Friday, January 27, 2012

Gingerbread Battery Life

All Android phones get complaints about battery life. You'll remember that I even returned my first Captivate due to battery life. After a little over a year I was about to buy a new battery for the Captivate. Then I dropped it. That story is here and ends with installing Gingerbread. Part of the screen repair process was a factory reset so Gingerbread started with a clean slate.

However I've been amazed with the battery life post the repair and upgrade. I didn't return the battery to the Samsung service center so I know they didn't slip me a new battery.

Admittedly I've been pretty light usage since the upgrade but still. Here's a series of screen shots taken each night when I plug it in for the night.

The lowest reading during those seven days was 67% remaining.

I personally don't think that Gingerbread is responsible for the majority of the improvement. I think that the factory reset and the resulting clean-up had the biggest impact.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Third Gingerbread

First I installed CyanogenMod's Gingerbread on my Nook Color. Then I installed CyanogenMod's Gingerbread on my HP TouchPad. AT&T had promised last July that they were going to update the Captivate with Gingerbread. They released the update in a very low profile announcement last week.

The timing for me was perfect. I had dropped my Captivate and shattered the Gorilla Glass. I returned it to Samsung for replacement. When I got it back they had done a factory reset (which I expected) so it was an opportune time to upgrade. Samsung has published a straightforward set of instructions. Like the upgrade to FroYo the upgrade requires connecting the phone to a PC using Kies. While the FroYo upgrade took about an hour, the Gingerbread upgrade took 25 minutes which included the automatic upgrade of Kies.

Here's the result.

The AT&T Gingerbread's Notification panel is visually crisper than CyanogenMod's but still lacks the swipe to dismiss of CM7.

The Captivate seems quicker but that may be because of the factory reset rather than Gingerbread although some of the Nook Color's performance improvement was attributed to Gingerbread. My early take on battery usage is that it is better but I also wonder if this is as much due to the factory reset as Gingerbread. We'll see. Here's what the battery looked like after about half a day.

The GPS on this Captivate had always worked well but now seems to be even better. It gets a lock in just a few seconds every time. I ran AngryGPS (more in a second) and the first fix (inside the house) took 50 seconds. Subsequent fixes took around 15 seconds. This screen capture is from a "hot" start session of AngryGPS.

Ok, AngryGPS. To get the above embedded app running go to the Dialer and enter *#*#3214789650#*#*.

I had an odd problem with Screen Capture Shortcut. When I searched the market for it it said that it wasn't compatible with the Captivate. Then it flashed for a second showing the "Install" button. I quickly tapped it and it installed!

The other oddity (and a nice one) is that I get a Force Close from the AT&T Tethering Manager. The upside of this is that this is the service that blocks Android's built-in mobile AP capabilities. Without the Tethering Manager this works fine! I'm not going to look too hard for a fix.

Friday, January 13, 2012

ThinkPad T420s

Anybody who's been following me here knows I have a bias toward ThinkPads. I had been using an off-lease T43 for a while but it started off (for me) with a pinky display and wouldn't run Windows 7 Aero.

Over the Black Friday weekend I lurked at the Lenovo Outlet site. They had some incredible deals but they came and went pretty quick. One of the deals that caught my eye was a T420s. I grabbed it and put it in my shopping cart but thought better and removed it. It immediately disappeared! That told me that it was a good deal. I hung around there a while longer pressing F5 every few seconds and it came back! This time I didn't hesitate. I bought it and then started trying to figure out what I'd bought.

What it was was a 3.7 lb. (the "s" in T420s stands for "slim") Intel Core i5-2540M (2.6GHz) with Windows 7 Pro. It came with 4GB RAM (which I'll upgrade to 8GB) and a 128GB SSD. It has a 14" screen (1600 x 900) and a 720p web cam. It's got a DVD burner and Bluetooth in addition to the expected Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n wireless.

Being a "T" series it was mostly clean of crapware so my first inclination was to just go with the Lenovo image.

But after a couple of days I began to notice that I was using 80% of real memory and had almost 120 processes running. That compares to the X100e that uses less than 50% of 2GB and has less than 50 processes running. I'm not sure that's apples to apples but it certainly is an indicator.

