Sunday, July 5, 2015

my OS customizations

This is an on-going list of standard customizations to make my online life smoother.

Browsers (Chrome/Firefox)
  1. Generic references/settings
    1. Startup: show tabs from last use
    2. Home page:  Blank or Google
    3. Download
      1. Default download folder: Desktop
      2. Prompt for each download
  2. Plugins (and allow in incognito)
    1. Ad blocker: uBlock Origin
    2. Image Zoom: Imagus
      1. Imagus is cross browser
      2. alternatives are Thumbnail plus for Firefox or Hover Zoom Hover Zoom+ for Chrome
    3. Add to Pocket
    4. Reload Page:
      1. Chrome: Reload Monkey
      2. Firefox
    5. Honey
  3. Firefox specific settings (about:config)
    1. Disable disk caching (with sufficient RAM or running on USB/flash/SSD)
      1.  browser.cache.disk.enable;false
    2. Disable close with last tab
      1. browser.tabs.closeWindowWithLastTab;false
    3. Enable Tracking Protection
      1. privacy.trackingprotection.enabled;true
  4. Chrome specific settings
    1. Enable Click-To-Play
      1. Settings > Advanced Settings > Privacy > Content Settings > Plug-ins > "Click to play"
    2. Chrome flags (chrome://flags/) (from Gizmodo)
      1. Enable download resumption
      2. Download status in Notification Center
  5. Linux Mint specific
    1. change search engine to Google


  1. Windows
    1. Make the keyboard easier to use: Underline keyboard shortcuts and access keys
  2. Windows 10:
    1. Turn on fast startup (from
      1. Start > “Power options” > “Choose what the power buttons do” > “Change settings that are currently unavailable.” > “Shutdown settings”: “Turn on fast startup”
    2. Turn on Find My Device (from Tech Times)
      1. Start > Update and Security
      2. This option is only available from Build 1511 (Nov 2015)

Outlook 2013

  1. File > Options > Mail
    1. Replies and forwards
      1. Open replies and forwards in a new window
    2. Save messages
      1. Check: When replying to a message that is not in the Inbox, save the reply in the same folder
  2. File > Options > Advanced
    1. Start Outlook in this folder:
    2. Reading Pane: Uncheck
      1. Mark items as read when viewed in the Reading Pane
      2. Mark item as read when selection changes
  3. File > Options > Search
    1. Include results only from: All mailbox
    2. Uncheck: Improve search speed by limiting the number of results shown

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Cyanogenmod 10.2.1 experience on Google Nexus 7 2012 (Part 1)

I try not to re-post stuff that are easily found on the web. And this may seem like a really old topic that has been covered before.

While there are multiple proclamations on the speedup after a Cyanogenmod install (or indeed after a factory reset of Lollipop), there seems to be little follow-up user experience after a few months of general use. Specifically on whether the slow-down returns after the benefits of a clean-install wears off...

This is what I intend to address in this 2-part post. Part 1 (this post) details why I installed Cyanogenmod and selected a particular version, as well as my initial impression.

Part 2 will reflect my experience after some time.

In Summary

My initial experience with Cyanogenmod 10.2.1 has been a breath of fresh air.

The Nexus 7 isn't particularly fast or snappy, and neither do I expect that of a 3-year old budget tablet. But user interactions are consistent. Gone are the unpredictable, multi-minute lags running Lollipop 5.0 and 5.1.

For now, if you're suffering from Lollipop induced Nexus 7 lag-icitis, I encourage you to take the plunge and "downgrade" to Cyanogenmod 10.2.1. It's only a downgrade in terms of Android versioning, but you'll be getting back a usable tablet.

If you're less adventurous or want more certainty, check back here in a month or two, when I intend to post Part 2 on the continued usability of Cyanogenmod 10.2.1 on the Nexus 7 2012, including whether or not the speedup is temporary.

So what's the long story?

To start off, this is written in the context of someone who has been suffering for months in the lag-inflicted hell of Lollipop 5.0 and subsequently 5.1, on the Google Nexus 7 2012 (Wifi, 16GB)...

Why now? Is this still relevant? "10.2.1 is outdated and so is the Nexus 7..."

To answer, I need to share my Nexus 7 journey.

An iPad was my primary tablet. I had an opportunity to purchase a refurbished Nexus 7 2012 (wifi, 16GB) in Oct 2014, with 90 days warranty for what I consider a steal at ~USD 65.

At that time, it came with Android 4.1. I booted it up, saw that there were updates, and immediately updated to 4.3, which I used for a month or so.

The initial experience, while nowhere near trailblazingly fast, was overall positive. Responsiveness was acceptable.

A month later, in Nov 2014, as soon as I was received the prompt that Lollipop (5.0) was available as an OTA update, I upgraded.

The fresh install performed well, for what I recall lasted a few days. Then intermittent lags and slowdowns occurred, and progressively worsened over time. By Jan, my Nexus 7 was effectively useless unless you were prepared to use it as a single-tasking secondary tablet.

Which I did between Jan and Apr. S-I-N-G-L-E. T-A-S-K'ed.

Cyanogenmod and why 10.2.1

In late Apr 2015, with my 90-day warranty over and nothing to lose, I decided I had enough and resolved to re-flash back to a lower version in order to get back a usable and useful device.

I had good prior experience with Cyanognmod on a Barnes and Noble Nook Color. Version 10.2.1 is the latest Stable release available for download (as of Apr 2015).

The instructions on Cyanogenmod wiki were neither straightforward, nor impossible to follow. They require a little improvisation, which may be a result of my downgrading from Android 5.1 (Lollipop) and resultant changes in folder structure relating to simulated SDcard storage.

Overall, an hour's research and downloading, a few reboots, and a few nervy minutes rebooting the tablet was all it took to convert my Nexus 7 to Cyanogenmod 10.2.1

So what's next then?

My experience so far is positive, and I'm currently more interested in preserving a usable tablet than chasing the latest and greatest features.

So I'm gonna hold off abit on upgrades/updates, and report back on the user experience after a few weeks or a couple of months.

However, a couple of things interest me.
  1. Cyanogenmod 11.x updates are available as an OTA update. Sooner or later, I will be tempted into tapping the proverbial "Update" button, and likely write another update.
    But not for awhile. Not until I can ascertain if 10.2.1 stays stable and responsive under sustained use for some time.
  2. Cyanogenmod Nightlies based on Lollipop are also available, and the stable "M" release is inevitable. Given my negative experience with stock Lollipop. I'll definitely monitor the XDA and Cyanogenmod forums for other user reports before taking the plunge myself.