Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Review: NexusHD2 ICS 4.0.3 CM9 v1.2

Ice Cream Sandwich
All the flavor, none of the calories

I couldn't resist the allure of an Ice Cream Sandwich.  I just had to have a taste of Android 4.0.  After a little bit of research, I decided to tryout tytung's NexusHD2-ICS-4.0.3-CM9 v1.2.  I based my choice on tytung's reputation as developer of custom Android builds.  This build is based on CyanogenMod 9 Android 4.0.3.

Installation was rather easy thanks in large part to the HD2 NAND Tool kit. This handy utility is a God send to frequent flashers.  Right out of the box I was impressed with out quickly it booted.  Normally on the first run it takes about 10 minutes, sometimes as long as half an hour. It already gave me the feeling of a light weight build despite it's required 200mb partition.
I had to resist the urge to start playing around with the various menus to see what was hidden behind the scenes.  I always try to give a new ROM a chance to "burn" in for at least a half hour before I start installing applications and personal touches.  It helps provide a more stable experience in the long run.  The temptation was strong though after seeing how smooth the screens transitioned during my sneak peak.  After my eternal half hour I got right to it.

Widget Drawer
After flipping through the various home screens I was immediately impressed with how smooth and fast it was.  My real astonishment came after I dug into the application drawer.  From home screen to the drawer was eye candy enough, but then as I kept going, I got to the widget drawer.  Widget drawer?!   With the Trebuchet launcher included in this CM9 based build, the application drawer transitions into the widget drawer.  Or simply hit the Widget tab at the top of your app drawer.  Where you can simply drag and drop your desired widget anywhere to your home screen of choice.  Very, very nice and intuitive.  A more simple way then long pressing on your home screen, then scrolling through a pop up to find the widgets, then scrolling through the widgets to find what you're looking for.

Organized neatly together.

Another nice feature with the Trebuchet launcher is being able to group applications together into a "folder" of sorts on your home screen.  It's more like a hole in your screen that you simply dump apps of your choice into.  Very similar to what MIUI has done.  By the way, here is my short review of MIUI:  Installed for less then 8 hours.

The data connection was very stable.  I did not experience any drops from the time I installed.  Call quality was excellent.  I did not test the blue tooth, simply because I do not have any blue tooth devices.  At some point I'll have to remedy this, just not sure when.  Wi-Fi was rock solid as well.  Battery life was what could be expected from a custom Android build.  6 hours at best under normal use.  My normal use is email push notifications, texting, social networking, internet and some gaming.  Under very heavy use, I might have gotten 4 hours.  Not bad in my book considering the age of my beloved HTC HD2.  I honestly never had any complaints in regards to battery life on any build I've installed.

Quadrant Score
This being a relatively new build it does have some issues.  Namely the stock camera is very buggy.  tytung does have a work around that requires flashing another camera modification from another developer.  A rather simple process that I decided not to due.  The Gallery application does have a tendency to freeze or simply force close and I was never able to get it to work. This is a known issue related to incomplete hardware acceleration.  The workaround for this issue is to simply install QuikcPic, which is an application I primarily use to begin with.  The quadrant score came out quite a bit lower then I would have expected from such a fast and smooth ROM.  The quadrant score is really a bench marking tool and is not indicative of the quality of the build.

Overall this is a very functional daily driver for your HD2.  It has some great features that I am excited about.  It is a very smooth and very stable first generation CM9 based build.  If your looking to get a taste of Ice Cream Sandwich then I would highly recommend giving this build a try.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

HyperDroid v5.3 - Jumping Jaguar

Warning: Phone Geek Lingo Ahead!

