Tag Archives: Samsung

My Galaxy S4 Home

Galaxy S4 Home

It’s crazy how many pixels the screen of the Samsung Galaxy S4 has. 1920×1080 pixels. That’s more than many computer users have on the desktop.

Of course, in 5 years time everyone’s going to be marvelling at their 4096 pixel wide screens and this will seem oh so quaint.

These are some of my most used Android apps, including Reddit is fun, Gmail, Feedly, Falcon Pro, WordPress, FBReader, Podkicker Pro, Amazon Kindle and Google Plus. Flipboard looks stunning on it and is one of the pre-installed apps that unfortunately takes up around half the 16GB internal space. The camera is superb. The background image is one I took in my back garden and processed in Pixlr Express. You can find some more photos in my Blarney post I made this morning.

It beats me why manufacturers of Android phones couldn’t make it possible to uninstall those apps I don’t need. I have all the gesture stuff turned off, and the Samsung Keyboard but they still remain on the device sucking up space. There’s still 4GB of free space so I have some breathing space still. Phew.
I really need to set up Folder Sync on this phone to copy stuff off on a daily basis.

Cyanogenmod 10.1: the Jelly Bean update for my Samsung Galaxy S II

cyanogenmod

I’ve had a Samsung Galaxy S II since around August 2011, and while the S3 has of course tempted me the cost of the device and/or monthly commitment was too much. I’m hoping that the release of the S4 will see a price cut in the older phone! I also feel the SGS2 is a “good enough” phone for most of the things I want it to do so there was that too.

Meanwhile my S2 has been rooted for a long time but I was running an old version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich. There’s supposed to be a galaxy s ii Jelly Bean update sooner or later but because of all the tinkering I’ve done to my phone any previous OTA update always fails. Meanwhile, installing Cyanogenmod 10.1 was almost as easy as following the instructions here.

The hardest bit was getting an updated ClockworkMod Recovery on there. In Windows, Heimdall refused to see the phone, or reported an error, “libusb error: -12″ or “failed to initialize protocol” even after running the included zadiag.exe. I tried it in Linux too but had similar problems until in frustration I disconnected the phone and put the Macbook to sleep. When I tried it again 5 minutes later it worked and squirted a new CWM down into my phone!

With that in place my phone wouldn’t boot, if I didn’t go into Recovery mode it just showed a black screen. No matter as I had everything backed up with Carbon backup. I removed the SD card and copied the latest nightly firmware and gapps on there. Booted into Recovery, factory reset, flashed those zip files, did a dalvik clear just in case and rebooted into Jelly Bean, Android 4.2.2! Once I logged into Google it started downloading all my apps again and with Carbon I was able to restore the settings of all my apps.

Photosphere isn’t included in this rom but I found it here in a flashable zip. Here’s what it looks like when I used it on Patrick’s Street, Cork today. iOS has a similar functionality I guess as I’ve seen a few colleagues from working waving their iPhones around while at meetups! The camera on the SGS2 is frankly rubbish but Pixlr Express does a good job of making photos look a lot better.

How does it perform? Very well for the most part.

  • I noticed that if I tether my Nexus 7 with a wifi hotspot then I will sometimes have to bring up an Internet app on the phone to wake up the 3G connection.
  • I noticed two Maps processes going a bit loopy when GPS was disabled and I had launched Ingress. GPS is disabled now and the phone is fine. Odd.
  • As a result of restoring settings from Carbon backup, Greenify had a list of apps to hibernate but because I hadn’t run it interactively then it hadn’t been granted superuser privileges. My phone got really hot as I guess the app was trying to hibernate the Facebook app repeatedly. TouchPal kept closing too but clearing the cache fixed it. Those aren’t Android problems, just a side effect of the restore process and insufficient error trapping in the apps. I’ll contact the authors about those (admittedly obscure) issues.
  • Sometimes there’s an odd slowdown in the UI. Ingress was dog slow for about 30 seconds but then it righted itself and it’s definitely faster than ICS.

I love Google Now! I wish the monthly activity card displayed in Km instead of miles. I like the new mini settings but wish that GPS was there to save me having the Power widget on a secondary homescreen. Photosphere is pretty cool. I wish Chrome had browser extensions so that Lastpass could build support for it. I haven’t yet noticed any huge difference in battery consumption. I don’t care if the FM radio doesn’t work, I never used it. Podkicker and Tunein Radio take care of any audio. The Apollo music player is nice, but doesn’t play very nicely with MP3s that don’t have tags. I had to fix some rips I made recently of CDs as they were coming up as from Unknown Artist, even though the files were in artist/album directories. All the other MP3 players I tried did the same however.

