Impressions of SlimBean ROM for Nexus S

16 November 2012

I've had my Nexus S for about a year and a half now, and I was stuck on an old stock Android for a long time—the AT&T version of this phone just never got the updates, so Matt helped me out and got me started with CM9 on the device back in the Spring.

Since getting some experience rooting and romming, I've tracked CM9, tried CM10, loaded stock Android 4.0 and 4.1. I found my device with stock 4.1 with my usual loaded apps (like BeyondPod, Tasker, etc) to be a little light on RAM. BeyondPod kept getting pushed out of memory when, really, it's my #1 app for daily use.

I needed to free up some memory, so I figured SlimBean would be worth a look. It seems to be based on AOSP with some of the most useful features of other ROMs merged, like notification toggles, etc. It's also relatively easy to install, though the upgrades keep recommending a full wipe and reinstall, which can be inconvenient, even with a ROM Toolbox doing my backup and restore of applications.

One of the most notable features is that the default DPI is set low (182ppi), so everything ends up tiny. Couple that with a tighter grid-size in Hololauncher and you can cram lots of app icons and widgets on the screen. I at one point bumped it back up to 200 to get it just a little more readable, but in the latest install, I've just been leaving it set to the default.

Amazon Appstore offered me my first problem. ROM Toolbox half restored it, but not the whole way, so it had some data files laying around but not the rest of the app. When I went to install it again from APK, it kept telling me "App is not installed". I finally figured out in this last time I wiped and installed, that I needed to delete the Appstore's data directory in Root Browser, and then it happily installed.

In the end, I'm not sure I gained much free memory—it still seems tight, and applications are still quick to get pushed out. I think what's slim about the ROM, is that it merged in some select features from CM and others without taking up as much space for everything those other ROMs offer. I like this ROM, and I hope to see it make Android 4.2.x and later available on my little Nexus S.

Events for the Photo Site

26 February 2010

Way back in the day, when I used to shoot at clubs and raves, I'd always want a way to share the images with the people I'd meet, but exchanging email could be a bit cumbersome or just be a deterrent.

While I'm not out clubbing these days, I'm still often out at various events, so I still need a quick and easy way to point people to the images, so I just added the Event Code box to the photo site.

While I'm out shooting, I can create an event code (from imagination or using my phone), and then write that short code on my business card to hand out. Then it's really easy for someone to hit my site, punch in the code, and get right to the photos on Flickr or in the Gallery.

It's just one of those little things I've wanted for a while, and now I've finally added it.

Nokia Messaging on E71

23 February 2010

I was confused months and months ago when I tried to load Nokia Messaging, and it looked just like the old S60 email client. It turned out it wasn't installing back then.

Just yesterday, I installed Nokia Messaging again from the Ovi Store, and it definitely took this time.

I connected it up to my mobile email account (which is sort of hard to tell the settings once it's done), and it seems to be working. It started on reboot, it shows the '@' indicator and new email on the home screen. It seems to be using a hosted middleware layer (which seems unnecessary, but we'll see), and I had to login to the email website to tune a few things. Most notably, I had to wipe the outgoing server settings to get email to send, since my mail server isn't configured to allow just anyone to send.

I still can't see anywhere in the configurations that I'm logging into mail with an account name different from what I publish -- it just feels like too much is hidden. It sends and receives a little slower (the middleware), but I'm hoping that the vast improvements in the UI make up for that.

I've found no show-stopper problems yet, so I've turned off my normal email notifications on the home screen to give messaging room to show its status, and reassigned the email key to the new Nokia Messaging. The old email client is still configured, but it's not set to retrieve email anymore.

Update (23 February 2010): Nokia Messaging seems to talk plain old HTTP to its middleware, so I can now let it use the locked down wireless at work to send and receive email, instead of always being on 3G. That should help with battery life.

D-Link DIR-615 vs Asus EeePC 1000HE

06 August 2009

Claire's excellent little EeePC 1000HE was not being so excellent in one area -- the wireless network. Everything had gone so nicely with the installation and daily running the machine, but the network kept dropping out, and it always seemed to have a weak signal (~50%) in our favorite parts of the house.

The Problem

I didn't use the machine much, but it seemed to mostly behave for me -- I had trouble reproducing the problems, so I was continually moving the DIR-615 router around in the office trying to get it closer to where she wanted to use it. It only needed to go through 4 or 5 surfaces (walls and floors). The DIR-615 was performing fabulously for every other device in the house (ThinkPad, E71, MacBook Pro).

I really started to suspect the netbook was maybe broken (but at this point, it's been months of it working on and off) when I installed the same model access point (D-Link DIR-615) at K-Prep, and Claire still dropped connection just trying to get packets across an open room!

Google turned up some discussion of the wireless being weak, and people cracking these things open to install external antennae, but fortunately no talk of it being a Linux vs Windows driver issue. I also stumbled upon talk of some radio bands no working so well.

The Resolution

Finally, I started digging around more in the router configurations to try to work this out. I figured maybe I needed to eliminate the fringe technologies and settings (like those problematic radio bands, etc). I didn't find those particular bands (5GHz?), but I did find the 802.11 B/G/N settings, and locked it down to the more tried and true B/G networks, eliminating the fringe N spec.

I did this on both the home and work routers, all the normal devices kept working, and now even the EeePC is working reliably -- it almost never drops connection!

I don't actually know how to get the Linux to tell me that much about its wireless network, so I don't know if it was ever really using the N network, or if the N network was just causing interference for its G connection. Interestingly, the connection power still sits around 50-70% in the popular spots in the house as it always has, but the connection is more robust at those levels than it had previously been. Either way, Claire is once again happy with her little netbook, and I'm sort of wanting one again for myself.

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