If you don’t happen to know who Team Whiskey (TW) is, then you probably don’t own a T-Mobile Vibrant. We will forgive you for that, for now. For the thousands of us that do however own a Vibrant, you must have flashed at least one of their ROMs at some point in time.
We recently brought you a look at their latest release, Nero V3. The team is also responsible for Obsidian, Onyx, Bionix and Fusion. They ranged from stock 2.1 with or without TW enhancements to bring us great builds of Android 2.2, again stock or with TW enhancements. Being a Vibrant owner myself, I know I owe these guys a great debt of gratitude for keeping my phone fast, stable and up to date. Without developers like these, you might as well buy an iPhone.
These developers, and all the developers in the Android community, spend a lot of time making our Android experience amazing. So remember to donate if you can; if you can’t, then spread your love for the ROMs to your friends and family.
Feel free to read through the interview at your leisure and make any comments you would like. At the bottom of the interview you will also find links to TW’s xda-developers page and the team’s own home pages.
What was your first Android device?
Viralblack: MyTouch 3G (plain, not even with the headphone jack)
Sombionix: Original white MyTouch 3G. Great phone for its time, but I don’t miss it at all. LOL.
How did you guys get started in Android and why?
Viralblack: Same way anyone does really, I think? You buy a device and realize its potential, realize that you can change anything and everything about the device and more. All the way down to its base behavior and abilities, you can change the phone itself. It’s one of those things that starts as an itch and just moves from there.
Sombionix: I believe it all started with my first Android device, the MyTouch 3g. I had heard of all the amazing things that could be done with them so I started doing some research and landed on XDA. I started browsing the forums and reading every thread I could find, absorbing as much information as I could. The first ROM I ever flashed was Super D developed by Ben Buchacher. I realized that flashing quickly became a serious addiction. LOL. Although I’ve been a programmer/graphic designer for years, I didn’t end up doing any development for the MyTouch 3G. I mainly stayed on the sidelines and did a lot of forum support for Ben, which was a handful in itself. I learned a lot though and couldn’t get enough. When the T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant hit the shelves, I knew that was going to be my first major upgrade. After learning so much and being inspired by so many talented Android developers, I decided it was time to take the plunge. Initially I had planned on just modding my own phone, but after realizing how much I enjoyed it and how amazing the Android community is, I wanted to share my work and help others. So here I am!
Who initiated Team Whiskey and where did that name come from?
Viralblack: Well like naming your pets it just kinda starts with an idea, a concept or a theory. We joined forces and were tossing out random “team” names, we just sort of landed on TeamWhiskey after Mr. Sombionix’s Jameson fetish.
Sombionix: Yeah, pretty much what Viral said. LOL. I started the Bionix ROMs as a solo project not having any intention of it taking off. A couple months in, I received a PM from Viral asking if I wanted to join forces and start a team. With how overwhelmed I was with the development, I thought it was a great idea. Viral and I ended up clicking really well and before we knew it, things kind of took off! Not quite sure how the discussion started, but we decided we needed a team name. Due to the fact that I’m apparently a closet alcoholic that developed a severe case of insomnia over the months, Team Whiskey seemed to be fitting. I think in the end, it was Viral’s idea to start the team. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better partner in crime.
Why did you guys decide to work with the Vibrant and not another device?
Viralblack: Well the current plan has us expanding through all the SGS series devices within the next month or so, but the Vibrant first as it was most popular and sought after (at least stateside) but expect to see more Whiskey touched devices very soon.
Sombionix: At first, the Vibrant was just the obvious choice because I owned one. Its hard to emulate tests without having the physical device to flash. I think we wanted to get our foot in the door first and see where things went. Now that we have so many requests to port to other devices, we’re planning on porting to all SGS phones. I also picked up a Nexus S on the release date and have already started development with that. Hopefully in the near future, we’ll have more to work with as well. Unfortunately, time has also been a major issue because our team is small and it’s hard to keep up some times. We do our best, though.
What was the hardest part about developing for the Samsung device?
Viralblack: Dealing with leaks rather than proper releases. It was said once on a ‘douchecast’ that the reason our ROMs wipe is because we don’t know what we’re doing. That’s about as far from the truth as it can get. I would love to take code direct from an updated prebuilt github and build it into perfection, but we’e not starting from clay to make this pottery. We’re lucky to have the dirt we do, and we start from there. A leaked ROM that’s not even finished or bug free and work it into a perfect flash. Samsung releases leaks maybe every second or third week? Every time we have a new leak, we have to start completely from scratch. All our code needs [to be] redone to match the latest leak, else we’re behind the times. Takes a lot more time than just updating from git.
