Droid 4 First Impressions: Speedalicious and Shiny

At long last, I have relinquished my beloved OG Droid and upgraded to a shiny, new Droid 4.
Droid 4
This wasn’t undertaken without some trepidation. My OG Droid was rooted, overclocked, and running a custom ROM with a lot of snazzy features, and I knew that I wouldn’t be rooting a new device for at least a year (not until after the warranty expires) so would have to deal with bloatware and a manufacturer’s skin—Blur (Motorola), TouchWiz (Samsung), or Sense (HTC)—running atop stock Android in addition to not having all the customization and control over my device that I’ve grown accustomed to.

But as souped up and modded as it was, my poor old Droid suffered from something I couldn’t fix: a shortage of RAM. At only 256 MB, even running a streamlined Gingerbread ROM to maximize memory and CPU balancing, I was having to strip off apps to conserve space and was still seeing an inevitable slowdown—despite overclocking the processor to 1 GHz. Every time one of my apps got an update, I had to weigh the increased size of it (upgrades to apps inevitably include size creep) and potential increase in CPU demands against the amount of internal storage/RAM I had, which usually meant I didn’t install the update. But even with painstaking space hoarding, websites were taking forever to load, apps likewise took forever to launch and frequently force closed or froze after they did finally open, and it often took half my train commute simply waiting for a status update to update already.

The thing is, I’m impatient. I just plain hate waiting for anything (not an advantageous personality trait for a writer to have, btw). And I’m also usually crunched for time, which exacerbates my normal hurry-up-already mindset to a perpetual state of “Rrarghh!” *gnash teeth, foam at mouth*. Of all the bells and whistles I enjoy ringing and tooting on my tech, what I really want is speed. I crave blazing fast, snappy responsiveness, lickety-split data downloads, and instantaneous content.

So when the Droid 4 came out touting 4G, a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, and 1 GB of RAM, I had lust.

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Running Gingerbread on my Droid, Simply Stunning v5.4, and Most Useful App Recommendations

Matthew’s Droid X upgraded to Gingerbread (Android O/S version 2.3.x) last week, so I decided it was time to give Gingerbread a try, too. I’ve been running ChevyNo1′s Simply Stunning Froyo ROM (v.4.9x on Android v.2.2.1) since I rooted my Droid, and in what I consider great cosmic serendipity, the developer released an update to his Simply Stunning Gingerbread ROM (v.5.4) as well as updated kernels the same week I decided to give Gingerbread a try.

Wow. I only wish I’d upgraded to Gingerbread before. Faster. More responsive. Cooler running. Longer battery life. It’s like I got a brand new phone.

I initially chose Simply Stunning because of its reputation for stability, excellent battery life, and impressive performance. Also, the developer is known for making incredibly stable, reliable, high-performance kernels. I was most satisfied with his Froyo ROM, so I’m not surprised that he’s developed yet another spectacular ROM for Gingerbread. What I am astonished about is that my Droid is capable of running so fast and so smooth. I don’t think it’s ever been snappier, even fresh out of the box without a single app installed.

I’m using the kernel that came with SS5.4, a low-voltage 1.0GHz. I thought about flashing a 1.1GHz or even trying a 1.2GHz, but honestly, my Droid is running so well, I don’t see the need more speed.

For folks with rooted Droids, I highly, highly recommend trying out this ROM.

And for both rooted and non-rooted folks, here’s a few new “Most Useful” app recommendations:

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New Favorite Apps: Part 3 – Most Fun Apps Redux

As I promised yesterday, herein my three new favorite Most Fun Apps:

  1. 2player DLNA Music Player – A music player that acts as a remote control for DLNA and UPnP devices on your home network. I can play music from my Droid on our home entertainment system, stream music from our media server to play on my Droid, and play music from my wireless data station on either my Droid or our home entertainment system. All controlled, wirelessly, by my Droid.

    OMG, geekgirl rapture. It’s so shiny!

  2. Moboplayer – An awesome video player that can handle MKV, MPV, MOV, and a bunch of other formats without conversion. I can finally watch subtitled .MKV anime episodes on my Droid!
  3. TuneIn Radio Pro – Browse and listen to radio broadcasts: live, local, and global. NPR on my Droid. Sweet!

    This was another Amazon Appstore freebie, but I believe the only difference between the pay and free version is that the free one has ads.

