When I bought my HTC Hero I was both impressed and disappointed. Yes it was the best phone I'd even owned but as it was running Android 1.5 it didn't do some of the whizzy things that I'd read about; things like Turn-By-Turn Navigation, Speech to Text etc.
When the official upgrade to Android 2.1 was released I was pleasently surprised to find that Google Navigation (along with Turn-By-Turn) was now available but again disappointed that Speech to Text was not. Indeed, contacting HTC they confirmed that it would not be available for the Hero. Nevermind I thought, I'll survive - and until recently I have.
One irritation was as a result of purchasing the CoPilot SatNav application (I didn't want to pay data charges when using Google Navigation abroad) and it takes up quite a bit of internal storage which limited the number of other applications I can install. If I had Android 2.2 (Froyo) then I could move the application to the SD Card and free up some internal space. There was also the issue of Google Readers latest upgrade which included new widgets which were only available on Froyo. So the decision was made, I wanted to move to Froyo - either on the Hero or I'd buy a new phone running Froyo and have done with it. As it turned out, a casual post on Identi.ca saved me £350 when fellow user '0x6d686b' directed me to an idiot guide to flashing the ROM on my Hero without bricking it.
The guide itself can be found here on the cyanogenmod WIKI and had enough detail to convince me to have a go (which is no mean feat I can tell you).
After backing up everything I wanted off the SD-Card etc, the first step of the flashing process was to root the phone which required downloading a file to the SD-Card and installing a free file manager from the market in order to run/install it - which went without a hitch.
Next was the installation of a Custom Recovery Image and the guide offered two alternatives, Amon_Ra and ClockworkMod. I opted for ClockworkMod for a couple of reasons, first of all because there was an easy method and als because Dan from Linux Outlaws gave it a good review recently. Flashing the radio went without any problems (whatever that achieves) and then it was onto flashing the ROM itself.
Because I'd downloaded the free version of ClockworkMod I didn't have the option to download a new ROM from within the application, but I could download it manually and copy it to the SD-Card and install it from there, so that's what I did. I did however download the wrong Google Apps package the first time around (tiny instead of medium) - this was not a major problem (it still installed) but the correct one had a later version of Maps (and maybe other apps too).
It was here that I hit a minor problem - when I tried to boot into the ClockworkMod Recovery I was greeted with an image of the phone with an exclamation mark through it, not a good sign. The phone did boot normally though, i.e. back into the original ROM, so all was not lost. I reached out to Identi.ca again and my Identi.ca buddy was still online and said that I should just open ClockworkMod and reflash it - which I did. This time the phone booted into the Recovery Manger and I was able to complete the process.
The final reboot took a few minutes but I was pleased to see the skateboarding robot that is the CyanogenMod logo so I knew I was on the right track. Once the boot was complete I was greeted with Android in the raw, i.e. without the HTC SenseUI, and started digging around.
So what's it like? Was it worth the risk of potentially bricking my phone? Oh yes! The team at Cyanogen have done a great job and my phone has a new lease of life. It's snappy, responsive and best of all now has Speech to Text available - take that HTC!!! I also have the older Market app installed which I preferred to the latest one which wastes far too much of the screen with a pretty but pointless banner (tell will tell if I gets updated or not). I've reinstalled all my applications, moved CoPilot to run from the SD-Card and so far all is well.
It's not all good news though! There was a problem with the camera running on original ROM which caused the phone to reboot if I took a picture, navigated to the home screen and then back to the camera within a few minutes. Well the problem is still there - sort of. While it's apparent that this is not a problem with the new ROM the phone still has a bit of a fit if I try to reopen the camera after a few minutes. However, it does at least offer the option to Force Close rather than just reboot the phone (which takes about 3 minutes) so at least that's an improvement. This is not a major issue for me though.
Also, the phone has rebooted itself (but just once) - I was testing CoPilot on my way home from work and without warning the phone just restarted. Now this could be a problem with the ROM or CoPilot, I'm not sure but it didn't happen again - maybe the battery was loose and neither the ROM or CoPilot were at fault.
Overall I'm very happy with the result and feel that my 'ageing' HTC Hero now has a new lease of life, and now that it will fit on the SD-Card maybe I can complete Angry Birds ;-)