Monday, March 26, 2012

My new best day(s) ever.

So, when I say that WiFi is the be all end all of power conservation, here's what I mean. This is my battery usage after 15 hours on WiFi only with an hour of screen time and a couple of minutes of voice calls.

But that was just half the story.... or more accurately, 1/3 of the story. In the end, my battery lasted until Monday morning. That's a full 48hrs. Of that, 41hrs was spent on WiFi and about 7hrs was spent on 3G. Granted, it was only 1:45 of Screen time and 7 minutes of talk time, but it says a lot about WiFi and the battery's "standby capacity'.

- DnT

Friday, March 23, 2012

If you have an HP Touchpad, you NEED to install CM9

Last fall I managed to score a few HP Touchpads during the great firesale. I sold a few and kept one for myself.... a 32GB model. Now, I bought it hoping that eventually Android would get ported over, but knowing that for $150 WebOS would be good enough for my needs. Primarily, this was going to be a couch surfing device and a media player for the kids when we travel, and WebOS can handle that just fine.... it even has plenty of games for the kids to mess with - though the market is sadly limited. That said, I was always hoping for the Android port.

Well, its here. Actually, its been here for a while, but I haven't wanted to mess with it until now. Recently the CyanogenMod team released their 'Alpha' build of CM9 (Cyanogen's custom ICS ROM). There are bugs, and not everything works, but honestly, its good enough. I installed CM9 Alpha 2 last week and I haven't really run into any problems. The only minor thing I've seen is that some embeded web videos don't play in the page, but really I don't care too much about that. The Chrome beta browser lacks the ability to change the user agent to 'desktop' or request desktop versions of sites like the stock browser. It is the same issue on the Galaxy Nexus, but I think being able to get the desktop site is clearly more important on a tablet.

Other than the minor browsing issues, everything else works fine. Market....sorry Play Store.... is up and running as are all the Google apps like Gmail, Maps and YouTube. Netflix is working too.

So, the bottom line is, even though this is not even a Beta yet.... its quite stable and functional and I don't see any reason to go back to WebOS. But its nice to know its there if ever I wanted it.

Install instructions can be found HERE.

Current Files can be downloaded HERE.

I installed the CM9 Alpha 2 release, but I am currently running the 3/17 Nightly release without a hitch. If you want the latest stable nightly release, I recommend installing this build and the 3/17 version of gapps. Nightly builds are available HERE.

NOTE: I ran into a weird situation during the install. The Moboot screen came up with options to boot to WebOS, WebOS Recovery, Clockwork Recovery, and Reboot. It was missing the option to boot to CyanogenMod. I uninstalled and reinstalled to no avail. I couldn't find anyone else who ran into that problem. I experimented and was able to manually install the CM9 zip. If you run into a moboot screen with no option for booting to Cyanogen, try this:
Boot to WebOS
Plug in to your PC and verify that the CM9 zip file is saved to the cminstall folder on your touchpad. If not, copy it there again.
Eject the Touchpad from your PC.
Reboot your Touchpad.
From the Moboot screen, choose "boot to clockwork recovery".
Once in clockwork recovery, choose install from zip. navigate to the cminstall folder and select the CM9 zip to install.
Install it.
This should get CM9 installed on your Touchpad. Once installed, boot to CM9. The installation should take a few more minutes. Once you have CM9 running, you need to reboot again. Boot to Clockwork recovery again, choose install from zip again.... but this time choose the gapps zip file. Once installed, reboot to CM9 and you should be all set. You just have to setup your google account and install your other apps.

(Moboot is the screen that appears during boot that lets you choose what to boot to: CM9, WebOS, Recovery, Reboot, etc. - kind of like the Safe boot selection screen on Windows).

NEXT UP: Invaluable Apps - All ICS approved of course!

- DnT

Rooting does not mean 'ROM-ing"

I come across people fairly regularly posting on android forums who avoid rooting because they "don't want to mess with custom ROMS". It prompted me to write this post, if for no other reason than to say that...