New Favorite Apps: Part 2 – Most Useful Apps Redux

Continuing my new favorite apps list from yesterday, here’s three new Most Useful Apps:

  1. Fancy Widget Pro – A slick, highly customizable clock and weather widget with configurable tap actions and tons and tons of skins. As I mentioned yesterday, I got the paid version for free from the Amazon Appstore, but the free version looks to have most of the main features the pro version offers.
  2. Jorte – A really slick calendar/personal organizer app with lotso customization options. Easy to use, syncs to your Google calendar, and has a number of really nice and attractive widget options.
  3. Quick Settings – This app lets you quickly toggle and change common Android settings like GPS, wifi, bluetooth, volume, brightness, ringer, and screen timeout within another app via the status bar or a long press of the search key. It also displays memory use, battery consumption, and has a flashlight toggle.

    Ever turned on Navigation to get turn-by-turn directions and realized you’d forgotten to turn on the GPS receiver? Or wanted to download something and realized wifi wasn’t enabled? Or been in the middle of explaining some Android workings to your significant other and your screen keeps timing out? You don’t have to sigh and bring up your home screen toggle (or worse, go through Settings), before returning to your app. With Quick Settings, you can change fundamental Android settings without leaving your app. Once you try Quick Settings, you’ll boggle that you ever managed without it.

    Screenshots:

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New Droid in the Family. New Favorite Apps: Part 1

So the hubby finally relegated his stupidphone to its rightful place in the refuse bin and upgraded to a smartphone: a shiny, new Droid X. We are an Android family.

Been showing him the Android ropes and suggesting apps for him to try and, in the process, have discovered several new fabulous apps. So I figured it was time to update my list of best Android apps.

New Most Essential Apps:

  1. Amazon Appstore – This app lets you download and install apps from Amazon.com’s Android app marketplace. And to entice folks to use their appstore instead of the Android Market, Amazon is offering a different free paid app every day. Of note, once you “buy” a promo free-paid app, it remains in your app list even if you uninstall it, so you can re-install it whenever you like without having to pay for it. To date, the apps I’ve snagged include Weatherbug Elite, Fancy Widget Pro, TuneIn Radio Pro, PhotoVault, Trillian, and WolframAlpha—several of which made my new Top Apps listing. Definitely worth the download.
  2. Go Launcher Ex – After discovering LauncherPro, I thought I’d found my eternal home screen replacement app. But this baby converted me, and I am now a devotee of Go Launcher Ex. In addition to all (or most of) the awesome features that LauncherPro offers, Go Launcher Ex also provides an overhauled app drawer with a tabbed interface which you can create folders inside of, view a recently used app history, as well as uninstall, lock, and kill apps within. Due to Go Launcher Ex’s additional app organization options, I’ve dropped the number of home screens I was using from four to two. Yowza.

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Day 1 of the 2011 Georgia Legislative Session

Georgia’s Governor has declared a state of emergency because of the winter storm, but it’s Day 1 of the legislative session so I braved the snowy roads anyway.  Was creeping along on 400, nearing exit 5, in the home stretch…only to discover the ramp to the North Springs MARTA station was closed.

Glargh!

Much swearing and Droid consultation commenced (I pulled into a Home Depot parking lot to do both) and I made it to the Sandy Springs station. Waiting (and freezing) now.  I’m definitely going to be late, even though I gave myself an extra 40 minutes.

Not an auspicious beginning to the 2011 legislative session.

Writing Year in Review, Resolutions, and Happy 2011!

Happy New Year! Welcome 2011!

Had a wonderful Christmas with the in-laws. We managed to miss the worst of the weather driving up to Illinois. Plenty of snow up north, but the skies held off on dumping it down while we were actually on the road. Heard Atlanta had its first white Christmas on record. Just as glad to have missed that traffic chaos.

And celebrated my birthday with the hubby by seeing Tangled—sweet and funny, but I liked How to Train Your Dragon better.

Received a slew of fabulous prezzies, including quite a few accessories for my Droid: a 32GB microSD card+USB reader, a spare battery+charger, and a desktop dock. And the hubby also got me an iconnect wireless data station and a terabyte external drive. Finally I have space (I’ve been scrounging for space on my laptop, constantly getting those “running out of drive space” warnings, for the last…ever) and it’s all wireless. So very shiny. The hubby also got me a new laptop battery, so my poor lil VAIO can now survive without having to be tethered to an outlet. My ultraportable laptop is mobile again!

Yeah, it was a chock-filled-with-tech sort of Christmas. We are geek.

avatarWriting Stuff

‘Course I didn’t get any writing done over the holidays. I’ve got one short story deadline rushing up headlong and hoping to get Demon Queller revised and in shape before Georgia’s 2011 legislative session starts. Urk.

