In Pictures: Customise your Android device with CyanogenMod 9

The recently released CyanogenMod 9 is built upon Android 4.0, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, and is free to download. Here are nine things to know about this latest edition.

  • CyanogenMod is the most popular custom OS firmware you can install on your Android phone or tablet, assuming your device is supported by this open source project’s developers. The recently released CyanogenMod 9 is built upon Android 4.0, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, and is free to download. Here are nine things to know about this latest edition.

  • Faster than CyanogenMod 7 Ice Cream Sandwich was designed by Google to operate faster than its predecessor Version 2.3, codenamed Gingerbread. (The Version 3.0 series, Honeycomb, was quickly put together for tablets, and not fully optimized for speed, and Google did not release its source code.) CM9 has a noticeable increase in performance compared to CyanogenMod 7, which was built upon Gingerbread. Animated effects, launching apps, and swiping through menus and screens happen smoothly and quickly. Even if you already have CM7 installed on your phone or tablet and are happy with it, you ought to try out CM9 if it’s available for your device to experience this improvement.

  • Supports 37 devices and counting The CyanogenMod community officially supports the most number of phones and tablets compared to other custom Android ROM projects. There are over 60 devices that can run CM7, and this doesn’t include those that don’t yet have stable releases. As of this writing, there are stable releases of CM9 that work on 37 devices.

  • Meet Cid, the new CyanogenMod mascot. He succeeds Andy, who was the official Android mascot, the so-called “bugdroid,” but simply colored teal to represent CyanogenMod. Starting with the release of CM9, the CyanogenMod team decided it was time to create their own brand identity, and so Cid (which stands for CyanogenMod ID) was born. This slender, devilish (or otherworldly alien-ish) dude with an attitude still rides a skateboard like Andy did, and now is the character who welcomes you in the opening animation when you start or reboot CM9.

  • CyanogenMod settings merged CyanogenMod settings merged into Android’s CM7 had its own settings menu, and it enabled the user to adjust some of the same categories listed in the original Android 2.3’s settings, but with more choices. For example, the sound quality and volume for alerts, notifications and rings can be adjusted in the original Android 2.3 menus, and in far greater detail in CM7’s. CM9 does away with CM7’s separate listing of settings -- the CyanogenMod developers merged most of their customization options into the main ICS code and UI to make things simpler and easier to access, and a lot less confusing.

  • New app launcher CM9 uses an app launcher specially created for it. Codenamed Trebuchet, it includes a slew of customization choices, including an adjustable number of home screens, enabling and disabling of auto-rotation, resizable widgets, separated apps and widgets in the Drawer, sorting of apps (by date of installation, or name), various scrolling and transition effects in the Drawer and Home Screen, and backing-up and restoring your apps and widgets. You can install a |work-in-progress version of Trebuchet, but it only works on a device running at least Android 4.0.1 and which has been rooted.

  • New music player CM9 comes with a new default music player named Apollo, which is unique for its “shake and flip” features: You can set the app to perform a function -- like skip to the next song -- by shaking your phone or tablet. The flip feature pauses music playing when you place your Android device face-down on a surface. Apollo can communicate with your Facebook or Twitter account, so you can update your social-network friends on what you’re listening, and the app’s skin/theme can be customized by the user.

  • Better security to root access In CM7, root access was left open by default, but the CyanogenMod team decided it was time to lock things down with CM9 for better security. They felt there is a limited need by most users for root access to their devices, but still wanted to make turning it on available. So now a fresh install of CM9 will present you with four options for enabling root: Disabled, Enabled for ADB Only, Enabled for Apps only, or Enabled for both. (ADB stands for Android Debug Bridge, and it provides access to an Android device’s file system through a terminal interface.)

  • No to Linaro Developers with Linaro, an open-source, not-for-profit organization that optimizes software and tools for Linux running on ARM processors, created a build of Android ICS that runs faster than the releases put out by the Android Open Source Project, on which the CyanogenMod community bases its custom ROMs that include CM9. They achieved this by improving the toolchain and using GCC 4.7. Unfortunately, CyanogenMod decided not to incorporate Linaro’s code due to compatibility issues.

  • Camera support varies Because ICS has improved camera and video capabilities over previous Android versions, devices running it may need new graphics drivers. The majority of these drivers are closed source, and the makers of these devices usually won’t release them to third-party groups like the CyanogenMod community. Many of the devices officially supported by the CyanogenMod project do have camera functionality through CM9, whether through a driver provided by a device’s maker, or a technical work-around that coaxes the camera to work. But this explains why most ports of CM9 to devices built by people not officially working within the CyanogenMod community lack camera support.

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