Saturday, July 23, 2011

5 months down the line....thoughts on my Nexus S

Now that I have had my Nexus S for five months now, have rooted it, and installed custom ROMs, I thought I should give a bit of an update to personal peeves and enjoyable things I have found about it.

First off, the good. After tinkering with it for some time, I managed at one point to get a custom ROM/custom kernel combination that netted me 45 hours of battery life on one charge. I have since moved on to a newer ROM that isn't that great on battery life, but it shows with the proper settings and software that one can really crank out the battery life on this phone.

Secondly, the minor annoyances. There are really only three types of ROMs at the moment. There are tons of actual ROMs, but all come from the same variances. It's either CyanogenMod 7, AOSP (the basic stock option that comes with the phone initially), and MIUI (a Chinese derived variant with some blendings of Cyanogen and AOSP and custom UI).

I spent a lot of time with Cyanogen because of all the customization that worked so seamlessly. However, CyanogenMod has been unstable at times. It's slowly improving, but not fast enough considering Ice Cream Sandwich will be out by the end of the year and they haven't even managed to lock down 2.3.4 stably enough for daily use. It was my go to ROM until recently.

MIUI, on the other-hand, has just as much customization, if not more, than CM 7. However, I found that certain themes would cause my text to be rendered too dark to read. Because of many of the Chinese oriented themes which clash with my American sensibilities, I found I had to put together a hodge-podge theme. In the end, I couldn't really get the ROM the way that I wanted it in spite of its benefits. I still keep a backup just in case I want to upgrade to newer versions which are improving all the time.

Right now I'm rocking SuperAOSP 8.6 . It's a hybrid ROM combining AOSP with CM 7. This gives it the stability of AOSP with the customization of CM 7. I have to say that I passed up on this ROM for some time. I had a backup of it but did little with it. After dealing with Voodoo color issues, reboots, and other problems, I have abandoned CM 7 for the time being. My current ROM is the most up to date at 2.3.4 with only a few minor quirks like Voodoo color taking a second to kick on after turning my screen on.

Finally, the bad. There seems to an issue with the back capacitive button on my phone. It's fairly intermittent and it seems to span across all ROMs, but I'm not sure if it is a hardware or software related issue. Basically it seems that the button is either difficult to press or outright non-responsive. Sometimes though, like after playing Gem Miner for a bit, the button works flawlessly. My Zagg shield may be partially to blame, but I'm not sure right now.

I've had issues finding a decent case to keep it in. The lightweight plastic is a liability for me and my phone was purchased off contract so I'm not taking any chances with it. I initially used an Amzer Jelly case with my Zagg shield. It was decent, but I wanted to up the protection. I tried TPU cases, but they made it where I couldn't push the power button without difficulty. I already have issues with the back button so I chose to abandon these types of cases. I then moved on to a Trident Aegis case. The case itself is actually wonderfully designed and very unique. However, the plastic part of the case (two piece case) has soft touch material that began to flake off, likely because of how often I put it in and removed it from my pocket.

In the end, I went with the Seidio Convert case. It consists of a snap together soft touch plastic case (materials are better with this case than the Trident one), which can be upgraded to a second case that goes on top of it, making it like a Otterbox Defender case that I had with my Nexus One. It also comes with a belt holster which was something I decided to move to. Having the case on my belt actually saved battery because it was no longer next to my leg giving off heat which causes the processor to work harder. The battery itself heats up as well which is also not good for overall performance. So far the case has been great. The snap together case is difficult to get off if I need to, but not agonizingly so. The back button issue may be exasperated by the case, but I'll take the risk.

Aside from all this, the phone is really good. I'm disappointed that no companies have really jumped on the idea of using the NFC chip for debit transactions. Paypal was supposed to do this, but seems to be slow going to get to it. I was personally hoping that the whole NFC thing would take off, but as of now it is a useless feature that draws battery when its on. I likely see NFC getting big if the next iPhone adopts the technology like everyone predicts it will. Sad to see Apple dictating when people should be adopting technology.

