Vanilla Ice-Cream in Galaxy Nexus Sandwich

Ever since I had to give up my recent acquired Sony flagship mobile phone, Xperia S, I looked around in the market for a replacement.

I had wanted to try out Windows Phone. I think Microsoft has finally got their formula right this time round, after failing to gain a foothold in the mobile market with their Windows CE and Windows Mobile products  since 2000. The tiled interface is as evolutionary and refreshing as Apple’s multi touch interface. Fragmentation, which appeared to the biggest culprit in Microsoft’s previous failures in mobile market, is to some extent addressed by Microsoft’s attempt to put in restriction in how manufacturers and developers build and develop their handsets and applications respectively. The end result is a consistent interface, and much tighter control on how applications are being executed and rendered. The key draw back for me is the hardware, as the display and camera functions are not inspiring. I thought I would just get a cheap Windows Phone (since all Windows Phone looks and function the same!) as an interim, but eventually settled with Google Galaxy Nexus because I have always wanted to try out the pure Google experience.

galaxy nexus

Galaxy Nexus

Google Galaxy Nexus, manufactured by Samsung, runs on the latest Android operating system, i.e. Ice-Cream Sandwich (ICS) . With Google’s ICS, they seemed to have finally fixed the memory management issues and streamlined the user experience. I have to say it is a product, out of the box (because with Android being a open source, it doesn’t take a genius to do magic wonder in order to improve its usability), that would seriously compete with the likes of current Windows Phone and iOS. It may seemed like Google’s past desserts (Cupcake, Eclair, Frosted Yorgurt, etc) were a failure, or at best an alpha/beta of their operating system. However, if you trace through Android history, from the first public release (Cupcake) in 2009 to now, versus how long Microsoft put their act together, it is actually quite a remarkable progress. One might argue that Apple did it right in the first iPhone product,  but remember Apple was clever in its product release strategy. It had deliberately omitted key phone function features, and progressively released these missing functions as it rolled out its iPhone roadmap over the course of 5 years.

Galaxy Nexus is made by Samsung

Galaxy Nexus is made by Samsung

Back to Galaxy Nexus, I am not quite impressed by its form factor. It looks as if Samsung has deliberately short changed its development just to make sure it does not cannibalised its own flagship products, i.e. Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Note. The 1280×720 screen is nothing to shout about, until you put it on the brightest setting.  That said, when I put it side by side with Galaxy S2 or Lumia 800 (both of which have the same resolution of 800×480 pixels), it does look as good, if not better, given its higher resolution display. The back battery cover feels plasticky,  almost becoming a classic trademark of Samsung products. Camera is mediocre, as it fares badly when taken under dim lighting condition or trying to capture a fast moving object. How I miss my Xperia S for that matter! Don’t get me wrong, Galaxy Nexus has a decent hardware specification, but my take is that it is a jack of all trades, master of none. That said, I do like the ICS soft keys in the Galaxy Nexus with its backlit implementation. Beneath the soft keys, a multicolored notification LED is featured which glows on selected event such as a missed call or unread message. You can download the app Light Flow to customize your LED configuration, in terms of the events to be notified, colour of the LED notification, or even the rate of the LED pulse!

ICS compliant application will now have all menus at the top corner, freeing up the bottom screen from the cluttered menu

Inside Galaxy Nexus however, the user experience is superb given that it is running on the Ice-Cream Sandwich. Unfortunately, at the point when I got the phone, it was still running on 4.0.3, not 4.0.4 which offers an even more optimal performance. (Nothing stopping me from upgrading it to 4.0.4 though) Regardless, I understand that 4.0.4 was shortly released “OTA” after a few weeks. On the positive notes, the user interface is polished and uncluttered. The multi tasking of applications does not has any slight adverse effect on the overall phone performance. The UI navigation experience is as “buttery” smooth as you can imagine. With a pure Google experience, it also means I do not have those bloated applications that offer bells and whistles at the expense of performance. Given that I have most of my resources resided in Google (mails, contacts, calendar appointments, photos, etc), I have immediate access to every of my content and information the moment I signed into my Google account. No hassle of synchronising or data migration!

