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Friday, April 29, 2011

Zeam Launcher for Android - Lightweight, fast, stable, must have

Well, if you're tired of the dull default Android home screen, you have a wide choice of replacement launchers on Android Market. Zeam, by Michael Bentz, is one of them. What makes Zeam special? Well, it's speed and low memory footprint.

The speed of this thing is incredible, and after all launchers I have tried, this one managed to keep 5 homescreens filled with widgets and shortcuts in under 20MB or RAM. For people with low memory phones (256MB or even less) this launcher is a must have. Scrolling is smooth as butter, it is very easy to configure, and it gets updated periodically. The last update, however, dropped the scrollable widgets support, not that I ever used it, but it seems some users are missing that feature.

It also features a scrollable dock, and Sense-like homescreens preview.

Head of to the application thread at XDA developers or get it directly from the Android Market.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Notification Toggle for Android - A must have for stock ROMs

For those of you who use Android stock ROMs and have drooled over the notification bar toggles of Samsung's TouchWiz or the later LG phones, here is a piece of software developed by j4velin that comes to the rescue. Notification Toggle shows you a notification in the pull down bar, with the toggles you've selected when you run the app. You can see the status of your Wifi, Bluetooth, Mobile data, and so on, right there, in the notification bar. Once you push the notification, a popup appears that allow you to toggle those settings. You can choose from a variety of settings toggles, as well as add apps to the same popup.

It's does not exactly replace the Touchwiz toggles, but in the long run, I think it's even better. I gave it 5 stars.

Head on to the Android Market and download it.


Motorola Milestone - How to make the best of it - Part 2

Here we are with the Motorola Milestone again. In my previous post, I have tried to tweak the stock Froyo ROM for the Milestone in order to get the best performance that it can deliver.

So after the previous post, I had a Milestone with stock Froyo, rooted and overclocked. Also, the homescreen application was locked in memory so it wouldn't reload like crazy.

Everything was fine and dandy, but even though I overclocked the CPU, I was still a little unhappy with the overall speed of the system, and kept looking for improvements. And I found some more tweaks that made the phone a lot snappier and I actually managed to get 105MB or RAM free at some point.

The first thing I did was to install an app called Sysctl from the Market that tweaks some kernel parameters. The defaults work wonders, so I advise you don't meddle with them.
After installing Sysctl the system seemed much more responsive than before.

So the easter came, and of course I installed Angry Birds Seasons, which has grown a new easter episode. I didn't have any problems with any of the Angry Birds editions before, but this one managed to eat a lot of RAM, and once again, killed my homescreen. So I started to look for something that optimizes the RAM consumption, but I was unable to find anything. So I remembered that with the original Eclair ROM I managed to get 90MB of RAM free at some point, and so I started to check the differences between Eclair and Froyo. The two main features Froyo added were the Apps2SD that allows apps to be installed on the SD card and JIT(Just In Time) compiler. What JIT does is precompile some of the Java code, in native code, and so the apps run faster. The downside is that it eats more RAM. I never managed to get more than 80MB of RAM free on the Milestone with JIT enabled. So I thought I should disable JIT and see what happens. And guess what, once I disabled JIT I managed to get 105MB of RAM free. The 25MB increase worked like magic, and the Milestone was running smooth once again just like the old Eclair, but with even more free RAM than Eclair used to deliver. The Quadrant Standard benchmark scored a lower result than it did with JIT enabled, but in real life I didn't feel any speed difference. Angry Birds Seasons ran once again without killing the homescreen, and I also noticed that every app seem to start faster than before, and I guess that is because of more free RAM. In order to disable JIT you have to edit the build.prop file located in /system. The /system partition cannot be accessed directly from the OS, because the /system partition is read only. So what you need to do is copy that file to the SD card. The following command copies the file to the SD card(you need to go root first):

cp /system/build.prop /sdcard

After that, you have to connect your phone to the computer in "Memory card access" mode, so you can edit the file. I have found some more tweaks that can be applied to increase the performance. One is the VM Heap size which is 28m by default, and I switched it to 32m instead:

So you need to find the line that reads:


and change it to:


That should take care of the heap size which will make apps that require more memory run faster.

Next I have added the following lines at the bottom of the build.prop file:


The first line disables JIT, and gives you more free RAM, while the second line makes the UI snappier. Make sure that you leave an empty line at the end of the file after these options.

