CyanogenMod 7

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Of all of the ROMs floating around out there, Cyanogen is by far the most established custom after-market ROM available.

CyanogenMod 6 brought froyo features to 2.1, and was later updated to 2.2 It was then very similar to a basic 2.2 ROM, so it became outdated. But CyanogenMod 7 brought us a loaf of gingerbread this time around. This has put it much higher up.

In addition to the new faster and cleaner base operating system, CyanogenMod brought some new interesting features to the table.

Lockscreen Gestures

The name says it all. On the lockscreen, you are able to perform gestures that will do different actions, including enabling the flashlight, unlocking the phone, opening a shortcut, or opening an application.

DSPManager

I have really found no use for this quite yet, but others might. It allows you to modify your sound outputs. You can modify headset, speaker, and bluetooth separately, and in each pane you get options for a bass booster, and you also get a nice equalizer that is quite easy to modify. I don’t exactly know why you might need this, but I guess some audiophiles on a higher degree than me might appreciate it.

Themes Support

The operating system comes with a built in theme chooser and three themes. You can download new themes online on many different forum sites (such as xda-developers) and easily install them. One package includes the theming for the WHOLE operating system, including home screen, highlights, menubar tweaks, etc.

Incognito Mode

This feature is rarely used, but I guess could come in handy. Identical to the incognito mode in Google Chrome, this will prevent your phone from saving cookies, history, cache, or anything.

Installation

Installing this ROM was fairly simple, however it doesn’t come with Google Apps built in.

First, go to http://cyanogenmod.com and select your phone, then download the ZIP for your phone and put it on your SD card. Open up ROM Manager and select “Install zip from SD card.” Select the zip of CyanogenMod, then check the box that says “Wipe Data” and the box that says “Backup current ROM.” Continue with your installation and you will be greeted with CyanogenMod. You may notice, however, that there is no Market, YouTube, Gmail, etc. To install those, download the zip for your phone here and then flash it. To do this, transfer the Gapps zip onto your SD card and boot into recovery by booting while holding the down volume button. In the menu that comes up, select Recovery, and wait for it to boot. In the next menu, select “Install ROM from SD card,” select the Gapps ROM, and let it install. Then, reboot your phone, and you will be greeting with a Gapps enhanced CyanogenMod. Enjoy!

[For more info on installing ROMs and rooting, read my full guide here.]

Rooting, Recovery, and ROMs: What it’s all about.

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So you’ve got an android phone.

And you can use the stock operating system with all of the manufacturer’s skinning and apps and versions and keyboard and everything.

Congratulations.

But if you are feeling a bit ballsy, then you can really take your phone to a true mobile computing level.

Here’s the steps to this.

  • Root
  • Install a recovery
  • Find ROMS
  • Make backups
  • Install ROMS
  • Use Wireless Tether

Lets explain what all of this is.

Rooting

Rooting means that you can create a way for apps to get superuser access. This is handy for getting to wifi, modifying files, or installing ROMs.

Recovery

For the Recovery, that will usually be installed when you root the phone. The recovery is where you can make and recover backups of the phone, install ROMs, and a slew of other stuff that might come in handy (but could also kill your phone).

Backup

Once you have the recovery installed (you can’t have the recovery without the root FYI) then the first thing you need to do is make a backup of your phone.

This is pretty easy. Just boot into Recovery (just hold down volume on boot and select recovery when given the option), Select backups, and select make a backup now. Your screen will flash many random things, and no matter how long it takes, don’t force shut it down or take out the battery. It will almost always finish.

ROMs

Once you have a backup of your normal operating system, you can go crazy with other ROMs.

ROM stands for Read Only Memory. In android poweruser terms, it is an operating system that can be installed on the phone using the recovery mode.

You can find many roms on the internet all over the place. XDA-developers is a great place to get ROMs. Sometimes a ROM will even be for the next Android version that htc hasn’t released yet.

