Since it was announced that HTC + Sprint was not going to port Android Froyo to the Hero & other phones, and their software kept causing my phone to hang & eat power (for example: it kept trying to load a Sprint TV thing in the background that I never used), I dove into the Android developer scene for rooting phones and using customized Linux kernels & Android builds.
1. To backup stuff on my phone, I made use of Astro File Manage & *nix sync to save stuff to my CF card.
2. XDA Developers Forum is more or less THE place to get custom Android builds for compatible phones.
3. Being that I have a month-old HTC Hero, these rooting instructions applied to me.
4. I applied Darchstar 2.7 to my phone: its derived from Cyanogen (Android-Eclair build: they're still porting Froyo) & runs an optimized 2.6.34 Linux kernel (newer than Froyo).
5. Despite my best attempt to backup my phone contacts beforehand (even using some other apps that I didn't link because of their apparent failure), I ended up with squat. I think the contacts are saved somewhere else in the HTC software, vs synching with my Google account: so I spent some of this afternoon building up a new contact list (thankfully I had saved some caller & message log data that had some #s I was missing).
6. I have most of the apps I was using reinstalled: the Remote Desktop app I use for work re-downloaded from Market without a 2nd purchase; the Sprint Voicemail app reloaded per the forum discussion (though I apparently get text messages about voicemails now: those should go away since I called it back or something). I'm using the official Twitter app, as well as different clock+alarm apps, since I don't have HTC's anymore: no biggie.
7. When I was rebuilding my contact list, I wanted to import it into Thunderbird: however, the CSV export from Google is horrific, and Thunderbird has no native VCF import. However, I did find MoreFunctionsForAddressBook, which can import VCFs just fine.
8. One more app I found useful: Mr. Number; crowd-sourced Caller-ID. While I was passed out in sleep, it correctly identified a call from CVS.
Overall, performance is excellent: the phone is very responsive & using less power than it was before (maybe 1% of batt per 10 min while idle). As someone who works with Linux a lot, I wish the phone devs would look into the newer kernels and take advantage of their features as this guy did: this phone build even supports CompCache, which compresses memory into virtual swap files (can run more programs).
*EDITED to add mention of *nix sync: that was the app I used to recover my call logs.