This is the latest installment from the HyperDroid Team.  It's based on Android 2.3.7 (Gingerbread) & Cyanogen Mod 7.1.  What's different in this version?  The biggest change is that they switched from ADW Launcher to LauncherPro.  According to one of the developers when I asked about the change, he stated that it runs smoother and faster with this build then ADW.  They also spent some time skinning the launcher to fit the theme of the build.  My take?  At first I was a little perturbed by the change.  For one, it doesn't nearly have the stock options that ADW (free version) has.  Mainly being able to re-size widgets after you adjust your columns and rows to your taste.  Typically I like to run a 6x6 grid on my desktop.  With LauncherPro you have to purchase the unlock code in order to use this feature.  I do like LauncherPro after I tinkered with it for a few hours and I eventually purchased the unlocked version.  I now can place some of the built in widgets that come with this version, such as messaging & bookmarks.  All very nice features.

Some of the other big changes, at least for me, was that after the installation it started to install apps automatically that I had had on my previous HyperDroid version.  Even down to the wallpaper that I had.  I still had to download quite a few other apps, such as Beautiful Widget and XDA Developers.

It seams like the signal strength and data run a bit stronger than the prior version.  I seem to be hitting a few more 3G spots where I wasn't getting them before.  I'm not sure if it's because the kernel is working better with the radio version or if T-Mobile is upgrading the coverage area where I live.  As far as speed goes, it's a slight edge to the prior version.  There have been complaints from other users that they have been experiencing dramatic signal and data drops and only doing a restart fixes the issue.  I have not experienced any of that yet.  Your mileage may vary.

Installation was easy.  I started from a complete wipe with a task29.  Overkill I'm sure, but I want to make sure there are no prior versions lingering in NAND that might hamper the new install.

If your not happy with the stock theme, then by all means feel free to change it to any one of the many CM7 themes floating out there.  If you choose to go with a custom theme like Anastasdroid then be sure to do a full backup of your NAND prior to themeing.  On my phone I am using Anastasdroid and I absolutely love it.
Keep in mind when you use a custom theme that it might actually drag down the performance of your phone.

Overall I give this a hearty two thumbs up.  It does run very smooth, fast and stable.  It does run an older version of the Android Market, which I do not have a problem with.  They developers do this because of the various display densities that flashers use.  The new market checks the density and will limit the amount of applications you can see based on that feedback.  Most have a personal preference.  I myself like the stock 192 this version comes with.

Link to HyperDroid v5.3

Sunday, October 02, 2011

I Heard It On A Sunday

A few years ago, well, more like 8 or 9 really, just after I got married, I was in church with my wife.  I can't recall how the sermon got to this point, but it stuck with me and I find myself thinking on it quite often.  The father looked over the congregation and spoke slowly and clearly.  "There are three Loves that you must obey in life.  First and foremost, the key to life in this world:  Love yourself above all others.  Even God."

Yes.  That was said.  My immediate thought at the time was that was kind of conceited.  But as he stated his next two points it became clear.  "Secondly, Love God. And finally love your family."  He went on to explain that without finding love for yourself, you cannot truly come to love God or others.  If you're not happy with yourself and the way you live your life, then you can not possibly come to terms with God's love for you, or in turn truly love your family or others.

At the time, I was (and still am) madly in love with my wife.  We had been married a year or so at that point.  I thought I understood my love for my wife.  I knew that we still had a lot to learn about each other and our relationship.  But what that father said on that day set my mind racing.

What if I dig too deep and discover that I am not the person I thought I was.  I discover that I hate some things that I've done.  Start to pick at old and healed regrets, causing them to fester and infect what I thought to be my happiness.  What if I have to leave my wife to find myself again.  Wait.  What?

Ladies and gentlemen:  It's not a myth.  Men actually do have to go and "Find Themselves".

Gladly I wasn't the man that had to find himself.  I knew that day I had love for my self.  Love for God and definitely love for my wife.  Ultimately, the point of the sermon was that to truly eliminate the "What Ifs" in your life, you have to learn to love yourself.  Most importantly you don't need a particular religious view to follow that one simple rule in life and it's not to say that you can't find love and happiness without it.  I just think it would be a helluva lot easier if you did.

