I’m happy I didn’t replace my phone!

Since I’ve been to the US, I’ve been thinking of replacing my cellphone, which right now still is my HTC Desire HD (which I was supposed not to pay, as I got it with an operator contract, but which I ended up paying dearly to avoid having to pay a contract that wouldn’t do me any good outside of Italy). The reasons were many, including the fact that it doesn’t get to HSDPA speed here in the US, but the most worrisome was definitely the fact that I had to charge it at least twice a day, and it was completely unreasonable for me to expect it to work for a full day out of the office.

After Google’s failure to provide a half-decent experience with the Nexus 4 orders (I did try to get one, the price was just too sweet, but for me it went straight from “Coming Soon” to “Out of stock”), I was considering going for a Sony (Xperia S), or even (if it wasn’t for the pricetag), a Galaxy Note II with a bluetooth headset. Neither option was a favourite of mine, but beggars can’t be choosers, can they?

The other day, as most of my Twitter/Facebook/Google+ followers would have noticed, my phone also decided to give up: it crashed completely while at lunch, and after removing the battery it lost all settings, due to a corruption of the ext4 filesystem on the SD card (the phone’s memory is just too limited for installing a decent amount of apps). After a complete re-set and reinstall, during which I also updated from the latest CyanogenMod version that would work on it to the latest nightly (still CM7, no CM10 for me yet, although the same chipset is present on modern, ICS-era phones from HTC), I had a very nice surprise. The battery has been now running for 29 hours, I spoke for two and something hours on the phone, used it for email, Facebook messages, and Foursquare check-ins, and it’s still running (although it is telling me to connect my charger).

So what could have triggered this wide difference in battery life? Well there are a number of things that changed, and a number that were kept the same:

  • I did reset the battery statistics, but unlike most of the guides I did so when the phone was 100% charged instead of completely discharged — simply because I had it connected to the computer and charged when I was in the Clockwork Recovery, so I just took a chance to it.
  • I didn’t install many of the apps I had before, including a few that are basically TSRs – and if you’re old enough you know what I mean! – including Advanced Call Manager (no more customers, no more calls to filter!), and, the most likely culprit, an auto-login app for Starbucks wifi.
  • While I kept Volume Ace installed, as it’s extremely handy with its scheduler (think of it like a “quiet hours” on steroids, as it can be programmed with many different profiles, depending on the day of the week as well), I decided to disable the “lock volume” feature (as it says it can be a battery drain) and replaced it with simply disabling the volume buttons when the screen is locked (which is why I enabled the lock volume feature to begin with).
  • I also replaced Zeam Launcher, although I doubt that might be the issue, with the new ADW Launcher (the free version — which unfortunately is not replacing the one in CyanogenMod as far as I can tell) — on the other hand I have to say that the new version is very nice, it has a configurable application drawer which is exactly what I wanted, and it’s quite faster than anything else I tried in a long time.
  • Since I recently ended up replacing my iPod Classic with an iPod Touch (the harddrive in the former clicked and neither Windows nor Linux could access it), I didn’t need to re-install DoggCatcher either, and that one might have been among the power drains, since it also schedules operation in the background and, again as far as I can tell, it does not uses the “sync” options that Android provides.

In all of this, I fell pretty much in love again with my phone. Having put in a 16GB microSD card a few months ago means I have quite a bit of space for all kind of stuff (applications as well as data), and thanks to the new battery life I can’t really complain about it that much. Okay so the lack of 3G while in the US is a bit of a pain, but I’m moving to London soon anyway so that won’t be a problem (I know it works in HSDPA there just fine). And I certainly can’t lament myself about the physical strength of the device… the chassis is made of metal, I’d venture to say it’s aluminum, but I wouldn’t be sure, which makes it strong enough to resist falling into a stone pavement (twice) and on concrete (only once) — yes I mistreat my gadgets, either they cope with me or they can get the heck out of my life.

Time-friendly gadgets and souvenirs

With about four different jobs at my hands right now, my free time tends to be quite limited. Since it is free time that I employ to keep my mental sanity (a difficult task since I’m having more trouble at home than you might dream in a bad nightmare), work on Gentoo packages that I’m not paid to work on, and finally take care of housekeeping, the more free time I have the better.