Sombionix: Dealing with all the incomplete, broken, leaked files has been a nightmare. I’m pretty sure Samsung used us as guinea pigs, or possibly couldn’t figure out what the heck they were doing and had us (the community as a whole) fix their issues. For example, look at the progression of Android 2.2 for the Vibrant. There has still not been an official release, yet we already have a completely stable 2.2 build running on our phone. The only downfall is that we STILL do not have kernel source for 2.2 which has obviously limited us from kernel development on the Vibrant. Right now we’re stuck using i9000 2.2 source if we want to do any overclocking.
What’s the hardest thing about ROM development?
Viralblack: Honestly, bugs. Somehow, the users seem to find the STRANGEST bugs that wouldn’t and probably couldn’t be caught by testing and development. Reports like “If I stand on my head and rub my tummy while trying to access contacts via the dialer, I cant go back to the homescreen and open up angry birds without a force close” or something like that string of events leading up to a crash. It’s mostly frustration from internal sources when that happens, you do your best to bring the perfect product to the table, but sometimes some things do slip through.
Sombionix: Geez, where to begin! I’d have to say the sleep deprivation. Ok, I’m kidding….kind of. But in all seriousness, ROM development is really like having a second full time job. Our main development currently revolves around the Samsung Vibrant, and lately there’s been a leaked build at least once a week. I think many end users think that as a developer, we can simply take the new files and transfer them over. However, with every new build, we’re basically starting over on a clean slate. In order to retain all the speed tweaks, modifications, and fun features everyone enjoyed from previous builds, we have to re-implement all the code into the new files. Many times restructuring the code completely due to the always changing values buried in files such as smali’s. The kernel needs to be updated and compiled to call certain files/folders, apk’s need to be deodexed, images compiled into the framework, etc. Often times, bugs that weren’t present in previous builds, become present in new builds, and this is why our team will sometimes release multiple updates throughout a week’s time. We like to address bugs and issues immediately so the user can feel confident running our ROM as a daily driver. I think my answer went a little overboard. LOL. To make a long story short, the hardest thing about development would be keeping all of our users updated to the latest and greatest while retaining speed and stability.
What’s the easiest thing about ROM development?
Viralblack: Uploading it after all the work is done and the final revision is released
Sombionix: Well, because my day job primarily consists of graphic designing, I’d have to say editing images. I’d also have to agree with Viral, though. Uploading the finished product is BY FAR the easiest part.
Are you guys planning to stick with the split ROM deving, the TW and the stock?
Viralblack: We’ve moved to a more central design without touchwiz, which most users prefer, with the option of installing our faster, recoded touchwiz launcher. Having everyone on one release makes life a little easier.
Sombionix: Yeah, there isn’t much more to say on this one, I think Viral nailed it. What we’ve found is that the majority of Galaxy S users absolutely despise TouchWiz. The only reason we’ve decided to do the split deving is because there are some users that actually prefer TouchWiz. We like to please all the masses, so we provide options. I personally really enjoyed TouchWiz, I thought it was a well built UI and a nice visual change away from the standard AOSP look. I think in the end though, AOSP will always dominate.
Should we expect kernel development to continue with Voodoo options in the future?
Viralblack: Definitely, the biggest problem with kernel development is honestly the lack of source. Building kernels that sort of work from i9000 source with the featureset we want is quite difficult and often ends in reduced battery life and odd bugs popping up. We have a version of our “Destroyer of Worlds” kernel (in the same family as our Manhattan Project) at 1.4-1.6GHz with all sorts of fun toys built in, including the latest Voodoo, but the battery life falls short with random errors due to impure code. Source Samsung! Next leak, leak some kernel source guys
Sombionix: In regards to the SGS devices….ABSOLUTELY! Supercurio has done some amazing work with Voodoo and we should all thank him. I know a lot of users, especially the users fresh to the Android world, don’t quiet understand Voodoo yet. Many people still refer to Voodoo as a ‘lag fix’, but the newest version of Voodoo, 5.0.4, is far from a lag fix. Now, Voodoo is converting your entire rfs file sytem to ext4, unlike previous builds of Voodoo that didn’t do this. In fact, Ext4 has been found to be so fast and efficient that they decided to implement it into the new Nexus S. Curio has really smoothed Voodoo out and eliminated most of the dragons. I personally run ext4 on my daily driver.
With all the work you guys have done to bring 2.2 to the Vibrant, can we expect the same dedication and work to bring 2.3 to the Vibrant?
Viralblack: Definitely! The largest hurdles will definitely be the odd design differences. With file system types at odds as well as the differences between the two, it’s going to be a long process I’m sure to port a true 2.3 kernel to the device. I have hope that we will see good progress on this with the Nexus S out.
Sombionix: Yes, we’re going to give it a shot and see what the outcome is. I honestly believe that we’re very close to getting 2.3 on the Vibrant.
Any plans to bring any custom Team Whiskey ROMs to the Galaxy TAB?
Viralblack: Definitely want to, just a matter of time Expansion, it’s in the works, just takes time.
