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CyanogenMod and the Galaxy S

Thanks to some advice from Philipp Kern I have now got my Galaxy S running CyanogenMod 7.1.0 which is based on Android 2.3.7 [1]. CyanogenMod has lots of configuration options that seem to be lacking in the stock releases and also supports some advanced features such as OpenVPN and a command-line. I can’t properly compare CyanogenMod to the stock Android as I’ve only used versions 2.1 and 2.2 of the stock Android. Presumably some of the things that I like about CyanogenMod are in the stock Android 2.3.7 release.

The process of updating a phone is difficult and has some risk. Fortunately Samsung provided “Download mode” in the BIOS to allow recovery. If you mess up the process of updating a Galaxy S and you can get Download mode by holding down volume-down, home, and then power buttons then you can almost certainly recover (so don’t panic).

The CyanogenMod people don’t provide any documentation on upgrading from Android 2.2 (which is what Optus is still shipping AFAIK). So you will probably have some difficulty when upgrading a Galaxy S that you get in Australia (it seems that Optus is the only company shipping them in volume).

As an aside if you want to buy a Gel Case for a Galaxy S in Australia then visit an Optus store. It seems that Optus is the only phone store that hasn’t run out their Galaxy S accessories in favor of the Galaxy S2.

I have previously written about the Galaxy S and Three Networking [2]. Now that I have the Galaxy S as my primary phone on the Virgin network all my data corruption problems are solved, the problem is entirely related to Three. With CyanogenMod there is an option to be able to toggle the LED “Flash” as a torch from the drop-down menu, this makes the lack of such a LED on the Galaxy S even more of an annoyance.

I have also discovered that the Galaxy S apparently doesn’t have a status LED! This makes it the only phone that I’ve ever owned that has no clear way of informing me when the battery is charged! It’s also really useful to have a flashing LED to indicate low battery when running a full screen app, and to have a flashing LED to indicate that email has been received.

Someone should design a phone with multiple LEDs to indicate different things. I’d like to have one LED to indicate charging status and another to indicate whether there is unread email or SMS. Whatever the cost of including a LED during manufacture it would have to be almost nothing compared to the ~$500 sale price of a phone. Wikipedia says “The Samsung Galaxy S features a PowerVR graphics processor, yielding 20 million triangles per second, making it the fastest graphics processing unit in any smartphone at the time of release. Also, upon release, the Galaxy S was both the first Android phone to be certified for DivX HD, and at 9.9 mm was the thinnest smartphone available”. I don’t care about any of that, I want a phone with decent battery life, a LED “Flash”, and a status LED.

The main benefit I get from the Galaxy S over the Xperia X10 is the greater storage. The Xperia X10 has a total of 1G of storage and only 465M of that is available for application install. My Galaxy S has 16G of internal storage of which 1.8G is available for phone apps and 13G is available for pictures and other mass storage. Having 1.8G for phone apps and internal phone storage used by such apps (which includes the offline IMAP cache) is a massive benefit, enough to outweigh the lack of a staus LED and a Flash LED.

What I Really Want

I’d rather have a Samsung Galaxy Note. The Note has a LED flash, a 5.3″ screen with 1280*800 resolution which is much better for running as a SSH client and also good for web browsing. I’m not inclined to spend money on a phone now, so I’ll probably use the Galaxy S until Virgin offers me a new phone or someone just gives me a new phone (I can always hope). One of the many nice features in the Galaxy Note is a built in stylus. When using my current phones for web browsing I sometimes find it difficult to have a touch registered to the desired part of the screen, this is a real problem with the Opera web browser which requires a long press to open a URL in a new tab.

2 comments to CyanogenMod and the Galaxy S

  • Anonymous

    When I saw the specs on the Samsung Galaxy Note, I immediately started wondering how well Debian would work on it, rather than Android. In particular, I’d love to see a GNOME3-based phone OS.

  • CyanogenMod does offer you to use the LEDs below the touch buttons as notification LEDs. It’s a CyanogenMod-specific feature, though, which you need to look for in that section of the Settings menu. At least for simple notifications (not “battery charged”, but “there are notifications”) it works good. It does drain some battery, though, if you don’t clear them.

    As for the use of a SSH client: I heard that there are problems with special keys. But if you manage to get some Bluetooth keyboard running with it, I’d be glad to get some advise. IMHO the resolution would be enough if you can turn off the on-screen keyboard and use something different.

    To be fair to Samsung: They shipped the device with an unlocked bootloader. The initial software version sucked but there was a clear prospect that some hackers will port something sane onto it and fix the major issues. (That said the current Samsung firmware seems acceptable, too.)