You can ROOT without installing or running a custom ROM.

I've been unlocked since day one as unlocking fully wipes your device and I didn't want to go through the trouble of setting everything up twice since I knew I'd want to root shortly. I rooted my phone within days of getting it, not to run custom ROMs but to have access to all sorts of Root-only features.  Personally, I still run the stock ROM and kernels, but root gives you access to so much more.

Here are just a few reasons I rooted.

1. Wireless tether. I've had wireless tether since my original Droid (albeit a fairly insecure Ad-hoc implementation). Now, there are supposedly some non-root wireless tether apps, but I'll stick to what I know.

2. Titanium backup. If you ever want to change a ROM, TB is priceless for getting your phone back up and running.

3. Custom features - Installing custom boot animations, certain features of apps like Nova launcher, and dozens of other root-only apps make rooting invaluable in my opinion.

- DnT

Custom Boot Animations

If you are tired of that low res, washed out boot animation on your Galaxy Nexus (or really any Android Phone), its easy to change - provided you are rooted of course.

In ICS I believe there are 2 locations for files to be installed. The "factory" location is under /system/media/ and the alternative is under /data/local/. Even though the system/media location is the stock/factory one, the data/local one overrides it. I have run half a dozen bootanimation.zips on my Nexus with no problem....just delete whichever one is in the data/local folder and paste in a new one. This allows you to keep the stock one intact in case you ever want to go back to it (just delete the data/local version). Oh, and if you are one of those people who constantly change ROMs and wipe/reset your phone, the data/local file won't be erased whereas the system/media will. So, there's another reason to use the data/local location.

There are a couple of ways to load a custom bootanimation. Some people package their animations as a zip installer that you have to run through either recovery or Clockwork, but I think that adds quite a bit of unnecessary time. I prefer to just copy the file directly to my phone storage. Quick and Easy.  

Note: If you find a bootanimation you like, but its setup as a zip installer, its simple to extract the The installer zip will have a name like "". Just open the installer zip, open the 'data' folder, open the 'local' folder, and copy the file within.

I found this thread on Rootzwiki that has a BOATLOAD of custom boot animation files. I mean, there's a million of them including user requests. Its 50 pages long but worth going through if you have the time. There are also a whole section dedicated to boot animations including things like NFL and NHL Team Themes. 

If you are the creative type, you can even make your own. There's a nice tutorial here on how to do it.

- DnT

Its been 4 months....what happened to 'faster' updates???

Anyone who regularly visits 'Galaxy Nexus' forums has certainly seen this comment multiple times when complaining about the lack of updates from Google on this "Nexus" phone. Well, there are two points those people are missing, and they are usually quickly addressed by the more savvy GN users.

1. This phone received an update within seconds of being unboxed.

2. Faster doesn't mean more often. It means faster than non-Nexus devices. Now, it will be a little different for the GSM Nexus and the Verizon LTE Nexus, but for the most part these updates will be much sooner than updates for every other phone by every other manufacture. Because the GN is a 'vanilla' version of Ice Cream Sandwich, we don't have to sit around and wait for the manufacturer to apply their custom skins and bloatware. That is a process that often takes months. Look at the Droid Razr, it still has no ICS update and ICS has been released since the end of 2011.

Also, it is assumed that Google had some issues with the 4.0.3 version of ICS when they tried their test rollout on the Nexus S - which caused them to not roll it out en masse and head back to the drawing board. I think that is why we are now rumored to be getting a more advanced/tuned 4.0.5.

So, be patient. 4.0.5 is on its way in the next few weeks.

- DnT

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

WiFi vs 4G

[Originally posted over at]

Since there is a lot of talk about how much better WiFi is than 4G or even 3G, I thought I'd run a little test just to show it....