I can state this as fact:  I loved my wife before I found love and acceptance for myself.  I was in a deep, dark place when she lit up my life.  As she got to know me, the me I didn't try to hide, I came to accept again, who I was.  I had walked a fair distance away from who I truly was back then.  I did it the hard way, but I'm sure glad I did.

If I knew then, what I knew now?  I wouldn't be here now would I?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Inner G In Me: Bill's Song

So here is a little story about Bill. Bill started out as just a suggestion in passing. Once agreed upon, it lingered in the back of our minds, slowly materializing and coalescing. As time progressed, it became a topic of discussion from time to time. Then, before we knew it, the time was now. Now. In a fury of searching and gathering of knowledge, the suggestion became a reality.

Orders were given and acted upon.

The suggestion soon materialized and became a physical reality. The day was filled with excitement and joy at what was brought into this world.

Then, to much dismay, it had appeared a critical component was left behind in the planning. In the rush to form the idea into reality, the one thing to keep ones head cool was forgotten. Looked over and dismissed like an awkward, vision impaired teenager in gym glass.

Once realized the issue was quickly resolved. And with what seemed like mere minutes the CPU cooling fan arrived. Again, much rejoicing was evident. With careful planning and intricate execution, the the physical manifestation of the suggestion began to evolve into a single component.
It what seemed like weeks of labor, my tired eyes and weary mind gazed upon an almost completed realization of a dream forged ages ago. We still lacked an optical drive. The idea was to salvage a drive from the aging machine to be replaced, but as the strategy was formulated a new hurdle came into view.

The graphics card. More importantly, the optical nerve needed to deliver the visual manifestation was not present. Once again, the rushed research and planning had reared it's ugly head. Morale began to crumble, it seemed an unknown agent was beginning to make itself seen. What other critical pieces of the puzzle slipped by? With growing resolve, I vowed within myself that I would overcome. I would gather my resources and leap this new hurdle. With a bounce in my step I proceeded to obtain the cord needed and also a new optical drive. Again, fate seemed to favor us and the arrival of the needed puzzle pieces came into our possession.

With renewed spirit, assembly continued on the physical manifestation of the suggestion. In short time the single component was done.

All that was left to do now was to supply the power to bring the manifestation to full reality. With excitement, I eagerly awaited to see the visual accomplishment. My heart raced, my breath quickened. My finger poised over the button, the bringer of life. Click. The almost silent sound of the fans spooling like a gentle sigh. My eyes steady on the monitor as I longed for the messages to triumphantly declare that I am not a failure. I am a technical god!

No. No. No. This cannot be happening. Suddenly my heart was in my throat. My stomach churning and twisting, nausea sweeping through my body as I suddenly went cold. NO no no no no. Quickly I cut the life from the single component and sprang into action. My hands shaking as I removed the panel. My eyes devouring every last piece, begging to identify something out of place. I scanned the wires that bring life blood to the motherboard. Did I miss something on the video card? Maybe, just maybe. Yes! I missed supplying power to the video card. I'm It sustains itself from the motherboard. Like a leach it syphons power from another source. My heart began to sink slowly. Doubts swirled within.

What have I done? What did I miss? My head was pounding like the drums during halftime of a college football game. What did I miss? I picked up the manual and retraced my steps. All was in order. Nothing was missed. Everything appeared in place. I appealed to the manufacture and all signs began to point toward a faulty motherboard.

A sadness swept through me. A sadness laced with obsession. No true signs were apparent. More importantly no sounds were heard. No gleeful chirp when the power was first given to the component. I did miss a simple thing, the case speaker. The Oracle. The item to give me the signs needed. I scoured my supplies and found no speaker. I then decided to salvage the old oracle from my previous machine. This will tell me what I needed to know.

My hands shook as I installed the speaker. The plug did not match, but I was determined to know what had went wrong. Two plugs, four pins. What is the combination? I feverishly tried many combinations, but to no avail. The component would not speak to me. I was done. No longer able to think.

Physically drained from the sudden abrupt release of excitement and anticipation, I dragged my weary body to bed. I would have to tackle this on the morrow.