Of the three main activities, the one that I’d like to cut shorter is definitely housekeeping; even more so since I’m hoping to get a real office before the summer heat becomes unbearable for me and the boxes, in which case I’d be needing to increase the slots given to housekeeping (or is it officekeeping then?). So, how do you reduce the time spent in this activity without having to pay someone else to do it (which is something that I’ll probably do for the office, at some point)?

Simple: you start by cutting down the amount of gadgetry, souvenirs, and general ornaments you have laying around, and replacing them with something more time friendly, to begin with. Especially where computers and electronics are involved, the most time-expensive task you have to deal with is, in my opinion, dusting. Ornaments waste even more of your time by both obstructing the surfaces to dust, and requiring you to dust them properly.

Unfortunately, even though this is not news to me, the task is made more difficult by two issues: the first is that I’m weak and last year, visiting fairs, I bought a “few” action figures (mostly from Monster Hunter games; the second is that my whole family doesn’t seem to like the idea of not having ornaments, and not buying ornaments as souvenirs and presents in general. To the point that I have a whole drawer in my bedroom that is full of souvenirs, most of which I was given by my sister each time she visited Italy or Europe.

While ornaments and souvenirs tend to be generally pointless and just waste of space and time, I reckon that most people, me included, like having a memento of their travels, and give one to their friends and family. At the same time, I like the idea of seeing around me items that link to things I like, such as games and comics. With all this considered, I started forming an opinion about what, as the post’s title already gives away, is a time friendly gadget. There are indeed a few, and they usually are quite good alternatives.

Clothing is probably the most important, time-friendly gadget. But not in the form of things so silly you’d never wear them. But for instance T-shirts, even silly ones, are usually just fine to receive (as long as they are the right size), especially if you are geek enough to consider them a distinction badge, like Adam Savage in Mythbusters. I have followed a similar approach when I visited London a couple of years ago; my main memento of that travel? A flat cap which looks definitely British, but which I use daily when the weather is rainy — but I guess I’m not part of the norm given I also wear a fedora during winter, and lighter hats during summer. And before somebody asks, I’ve been doing that since before watching Mythbusters; it’s a passion I got from my maternal grandfather.

Cups are also a great gadget and souvenir, even though from time to time they are hard to take home, since they are fragile. Not only I’m very happy having bought an FSFE cup (which is featured in an old article of mine iconic as it feels to me) the one time I went to FOSDEM. Mostly because, even though my mother keeps complaining we got too many of them, they never go to waste: at some point you either break some or they get too ruined to use daily… then you just take a few new ones and you’re set. Furthermore, I wouldn’t mind a few more cups nowadays since I’ll have to bring some with me in my office, reducing the availability in house. Which is why I added to Amazon’s Universal Wishlist a cup from The Oatmeal’s Bobcats (might not be entirely safe for work, depending on which side of the pond you live, I guess).

Depending on the final destination of souvenirs, food is also often good enough: tea from London, spices from Turin, and my sister got me (dark) chocolate from the mountains last time she went there on vacation. While it might not be a lasting memory, at least it would be enjoyed, and once all of it is eaten, there is nothing left taking up space and requiring time to clean. Unfortunately there are still issues, as not everybody has the same tastes, and at the same time, enough people, me included, can’t tolerate certain food.

The final nail in the coffin for the problem, at least for me, is prints: you just need some glass to gold them on, and you’re set: they take very little space on a wall, they can be cleaned pretty quickly, and even if you need to store them you don’t have to take care not to break them as much as many other trinkets.

What surprises me, though, is that in the era of digital distribution, I can only buy prints in dead-tree form: no webcomic I follow and care of seem to sell high-resolution images to be printed, probably to avoid somebody to sell rip-offs… on the other hand, I wouldn’t mind having the print even if it had my name all over it (maybe I’d actually like it better that way!). Of course you’d then have to find some way to print the high-resolution image, but luckily, one of my customers is actually a print shop so I wouldn’t have trouble there.