  • villian1998

    Me personally I don't think I would buy another launcher for my Droid 1, ADW is good enough for me. I'm suprised people have multiple launchers on their phones, but to each their own. Launcher Pro is really nice because you can customize just about everything, so I would say that is the basis of design. I do wish people would think more creatively on these phones, I think the MUI rom was a decent start but more could be done. Enough of my broken rant… Great work Koush, my Droid thanks you immensely.

  • Mr. Joshua

    I want my launcher to be fast! No waiting for the screen to redraw or widgets to work, etc. even immediately after unlocking or using an app for a while.

  • http://www.kimete.com DarkOnion aka DarkOnion

    Koush, you are my hero!!!

    -DarkOnion

  • phrozen

    Wow, a lot of first comments. In regards to the article I would definitely consider a new premium non-AOSP launcher. I have been using LauncherPro for a while and really like it, but there is definitely some room for improvement. There were some features in Zeam like full screen swipe actions I really liked and having app sorting and re-arranging in the drawer on a fast launcher would be nice. Also LauncherPro seems to always take a second to refresh all the widgets after an unlock or coming out of an app and Portrait to Landscape transitions are pretty laggy as well.

    I am sure there are other people out there who would all like to see this and a couple dozen other things. IMO there is definitely plenty of room for a lightweight, fast and functional premium launcher out there that improves the user experience!

    • Armyof2

      fix the lag problem… in terminal type su then echo ro.HOME_APP_ADJ=1 > /data/local.prop

      forces your default launcher into memory and elimates redraw

      • SAP

        is that for any phone or just the original droid, I got a D2 and have a lot of widgets and sometimes get a redraw

      • Turner

        I'm pretty new to terminal do I put everything on the same line? I tried everything exactly as you typed it, except for the “then” between su and echo….nothing. Did it work?

        • skltr21

          type:
          su (hit enter)
          echo ro.HOME_APP_ADJ=1 >> /data/local.pro (hit enter)
          reboot (hit enter)

          phone will then reboot and should be a lot better.

          • skltr21

            also make sure there is a space between the echo and ro.home and then a space before and after >>

  • KleenDroid

    I would be very interested in a truly original launcher from Koush! Something that was FAST!

    Make it Koush!

    I'd like to buy stock in Koush… lol

    • http://www.myspace.com/abrielband Tim-o-tato

      I want Koush stock!

    • droydhead

      I want Koush Launcher! And a rom for the Droid X.. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/brock_overcash Brock Overcash

    I like launcherPro alot, and the new dell stage ui is great too. I like the app drawer part of the stage and how you can swipe along the bottom to transition to your home screens but i really like LauncherPro's customization
    Any novel features would be appreciated and lots of toggles for all of the features! I hope that helps.

  • Ruddy

    7th first

    • Ruddy

      first 7th?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QWJZM6MKDWXL44LKRTMUUJZXZU Maniko

    What I am missing in Launchers? I guess most of all, I miss the option of categorizing my apps. I'm currently using the horribly sluggish Touchwiz-Launcher, just because I can sort my stuff, more or less. It doesn't really have categories, tho, only several “pages” without a title. Altho I like the page-flipping instead of the scrolling – it's easier to scan through your apps and sort them that way.

    • Jdellingson7

      Don’t know if you ever tried Smart Short cuts but it is a great app that categorizes apps into a short cut. It’s great

    • mkw87

      Have you seen AppOrganizer? It lets you categorize them and then add folder-like shortcuts to the desktop with customizable icons. It’s a great app.

  • AnothaMexican

    I invented first!

  • mipami

    That would be awesome if Koush made his own launcher!

    • sylent101

      He did.. for the droid months ago because Motorola left the 3d launcher out of the 2.1 build.. so koush sold it in the market.

  • JRummy16

    the first second. Great interview

    • http://www.myspace.com/abrielband Tim-o-tato

      Hah. These kids are crazy for that first. It's their crack.

      Thanks Jrummy :)

      • Anonymous

        Tim Great job Brother, once again you brought the knowledge to the people lol Regarding his question: Yes, I would definitely be interested in another launcher. My choice is is LP like everyone else lol. But it would be refreshing to see what Koush brings to the table.

        Man, I keep wishing for a Droid Life COnference here in SF with all of the great Dev’s that are contributing to the community and making this a fun ride. Thanks man keep up the great work. :)

        And to Kouhs Thanks, JRummy and the rest of the Devs out there Thanks Guys we really appreciate your work :)

        • http://www.droid-life.com Tim-o-tato

          Thanks, dude!
          When the time is right, we will surely have a Droid-Life Meet-Up.
          No worries! :)

  • KleenDroid

    The real first

  • KleenDroid

    First

    • Mr. Joshua

      Interesting

  • mmmmmmm

    Fist!

  • BigFonz

    1st

    • http://www.facebook.com/ThornfullessRose Devin Jones

      CONGRATS!!! You win a donkey!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/5.second.minute Kit Tihonovich

      You win a free “burnt amber” crayola crayon.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=739332592 Joe Bertolino

        “bring the amber lamps”

      • BigFonz

        Yes! I've always wanted one of those. Now I can go and read the article.