Friday, 10 July 2015

Using an aging Android phone

I can't help it: I love Android. It has quirks. It has rough edges. It has a million versions and many of them are dead-end forks by vendors who just don't care. It also has Linux at it's heart, and, with a little nudging, it can act like it too...

I use a Samsung Galaxy S3 (i9300). This is quite blatantly "old tech" -- the S3 is well over 4 years old and Samsung, like most vendors, has long ago spurned it when it comes to the concept of OS updates. For a long time, CyanogenMod was the answer, until the fateful day that the i9300 maintainer decided he had a life and wanted to spend more time doing that.

Phooey. But, srsly, good for him and his family.

Still, that leaves the i9300 user in a pickle. CyanogenMod has quite a strict rule about what devices are supported: basically, there has to be a sanctioned maintainer for that device who is willing to take responsibility for it. With no maintainer, the i9300, one of the most popular handsets ever sold, started fading into obsolescence.

There were (still are) some rather hearty movements to revive CM on the i9300. I have followed at least two of them for a while, updating from them. Alas, they all appear to fizzle out over some time.

One supporting ROM which doesn't seem to be willing to let go of this dog just yet is Resurrection Remix. Yay for me. Unfortunately, RR is a conglomerate built from a number of sources including CM. I say "unfortunately", because this means that when something breaks, trying to get someone to care about it enough to fix it is not a trivial exercise. Don't get me wrong: I appreciate all the work the devs involved do (for free), so I can avoid paying for another device (and adding my iota to the e-waste that abounds -- whilst my phone lives, it shall work for me!).

But there are still some issues (including, but perhaps not limited to):
  1. The flashlight function works whilst the screen is on, but switches off when the screen is off );' This is common on most ROMs which support the i9300 and appears to come down to a philosophical choice on the part of CyanogenMod to flip the bird an i9300 users.
  2. The vibration intensity by default is so low that it's pointless. Again, I'm quite sure someone, somewhere is giggling about how absurd this is for i9300 users and muttering something along the lines of "just upgrade to a new device already". Fuck 'em.
As far as (1) goes, this is just accepted as a broken feature of the phone. I've seen quite a few people just throw their arms in the air and say "so what do you expect me to do about it?". For most people, it's probably insignificant -- but I use my phone every night as a flashlight and having to keep the screen on during use is, well, sub-optimal.
As for (2), many ROMs provide a mechanism to set this. RR has one -- but it has often crashed the Settings UI when I try to use it (depending on the build). So I got tired of that. I want updates, but I also want my phone's vibration to shake the very foundations of the universe when someone whatsapp's me an nsfw image.

So here's my little useless collection of shell scripts to fix this:https://github.com/fluffynuts/i9300_hax.git

So far, in there, you can find:
  1. toggle_flash.sh, which toggles the flash as a flashlight.
  2. v11.sh which "set vibration to 11", ala Spinal Tap. This sets your i9300 vibration to max (100%)
Both of these require root as they mess with stuff under /sys. Both are easier to run via $cripter. To use, clone somewhere and copy the scripts into the folder you've configured $cripter to use as a scripts home.

To use, I bind toggle_flash.sh to a double-tap on my home screen, via Nova Launcher (but I'm sure you can do this with other launchers or in other ways) and I set v11.sh to run at boot via Llama.

I hope this can help someone else with an i9300, especially if they are holding back on upgrades for the same reasons I am:
  1. Damn the man: I refuse to pay just to get a newer, shinier toy.
  2. The world has enough e-waste as it is. I'd like to be able to say to my boy someday that I did what I could to slow down the destructive nature of man, no matter how inconsequential my actions were.
 Any other useful hax that I contrive for this phone will end up there. Licensing is BSD ("if it breaks, you can keep both pieces"). You're welcome to use, distribute and mock. I don't care if you don't like it. I do care (a lot) if you do (:

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