When I awoke the next day, I gazed longingly at the Physical Manifestation Of A Suggestion, knowing it would be late into the day before I could lovingly lay my hands upon it. I had other responsibilities to attend to.

I availed myself of my peers for advice and received many responses throughout the day. The knowledge and encouragement lightened my steps and instilled a new resolve. A new strategy was formulated and once again I vowed to leap this new hurdle that the unknown saboteur agent had thrown in my path.

Once I was home again, I quickly found the required speaker supplied by the manufacturer of the case. It was within my eyesight the whole time. This was a huge victory for me. My hand shook with trepidation as I installed the speaker. Again, I powered the Component up. Waiting, my ears straining to here the Oracle speak her wisdom. Nothing. I quickly choked down my growing fear. NO! I will not be defeated! I shall overcome! A growing anger started to rage. I have done nothing wrong here. I was careful. Methodical to the point of crazed obsession assembling you. Why are you not responding to my commands to come to life? This was not the way, I told myself.

Taking deep breaths, I quickly obtained a number. I shall consult an expert.

His name was Bill. His southern drawl immediately soothed the growing rage. I quickly explained the unfortunate events leading up to my call. Pull the memory, he responded. Power up the machine, he commanded. No sound, no visual clue, that life ebbed through the machine, this hunk of metal, bane.

He calmly explained two potential faults. First, the speaker may not be plugged in. Secondly, there may be a fault between the power coupling and the CPU. In my eagerness to prove that I was right, I quickly pointed out the speaker was indeed installed. He then stated calmly and clearly that there must be a fault in the power supply to the CPU and that was why I was not seeing the Component power up correctly. He then drew my attention to the 4-pin connector that is to supply the CPU.

I was dumbfounded. Could it be that simple. It usually is, but I rarely fall victim to such sabotage. I could hear the Unknown Agent snickering in the background.

I had missed a simple step. The empty 4-pin coupler shined from within the case like a beacon of hope on a dark night. I quickly found the required umbilical of life needed to power the CPU. My hands shook as I installed the memory once again.

As I powered up the Component, I could hear Bill smile as I told him excitedly that life was breathed into the machine. Visual confirmation sprang into existence on the monitor. My heart soared with gratitude as I thanked Bill effusively.

The Unknown Agent skulked away as the world brightened. The Physical Manifestation Of A Suggestion had become a reality. As I rejoiced with my peers who had given me advice earlier, it was suggested that I name the Component after it's saviour.

Welcome to the world Bill.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Once again, I flash.

T-Mobile and HTC are getting ready to release an updated ROM for the HD2. Somehow, it got leaked and is out on xda-developers site. I've had it installed for well over a week now and it is surprisingly stable. So much so that it will take me a long time to switch over to a custom ROM again. The main hangup I had with the old ROM was that it had some serious lag issues when using the messaging client and frequent freezes and lockups. Especially when running applications. With this new release, I haven't experienced any freezes or lockups since the install. Well, I've had less then I can count on one hand and that was in the first couple of days. Which is to be expected.

I do like NRGZ custom ROMs, but I just feel more comfortable running something that's been released by HTC/T-Mobile. I'm sure though, that sometime soon I'll start testing custom ROMs again that are based on the new 3.14 release. In the meantime, I'll be looking into customizing the digital clock.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I'm A Flasher!

Finally made the plunge. I flashed my first custom ROM to my HD2. It was a bit scary at first, but with the excellent help found at xda-developers, it turned out to be rather simple. I flashed a ROM called Energy with MaxSense UI. The UI is based on HTC Sense 2.5. It's a helluva lot more customizable and that's pretty much what I was looking for. It's turning out not as stable as I would hope, but from what I've read, it will become more stable. Not sure why, maybe it's like breaking in a new pair of boots, I dunno.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Guild Wars: Title Grinding

It took me some time, but I finally managed to grind it out. Special thanks goes to Doom Box and his guide to the Spearmarshal title. Without his handy video on his YouTube channel I'd still be grinding it out today.
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