Upgrading to Ice Cream Sandwich

I’m about six months behind the rest of the world when it comes to phone software, but I finally upgraded my Nexus S ¬†to Ice Cream Sandwich. Unfortunately the process was not as smooth as I would have liked: even though I have an unlocked stock phone from Google I still couldn’t get the OTA upgrade and had to find and manually download it. However, the upgrade basically destroyed my phone. Everything was slow and laggy, apps crashed all the time and battery life was down to a few hours. After a few days of trying to troubleshoot I gave up and did a “factory reset”. The reset removed all apps and reset to just the base OS (the upgraded ICS version in this case). Luckily this seemed to fix everything. Now that I’ve re-installed the apps that I did regularly use my phone is better than ever.

I really the look and feel of ICS. It’s close enough to Gingerbread that I don’t feel lost but it’s different enough to feel like I’m using something new. I like the blue and black theme much better than the previous orange (though I wish there was a selection of color themes). The more 2D feel of the interface (at least for the native Android apps) is really nice too. It’s different enough from iOS but not as different as Metro (or whatever it’s supposed to be called now). Some apps like the music player, the ¬†contacts app and Gmail have had significant redesigns and are a quite a bit nicer to use. I don’t know what changes they have made to the keyboard but it seems much more natural to type on and more accurate. However the caps lock feature seems to be gone which is a bit annoying at times. Most third party apps seem to be unchanged by the design changes. The whole phone seems much snappier and faster. Battery life during actual use seems about the same, though it does seem longer on standby ( I haven’t made any scientific measurements).

I’ve been pretty happy with the Android platform and this phone in particular since I got it. It was not quite as polished as iOS but it wasn’t significantly deficient either. With the ICS update I feel like Android has made small but steady improvements to the whole experience. Since I mostly use the stock Android apps and popular ones like Facebook and Twitter I haven’t explored the ecosystem much. That being said, I have no complaints about the apps and services I do use. I use my phone basically as a quick lookup and occasional texting and calling device — I much prefer a proper computer when it comes to doing work. For those purposes the phone is great. With the improved keyboard I’ve been using it for quick emails and IM as well. If I was in the habit of keeping a shorter blog I think I could use the phone to write for that as well.

I don’t plan on switching phones any time soon and I’m glad to say that it looks like I won’t be forced to. The Nexus S is a solid device (not perfect, but solid). I wish it had a better camera and I’d be happy to pay for an OmniFocus app (even if it was just read only) but apart from that I’m happy with it. The ICS update made it better than it was and there doesn’t seem to have been any unnecessary superfluous changes. I hope the Jelly Bean update (when it comes) will keep going in the right direction.

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Sunday Selection 2012-09-02

Hello all. I’ve been on extended vacation for the last month or so. I’ve spent a few weeks on actual vacation and the rest in “vacation mode”. I’m glad to report I made it back to civilization alive and I’m looking forward to the fall. It’s getting cooler outside, I moved into a new office, I upgraded my phone and I’m looking forward to a semester full of low-level systems programming, working on a programming language (or two) and hopefully a good number of fun, random hacks.

I’ve done a good amount of reading while I’ve been gone so I have a long list of things to recommend which I’ll be working through over the next few weeks.

Around the Web

I want to become stronger

There is something about being human that drives us to improve ourselves and become better. The rise of the self-help industry in recent years has brought this aspect of our nature into the mainstream media but I’m unsure of how much positive impact it has had. Of course, self improvement is not new and definitely not uniquely Western. It’s worth looking afield for a philosophical understanding of what is means to want to be better.

Not for the sake of selfishness alone

While philosophical discussions make for interesting conversation and are worth pondering on a personal level, if we really want answers to the questions let’s call on science and technology to give us a hand. This article gives a good overview of scientific research into human altruism and its biological roots.

Depression, digging out and pursuing happiness

As much as we’d like to think that being happy is our default state, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it feels so much easier to just crawl under the blankets, stay there and let the world pass you by. For times like that it worth’s remembering: you are not alone and there are things you can do to make things just a little bit better.

From the Bookshelf

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World has Ever Seen

Humans are probably the only animals that take strenuous, energy-consuming physical activity and turn it into something recreational. If you’re a runner or athlete or have been thinking of taking up some kind of physical activity this is definitely a book worth reading. It combines personal anecdotes, inspiring stories, short biographies and hard science into a very readable explanation of why humans are natural born runners and how far running can take us (literally and metaphorically).

Software

Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Ok so I’m about six months behind the upgrade curve but I just upgraded my Nexus S to ICS and I really like it. The interface looks sharp and refreshing, it’s fairly different from iOS and the apps seem to faster and snappier. If you’re still running Gingerbread I would definitely recommend upgrading (though the path may not be easy). A longer post on the matter will be coming shortly to a screen near you.