On day 1 I ran my phone on mobile data all day, no WiFi, a mix mostly 4G and some 3G. On day 2 I ran my phone in typical fashion. That is WiFi almost all day - 13hrs out of 15hrs - with 2 hours on 4G. Both days had strikingly similar usage, almost exactly 1hr of screen time, no streaming. The only usage difference was that on day 2 I had about 40min of voice calls, whereas on day 1 it was only 20min. Obviously a pretty mild day usage-wise. Take a look at these charts and then imagine what the 4G would have been like had I spent a couple of hours streaming!

15 hours on 4G = 3% remaining

13 hours on WiFi, 2 hours on 4G = 43% remaining

The moral of the story is, obviously, use WiFi whenever you possibly can! 

- DnT


If you really want to find out what is keeping your phone's processor awake and chewing through your battery, look no further than BetterBatteryStats available for $2.89 in the Google Play Store. Install it. Run it.

When you open the app, you'll see a screen like this
Select "Partial Wakelocks" from the first dropbox and leave the second one set to "Since charged". This will display for you a list of every app and process that has been causing your processor to run in the background.
If you are seeing a lot of overnight activity or want to view what is happening during a specific time period, BBS includes an option to address this. Go to Menu > More > Set Custom Ref. This creates a Reference point in time for BBS to track from. Then, when you are ready to check stats, instead of choosing "since charged" you can choose "since custom ref." and it will display all the activity since you set the reference point.

Once you've chosen which stats to view, they are displayed in decreasing order from the most time "awake" to the least. As I mentioned before, most of these are necessary and harmless. Others may be draining your battery. Looking at the screenshot above, you can see that currently the biggest cause of partial wakelocks is "Airdroid". Airdroid is an app that lets you transfer files wireless between PC and phone. I happened to have forgotten I left it on, and as you can see it was running for half an hour. That's not a terrible drain on battery, but I don't want to leave it on anyway. What you are really looking for is processes that use excessive CPU - it will probably appear near the top of the list and may have a red line extending much of the way across the screen. Unfortunately I don't have a screenshot, but previously I found that the Google Backup "feature" was stuck in some kind of sync and kept my processor awake for 11 Hours! Needless to say, I disabled that feature. I haven't seen other people reporting that same problem so it could have just been a fluke, but by using BetterBatteryStats I was able to identify the cause of my poor battery life. Note that if you are streaming a lot of audio you will see certain "audio processes" reporting a lot of partial wakelocks. This is perfectly normal. You may also want to take note of the "count" of different processes as this actually tells you how many times that process caused a partial wakelock. You may notice that things like "syncs" and "Gtalk" cause a lot of partial wakelocks as they are constantly checking for updates/changes. That's why in my previous post I recommended eliminating any syncs you do NEED.

Next up.... WiFi vs 4G

- DnT

Finding your battery drain!

As I mentioned in my first post, there are a lot of obvious causes of poor battery life. Unfortunately, there are many other causes of battery drain that are not so obvious. In this post I'll talk about finding those problems and addressing them.

1. Battery Stats are your friends and the graphs provided in Ice Cream Sandwich are quite useful once you know how to use them.

Main Battery Screen - This screen shows you the estimated charge remaining (80% here), the time on battery (5h 34m 34s), and then breaks down the biggest users of the battery by percentage. Typically you will find Screen and Android OS at the top of the list.

Battery Graph - If you click on the picture of the graph itself, it will bring up another screen that offers you a more detailed look at the phone's discharging process. Mobile Network Signal gives you an idea of the signal strength throughout the day thus far. Green is strong, then bright yellow, dim yellow/grey and red. You may notice on your phone that the battery discharges more quickly with a poor signal as the phone tries to boost power to maintain the connection. The next two lines I am going to focus on are really critical to battery life. "Awake" and "Screen on". Awake refers to times when the phone's CPU is operating (ie awake) and Screen on refers to times when the screen is turned on (obviously). What is really important here is to watch out for periods of time where the phone is Awake but the Screen is NOT on. This indicates some background process running that is draining battery while you aren't using the phone actively. This is pretty normal, so long as its not excessive. If you are seeing lots of awake time that doesn't correspond to Screen on time you may have an issue. Streaming music and receiving emails/texts etc are perfectly normal background processes. In my next post I will focus on using some free apps to help identify what processes/apps are hogging your battery in the background.

