CyanogenMod… What’s all the fuss?

CyanogenMod... Whats 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.

CyanogenMod... Whats all the fuss?

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

CyanogenMod... Whats all the fuss?

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

CyanogenMod... Whats all the fuss?

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.

CyanogenMod... Whats all the fuss?

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.


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  • Custom ROMs are great but you definitely have to take the time to figure out what you’re doing and experiment to find out what suits you. I’m also running CM7 and the main advantage in my opinion is the sheer speed of it. It really made me realise how bloated Sense is and how much it slowed down my Desire.

    If you’re more of a just want your phone to work type then stick to Sense. Otherwise ROM tarting can be a lot of fun.

  • zanedabrain

    I used all kinds of devices and have never been as happy as I am with CyanogenMod 7. It’s the only OS I can say I like better than Vanilla android and it doesn’t slow it down… the best of both worlds but better.

  • Let’s be fair. Stock software from HTC, Motorola, SonyEricsson also has bugs – just as CyanogenMod or any other custom ROM has. But with CyanogenMod I can have real influence into fixing these bugs, even if I’m not programming myself. There is issue tracker which is closely monitored by CM developers who seem to really care (well, most of the time) and issues are really fixed as new releases come. Go figure how to achieve same thing with “big” players like HTC. And while HTC is still figuring out their Gingerbread upgrade plan, CM has released Gingerbread-based ROM for everyone to use ages ago.

    Keeping in mind that CM is collective effort of many enthusiast developers around the world who don’t get paid for that AND so many devices are supported, it is truly awesome that it is still one of the most stable, reliable, fast and just… really good ROMs available. Yeah, there is a risk factor involved when you root your phone and then flash new firmware, and there are wacky bugs sometimes, but overall it’s really worth the hassle.

    However, there are people still perfectly happy with stock software and that’s fine too. Personally, after buying HTC Desire Z myself (SIM-free, full price paid) and seeing how deeply HTC Sense crapware is welded into Android, I have decided to root the device and put CM (6.1 at the time) straight away and it was a massive relief. Pure, fast Android experience with few nicetes added discretely on top and there you go. Top stuff.

  • Anonymous

    It’s interesting to see how unpopular HTC Sense is. Personally, I love it, and prefer it over the stock experience. Not that I’m saying stock is bad in any way; I just really like Sense and wouldn’t give it up right now.

    • Anonymous

      I like Sense but used Unprevoked to get custom ROMs onto my Desire. Cyanogen
      still has s couple of niggles (light sensor, HTML issues in email) but I was
      almost forced into using it as Roger internal memory was full before

  • Craig Bradshaw

    I agree with Ravi mostly. Unless you are a real Android techie you should really give the the ROM a good researching before flashing. Some ROMs don’t support Apps2SD for instance. Others require updated radios…others have issues surrounding certain functionality. It really is a minefield.
    Having said that, if you get one that works then you are infinitely more happy with it than stock in my opinion. I have Kang-o-rama 1.1 SP1 on my Nexus One and I have had zero issues with this and this is based on Cyanogen 6.1.

    So in summary – if you are unhappy with your stock experience, or really require some of the settings within a Custom Rom, then stay stock, otherwise take care.

  • grahamkdt

    I’m using coolexe’s AceS v2… Gingerbread and Sense 2.1 – It’s superb. Fast, slick,stable. Just video recording to get working and it’ll be the ultimate ROM for me. If you can live without Sense, GingerVillain is awesome. Problem is, I can’t! I’ve tried. I last a couple of days and then find myself wishing for Sense features. Each to their own… try a few out and I guarantee when you find one you like you will never won’t a stock ROM again!

  • Waynehardy66

    I’ve tried a few ROM’s and can recommend CM7 (fast and stable), Oxygen (vanilla android) and am now on coolexe’s AceS. All are gingerbread based and are faster than stock. My experience with CM6 is that after rooting with Unrevoked, I was able to install CM6 with GAPPS no problem.

  • Robert Caldecott

    I have just installed 7.0.3 on my HTC Desire (O2 UK) and the automatic brightness setting is way too dark and I can’t figure out how to fix it, so a link to the correct settings would be awesome.

    Sadly, Bluetooth is completely broken too – I can’t connect to anything but it was fine with Sense.

    • James Pearce

      Sounds like you have had a bad experience so far. You can manually increase the brightness of the screen in the menu>settings>display section. As regards bluetooth I would suggest reflashing the rom or doing a factory reset. Just in case it got screwed up whilst installing. If you like sense you can always try a sense rom and see if the bluetooth works again.