Recently I did a clean install of Windows 7 Pro using Lenovo's instructions. I tried to do this using the UEFI feature as described here but it doesn't look like that worked.

Regardless the T420s is a lot cleaner now. It's under 80 processes and less than 50% memory utilized.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Those Are Standard Aren't They

One of my co-workers came into the office after the holidays with a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S II. As we sat around the table after our meeting I noticed that he had the phone USB connected to his laptop. His previous phone (HTC G1) always needed charging so I asked him if he was charging the new one out of habit. He said no that he was trying to connect the phone to the laptop but couldn't find a driver.

My experience with every smart phone except iPhones is that you didn't need a driver to connect the phone to a PC as a USB drive. He wanted me to show him how I connected so he brought me his USB cable and phone. When I plugged it all in I got a complaint from Windows that it was an "Unrecognized device." Hmmm.

Then I plugged my Captivate in with his cable. Same thing. That invoked the "Those are standard aren't they?"

Well they should be but they aren't.

I recently encountered a similar problem when the OEM charging cable for my Captivate got stepped on. I ordered the first $.99 micro-USB cable I could find. It fit fine into the tight connector on my Captivate and the battery icon changed to charging. But the next morning the battery was only at 70%.

Here's what the charging screen looks like connected to the generic cable.

Notice that it says "Charging(USB)." That's why it was taking so long to charge.

Back to Google and I found a Samsung OEM charging cable on eBay. It came quickly and fixed the problem.

Here's what it looks like connected with the Samsung cable.

Notice that it says "Charging(AC)."

Yeah, USB cables should be standard but obviously they aren't.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Get Real AT&T

I've been with AT&T since Suncom was bought by Cingular was bought by BellSouth was bought by AT&T. I've been fortunate enough to live and travel in areas where their coverage has been good. I even had a good experience with my recent international travel.

Recently I have been hankering to be able to get on the Internet with tablets while in the car. There seem to be two alternatives. I could enable the hot spot capability on my Captivate or buy a MiFi device.

So today I stopped by the local AT&T (corporate) store and told the representative that I was interested in adding a tethering plan to my Captivate. He tried to sell me DSL! I got him back on track. I have a $25/month unlimited data plan and $5/month 200 text message plan for a total of $30/month. Obviously I want to protect the unlimited plan and the 200 text messages are fine as I mostly use Google Voice for texting.

He said that I'd have to go to a $45/month data plan with 4GB and a $20/month unlimited text message plan for a total of $65/month, an increase of $35/month and losing unlimited data.

I asked him about a MiFi-type device. He said AT&T has a Sierra Wireless AirCard 754S for $69.99 that requires a $50/month 5GB data plan.

For comparison I looked at C Spire. They have a Novatel MiFi 2200 free with a $19.99/month data plan with 1GB, $29.99/month with 2GB. I realize that the AT&T device is LTE and the C Spire device is EV-DO Rev. A and that the AT&T is plan is 5GB and the C Spire plan is 1GB but still...

Get real AT&T!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Microsoft Security Essentials v4

I've been an early adopter of Microsoft Security Essentials. Back in November 2011 I signed up for the beta of Security Essentials v4.

Microsoft's "What's New" for v4 includes:

  • Enhanced protection through automatic malware remediation: The Beta program will clean highly impacting malware infections automatically, with no required user interaction.
  • Enhanced performance: The Beta includes many performance improvements to make sure your PC performance isn’t compromised.
  • Simplified UI – Simplified UI makes Microsoft Security Essentials Beta easier to use.
  • New and improved protection engine: The updated engine offers enhanced detection with cleanup capabilities and better performance.

When Microsoft sent me the invitation to download I downloaded and installed it on my "BenInTheDen" laptop. This is my workhorse PC and it is exposed to lots more sites and programs than all my other PCs put together. After installation I let it update the signatures and then requested it run a full scan.

It found and removed 2 instances of malware that had not been found by the current Security Essentials. That's the last bullet above.

I'm now running it everywhere. You can download the beta version at Softpedia. I suggest you do that right away.