Here's a closeup of the Awake and Screen On lines. You can see how almost all the awake time lines up with times the screen is on. This is what you want.

Android OS - Android OS simply tells you how long the CPU has been running (in total) since you unplugged and how much time it has been "kept awake". As you may notice, Keep awake time tends to exceed total - yes, it seems an odd way to report usage but that's what we have. Its perfectly 'normal', at least according to what many users are seeing, to have several hours of Keep Awake time. I regularly see 2-3 hours after 16 hours unplugged. If you are seeing WAY more than that, you may have an issue. Again, we'll focus on that in the next post.

Hope this has been helpful so far.

- DnT

My Battery life

As I mentioned in my first post today, my battery life ranges anywhere from 20-30 hours. For most people that probably sounds great, and quite frankly I think it is. I also think that for many users, those numbers are achievable. However, there are certainly going to be power users and others who will never get close, and for them, having a charger or second battery handy is going to be necessary. If you don't have access to WiFi during the day, do a lot of streaming, or keep your phone's screen on for 5 hours a day, you are probably going to fall into that category.

First, lets talk about 'typical usage'. For me, a day starts with my phone coming off the charger at about 7am. 

Usually its showing about 98%. That is not unusual and nothing is wrong with your phone if it never seems to reach 100%. These devices are smart and designed to prolong the life of the battery by not overcharging. Once the phone hits 100% it actually stops charging and will slowly drain to 94% before trickling back and forth at around 92-96%. Chances are, when you pick up your phone in the morning its not going to read 100%. And even if it does, its not really at 100%! Also, if you've ever noticed how the first 10% seems to drop off really quickly, you might want to take a look at this article which explains why, or tune in to Dianne Hackborn's Google+ feed where she notes that 

Dianne HackbornJan 13, 2012

Once you get above 90%, I would stop worrying about it. I think most if not all devices need to go through charge/discharge cycles while fully charged to keep the battery life good, so when it is "charged" it will actually be ramping up and down to do that. How this is shown to the user varies across manufacturers, and there is really no clearly right solution -- if you show them the actual changes in level they start complaining and getting concerned about their battery not being at 100%, so it is good to just show it at 100% at this point but then you are giving a little white lie about the actual level.

My day usually lasts about 16 hours before I plug back in.  For me, 85% of the day I spend connected to WiFi with only about 2 hours on 4G. This is really the key to my long battery life. The more time you spend on 4G or even 3G, the faster your battery drains. As for my normal usage, I would say that I average about 2 - 2 1/2 hours of screen on time, <20 minutes of talk time. I rarely stream videos and occasionally listen to a couple of hours of Sirius radio (screen off).  I think its fair to describe my usage as 'moderate' or fairly standard. 

So, that's a typical day for me, but I thought I would also include some stats on my "best day" and "worst day".

Best Day Ever! - I ran over 29 hours on the stock battery, stock ROM, stock kernel. 29 1/2 hours on battery. about 27hrs on wifi, 2hrs on 3g/4g. 2hrs 45min screen on time. about 5 minutes talk time. No streaming. Brightness at 10% except brief periods in direct sunlight.

Worst Day ever! - Only got 14.5 hours. 2:45 screen on. 2:00 streaming Sirius via 4G. 0:45 of talk time. I really hit on all most of the big drains that day!

So that's it for my day, in my next post I'll focus on finding battery drains and solving battery issues.

- DnT

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Battery Life

Read any forum about the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and you are bound to find 85 trillion posts bemoaning the lackluster battery life of Google's latest "Flagship Device". You will also find 73 Billion responses recommending that the original poster "Root and ROM" their phone for optimal battery life. Unfortunately, that doesn't work for a lot of people as they fear the unknown of Root and ROMS.

I'm here to say that its not necessary.