Feels like I’m perpetually racing to catch up and running in slow motion…oh, wait, it’s ’cause I am. You’d think I’d be used to it by now and would quit marveling and just put my head down and do it. And yet…

2010 WRITING YEAR IN REVIEW

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Ailing Human Suit Leads to Rooting My Droid and Top 5 Essential Rooted Apps List

Hope everyone who observes it had a fabu Thanksgiving holiday!

Spent most of mine lounging on the couch, dealing with human suit issues. I seem to have acquired a minor cold, which is throwing off my temperature regulation system. Irregular fever spikes are an early symptom of my immune system about to go totally wonky, so I took it really easy, even through I didn’t feel that bad. As such, I got little to no writing done. But I did take the plunge and root my Droid.

I’ve been wanting to root it for a while now, primarily so I can overclock the CPU. But I’ve been too lazy to go through all the hoop jumping, and I’ve also been concerned about the whole voiding of the warranty thing (with the related worry that I’d brick my Droid in my root attempt). But my warranty is nearly up, and a new, free, extremely safe, one-button rooting app recently came out: z4root.

Z4root provides the option of temporarily or permanently rooting your Android phone. So I could try it out first and make sure everything worked okay before doing it for keeps. And it also has an easy, one-button unroot option, so “permanent” isn’t a set-in-stone commitment either. Installed z4root, rebooted my Droid, ran z4root, and two minutes later, I was rooted. And suddenly a whole wealth of new apps with shiny options opened up to me. Time for another list!

Herein my Top 5 Essential Rooted Apps:

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Sick Tech and Novel Progress: New Working Title

Lost the weekend battling really annoying tech issues. My laptop got infected by some malware that, as its main obvious symptom, blocked my computer from getting to anti-virus sites and forums. It also wouldn’t let me download/install security patches and wiped out all my system checkpoints so I couldn’t do a rollback and restore. Glad I had my Droid or I would’ve been murderous-daikaiju-on-the-warpath-apoplectic. As it was, I was spitting mad.

My anti-virus program (Avast!) caught the infecting files after a full scan followed by a boot scan—which took overnight-plus-morning to run—but missed the deeper, DNS registry infection. Thought I might have to do a complete wipe and reload of my laptop (aaaghh!), so I started making a complete data and settings backup, which took huge swaths of time in and of itself, but fortunately I managed to stumble upon a forum thread that set me on the right track to hunting down and fixing the problem. Finally installed an anti-malware program from malwarebytes.org which cleaned up the registry, but I had to load it from a thumb drive from Matthew’s computer and rename the executable before I could run it because the $@!& malware blocked the site and wouldn’t let the program run otherwise. So very, very maddening.

But my laptop is now clean, backed up, and up-to-date. *snarl*

Writing Stuff

In better news, I made up for the utter loss of the weekend by putting down 2.2K words on the novel yesterday. I’m now past the scene I couldn’t write three+ weeks ago and only the denouement away from zero draft.

Holy Jeebus. I might actually hit zero draft today.

To mark the occasion, I’m going to stop referring to the WiP as The Stupid Novel and give it a proper working title: Taijiya.

Probably high time, anyway. One of my co-workers who reads my updates asked me the other day if my novel was indeed going to be titled “The Stupid Novel” and seemed disappointed when I ‘splained, “Um, no.” :oops:

Bad Morning Start. A Confluence of Doh!

Very annoyed with myself this morning. Somehow I managed not to copy the files I was working on from my laptop to my Droid before I went to bed, so I don’t have what I did last night on The Stupid Novel. I clearly remember doing a bluetooth file transfer and thinking, “Better make sure I get those copied over now because I might be in a hurry and forget in the morning!” But obviously I am delusional, because they’re not there.

Dammit.

I also recently reset the cloud sync program on my laptop to only sync when I explicitly tell it to because the last auto sync kicked in at an inconvenient time and confused me as to which files had already synced and which ones hadn’t. Of course, I didn’t remember to do a manual sync last night, which I realized when I launched my Droid-side sync app, thinking, “Ah, no biggie, I’ll just pull the synced files down.”

Dammit. Dammit.

And what really makes me want to stomp my feet and gnash my teeth is that I had plenty of time this morning, and I even had a little mental checklist dialogue with myself:

“Okay, hair combed, shoes on, keys in hand. Lessee, is there anything I need to pull from my laptop to put on my Droid?”

“Nope, got everything before bed last night.”

“Hurray! Off to work I go.”

Dammit. Dammit. DAMMIT!!

I sent Matthew an email to call me when he wakes up so I can walk him through doing a manual sync. I can still work on The Stupid Novel without last night’s wordage, so it’s not important enough to rouse him out of bed. But I’m really mad at myself and this morning o’stupid.