But it did not take me too long to switch to another phone. Not because Galaxy Nexus is bad, but because I have been eyeing on HTC One X after hearing how HTC had improved its camera function over the year. That has been my biggest gripe of HTC products (amongst others). That said, after using HTC One X for two weeks now, there were and are times where I still miss Galaxy Nexus for its clean ICS implementation!

Merlion NG v1.61 creates its own milestone

Ever since I started building the new series of Merlion Leo ROM, I started to see more interest probably because it’s based on the new Windows Mobile 6.5 platform. Lately, I have updated the ROM with newer version of drivers and the necessary configurations,  and that  was a huge performance booster!

There must be some correlation between the number of clicks the ROM download link got, versus the performance of the ROM. Within 2 days of release, it got more than 200 of clicks. Okay, not a great deal for the mainstream  ROMs like Miri or Energy, or the actual download is approximately just 3/4 of of the clicks. Regardless,that’s a significant milestone for Merlion NG series in my humble opinion.

The demographic of my user base is pretty much expected. Since I have build the Chinese Simplified Input/Display support, I would naturally anticipate most of the users to come from a Chinese populated location. So users from Singapore & China made up close to 60% of Merlion NG series total user base. What’s interesting is I do have users from the Europe & Middle East countries.

If you have not flashed the latest Merlion NG series ROM (v1.65), you should because you never know what you have been missing until you have tried it. Some had even described the ROM to be on steroid,  or on drug cocktail!  Don’t believe? See the below performance chart of the NG series ROM performance.

If the chart above does not give you much context, just imagine this. A stock (i.e. official) ROM would only achieve a total SPB benchmark index of 1590. In comparison to the latest release of Merlion NG series, the latter is 2 times faster! Even for the first generation of Merlion series, v2.68 is generally one of the better performing ROM among the rest of HD2 custom ROMs, so I will not be surprised, if we were to put a ranking table to compare the performance of all the custom ROMS in xda-developers or htcpedia, Merlion NG series should be in the top ranks, if not right at the top 😉

Cooking Windows Mobile ROM for dummies

Introduction to cooking

We are all very familiar with setting up a new operating system in our PC or notebook. Doing so on our Windows mobile device, is however, not so straight forward. The only way is to setup the operating system, along with the desired applications, into an image, which will then be flashed into the mobile device. The process of building the image, is also known as cooking.  The person who involves in cooking, is known as chef.

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Venturing into ROM cooking

And I meant ROM as Read-Only-Memory, not Registry-of-Marriage, which some fellow Singaporean bloggers would have assumed 😀

Despite holding a non-development responsibility in my IT professional job, I still have a soft spot for software programming, and therefore, I have been developing software during my free time, and some of them were showcased in my own blog

The year of 2010, is a new era for me, as I have “progressed” beyond software development, and ventured into Windows Mobile operating system image development, or better known as “ROM cooking”, and greatly helped by the availability of easy-to-use tools.

dZenkinZ © Merlion Leo is my first attempt of the ROM building venture, for HTC HD2 Leo. The primary objective of the effort is to have a customized ROM based on my personal needs, with the emphasis on striking a balance between performance and nice user interface. So you may find that some of the included/excluded features not something you would expect of a “public ROM”. Nevertheless, recognising that this is probably the first Leo ROM that’s based on WWE (WorldWide Edition, i.e. English ROM) with Simplified Chinese display & input support, I have decided to share my work with you so that this provides an alternative to rest of the ROMS out in xda-developers.

And why Merlion as the name of my ROM? Since this is possibly the first made-in-Singapore Leo ROM, and Merlion is a well recognised icon for Singapore, I thought why not? It surely beats using some other geeky or cheesy name, isn’t it?

If you like to use my ROM, you can head over to xda-developers for the download link and discussion.