Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tweaking your Android Tablet or Phone for Speed with Cyanogen Mod

All the sudden I have ended up with an Android Phone and an Android Tablet.

I got the phone when I realized my old phone was a year past contract and beginning to fail.  Two more years with T-Mo, actually at this point around 18 months, and the phone was "Free".  So far, T-Mobile has been good to me, so I'm perfectly OK with that.

A friend in Atlanta was shopping.  Made an impulse purchase of a Nook Color e-book reader and didn't like it.  He was commiserating with me about it and I suggested he try to load up the full Android operating system.  That was a challenge that took him about three afternoons of "playing around".  Once it was over, he had the idea of "Ok, now what do I do with Yet-Another-Tablet".   It ended up on the shelf, then in a box, and now resides in my house.

The reason why he gave it to me was that he has a newer Motorola Xoom that runs much faster.  It's a much smoother experience because it's like a V8 to my little Nook's 4 Cylinders.   The Nook is fine for what I do with it, and it was a nice surprise present.

Lately I had been reading up on the thing.  Seems like the hardware you have in a Nook Color is fine if you're just reading a book.  I'm using it with the full operating system and not something pared down.  Having loaded Cyanogen Mod 7 on the thing with all the Google Apps, it was doing what everyone seemed to notice, it was a bit laggy.   You'd swipe your finger across the screen and it wasn't quite as responsive as you'd like.   It felt like someone had slowed it down and I wasn't sure why.  Start the Browser and a Weather App and it would be almost painful to use.

After poking around under the hood, I noticed that Google Search, Tune In, and a few other programs were running from earlier after having dismissed them.  So to be fair I restarted the machine and noticed that Google Search and Tune In were back. 

If you have an Android Phone or Tablet, you probably have some of these "Widgets" running on your desktops.  iPads have 1 desktop, Androids have multiple, My tablet has six as does the phone.

A Widget is basically a program that runs on the device and on the desktop that does something someone felt was useful.  In the case of Android, they all have Google Search on the desktop and because it is a Widget, It runs constantly.  I got rid of that.  Hold your finger on a Widget for a few seconds and you can move it.  You can also drag it into the trashcan that appears helpfully on the top or bottom of the screen.

Google Search App went into the trash.  It's still there in my icon list of programs, just not started. 
I did the same thing for the TuneIn Widget and the Clock. 

Sure, search is useful, but I do have a browser for that and in the Post PC Era, we're all working from the browser anyway.  That's what Steve Jobs said, and many other "experts" did as well.   I'm repeating them here, if you live in a browser it doesn't matter what kind of computer you use to get to the web, does it?  That computer can be a clunky desktop, a sleek tablet, or a versatile laptop - it simply doesn't matter.

So now instead of having all those Widgets blinking at me, I now have a bare desktop that looks like something out of the box when you start Windows or Mac OSX.  A few icons, and a little control strip at the bottom of the screen.

Oh, it runs markedly faster, and markedly cooler.   You see if you aren't using the software, you don't need it eating up your battery or your processor. 

So the Helpful Hint is, if you don't need it, don't run it.  Drag the Widget off the screen and gain back some speed.  In my case it felt like another half speed on top of what I was doing.   I say felt because I'm not really interested in doing the whole benchmarking thing.

I tried the same thing on the phone, and not everything will drag off.  T-Mobile decided that the LG MyTouch needed all sorts of T-Mobile-centric software.  On a PC we call it Crapware.  I'll be searching for a way to uninstall that stuff later.  For now, Search is gone as well as a few other pages worth of "Chaff".

Remember, Touch and Hold brings up your pop-up menu and you can drag that Widget away so it won't run constantly on your tablet.

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