The Samsung Galaxy S5 Marshamallow Update

So, I’m back in the Samsung TouchWiz fold. I was a fairly happy user of Cyanogenmod for a few months which allowed me to use the latest version of Android on my Galaxy S5. It worked almost the way I wanted it to. There were a few issues related to the notification light, the capacitive button lights and bluetooth. I discussed the lights issues in my previous post but only briefly touched on bluetooth.

This doesn’t happen to everyone, but on my phone, if I was using a bluetooth speaker the audio would break up from time to time. This would happen if the phone was moved, the screen turned on, or if I interacted with it in other ways. It was really annoying as you can imagine.

In the last few weeks Samsung have started rolling out the official Marshmallow update for the S5. Last Friday the update for Sri Lanka appeared online. This is important for me because it’s the same model used in Europe and many other countries, SM-G900F!

It wasn’t long before discussion on XDA started, and a ROM I used before, DevBase, was updated with a 6.0.1 release. I like this rom because it has the core Samsung software but has stripped out other bits to save space.

About Phone

Installing a new rom or firmware takes a while but basically comes down to these steps:

  1. Backup everything, just in case. I used Titanium backup for individual apps and a nandroid backup of the whole phone.
  2. Copy the new firmware onto the phone.
  3. Reboot into recovery mode (volume up+menu+power) and do a factory reset. That doesn’t delete everything on your phone which I always found weird, but useful because it doesn’t delete the firmware..
  4. Flash the new firmware from recovery and tell the recovery to reboot into download mode.
  5. Boot up a Windows machine and Odin, connect my phone, and flash the bootloader and modem.
  6. Reboot phone and restore apps.

Flashing a new firmware is never without stress. You can soft brick your phone meaning the device won’t boot properly. That happened to me, but after flashing the bootloader and modem again it worked fine. It also takes an age to get things back the way they were before. That’s the kicker. It’s back the way it was before, for the most part so from a cursory glance it looks much the same as it ever did.

So, what’s better now? Bluetooth is perfect now, charging notification lights behave correctly, as do lights on the capacitive buttons. Battery life is the same as before, excellent for an almost 2 year old device. I replaced the stock Samsung lockscreen, notification system and task switcher with Good Lock, which I find is a lot better and faster. You can find it on the US Galaxy App store, or here if you don’t have access to that.

There was definitely more free space on my internal storage when I was running Cyanogenmod. I haven’t tried moving any apps to the SD card yet but there’s about 2GB of space free now which isn’t bad since Google Photos chews up almost 1GB of space. I also flashed URWSoft Barebone Cleaner to free up more system space, but the rom I used was already fairly light already so it didn’t make much of a difference.

I did have trouble with Quickpic and Syncthing deleting photos from my external SD card, but I’m using a very old version of Quickpic, and I think Syncthing had the same problem with Cyanogenmod. I’ve put them on the internal storage for now. I never leave photos on my phone for long anyway.

Homescreen
Of course I’m not using Samsung’s default launcher. It’s Nova Launcher all the way!

Megablast Banjo Remix

Here’s rather impressive remix of the Xenon 2 Megablast main title tune created by a talented banjo player!

Long time readers may remember I used the original music in a video for a short but fun game of Bad Company 2. We joined a game with nobody on the other side so we had fun with the crates, grenades, bullets and smoke. Looking at the date on the video I can’t believe that was almost six years ago!

Marshmallow on the Galaxy S5

It’s possible that Samsung are going to update the Galaxy S5 to Marshmallow (Android 6.0) this year, and there was even a leak when someone received an OTA update to a beta version of Android 6.0 on their Galaxy S5 but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting.

If it ever arrives, that update will still come with all the usual Samsung bloat. Some of it is useful but honestly, I could do without it. I managed to get rid of most of that when I used a different TouchWiz based rom but it didn’t leave much free space in the internal memory of the phone.

Then a few days ago came news of a 3 year old Linux kernel bug that puts any machine running vulnerable versions of Linux at risk. That includes millions of Android phones. Most of those phones will never be updated.

With Marshmallow, Google are responding faster with dated “patch levels” so you know when it has been updated but that’s not much good if you’re still on an earlier version of Android or using an older phone that’s unlikely to be updated.

So, with my phone regularly running out of space, the prospect of more Samsung bloat, and a nasty exploit, I decided to go down the Cyanogenmod route once more.

It took about 3 hours to do, and most of that was because of backing up and reconfiguring apps. I had a head start as my phone was already rooted so first I installed Philz Touch Recovery using a handy app called Rashr that I found through this video. I skipped the first 12 minutes where he rooted his phone:

I backed everything up (nandroid, Titanium, SMS etc) and grabbed a nightly build of Cyanogenmod from here and with the help of the install instructions I found the right Google Apps package. Installation after that was a breeze, I just followed the instructions. (Boot into recovery, wipe, flash Cyanogenmod first, then Gapps).

