HTC EVO 4G Battery Life

I have read the most serious complaints about the HTC EVO 4G have been over battery life. I would like to offer my observations.

I got my EVO on May 19 with 1 free month of service till June 20. During that time I didn’t use the phone much. I switched my primary account after I returned from India. In doing so I found that in my absence an update was available. The points that caught my attention:

  • Improvements to Wi-Fi performance
  • Addresses Facebook sync issue which can improve battery performance

Until this update I was never using WiFi on the phone, and I don’t use Facebook for addresses (or anything else for that matter).

So it has been about less than 2 weeks of usage as a primary phone, and for the most part I think the battery life is completely acceptable.

My typical usage has been less than 1 hour talk time per day. At home I leave WiFi on (even through the night) and while at work I turn WiFi off. At work my 3G coverage is not great (3/5 bars) and often does data roaming (4/5 bars). I haven’t really used much BT or GPS. I haven’t even seen any 4G :( so that’s off. … I do minimal web browsing (only when I’m not near a computer). However I do lots of email. I have 4 email accounts setup (with push email) which seem to *beep all day long*. I usually don’t run the task killer to quit any background battery wastage. I have haptic feedback enabled, use a starfield “live” wallpaper and leave the default brightness. I don’t have very many apps installed and I don’t use any widgets that constantly update. However I do use auto-sync for Google calendar.

With that, I can go well over 36 hours before I hit the 15% battery critical alarm. If double the talk time or do equivalent surfing (as talking), that comes closer to 24 hours.

Yesterday I chronicled my usage in detail. I had the battery at 100% charge at about 3:30pm yesterday. I hit the 15% critical at 1:30pm today (22 hours later – 21:52:41 to be exact). In that time I have done:

  • 1:10 hours BT music streaming in my car (two 35 min trips, no GPS)
  • 1:30 hours talk time (WiFi on)
  • 0:15 min talk time with BT handsfree (WiFi on)
  • 0:20 min GPS navigation in my car (with some GoogleMaps looking for a place)
  • 0:30 min 3G web surfing (with some youtube)
  • 0:30 min of email

During the bulk of the usage last night there was a major thunderstorm and the signal was a little weak. I did have one dropped call (which is why I disconnected the BT hand’s free).

I’m not saying this is amazing (even though the EVO 4G has one of the biggest batteries on the market). However I don’t find this worthy of my complaint.

In contrast:
I have a Motorola Droid (currently disconnected), which I only leave WiFi on. In less than 24 hours (with practically no usage) the battery is completely dead. Pushing the power button does nothing.
Previously when I used the Palm Pre, I would have to be very careful at night. Randomly I would wake up to the battery at critical. I would usually have to charge at night. And I disabled everything (no WiFi and no email updates).

The one major need for power on my phone is that it should (1) last all day for my typical usage and (2) if the battery is not close to critical when I go to bed, it should not be critical when I wake up. Currently my EVO seems to do this much better than my other phones.

I do plan to monitor this further in the future.

* Full disclosure: I got this device for free, but I was planning on buying it anyways. I do pay for service.

Local Server Hardware

After identifying exactly what my local linux server requirements were, I decided to take a good look at my hardware options. From the start, I wanted to (1) save money, (2) save electricity/power and (3) minimize noise.

To address these issues, there were many decisions I made. First of all I did not need any peripherals. The server could be entirely “headless” (i.e. no monitor, no keyboard, no mouse, etc). The primary things of value are: disk storage, memory, cpu and network. Hence the following are my requirements:

  • Processor – CPU speed should be about 1Ghz. Preferably a low power processor (ex: Geode-NX, Pentium-M, etc.). I prefer a CPU without a fan and that could be cooled with the heat-sink alone. Although I do not plan to do major computational critical tasks, in the past I have seen certain processors (Via) have difficult with SSH (something that will be critical to performance for me).
  • Memory – Minimum memory: 256MB. From my experience using Fedora as a server and building other minimalistic Linux machines, I know that all my tasks/processes should be fine with about 150-200MB of memory after some tweaking. For safety, about 512MB will be perfect.
  • Disk – Minimum storage space: 80GB. All of my critical documents, development, music (mp3’s, etc) and server backups could be fit easily into 20-30GB. I think double that amount should be adequate. However, realistically, since I most likely would want a SATA drive for performance, most drives are at 160GB for the best price.
  • Video – Don’t care. On board. The most I would need to do is run a remote X-server session, which does not benefit from better video hardware.
  • Sound – Don’t care. On board. Would never be used.
  • Network – Standard networking is now 100Mbit, however it would be a nice to have 1Gbit. Although both my desktop and laptop are both 1Gbit, I do NOT have a gigabit switch.
  • DVD – For installation, a DVD drive would be needed, but once complete, everything would be done over the network. However, there is a practical advantage to having a DVD-RW. Even if the hard drive was very large, a 4GB DVD backup could still be useful for incremental long term backups.

