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CyanogenMod on Samsung Galaxy S3 (I9300): Beginning with custom ROMs December 7, 2013

Posted by NAyK in android, Apps, CyanogenMod, Linux, Samsung Galaxy S3.
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cyanogenmod10It happened again! Several years ago, when I installed my first linux distro above a Windows (XP) platform, I saw the computer come alive, and fill me with wonder. The same feeling came to me, when few days ago I installed my first Custom ROM.  I had been reading about Custom ROMs for a while, but hadn’t really dared to even root my phone. I had just bought a Galaxy S3 (which was selling on a huge discount after the S4 was released). I was pleased with the phone, but found that it started to lag terribly. In fact, it was especially frustrating when I needed to make urgent calls, and the phone application would take up to 3-4 seconds to open up. I know it’s not much in a real sense, but for phone technology, I found myself wishing for a dumb Nokia phone!

To solve the problem, I felt it Samsung TouchWiz had become too bloated, so I decided to root it and uninstall the programmes that I didn’t need.

I first bought Titanium Backup, simply because that’s what it seemed else said should be done (on hindsight, Titanium has never worked for me, and so I don’t even use it at the moment. Maybe that’s because I’m misunderstanding its function). Anyway…

The rooting process wasn’t that hard, though at each moment it was like a journey into the unknown. I followed the instructions, installed Odin, but didn’t even know what a recovery programme was until I actually installed/used it. I purchased the ClockworkMod Recovery (CWM), just because that option came up… and I felt it was better to go with the “safer” route. Maybe I didn’t actually need it, but I don’t regret buying it. I followed the step by step instructions from the internet, and eventually had a rooted phone.

Sadly, I was too nervous to delete anything on the phone, not knowing what was critical and what was not. I only uninstalled a few programmes like Evernote, which I didn’t use. But apart from a few programmes, I was stuck with a similarly laggy phone.

I decided to take the drastic route, drawing courage from my rooting experience, to install a custom ROM. I did a little research and found that people were actually recommending  the AOKP custom ROM above the CyanogenMOD. So I decided to install the AOKP mod.

I followed the instructions, and installed a beautiful AOKP ROM on my phone. It was really great… just like seeing my first openSUSE (green) disto on my computer.However, when I saw the file system, AOKP did not install on the System ROM partition and instead installed on my internal storage partition and left me with only 4 GB of space. I needed much more. So I formatted everything and started again… but somehow I think I missed something and my phone went into a boot cycle… meaning it just wouldn’t boot up… but keep trying to boot.

I freaked out. Regardless of the discount, my phone was still very very expensive. I could not afford another one. And the words “brick” your phone became real to me.

But thanks again to the internet, and a bit of trial and error, I found out how to reboot and start again. Sadly, this time, my Clockwork Mod would just not read my external SD card… I was not able to install anything. Until I swapped my 32 GB card with a 2 GB old SD card that I had lying around.

Then, as it turned out, the AOKP file was (got?) corrupted so I could only read the CyanogenMod ROM… which is what I finally installed. Relief! it worked.

It wasn’t as beautiful as the AOKP ROM, but it was much faster than Samsung’s Touchwiz phone. And I was glad to have shifted. I also noted that it took less memory that the AOKP ROM so that even though it didn’t install into the System ROM space (how do you do that?), at least I had more memory to “play” with!

Currently, I’m on the Cyanogen Mod 10.2 stable build, and I’m going to experiment with the Nightly builds soon. However, it was really exciting…. just like having linux again. Only this time, I have only one operating system… so I’m really pushed to fully experiment and work with it (unlike Linux in which I always had the windows failsafe when I got overwhelmed).

Some good points.

1. Much faster than original Samsung Android.

2. Similar (familiar) to Samsung’s android.

3. Even though it is not as beautiful as other ROMs, perhaps, I still like the control I have over my phone, and it is still beautiful. (screenshot of my homescreen at the bottom)

Some concerns.

1. Battery life is still poor… I only get 5-6 hours of moderate usage (same as Galaxy S3). Was it supposed to be better here?

2. Boot time is slower than Samsung.

3. Movies are playing in a choppy way. Feels like there are no HD drivers or something. Is that true? Someone was saying that Samsung uses device-level (CPU level) media decoders, guess Cyanogen does not, huh.

4. Camera did not have photosphere.

5. I really miss Samsung’ easy connection to media devices (like TV etc) – that’s really the only thing I miss about Touchwiz (and the media drivers of course).  In Cyanogen I had to experiment with different apps for “beaming” and still haven’t found the perfect one.

6. The cost of installing a new ROM is having to install and configure everything again. That’s a real pain, especially for programmes that have post-installation downloads.

On the whole, it was a really exciting though at time scary experience with a Custom ROM. I would really not recommend it for everyone.. I wouldn’t every try it for someone else. Still, I’m happy I did it.