I'm a little depressed at the limited accessory offerings. Unlike the Nexus One, that has a wonderful desktop dock and car dock, the Nexus S desktop dock is really rather bland, costly, and can only be ordered through Samsung's site. I don't really have an opinion of the car dock. Neither were available through the website for some time before the desktop dock was finally made available. I sense that the Nexus S isn't doing as well as one would hope from its limited accessory offerings. I see this as a problem from Google. Had they utilized a different chipset (the first gen Hummingbird could only do 7.2 mbps max), or chose to not try to cram in a NFC chip when the tech wasn't being adopted (it's the reason why the Nexus S doesn't have 720p recording because of the front facing camera and NFC taking up a great deal of space) they might have succeeded better. The loss of the SD card for this phone is really the baffling part as all Android phones, down to the crappiest one you can find, have SD card slots.

Still, the phone is good in spite of its shortcomings. It will definitely hold me until the rumored Nexus Prime comes later this year. Hopefully, Google is willing to do what they did with the Nexus One and push the bar while providing a good mix of future proof technology.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Our patent system is failing us...

It's become extremely apparent that our patent system has been hijacked by corporations. The patent system was intended to give the creators of their inventions the chance to profit from them for a predetermined period of time while licensing it out to others and preventing the creator from taking the invention with them in death. That giant sentence aside, the patent system as it stands now has been hijacked as a weapon by corporations against corporations (and people in certain instances).

Most of this hijacking is by tech companies patenting existing technology or obvious things. One just has to look at the recent lawsuits between Apple vs Samsung and HTC, Microsoft's shady mafia cut dealings, the absurdly abstract software patents of Apple, among others.

Of all these, Apple has to be the worst with Microsoft a close second. Apple has been on the warpath now that Android has eclipsed its market share in the smartphone arena. Apple and many others on the lawsuit wagon can't directly target Google with the exception of Oracle, so they hit the cell phone manufacturers. Apple started with HTC and moved on to Samsung. The problem is the fact that many of these disputes won't even be valid by the time the perceived patents are granted.

One of the biggest problems with patents in general is the time it takes to approve them. This is why you frequently see patent pending on products or why the patent number is usually in the millions these days. At the rate computer technology moves these days, most of the things we use are considered public domain long before the patent is even granted. Even worse, the patent office seems to have to real cataloging because they have granted already existing patents again.

What all this amounts to is corporations are suing each other to prevent losses on technology they don't even have patents to. Some of it has been played off as other arenas such as trade dress and outright theft, but the end result is still the same: corporations waging legal war to be top dog. Apple of all of them is the worst. For all of their advancement in the field of operating systems and the way we use our technology, they continue use underpowered hardware to create huge profit margins while suing their competitors to maintain their lead. They're anti-competitive, dirty, and by using these patent suits, driving technology in reverse by slowing down what could be great hardware.

However, let's not forget Microsoft. The software giant has learned from its previous mistakes in the 80s and 90s by no longer be overt about things. Recently, Microsoft has taken to making deals with Android phone manufacturers. By taking a small cut of the money sold on each handset, they won't sue for their patents. This isn't licensing, this is mafia style extortion. We've never, as a public, even been privy to what these patents are. Barnes and Noble however, are going to go ahead and fight it.

This madness needs to stop. The recent auction of Nortel's patents to a consortium of Microsoft, Apple, and others whom competed against Google for them showed that they are out to pummel the search engine giant. The patents are the guns and the judges are the generals. We are in need of dire patent reform and soon. Because eventually, innovation will be crushed and these corporations will have so much power from patents, legal loopholes, and mergers that the people will no longer have any recourse. Once you only have a couple of choices for the things you like, you're forced into purchasing from a business you had taken a stand against. Let's hope something gets done in favor of the consumer for once.