After changing the file, save it and now we can replace the old file with the edited one. In order to do that you have to enter recovery mode. Turn your phone off, slide your keyboard open and press the X key. Now press the Power button while keeping the X key pressed. Wait until the phone enters recovery mode and the warning sign appears on your screen. After you entered recovery mode, press the volume up button and the camera key at the same time. You will be prompted with a menu. Select "Apply update.zip" from this menu. After the update.zip is applied you are prompted with the Open Recovery menu. Go to the "Console" option. Now you need to run the following commands so that you can replace the old build.prop file with the edited one. First we need to mount the /system partition in read/write mode:

mount -o remount,rw /dev/mtd/mtdblock4 /system

Now the /system partition is mounted in read/write mode. Now on to copy the edited file:

cp -f /sdcard/build.prop /system/

Now you can type exit to return to the Open Recovery menu. Now reboot your phone and you're done.

I just found an app called A2SD GUI - Darktremor that seems to enable/disable JIT and also set the WM Heap size

I have to say the the phone is so snappy now that I did not need to overclock it anymore, and so I have managed to squeeze more battery life out of it.

However, I don't understand why Motorola did not add an option to enable/disable JIT, because for a device with low RAM such as the Milestone, the usability is greatly improved by disabling JIT.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Motorola Milestone - How to make the best of it

A week back I got a Milestone from someone. This guy was running Android Eclair 2.1 on his Milestone, and wouldn't upgrade to Froyo because of the bad stuff he heard about it.

The phone was barely usable even withe Eclair, so the guy comes to me and asks me to do something about it. I blackmailed him into leaving his device with me for a couple of weeks so I would give it the full treatment.

The main problem was that he had his phone all cramped up with applications, and had no more free memory on the phone's storage.

First thing I noticed that really bugged me, was the homescreen. Almost every time I opened an app, when I returned to the homescreen th homescreen restarted. Weird right?

So I search some forums trying to find something to fix this problem. And I did. The problem was that having just 256MB of RAM, the system was running out of memory and started closing apps. Unfortunately the first to go was the homescreen. So the solution was to set a higher priority to the homescreen. In order for that to happen I had to root the phone. Eclair is pretty easy to root, so I downloaded z4root and ran a permanent root on it.

I had to enable USB Debugging first, in order for z4root to work. To enable USB debugging you need to go to Settings->Applications->Development and there you can find the USB debugging option. Next thing I did was to edit a file located on your phone. The file is /data/local.prop.

First I installed a terminal emulator from the Android market. When you start the terminal you need to get root access, so you run this command:


This command elevates your user rights to root level. Press Allow when the Super User application asks. So now you can access any file on the phone. Next command is to copy the file to your sd card:

cp /data/local.prop /sdcard

Now you need to edit the file, but unfortunately the Milestone does not have an integrated file editor so you need to install yet another software from the Market. This time you need Astro File Manager. After installing, open Astro an go to you /sdcard folder. Here you will find the local.prop file(you might not see the extension, but if you find a file called "local", that's it). Long press the file and select Open As. Next, another popup will appear where you need to select "Text File" and then Text Editor or File Editor. Anyway, you are now editing the file with a text editor. Now add the following line at the end of the file:


This line practically tells Android that the homescreen has priority 1, which means it's going to be probably the last application killed in case the RAM runs out. You could set the value to 0, but I wouldn't recommend that because the homescreen will never close, and that may lead to forced quits for memory hungry applications. The only time the homescreen restarted on me was when I was downloading/installing about 10 apps at the same time from Market and was still searching for more. And it only happened once.

The homescreen problem was fixed so th next big problem was the internal storage. Since Eclair didn't have the capability to run apps from the SD card I had to upgrade to Froyo. I didn't want to install some custom ROMs on it because the owner is not tech savvy so having a custom ROM would only get in the way. After upgrading to Froyo using the Motorola Software Updater, I lost root, but it wasn't a big deal, because the local.prop file I edited was still there, so the homescreen caused no trouble at all. I eventually switched from the classic homescreen to Zeam. Why? Because it offers a scrollable dock, and it's more RAM friendly than the default home. I found that out using Super Task Killer 2011. While the Home app ate up to 20MB of RAM, Zeam never got over 14MB with the same number of homescreens, the same amount of widgets and shortcuts. I disabled Zeam's app drawer animation (looked silly to me to be honest).

So after all this searching and tweaking I had an unrooted, totally usable Froyo. I moved a lot of apps to the SD card and the overall system speed improved a lot.

The Milestone has a 600MHz A8 Cortex CPU, under-clocked by Motorola to 550MHz. As you can imagine, on a high resolution screen running Froyo, the low speed CPU lags from time to time. If you're a casual user, you won't care about that, but if you're a heavy user like I am, it will annoy you. So I decided to go forward with the tweaking and see it I can squeeze some more performance from the Milestone.

Now, if you don't want any warranty problems with Motorola, you should stop here. Pay attention! THE FOLLOWING STEPS WILL VOID YOU WARRANTY! I won't be held responsible if you choose to continue.

