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Smartphones and tablets… What’s the point?

A longtime reader who asked to be anonymous got his first tablet and smartphone a few weeks ago and was underwhelmed, to say the least. “What’s the point?” he asked me privately.

To be honest, I understand. I got my first tablet a couple of years ago–a Nook Color that I loaded Cyanogenmod on. And, to be honest, once the thrill of hacking an e-reader into a full-blown tablet with no restrictions on it wore off, I didn’t do a lot with it. When I thought of it, I would check the weather on it when I was getting ready in the morning, and maybe glance at my e-mail with it, but mostly it sat on my end table. I probably used it 15 minutes a week.

Read More »Smartphones and tablets… What’s the point?

Tweaking the Android I/O scheduler

On my Nook Color running Cyanogenmod, inside Settings, Performance, there’s a mysterious setting called I/O Scheduler. Storage performance (I guess I can’t call it disk performance anymore) is critical to overall system performance, but it’s also easy to get wrong. I assumed the default setting, something called cfq, was optimal.

I was wrong. Let’s explain why.

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Saving money on a smartphone

I bit the bullet last week, and added a second smartphone to what’s now our family plan. I didn’t buy a new phone though. Instead, I bought a used Samsung Galaxy S 4G off Amazon (the Canadian version, which was an accident) for $100. Since we now own both phones outright, that lets us run the phones month to month, with no contracts and no penalties. They bill us every month and we use it, but I can walk into any T-Mobile store and cancel one or both phones at any time.

Chances are there’s a reactivation fee if I do that and decide to reactivate later on, but that’s cheaper than getting out of a contract.

Now, as for the Galaxy S 4G… It’s a well-built phone from about 2010. It’s on the old side, but works pretty well. I loaded a custom ROM on it and I’m very happy with it now.

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The deal with Android memory usage

Continuing this discussion of Android, the next question that came up was what the deal is with Android memory usage. I wondered the same thing at first, so that seems like a good topic to explain.

Prior to 2005, operating systems tended to use a set amount of memory, then what was left over was for programs. So a freshly booted system would have 2/3 of its memory left free, if not more. If you read my book and my blog way back at the turn of the century, you might have a lot more.

Fire up an Android, though, and you might only have 1/4 of the memory left, or less. Much of this is by design.Read More »The deal with Android memory usage

Why there’s scarcely any aftermarket firmware for Hisense Sero tablets

Are you curious why there’s no Cyanogenmod for the Sero 7 or Sero 7 Pro tablets? Or why there’s only one aftermarket ROM for it, released way back in May, with no updates?

I realized why this week. Hisense has not yet released the GPL source code for the tablets. And without developers being able to look at the kernel source, you’ll see very little, if any aftermarket firmware for these tablets.

I know a few people have posed the question via Hisense’s Facebook page. Here’s a sample letter.Read More »Why there’s scarcely any aftermarket firmware for Hisense Sero tablets

How to disable wallpaper when you’re not running Cyanogenmod

Unfortunately I can’t run Cyanogenmod on all of my Android devices (more on that tomorrow), but if you want to save some memory and CPU cycles and, depending on your device’s display, perhaps even increase your battery life by a few dozen minutes, there’s an option.

The Cyanogenmod No Wallpaper feature is available as a small app in the Play store. Simply download it, then tap and hold your home screen and you can select No Wallpaper.

Besides the benefit of decreased memory usage and increased battery life, I found the minimalist look quickly grew on me.

Fighting OS rot and lag in Cyanogenmod 10.3

So I have Cyanogenmod 10.3 running on a Nook Color that I use as a secondary tablet. It’s outmoded, but still useful enough that I want to keep it around. But a week or two ago, it suddenly started to lag really badly. So I looked into it a little bit.

Some other Android tablets have some trouble with TRIM. Android generally handles it decently on its own, but it doesn’t always seem to. I found an app–for rooted tablets only–called Lagfix that lets you force TRIM yourself.Read More »Fighting OS rot and lag in Cyanogenmod 10.3

The Sero 7 tablets got cheaper last week and I missed it

Amid competition from newer, faster tablets like the 2013 model Nexus 7, Hisense cut the price of its low-cost 7-inch Android tablets. The low-end Sero 7 now costs $79, and while the reviews on that tablet aren’t all that great, it’s much better than last year’s $79 tablet. The Sero 7 Pro, which I own, now costs $129.

They’re imperfect tablets–the Sero 7 Pro, even with its recent update, still crashes from time to time when I use a keyboard with it–but they were fine for the money at their old prices, and at their new prices, it’s hard to go wrong. I expect that eventually they’ll attract enough third-party development that there will be ROMs available to address their shortcomings.