CyanogenMod… What’s all the fuss?

In the New Year, I decided to take a nose dive into custom ROMs for my Desire.  Oh we had been getting along just great for a while, but I realised I needed more… Wanted more.  It needed to be faster, and easier to use and not as stubborn to new ideas…

So I did the right thing and I rooted my Desire.  I put a custom ROM on it and the relationship was feeling refreshed and exciting again.  With this new found freedom, I played around with some other ROMs and eventually settled on one that I liked.  Things were great for a while until the phone crashed a couple of times when I was using Maps (usually while on a long journey, and usually a few minutes from the motorway interchange from hell!) or in the middle of the night, stuck in a boot loop, wasting my battery so that my alarms wouldn’t go off, and so, I would eventually lose my job.  Not good, I’m sure you will agree.

Now about this time, I noticed a ROM that I couldnt get to install last time, let alone take it out on a few dates to see how it handles.  CyanogenMod.  Except, this one was 7 for Gingerbread, not 6 for Froyo.

My ROM backed up, CM7 downloaded and ready to install, I wiped the cache and the data and ticked the little box for the Google Apps.  This is the point that CM6 failed in the past, as I didn’t have anywhere near enough space on my phone (thanks HTC Sense!).  But…  breath held… I counted slowly to keep calm…consumed alcohol and lit a cigarette…  it worked.  I had CM7 on my phone.  I was excited.

If you have done this kind of thing before, you will remember that you are now at a set up screen.  You enter your Gmail details, it checks some settings, and then CM7 asks you what software you want downloading.  All very friendly.  The phone then spends some time downloading and syncing, pulling your apps to the phone.  All is going well.  So far, I’m sure you can see, a great experience.

Now though, the sting in the tail.  If you have read any of my previous posts, you will know I’m not an Android tech head.  I don’t use the console (unless you are referring to the Xbox in the front room) I’ve never updated a radio (so confused on that point) and I’m aware of RIL’s in the same way I’m aware of atoms.  I know they exist, but I have absolutely no idea how they work.  As long as they leave me alone, I shall leave them alone.

Panic.  Maps wouldn’t download.  At all.  Not a sausage… hang on, that’s not quite right.  the little download arrow flashes for a second then disappears.  This problem prompted a good Googling session to see what I could do.  I use Maps a lot as my GPS when driving.  I need it, I want it and by the Gods I will have it!  So, it transpires that its something to do with a cache used by apps when downloading, but also houses something called the Dalvik cache, which is apparently pretty important to my phone running properly.  So I can’t just delete it.  And therefore I’m only left with 5MB of available space for downloading apps, anything bigger (Angry Birds and Maps) just will not play ball.  After consideration of various solutions I formatted and partitioned my card using S2E.  I could then get Maps so I don’t get lost, and Angry Birds to keep the boy happy.  The world was back to normality.

Except that it wasn’t.  The display appeared to always be on full brightness when using automatic, and manually changing it just isn’t the way forward, so don’t even try that argument.  Where auto brightness is enabled it should just work.  End of.  No argument.  So back to the forums.  After 10 minutes of manually setting the brightness levels, it worked. Finally.

So the sting?  Be prepared for these ROMs (not just CM7) to not completely work without some fettling.  Some frustrating “Why in the name of all that’s holy did I bother doing this?” kind of fettling.  Take heart though, the support is there, just be prepared.  Like a good boy scout.

Why a custom ROM?

A fair question.  Why put yourself through the nauseating process of potentially bricking your phone, starting arguments with your loved one, late nights and the inevitable alcohol and stress addiction therapy?  Better software, more flexible memory, loads of space for apps, ability to put on the phone whatever you want, to truly make it yours and stick it to The Man! Especially if your phone is full of bloatware and rubbish from the carrier burned into the ROM.  that’s why.

Why CyanogenMod7?

Honestly?  This is the one I’m using until it upsets me.  I’m a fan of not fixing something if it isn’t broken.  As you often hear on the radio, other ROMs are available.  Have a look on XDA as  starting point and see what you fancy.

So what whizzy features do you now have?

With a custom ROM, it’s more about the things you can fiddle with.  The settings you can spend the small hours changing, annoying your partner to the point that she is preparing the spare room for you.  Different ROMs have different philosophies behind them.  Go have a look.  Have a snoop around…  Oh OK.  I have a lot more control over the interface of the UI.  I have the ability to move apps to the SD card, and even if I don’t, I have so much room on the phone now I could swing an Android cat in there without touching the sides of the phones internal memory, its so much faster, I can install anything I want (even more so if you have S-off), and I have the power bar built into the notification area and it’s fantastic.  So much easier to use!  And Goggles for when I’m out partaking in alcohol, gestures are in there as well, as well as customisable lock screens.

What will I lose?

Well I can only talk about Sense really.  You cant have the HTC widgets and their specific apps as they are closed source.  But there are lots of apps out there you can use as replacements.  Go on, make your phone look like a Corporate Suit in an office didn’t put it together…

So now some eye candy.

A sample wallpaper.  As you can see, I need to get the hang of screenshot programs…

The settings menu, as you can see, there is a CyanogenMod settings area.

The kind of settings that you can fettle with.  Couple on the bottom that didn’t make the final picture are System and Tablet Tweaks.

App drawer and ADW Launcher in action.  Pretty, Pretty, Pretty!

All in all, I’m not going back.  I don’t want to go back and you are not going to make me, no matter the number of wild horses or however many temptations of the flesh that you throw my way.  Despite initial issues, I’ve not had any problems a bit of light Googling couldn’t solve.  Go for it.  Go on.  You know you want to.