What did I end up getting?

  • Motherboard/CPU – Intel Celeron 220 1.2Ghz. I found a mini-ITX CPU/board combination. My primary reasons for purchase were (1) price – less than $80 USD, (2) no noise – fanless, (3) power consumption was only 27W. The other features of the board were SATA, Onboard video/sound, ethernet and USB2.
  • Memory – 1GB 533Mhz. I did not need 1GB, but the price was only $25 USD and since the motherboard only had 1 slot which supported maximum 1GB, I decided that it was best to just max it out for now.
  • Storage – Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 SATA 250GB. I did not need the space either but the price was only $70 USD which for the features (16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s) was a good deal. I currently recommend Seagate Barracuda drives, they are great performance and reliability.
  • Case – Antec NSK MicroATX Cube (350W). I thought it would be best to minimize the space the system would take. Also this series of cases is known to be absolutely silent as well as power efficient. This was the most expensive part: $100 USD.
  • DVD – I recycled an old DVD-ROM I was not using.

Total spent: ~$280 USD. This was well within my budget of $300-400.

There were some things I learned and I did run into some issues. I should first mention that everything did “work” correctly.

  • Motherboard SATA – I realized later that the motherboard only supported 1.5Gb/s SATA. So my drive is not operating as fast as it can be, but this is acceptable since majority of my file transfers will be somewhat smaller and the standard SATA performance is very good.
  • Motherboard Video – I knew that onboard video is pretty low performance (in this case SiS Chipset). However for whatever reason the VGA-out on this board was especially noisy. While this would be unacceptable for normal use, I never intended to have a monitor on this machine.
  • Motherboard BIOS – This board had an Intel BIOS. I am most familiar with Asus motherboards and in the BIOS setup there is an option to manually set the startup time (fixed, daily, etc.). The nvram-wakeup utilizes the setting to wake-up the computer. However this board does NOT have that option. I was hoping the machine would sleep during in-activity and wake automatically. I have not yet decided how to work around this other than manually starting it each morning.
  • Celeron CPU – While this CPU met my needs perfectly, I was a little disappointed it did not power-throttle (i.e. reduce clock speeds to save power). The ACPI information is a little bit confusing, however given that it is low power anyways and it does support 64-bit, this is acceptable.
  • Case – Any “smaller” case typically has problems. Antec is usually known for their quality, however I found my case incredibly noisy. The power supply fan rattled too much. I was thinking I would have to RMA to Newegg, but luckily I eliminated the noise by taking everything apart and re-tightening every single screw. Very frustrating but it worked.

Overall I am happy with the purchase. I did end up saving quite a bit, but I can’t help thinking that perhaps spending a little bit more would have allowed for some slight benefits.

I guess I was a little bit wordy, but I wanted to explain very clearly my thought process in assembling a computer with a very specific purpose.

More on this after the software is up and running!

Resuming USB after F7 ACPI Suspend

As mentioned in my Fedora 7 Review, there were some ACPI regressions in functionality. The basic problem is as such: Before I hit ‘Suspend’ my mouse is working fine, however the mouse fails to activate after the computer is resumed.

To get the mouse to work again, I must run the following, after which the mouse works perfectly.

[mirandam@charon ~]$ sudo su -
[root@charon ~]# modprobe -r ehci_hcd
[root@charon ~]# modprobe ehci_hcd

How do I know which module to pick? Trial and error. There are only 3 USB modules that I considered:

[mirandam@charon ~]$ /sbin/lsmod | grep hcd
ehci_hcd               35405  0 
ohci_hcd               23749  0 
uhci_hcd               26833  0

I went through each and loaded and re-loaded it at the terminal line until I found the correct one.
(How did I get to the terminal with no mouse? Quick Tip: Create a shortcut key combination in Gnome: System > Preferences > Personal > Keyboard Shortcuts).