There was one hiccup. I couldn’t get root access, even after enabling it in Developer Options. I had to flash CM and Gapps again.

The phone does feel faster, even with Facebook, Messenger and Google Plus installed now. Unfortunately Greenify isn’t hibernating them as it thinks they’re “working” but Marshmallow has it’s own doze mode that I presume is doing something.

I also have lots of extra space. With nothing else installed I had around 9GB free in the internal memory! Samsung software usually swallows the majority of that.

It’s a good thing I had that space, as Pocket Casts wasn’t behaving properly. I had it backed up so when I restored it I tried to point it at my podcasts directory on the external card. For some reason I had to set the “custom directory” to point at the directory, but then it couldn’t download new podcasts so I moved the files to the internal memory. Several minutes later and 5GB of mp3 files were moved. Luckily, when I checked the settings again, it had an “sd card” option, so I was able to move the files back toe the external card.

I had worried that bluetooth wouldn’t work but it works almost as well as with the Samsung software. Occasionally there’s a click sound, and once it disconnected when I turned on the torch.

When I first turned on the phone I used a new external sd card (just in case), and I was offered the choice of making it behave like internal memory using Marshmallow’s Adaptable Storage feature. I enabled it, but the phone said it would be slow (even though it was a HCI, class 10 card) so I reformatted it as portable storage. I then rebooted and inserted my original card.

I like to read books at night, so I use screen filter to make the screen almost completely dark. I also use Twilight to make the screen more red (Marshmallow has a feature that changes the colour temperature of the screen, but I prefer the look of Twilight). Unfortunately, and I remember this from my previous adventures with Cyanogenmod, the capacitive buttons on my phone light up whenever I touched the screen, not just when I touched the buttons. Also, the charging light would remain on when the screen was on. There’s an option to disable the notification light for app notifications when the screen is on, but not the charging light. Luckily I was able to disable both buttons and charging light in the settings.
The button light is an issue going back years so it’s unlikely to be changed. I think I had to use an Xposed module last time to fix it. 🙁

The only thing I miss from the original S5 software is the pedometer in Samsung Health, but I’ve been using Google Fit for some time now and that works just as well.

I really love the app permissions in Marshmallow. Unlike earlier versions of Android where you have to grant an app a number of permissions on install, you grant them now when they’re needed (well, except Internet access). When I tried to post a photo to Facebook up popped this message:

Photo by: Donncha O Caoimh (http://inphotos.org)

I still have a nandroid backup of my phone so if I wanted to go back to the Samsung TouchWiz world I can, but I suspect I won’t.

Oh yeah, They’re working on that Linux exploit too. 🙂

The Swollen River Martin

A few photos of the River Martin in Blarney, swollen after the rains of Storm Frank yesterday. Not pictured are the broken garden fences I haphazardly repaired in torrential rain last night. At least the rain stopped this morning to let me repair the roof of our shed.

Cold tonight with clear spells and light winds over the northern half of the country with temperatures falling to between 0 and 4 degrees with some icy patches. But further south, cloud and winds will increase with rain developing and pushing northwards through the night (falling as sleet or snow in parts of Ulster towards dawn). Winds will be light variable at first then easterly and increase fresh to strong veering southwesterly in southern counties later in the night. (met.ie)

Ever wondered how climate change is going to affect Ireland? This post will be of interest to you.

In Ireland the average air temperature has risen by approximately 0.8°C in the last 100 years, with much of the warming occurring towards the end of the 20thcentury, all seasons are warmer. Some of the impacts can already be seen; the start of the growing season for certain species is now up to 10 days earlier, there has been a decrease in the number of days with frost and increase in the number of warm days (days over 20°C).
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Over the last 30 years or so rainfall amounts have increased by approximately 5%, and there is some evidence of an increase in the number of days with heavy rain in the west and northwest. Climate projections for rainfall have greater uncertainty than for temperature, they indicate that overall rainfall amounts in Ireland might decrease slightly, summers are likely to become drier while winters may be wetter especially in the west and north. There are also indications of an increase in the number of very wet days (days with rainfall >20mm).

These projections, applied to river flows, show an increased risk of winter flooding, an increased risk of short duration ‘flash’ floods and to possible water shortages in summer months due to higher temperatures and lower rainfall. The rise in sea levels will make low lying coastal areas more prone to flooding, especially from storm surges.

It warns that the changes will happen slowly so we’re not going to notice them year-on-year but it doesn’t look good.