For an interesting article on why one SHOULD install Cyanogen, read this here: http://www.androidbeat.com/2013/06/top-reasons-to-install-cyanogenmod-on-android-device/



Best Android Apps for Children: 5 year old girl May 7, 2013

Posted by NAyK in android, Apps, children, games, Reviews, tablet.

android_logoChildren and tablets is a controversial topic. Mostly it feels wrong to let a child be unsupervised for long periods over any media, whether it is television or tablets. However, the reality is that parents tend to use gadgets as babysitters… and honestly… (sadly)… so have we. We have however tried to prevent too much “alone” time on the tablet and encourage as much participation when possible. So when on the tablet, we encourage our daughter, we have a 5-year-old, to ask us for help… and many of her games, we play too, and even try to attain game goals together (ie. collect as many coins). Additionally, the tablet is a family tablet and does not “belong” to our daughter… so it helps her to know that we all share it together (even though children specific apps dominate the tablet).

Anyway, the following is a personal list of what we as parents use for our five year old daughter on our Sony Android Tablet. We’ve really benefited from these kinds of lists as we go about choosing apps on our tablet… and so we too want to contribute to other parents like us, who are looking for Android specific apps for 5-year-olds.  The following list is in no particular order.


1. The “Dr. Seuss” books by Oceanhouse.

drseussOceanhouse has done a really good job in preparing books for reading on the tablet… and we especially like the highlighting of whole words as well as the option of our daughter interact with the words and pictures by tapping. We don’t think of Oceanhouse books as a way to teach a child how to read. But we enjoy the books and also like seeing our daughter interact with them. We’ve also used the “Little Critter” books as well, which our daughter enjoys. We haven’t tried the smaller books because they are expensive, and don’t have that many pages.

Parent participation: Low

Mostly our daughter has and can go through the entire book by herself, she does like it when we go through the pictures with her. Plus, she likes to share some of the funny events in the book with us. For instance, the book “Green Eggs and Ham” has in one screen a voice under the water.

2. Other books? Charlie Brown Christmas

Another book that we did like was Charlie Brown Christmas… though we were disappointed that there were not that many “songs” as in the interactive book that we had few years ago. Still, Charlie Brown Christmas does not have the high production values of Oceanhouse yet there too there is word-by-word highlighting and the story is nice.


Subway Surfer

subwaysurferMy daughter likes cars/racing etc, so the action games she really liked and was surprisingly adept at, is Subway Surfer. I say this in the past tense because after a while, the goal of playing has changed. She no longer finds it challenging and the goals, like getting a new surfboard, are just too difficult. (even for me). It would take us a month or more, to get one of those special surfboards… which is just too much to ask for a 5 year old to wait. I did get close to 200000 coins, but then, she just went and bought the latest characters and cheap surfboards available. Still, Subway Surfer is fun for her, and she plays it quite often.

Parent involvement: Medium, because I (father) play the game with her often. We’re a team. My wife does not play it at all. But when my daughter plays, she plays alone (I don’t have to watch her).

Beach Buggy Blitz

beachbuggyAnother game that my daughter really liked, though it was, and still remains, quite difficult for her to handle for long periods, is Beach Buggy Blitz. It was really difficult for me too… but when I figured it out, then both my daughter and I started having shared goals. Like buying a new character, or getting an upgrade. Now, we’ve gotten all the upgrades… so there is really nothing more to look forward to. So we don’t play that game much anymore.

Parent involvement: Medium, because like Subway Surfer, I play with her. But again, when she’s driving, she drives alone. Also she needs help to read the missions.

My daughter never really took to Angry Birds… though, she occasionally opens that game and plays for a while.

She has played a bit of Hill Climb Racer, but maybe again because she likes the goal of buying trucks and new scenes, and she lets me do most of the driving.

She also enjoyed the jumping and running games Manuganu (which she played in another tab, but we don’t have it on our tablet).


Clouds and Sheep

cloudsandsheepIn this category, if you haven’t gotten it already, we would strongly recommend Clouds and Sheep. She really enjoyed it from 4 years old… and now, having completed most of the challenges, doesn’t play it much. But she played it very often and really really liked it. We bought the premium version and did not regret it.

Parent involvement: Medium, mainly to to read the signs/hints/challenges to her.


Spy Mouse

spymouseCurrently, this game is my daughter’s favourite. Spy Mouse has been something that my daughter has played and played over the past few weeks (Since we just bought it). It’s got a maze like interface and requires speed as well as thinking. We are surprised by how well our daughter recognizes the characters of the cats, and is able to not just focus on the goal of getting cheese, but interact with the game play… see about pushing the limit of how close the cat can get before escaping etc.

Parent involvement: High (for some levels): Here, my daughter often asks for help to cross a level. Difficult portions include places that require speed and precision, and sometimes it can be quite frustrating for my daughter when the mouse gets caught. So she asks for help.

Other games

She loved Cut the Rope, but finished all the levels.

She also liked Where’s my Water, though does not play it as much anymore.

One game that she likes is Bad Piggies… and plays that occasionally… trying out new combinations. Similarly, Amazing Alex is something she is getting used to.

She also liked/likes Where’s Waldo. Often needs our help, but still finds it intriguing.