The Fedora FAQ says to use the “Quirks Page” to try to diagnose the problems. The site is a little “dumbed” down but it might be helpful to newbies.

The information I required was how to unload modules prior to suspending. This is mentioned in the site. The proper method is to add a file unload_modules in the /etc/pm/config.d/ directory. The file should have 1 line listing the modules you want to unload (separated by spaces) in a specific format. In my case this would be:

Hence I ran:

[mirandam@charon ~]$ sudo gedit /etc/pm/config.d/unload_modules

Added the above line, and presto!, my USB mouse propely resumes after an ACPI suspend (S3, Suspend to RAM).

The above quirks page may not be entirely comprehensive but should provide many common tips. Unfortunately power management (including suspend and hibernate) are ever changing in Linux. The current structure does seem like progress (even if it does create regressions as in my case).

For reference I have an ASUS A8V, Athlon 64 running 32 bit, kernel 2.6.21-1.3228.fc7, with a Logitech MX 400 Laser Mouse.

Creative Zen Vision M in Linux

Well I normally don’t get too many gifts or exchange too many gifts during Christmas. But this year I got an MP3 player. I got the Zen Vision M from Creative. And I was very much impressed. Outside of MP3 playback. It has video playback for MPEG, Divx, Xvid and Windows Media. It also has a FM radio, which can be recorded as well as a voice recorder. Reviews on the internet rate it better than the video iPod.

There was one big disappointment: the device was engineered to only work with Windows Media Player 10, which is only supported in Windows XP. Windows XP/MP10 use something called MTP: Media Transfer Protocol to communicate with MP3 players. Unfortunately I run Windows 2000. Luckily the device worked perfected in Fedora Core 6 using libmtp (supported in Fedora Extras).

I installed Gnomad 2 and Amarok (both in FC: Extras):

# sudo yum install gnomad2 amarok

I can use Gnomad to add files to and from the Zen. This looks similar to something like FTP.

However Amarok provides access almost identically to Windows Media Player once setup.

To configure go to:
Settings > Configure Amarok… > Media Devices
Select Add Device…
Use the plugin: MTP Media Device
Enter a name for the device “My Zen”
Hit “Okay”

In the main window, on the left, select Media Device and hit the Connect button. Make sure you are NOT connected to Gnomad or something else.

Once connected it shows music properly sorted with album and artist, etc. However the Zen does have one annoying issue. It relies entire on ID3v2 tags instead of ID3v1, so all my music from 1998 to the past few years appear unsorted.

I’m pretty sure there is a way to use some perl library to script a command to copy all data from v1 to v2 for all my music. I’d appreciate any hints. For now, I’m manually editting every file and copying. What a pain.

In any event I highly recommend this device. Much better than the iPod in both features and price.

New Hardware: 64 Bit

AMD released their first X86 based 64 bit processor over 3 years ago. While the original processors, Opterons, were for servers, the desktop variants, Athlon 64, soon followed. Due to the open nature of the Linux kernel, distributions of Linux supporting the 64 bit architecture were readily (and freely) available before Windows.

In the past year, the Athlon 64 has made its way into laptops and more users are finding 64 bit versions of their favorite Linux distributions satisfactory for their needs. Hence I finally upgraded to 64 bit hardware. My delay in upgrading was primarily due to the common problems faced by early adopters. Often Linux users are hurt much worse than Windows users in this arena.

In any event, the original hardware for the Athlon 64 included features such as AGP 8X Video, Serial ATA (SATA) and Gigabit Ethernet. All of which are no longer considered “new”. The advent of Dual Core Processors, PCI Express and DDR2 Memory has further lowered the cost of older hardware.

I swapped out my previous motherboard (Asus A7V8X-X) with a Asus A8V. And the previous Athlon XP 2500+ CPU (1.8GHz) was replaced with a Athlon 64 3800+ CPU (2.4GHz). This decision allowed me to reuse the 1 gigabyte of Dual Channel DDR 400Mhz RAM and a Nvidia GeforceFX AGP Video Card.