CM 10.1 has an auto update feature that John reminded me of. I haven’t enabled it yet though. I need to do more research and find out how it works and whether it will clobber my app settings and data.

If you have an SGS2 you should definitely give Cyanogenmod 10.1 a spin. I remember the first time I upgraded my original SGS to CM7 and the problems it had with camera support but I didn’t have any similar problems this time. CM10.1 will give it a whole new lease of life!

Ice cream Sandwich on my Samsung Galaxy S 2

The Samsung Galaxy S 2 is a great phone, the best phone I’ve ever owned (and I presume I’ll say that about each newer phone I buy too, it’s becoming a familiar mantra) but it’s taken a while for Samsung to release the new Android, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) upgrade for it. I’m a Meteor Mobile user and ICS was released by them late last week.

Unfortunately when I tried to upgrade my rooted Gingerbread phone through KIES it simply upgraded to the latest Gingerbread release (2.3.5) and not ICS. It may have been because my phone was rooted but I had read that it was possible to upgrade rooted phones. I was disappointed but then my phone kept half-reseting. The bootup tune would play every 5 minutes or so and the phone would appear to have reset. It happened too fast for a reboot so I didn’t know what was happening. Quite frustrating though.

So, I backed up my sms texts, backed up aCar and my Podkicker subscriptions and with the help of this page I installed a generic European ICS firmware on to my SGS2. It was painful unfortunately. KIES, the Samsung desktop sync software, is fairly rubbish. I had to plug my phone in and out of my computer, using different USB ports, resetting my phone in between, just so the software would recognise my phone. I eventually had to use ODIN and the same switching USB ports trick again. I think the Samsung USB drivers conflict with the generic Windows drivers which causes the problems but this is a long standing problem with Samsung phones.

The instructions on the page above are fairly straight forward. Just keep trying to get your phone recognised if you have problems. It will work eventually. When your phone is in download mode and ODIN is squirting the firmware over it should only take a few minutes to work. I had to stop the download twice before it worked which got me worried that I might have bricked the phone!

Was it worth upgrading? The new Roboto font in ICS is gorgeous. It’s a huge step up from the default in Gingerbread. I immediately replaced the Samsung TwLauncher with ADWLauncher EX. The phone looks much the same as it was in Gingerbread, the settings page is better, the fonts are better and it does feel snappier. Unfortunately Kids Place doesn’t work but I found another kid’s sandbox app, Famigo that does.

I’m happy I upgraded but wish it had been easier. The upgrade works a lot better for most people, don’t worry if you see the upgrade notice. Just make sure your contacts and other data are backed up before you go down this path! If you upgrade through KIES it won’t delete everything on your phone and the upgrade is a lot less painful.

Oh yeah, in ICS the screenshot function is now Volume Down+Power buttons.

Samsung Galaxy S II Blues?

So you just bought Samsung’s new Galaxy S II smart phone. Nice isn’t it?

One of the first things I noticed when I turned it on was the unusual blue colour cast on the screen. It’s impossible to capture in a screenshot but I soon found out how to fix it and promptly forgot about it again. I was only reminded of it by the Ars review of the phone. Oddly they found the phone to have a yellowish colour cast:

But the screen has a very warm cast to it even at the brightest settings, so whites look yellowish-brown, like you’re looking at the phone through sunglasses. Samsung may have tuned it this way to mitigate the AMOLED’s brightness, but we found it off-putting. This isn’t an obstacle that can’t be overcome, and we’d likely get used to it after a while—some people prefer warmer-toned screens. But every surrounding phone’s screen will always look bluish and undersaturated by comparison.

It’s easily fixed by going into Settings->Display->Background effect. In my experience, “standard” looks a bit pale, blue and cold, “movie” looks a bit yellowish and warm. I finally selected “dynamic” and that looked the best. Whites look white. Persil would be proud.

Oh, the phone is fabulous. The default launcher sucks but it’s simple to change that (Go Launcher EX, thank you!). Google had all my settings already recorded so it was only a matter of logging into Google and it sucked down all the apps I had previously from the Android Market. Same with contacts. Definitely the easiest phone upgrade I’ve ever done.

Also check out this lengthy Anandtech review of the phone. Quite a bit of reading!