What I've done so far did not involve any flashing, because as you remember we rooted Eclair with z4root, which does not work on Froyo. So first you have to flash vulnerable recovery on your phone, and root your phone. If you don't know how to do that yourself, here's a tutorial:

Root your Milestone Froyo

After gaining root access, you can overclock your Milestone. As I said before these procedures may harm your phone, so continue at your own risk.

First download an app called Milestone Overclock from the Market. When you run the app first, you will notice that you're unable to overclock the phone, at least for the moment. Press the "Load module" button. Now you can clock you phone to 600MHz, 800MHz, 1GHz, and even 1.2GHz. However, the highest stable frequency seems to be 800MHz. I don't recommend you use the custom presets because I somehow managed to enter an infinite crash/reboot loop that I was only able to fix from the recovery by manually deleting Milestone Overclock. Stick with the defaults and it should work without a hassle. I ran the phone for a week at 800MHz and I had no problem whatsoever with it. Check the "Apply at boot" box if you want to overclock your phone on boot.

After clocking the Milestone to 800MHz, I noticed that the scrolling lags have disappeared, also the phone no longer choked when in-app advertising popped over Angry Birds for example. The phone ran smoothly. One thing that still bothered me was the fact that the apps were starting almost as slow as before, so I started searching again for an answer. And again I found it. The problem was not a related to the apps startup in itself, but with the starting and closing animations. So I disabled the animations, and everything seemed much faster. After a while though I started missing the animations so I turned them back on. I found an app called Spare Parts on the Market that allows you to tune-up the animations and many other things. I installed and ran it. I choose the Fast speed on all animations, and the phone seemed much snappier than before, with animations and all.

So that's kind of it. Let me know if you have any thoughts on this.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nokia E6 officially launched

It seems they come in waves! The Nokia E6 was just announced too. The 5 homescreens are confirmed.

Here is the presentation videos:


Nokia X7 officially launched

Wow, one minute ago Nokia officially launched the Nokia X7.

I was saying in my previous post that the X7 was spotted running 4 homescreens, but the official photos show only 3. They may be customizable. It looks
Nokia official X7 launch


Nokia Update service broken. PR2.0 coming up?

As I write this post the Nokia update service is offline. Usually this means there is something in the pipeline. Nokia could be preparing the update service for the PR2.0 update we've all seen leaked, and drool over.
The lucky users of Nokia Astound have already tasted the PR2.0 update, but that's just for the North American market.
As it looks, Europe and the rest of the world is also going to enjoy the PR2.0 goodies soon.
The "Unplanned service break" you see in the above image, may not be "unplanned" at all.
Hopefully the update will roll out for all Symbian^3 touch devices. The update may include the new icon theme everyone was waiting for. The updated homescreen however is not confirmed by the Nokia Astound firmware, but it is said to come over the air until this fall.

Just got word from @ jonjongoco that Nokia E6 with PR2.0 will get 5 homescreens, and the new Nokia Pure font.

However, I don't know if all Symbian^3 devices will get those 5 homescreens. It makes sense for the E6 to have 5 homescreens because of the small screen and small number of wigdets available on each scree, but it's very possible since early leaks of the X7 showed 4 homescreens instead of the traditional 3.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Nokia X7 sneak peak

So, it finally looks like the Nokia X7 is here. This is one device I can hardly wait to get my hands on. The video below offers a sneak peak of the new Symbian improvements that the X7 will bring. It may bring flexible homescreen widgets too(keep your fingers crossed), and it will surely
have a more polished version of the split screen keyboard we've been waiting for so long. Hopefully that beautiful keyboard demoed in the video below will be available in third party applications as well(fingers crossed here too).


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Nokia T7 leaked! Photos inside

The rumored Nokia T7 has finally appeared on photos. It looks like an exact clone of the N8 at the first glance.

It has the usual 360x640 resolution expected on a Symbian^3 full touch device, an aluminium uni-body design, but it drops the one thing that made the N8 famous: the 12MP camera. Instead we get an 8MP shooter, hopefully with auto-focus.

The HDMI port has unfortunately been removed, so the price will probably be much lower than the N8's. The CPU inside will most likely be an ARM11 clocked at 700MHz, with a dedicated GPU supporting OpenGL 2.0.

The sticker on the back shows Nseries, but as you can see it's just a sticker, and the phone is in prototype phase, so we can't know for sure that this is going to be the final configuration. Anyway, by the looks of it, this device will have to compete with the C7, because I believe the price will be closer to the C7's than the N8's.

Is this downsized N8 a good idea? Maybe. I hear a lot of people saying "I love the N8's looks, but I hate the price", so those people will certainly be into this device, if it ever hits Europe, that is.