Linux booted up perfectly fine on the first try – all drivers properly detected and there was absolutely no manual changes in configuration required. However for Fedora Core I may need to revisit the required running services. (Windows on the other hand required multiple reboots with uninstalls and re-installs of driver packages.)

I plan to revisit most of my guides and instructions in the next few weeks to address any differences between 32 bit and 64 bit Linux.

Fujitsu Stylistic Tablet PC using SUSE 10.1

The market for Tablet PC’s and Webpads is not very large compared to the Desktop or Laptop markets. Their linux market is in fact much smaller. Some manufacturers however do produce linux compatible devices. Fujitsu provides a rather nice series of webpads. The older version Stylistic ST4110 Tablet PC originally had Windows XP Tablet Edition which was replaced with Linux.

Users of Fedora know that a great deal of extra customization is required to properly setup the operating system. Hence the decision was made to use SuSE.

Some words about SuSE. This is a very polished distribution with many features ready to work out of the box for desktop usage and laptop usage, unlike Fedora. It comes with better packaged software and direct support for more drivers (proprietory or not). Configuring SuSE 9.2 was much more work than configuring SuSE 10.1 for the Fujitsu Stylistic Tablet PC. I’ve provided an incremental update.

Although this wasn’t a review, I highly recommend SuSE for situations such as these. The purchase of the boxed media has proved valuable multiple times.

Fedora Core 5 on Dell D810 Laptop

Over the last weekend I installed Fedora Core 5 on a Dell Latitude D810 laptop.

Unlike Jason’s laptop criteria, I basically required a Dell laptop. I wanted the D610, however it was unavailable and I had to settle for the D810. Even though I customized it, I really did not have any control over what hardware specifically would be better for Linux. However one luxury I was afforded was to be able to maximize the provided features.

In fact the only features that possibly would have made a significant difference were the ATI video chipset and Wireless chipset.

On Video: My personal opinion has been the Nvidia GeForce based chipsets on laptops (I’ve used Sony laptops) typically outperform the ATI based chipsets. There was not much option here, however so long as the video RAM was dedicated I was satisified.

I had selected the maximum 1920 x 1200 screen and default open source Xorg driver for ATI seemed a little slow for 2-D drawing and motions. I tested the glxgears for about 150FPS (very slow), however with the very easy install of the proprietary ATI drivers, that was increased to about 900FPS (very acceptable).

On Wireless: This has always been a nightmare in the Linux world. It has improved over the past 3 years since I’ve used it, but too often do new hardware changes cause problems. Regardless the 2 options were an A/B/G device or B/G. I picked the B/G solution since I’ve seen even less success with A based chipsets. The B/G was from from Intel, which Intel does support for linux.

I was eager to try Fedora Core 5’s new wireless tools (NetworkManager, etc) however I was very much disappointed. I was easily able to install the Intel ipw2200 drivers. However the default network tools did not detect my SSID and there were some problems with the connection at first. The NetworkManager caused me to lose the connection and it would not re-connect. In the end I was able to get the wireless working perfectly with a reboot.

I did have 1 minor nuisance with the Dell keyboard. The Wifi Toggle (wireless on/off button) is implemented as a Blue-Function Special Key instead of a physical separate button. As you can guess, I was not able to get that key to work when running Fedora. The syslog kept complaining. Oh well, booting into Windows fixed that. More investigation is needed as I know this should be possible to work.

Other Points

I was very pleased with the Linux performance on this Dell laptop. Virtually everything worked as I expected.

The power management properly support S3 (suspend to ram) and S4 (suspend to disk – “hibernate”) with or without the ATI and wireless drivers. (Same cannot be said of Nvidia!!!)

The harddisk was SATA which worried me at first, but FC5 detected it properly. I even booted with an older CD with kernel 2.6.9 which gave no problems.

The pointing devices were nice also. The touchpad and pointing thumb-stick gave no difficulties.

As a linux laptop, I would highly recommend this laptop. It is a bit bulky and large but since it functions mostly as a “desktop” this isn’t a serious concern. I feel I lucked out with the convenience of installing Linux on this laptop, however I hope my points help people make more educated decisions when selecting laptops.