Living with CyanogenMod 7 for Samsung Galaxy S

My phone, a Samsung Galaxy S, has been running CyanogenMod 7 for the past week or so. The first week was a bit rocky. The phone ignored vibration settings at first and would vibrate when ringing, and when I hung up. In one call I couldn’t hear the caller at all! It also ignored my ringtone setting and used the first mp3 on the phone (not so bad, it was a Fun Lovin’ Criminals track!)

Anyway, I practically had to upgrade. I was running an earlier version of the Voodoo rom which unfortunately didn’t behave. Wifi kept turning itself off and I used my allowance of 3G bandwidth a couple of times. I did try to update Voodoo but screwed up and had to do a factory reset. Thankfully I had a backup done with Titanium Backup! After restoring my apps I decided to take the plunge to CM7. Why? Gingerbread!

CyanogenMod is an aftermarket firmware for a number of cell phones based on the open-source Android operating system. It offers features not found in the official Android based firmwares of vendors of these cell phones.

Initially I installed the 7.1.0 RC1 but there were problems as I mentioned above. There are nightly builds however and they’re supposed to be fairly easy to install. I screwed that up too but eventually got everything working! I’m now running nightly #67 and things have been fairly smooth.

CyanogenMod 7 is a very good mod. My phone is flying along and while it does offer advantages over the stock kernel (updated more often plus other features) you do miss out on the excellent Samsung Camera app, and battery life is slightly worse. The FM radio doesn’t work either but I haven’t bothered to investigate that as I rarely use it.

Flashing a new rom isn’t for the unadventurous. If the idea of rebooting into recovery mode, possibly changing radio drivers and knowing you might run into a world of pain scares you, don’t do it! Gingerbread, the latest Android firmware for phones, is making its way to the SGS and if you haven’t got it yet run KIES and you may find it waiting for you. The advantage of using CM7 is that they can move to the very latest Gingerbread (2.3.5 at the time of writing, my phone company only offers 2.3.3). Nightly build #70 introduced that version of the OS. You might want to keep an eye on this thread on the XDA forums too. There are problems with the nightlies but of course most of those who have no problem won’t be posting there so you’re bound to see a concentration of negativity. #67 works fine for me. YMMV!

How fast is my Samsung Galaxy S now? I ran Quadrant Standard three times, with progressively better scores.

  1. 1612
  2. 1977
  3. 2015
For comparison, the original Samsung Galaxy S had a score of 750. I would be very interested to hear how the stock Samsung Galaxy S with the Samsung Gingerbread firmware compares.

It’s still not quite as fast as the Galaxy S with the venerable “One Click Lag Fix” I benchmarked a while back. That used EXT2 however, a filesystem lacking journaling features important to maintaining data in the event of a system crash or problem.

Would I recommend CyanogenMod 7? If you’re a techie and can live without the Samsung Camera App then yes. Go for it. If you’re an Open Source fan who hates proprietary software you should definitely go for it. You even have to install Google Apps separately because they are proprietary software!

If you just use your phone to take photos, check Twitter and make phone calls, then don’t go near CyanogenMod 7 (or any firmware TBH!) just yet.

My phone is faster than yours

If you’re using a Samsung Galaxy S or one of it’s variants then my phone may well be twice as fast or even faster than your phone! How? It’s all rather simple actually.

First of all, I downloaded Quadrant Standard from the Android market. This is a benchmarking app that you can use to find out how fast your phone is. Run a benchmark and note the performance figure for your phone. Now, go look for “One Click Lag Fix” in the market and install that too.


This little app will root your phone, and install a new ext2 partition on your phone. The default Galaxy S filesystem isn’t that hot at running apps. The new partition will be used to store cache data, and because ext2 is supposedly better at caching your apps will load faster, and you’ll experience less or no lag when opening them. That was my experience with it anyway. This will help your phone’s performance significantly.

In recent updates to OCLF two new options were added, “Alter Minfree”, and “Change Scheduler”. Adjusting these will make a huge difference to your phone. Each one is explained briefly, with a recommended setting. I followed that advice and it’s like my phone is on steroids now! Apps open faster than ever and I’m just waiting for it to dance a jig it’s so fast and responsive.

Please be aware that running OCLF means rooting your phone and invalidating your warranty. You may brick your phone. That means it won’t work any more and can’t be fixed. It more than likely won’t happen and I haven’t read about it happening but you should be aware of the risks involved.

Bonus tip: If you’re running Linux on your desktop computer, the scheduler can be changed on that too. Must give that a go some time.