Sure, my phone is unlocked and rooted, but I am running the stock Android 4.0.2 ROM and kernel. I'm not using any special task managers, battery controllers, power savers, etc.  Its simply a matter of understanding what uses the most juice and making the most out of what you've got. I typically have my phone off the charger for about 16 hours a day and when I plug it back in I usually have about 30% left. On my best day I've gotten over 29 hours.

So let's look at battery hogs...

1. The big beautiful screen - Its the biggest phone screen on the market (unless you count the Galaxy Note as a phone, I think its more of a Tablone.) Its HD and packed with pixels. It uses a lot of power when its turned on. The best thing you can do for battery life is reduce the brightness as much as possible. I keep mine at 10% unless I am outside or in a brightly lit room. Its plenty bright for me to read 90% of the time. I use a power control widget, widgetsoid specifically, on my home screen to give me quick access to adjust the brightness. I find Auto Brightness unreliable and I think it tends to set brightness higher than needed.

2. 4G data - That's right, all those G's come at a price. With the current 1st generation 4G chips comes some inefficiency. While 4G should technically be faster and more efficient than 3G, only the former is true. Until we start seeing some of the newer 'Hybrid' 3G/4G chips, we'll have to deal with the inefficiency of running multiple chips.

So, what to do?

USE WIFI. As much as possible. In terms of battery usage WiFi < 3G < 4G. So turn it on and use it whenever you can. If you are in a weak 4G area or have no 4G where you are, turn it off. (settings > more > mobile networks > network mode > CDMA). If you go in and out of 4G areas and want quick access to these settings, your best bet is a widget called 4G Toggle which can be downloaded from the Marke....sorry, the Google Play Market.

3. Talk Time - Yup, in the world of email, Facebook, texts and IM's people tend to even forget that their phone can make calls. And in fact, voice calls require quite a bit of power. I'm not trying to discourage actually speaking to other human beings, rather just letting you know that it does drain your battery fairly quickly when you do.

4. Sync - WHAT? What's the point of a smartphone if it doesn't sync? That's true, just be smart about what you choose to sync. Every sync wakes up the CPU and uses your data connection and thus some power. The less you sync the better your battery life. So let's talk about what you NEED to sync. Personally, I sync Gmail, Calendar, Contacts, Browser and 1 pop email account every 30 minutes. No Twitter, no Facebook and no Google+. Firstly, Google+ is a known sync hog and would sync constantly causing a noticeable battery drain. Second of all, do you really NEED to sync things like Twitter, Facebook and Google+? Do you NEED updates constantly? Not really. When you open each of their apps within seconds you've got all your feeds updated. Get your social media updates as needed not as posted and you'll save yourself some juice. Oh, and I'm pretty sure syncing your photos tends to be a drain too but most people probably use that feature and can live with it, but I thought I'd point it out anyway. Some people report problems with Google Talk, but I've had it on and running since December with no impact on battery life.

5. Streaming - It should be obvious, but in case it wasn't, streaming uses data. Data uses power. Therefore streaming drains your battery. If you listen to Sirius or Pandora, or if you watch a lot of YouTube or Netflix videos, expect to see your battery drain quickly. Especially for videos since you've got the double whammy of data and screen on.

6. GPS - While receiving GPS signals alone doesn't take much power, note that Google Maps/Nav has to be connected to data to work. So it will maintain a constant connection to identify your location and track you on the map....even if your screen is off. If you could cache your route and the maps offline and run without data it'd be fine, but until Google implements that you are SOL. GPS Navigation is a HUGE power drain especially if you have the screen on. Many users report that their car charger cannot even maintain a steady charge while using GPS. This is not unique to the Galaxy Nexus but is a 'feature' of the way Google Maps/Navigation works. This won't change so long as Google Nav works online.

So, now that you know what uses up all your precious power, you can start getting the most out of your phone. In my next post I'll talk more about my battery life and later, tips on solving any battery drains you may have.

Good luck!

- DnT