Sombionix: Originally, I didn’t think there would be much of a market for it. Oddly enough, we’ve been asked this question quite a few times throughout the past couple weeks. So yes, once we get the money for one, I think it would be a lot of fun to start developing for it. And hey, if anyone want to donate one to our team, let me know! Just kidding!
That wraps up the primary interview directed mostly at their work and future plans. They definitely gave us a lot of really great answers and even cleared up a few things that I didn’t know. Looks like there is going to be a lot more to come from these guys and I couldn’t be happier to hear it.
Don’t worry, that’s not all I asked. I asked a few more questions that were a bit more generalized and little more fun. Take a read.
How do you guys generally feel about the Android Community?
Viralblack: I love it! I love the way people become inspired and energized by releases and the desire to custom build their phone to match their personality. I can honestly say I more than enjoy working with most of the developers in the scene too. I would definitely like to see more developers actually developing their own code and not blending existing code, but I hope that will mature with time.
Sombionix: I can’t say enough great things about the Android Community. If I didn’t love it so much I wouldn’t be doing what I do. It’s amazing how the community comes together and collaborates. It’s sites like AndroidSPIN, XDA, and many others that really tie it together and help inform all the users of the latest and greatest Android information.
Are you guys easily irritated by “noobs” or people that don’t read before asking questions?
Viralblack: Not often, we maintain the IRC channel just for this purpose and for end users to be able to talk to the developers of the ROM directly. We all started somewhere.
Sombionix: I can’t lie and say that I NEVER get irritated by the non-readers. As a team, we try to provide very detailed instructions as to how to flash their device and what features are included in our ROM. However, generally speaking, I don’t mind answering questions because I like to provide support in our forum and IRC as much as possible. I just don’t enjoy answering the same question 50 times. In the back of my head I just have to remind myself that we were all noobs at one point. As we evolve, we eventually realize, “hey, there is a search feature at the top of every page.”
How do you guys feel about OEM/Carrier Bloatware? Would life be better without it?
Viralblack: Not necessarily. Many times is these companies trying to brand and/or enhance the device. I just would like to see it layered on top of existing stock Android rather than fully buried in the core of the code. Easier removal should the user decide too.
Sombionix: Personally, I don’t use it. The name says it all…it’s bloat. Generally, it takes up a ridiculous amount of space, consumes large amounts of memory which makes the phone lag, drains [the] battery faster, and in most cases, the apps are poorly coded. Don’t even get me started on that stupid WiFi-Calling app. If you truly want specific features that the bloatware provides, you should be able to find a much better app in the marketplace that replicates the features, and most importantly, runs better! Also, downloading apps off the marketplace helps support private developers, whether it’s free or a paid version. Support the community!
Who is your favorite developer out there besides yourselves?
Viralblack: I personally have a great deal of respect for Sonique from XDA or as Jocelyn on the TeamWhiskey forums. Her work is always fluid and gorgeously laid out. I always enjoy seeing what her magic can work next.
Sombionix: That’s a tough one, there are so many great developers out there. I guess if I have to choose one I’d go with Ben Buchacher. I followed his work for a year and played a large role in the forums at the time. I learned a lot following his progression, and I think in the end it was his work that inspired me to start developing. Truly, all the developers in the community sacrifice a lot of their personal time to do what they do. I have a large amount of respect for all of them.
What is your favorite app out and why?
Viralblack: Angry Birds! It’s like bowling, except mid air with birds that explode. What’s not to like?
Sombionix: This is a funny question because I flash my devices so much that I rarely even have my contacts synced, let alone have after market apps installed. I just don’t even bother at this point. However, I guess one app I have used and really enjoy is Google Skymaps. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve played with it while I’m camping and it still absolutely amazes me!
Finally, why ROM development and not app development to make some steady money?
Viralblack: That is a target of ours and something we have been discussing at great length, there are plans but first the device expansion has to happen. Hopefully within the next six to eight months we will be in a better position to produce a few releases we have in mind onto the market.
Sombionix: Yeah, we definitely discussed branching off and developing apps as well. In fact, there have been several discussions regarding this, we’ve even already come up with some really good app ideas. Unfortunately, we’re severely overwhelmed with ROM development, especially while we’re trying to port to additional devices. Our team is simply not large enough right now. I think team expansion could happen in the near future. In regards to the money aspect, for us, it’s never been about the money. We love doing what we do and the small amount of money we receive from donations is just a bonus.
What a read, huh? I think we covered a lot of ground and got a little peek into the minds of these guys, as twisted as they might be. I know I am personally excited to see what new developments this crew will bring to not only the Vibrant but all SGS devices. I can only wonder what crazy application ideas they have in store for us, too. We will be keeping in touch with the team so always stay tuned to AndroidSPIN for new ROMs from Team Whiskey and potential looks at their applications in the future.