When you download a ROM, it will come as an easy to handle zip file. And from here it’s simple.

Plug in your phone to your computer and mount it as a disk drive/USB Mass Storage. Then, just click and drag the ROM from your computer onto the root of the SD card. Eject and unplug the phone, then reboot into recovery.

Select install zip from sdcard and select the name of the file that you moved over. Then, choose the yes among the long list of nos to confirm you really want to install it and whabam, you will be installing a new operating system.

Then, reboot your phone, and you will be with your brand new OS that you yourself downloaded from the internet and installed on your phone.

Unfortunately, this process is different for every android phone. Sometimes there is a one-click root. Sometimes you have to use a command line application to open a port on the phone and install the root like that. But once you have gotten the phone rooted, installing zips is a piece of cake.

Wireless Tether

Aside from installing ROMs, another thing you can do is install and use apps that usually wouldn’t be possible if you weren’t rooted.

The one example I am going to use here is called Wireless Tether. And basically, it’s just that.

You can make your phone into a wi-fi hotspot with no hassle, just using verizon’s mobile hotspot plan. But that will cost you an extra $20 a month and you have a 5 GB limit before you start getting overage fees. Ouch.

With Wireless tether, you can connect unlimited devices, the data comes out of your data plan for your phone, and that also means there’s no overage fees.

Once you are rooted, just search for Wireless Tether in the android market and you will be able to install it on your phone and use it. You can change the SSID of the WiFi network, and you can even enable encryption and a password on your network. In addition, it allows you to use access control, where you can disable a device’s access to the network. Very handy sometimes.

Do it yourself

So that is the whole concept of rooting, recovery, and roms. You can find roms for things using google: Just do a search for “[your phone] 2.3 ROMS” or “[your phone] Cyanogenmod” and you should have plenty of luck. If you want to find out how to root your phone, just do a google search for “[your phone] root” and that should turn up some helpful results.

If you have a rooted droid incredible, click here to learn about the stable and functional gingerbread rom by WeDoDroid.

Otterbox Defender Case for iPhone

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Otterbox is known for their high quality cases. They have many series of cases, each with their own level of protection, and here I have the series that boasts highest level of ruggedness, the Defender Series (for iPhone).

This case takes heavy duty to a new level. It features multiple layers of protection, starting with a silicone layer the outside, a hard shell inside, then in that soft felt against the phone itself.

In addition to the shock protection, it has rubber plugs to keep dust out of the ports, and has plastic protection over the screen, camera(s), and apple logo in the back (a stylish touch I guess).

Unlike other cases, the plastic protection over the screen isn’t adhesive. The screen protector is actually part of the case. This is definitely very cool (so if you don’t want the case on it then the screen protector comes off too), but there is a downside. If you have scratched up the screen cover and want a new one, then you have to get a new/different case.

Also, if you get dirt on any of the camera protectors, then you can see a bit of a haze over the camera. Yes, this can be solved by simply wiping off the cover, but this is bittersweet. The camera itself ends up being more protected against dirt and scratches, but when you get the cover dirty/scratched you can see the results in your pictures/video.

So who is this case for? I’d think that this case would be for the people who really handle their device harshly. If you’re a construction worker and drop this off a roof, then whoops! The phone should be fine. This is great if construction workers want to have a fancy expensive smartphone but don’t want to replace it all the time because it’s broken.

This is also good for those clutzes who tend to drop their phone all the time. If you don’t drop your phone that much at all, then you might want to go with the commuter series, which still offers good protection but has a little bit more style. But this case seems to be up for some of the worst conditions someone could throw at it.

But I have a droid! Or a Nokia! and I don’t like black! I want pink! No I want blue! No red!

Calm down internetgoer, there’s hope. Otterbox sells this case for a large range of models in many different colors.

The case sells online for $50, which seems a bit excessive but you’re getting protection that’s worth the price.

Otterbox Defender Homepage

Defender for iPhone