We don’t have any dress up games on our tablet yet, though she likes playing it when she gets a chance on other people’s tablets or ipads. We wish the Toca-Boca games (from iPad) were present in Android. I like the dress up game there. Even the cooking Toca-Boca games are fun.

Cooking games, like making, baking, pizza, cakes, juices etc she likes. There was a panda cooking / restaurant game that was not as fast/manic as the other restaurant games currently on android, and she liked that for a while. The problem is that it does not work without wifi (which is really frustrating). And also, it stops being interesting quite soon.

***There are many other games, but I can’t remember all of them. Will update this post when I remember. Hope this helps.


Repenting from Android piracy December 8, 2012

Posted by NAyK in android, Piracy.

OK I admit it, and I’m sorry. (And I really hope there’s no liability here). I got an Android tablet (Sony Tablet S) half a year ago, and after the few free games, I found a bunch of pirated apps that were especially useful to stop ads from popping up especially when my daughter was using the tablet. I must admit that I don’t own a credit card and there was really no way to purchase an app (at that time). However, sadly, I didn’t really feel guilty about it either. It seemed like “open” meant that using some free apps would be ok.

However, honestly, this whole Apple-controlling-the-market really bothered me. And I saw in disgust how Apple made so much money, and was still trying to sue Android and any Android-associates. I also noted how Apple made so much more money than Android. And also saw how developers made so much less on the Android…. piracy being one of the main concerns for Android developers.

Enough was enough, I had to start again. And my wife and I committed to remove any pirated stuff on our tablet. In my case, this meant resetting the tablet—deleting everything, and reconfiguring.

Then, we got our friends to help us with making credit card purchases… and yes, they are close friends, and they trust us. And we bought about $20 worth of apps, books and games. I know that’s not much, but convert it to my local currency, and it is a big deal! We have also budget another $20 for the remainder of the holiday season, and then from then on… every few months… we’ll look to make a purchase or two.

It really felt good to be liberated from pirated material. But more importantly, I really felt I was putting my Android loyalty to the test. It was not enough to say that Android makes the world a better place, without supporting it, or even while I was undermining it. And I felt something needed to be done, which I’m glad I (we) did.

I have a few concerns though… firstly… how to prevent in-app purchases… especially accidental ones made by our daughter, or even by us. Secondly, the lack of payment options for my country.

The first problem I solved by adding a new account to the tablet, which does not have a google wallet account. So, everytime I would have to make a purchase, it would ask me to configure my account. It is a workaround, I know. And I would much prefer every purchase requiring a passcode. Nevertheless, it works for now.  by going to settings in Google Play, entering a PIN in the “Set or change PIN” and then choosing “Use PIN for purchases”. That’s exactly what I wanted (and thanks to a reader, for pointing this out).

The second problem is much bigger, and way out of my hands. My country is not famous for how much we spend on apps. So, I doubt there will be a rush towards making payment easy here, where there are other more urgent markets. Nevertheless, I do hope one day, we will be on par with other countries to access and purchase data. (clarification: While Credit cards and seemingly debit cards are accepted through Google Play, it seems Maestro Debit cards don’t work on Google Play… which most of us here use. So that’s what I mean by more payment options needed.)

So, that’s my little android story of the season. (I really hope no anti-piracy police will come knocking on my door for confessing like this, but I really feel this story needed to be told).

Change May 12, 2012

Posted by NAyK in android, ipad, tablet.
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I can’t believe how long it has been since I last post. Actually I can believe it. I was busy. Full stop.

Now I’m back. But only just. I bought a new laptop (HP Probook), I have Windows 7 Home Premium installed. But I am hesitating to install openSUSE 12. I don’t know why. Earlier, that would be the first thing I would do. After Windows, install Linux.  But I really don’t feel like installing openSUSE right now. It takes too much time to configure… especially to my office network… and I can’t see myself using openSUSE apart from the occasional Windows problem solving. (Plus, I was truly disappointed that TrueCrypt did not allow me to encrypt my previous notebook because the openSUSE boot partition was not on the first “main”? sector, whatever that means.)

But why have I lost interest in openSUSE, I don’t know. From being a fun (distraction) project, Linux has gone out of favour for now. I now need my computer for work… and sadly I never invested enough time to learn linux-based systems… apart from the basic installation and early-work phase. After trying one, I would move to another… and so on. There was a time when I used openSUSE for a long time… but once I moved towards webdesign (read Dreamweaver)… it was Windows all the way (and I actually prefer using Adobe products on Windows rather than on the Mac which my office also has. So, yes, you can stop reading now that I have lost all credibility!)

But there was a change. In the last few months… there has been a smart-phone/tablet boom. And I too have joined the craze.

I recently bought a Sony Tablet S for my wife. And spent more time than her in configuring it, figuring it out… and really enjoying Android.

I had seen the iPad before, but I just couldn’t see myself using an iPad (plus they were really expensive). More reasons for choosing Android in a later post.

So for now… until I muster the will/courage to head back into linux-love (and install openSUSE on my new notebook), I’ll talk a bit about my android love. It’s so ironic that since my last post… android (linux-based) has truly become an “alternative” to the “evil”  Windows Apple! (haha!) Who would have thought!