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Nokia N900 Performance Tweaks


There has been lots of performance enhancing tweaks for the N900 popup on the net but they are not all easy to find. Also, some are not directly related to performance but may speed up the way you use the N900 or just makes it “look” or “feel” faster. So I have tried to gather them into this article. I’m sure there are quite a few more than what I’ve listed here so if you do know something I don’t, please do let me know and I’ll add it here!

Please note that some of the tweaks are only recommended for power users or those who are good at troubleshooting if something goes wrong.

fyi – these are not in any particular order and will constantly be updated with newly found tweaks.

0. karam’s N900 tweak and speed up Super script

Haven’t tried this one yet but many have and is getting some real good feebacks from many members at TMO forum. (and even by the comments on this post) It is also one of the most recently created script as it was last updated on July 2011. It isn’t for everyone as it expects you to at least use a lot of xterminal commands. But if you would like some challenge or know your way around linux already, I think this is worth a try. He also provides a way to remove it just in case.

He promises this:
You will notice a lot of improvements in hildon-desktop
ex: faster multitask , faster contacts scrolling , faster images scroling
and basically every thing will be improved

Official thread @ TMO – http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=73315

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0. Dany-69’s Fast Maemo Modding Script

This is another quick and easy script that performs some mods listed below using this one script. Definitely worth checking out. (GUI app version is apparently in the works st time of writing this) The only real performance related mods are the Swappiness Mod (Swappolube does this also and is mentioned on #2 below) and mlv kernel option. (if you have an overclocking setup) Well, I guess custom transitions can also make your N900 “seem” faster. I haven’t tried this custom transition yet but might try it out soon. But yeah, only try mods which you understand what it does.

Official thread @ TMO – http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=61956

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1. Overclocking N900 = Fast and Furious

Overclocking the CPU and DSP is very much possible on the N900. By default, the clock speed range of N900’s CPU is 250Mhz to 600Mhz using an ondemand governor. By using an easy to install custom kernel and a few lines in xterminal, the maximum frequency can be increased up a staggering 1.15Ghz! The success rate depends on how lucky you are with the n900 that you have. At 1Ghz, you will easily notice the extra speed during web browsing, playing emulated games and overall response times while using the N900. However, be warned. Theoretically, this actually “can” do permanent damage to your phone although there hasn’t been any reports as of yet. (you could be the first! lol)

As seen above in the screenshot, you can use an excellent desktop widget called Queen Beecon Widget to make custom “buttons” on the desktop to quickly swith between your custom overclock profiles. (btw, I run mine at a constant 1.1ghz all the time. No issues so far but I don’t live in a hot desert. If you do, I wouldn’t try it. Acutally, it might struggle even in stock frequencies. =P)

Here are some well known guides at TMO: (fyi – jakiman is me. =P)
jakiman’s Guidehttp://talk.maemo.org/showpost.php?p=595582&postcount=774
Bakuur’s Guidehttp://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=61887

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2. Optimize memory I/O using Swappolube

N900 only has 2567MB of fast RAM and 768MB of slower swap using the eMMC memory. It would have been awesome to have 512MB or more RAM but it doesn’t. So this app can be used to easily tweak the memory / cache usage behaviour to potentially improve the overall performance. Some say it’s quite noticeable and some don’t notice anything at all. But hey, at least I don’t hear many complaining it being slower. You can install this app from the standard respositories via HAM/FAM. (Faster / Hildon Application Manager)

More info about the memory tweaks can be found here:
http://www.knownokia.ca/2010/08/n900-kernel-memory-and-more.html

Actual swappolube app developer thread is here: (go to last post for updates)
http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=62312&highlight=swappolube

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3. Enable faster transitions using Transition Control

The default transition effects can make the N900 look and feel a little slow. It might look nice but most who use the N900 prefer performance over fashion. Fortunately, you can tweak the speed & lengths of most transition effects such as phone rotating, app open and close animations etc. You can even get rid of them all. All thsi can be done by a simple app called Transition Control. Just remember to write down the default values before changing them just incase you want to get it back to how it was originally. This app is currently only available in the extras-devel repository but is definitely safe to use.

Package info – http://maemo.org/packages/view/transitioncontrol/

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3.5. Enable smoother transitions by enabling GPU hardware sync

Enabling this can make a noticeable difference in perceived smoothness of screen transition effects. It may work perfectly or may cause your N900 to hang during certain transitions. (If it hangs, just reboot and disable it)

To enable: (you will need roosh and leafpad installed first)

1. Go to xterminal
2. type root
3. type leafpad /etc/powervr.d/hildon-desktop.ini
4. Change 0 to 1 and save
5. Reboot

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4. Remove the APT auto-update by extending the time interval

This is a very highly recommended tweak so that it doesn’t use up both CPU and internet when you connect to the internet. By default, it is set so that your N900 checks for application repository updates once a day when connected to the internet. This means that it may download over 10MB once every day and that can be from your 3G data! Also, when it does the update, it can take from 1 minute or over 10 minutes and it hogs up quite a bit of the CPU meaning the phone will become quite unresponsive during this time. So it’s recommended to increase this interval from 1 day to more like 100000 days so that it never does any auto-update. (You can do a manul one at any time using the application manager or via xterminal using “apt-get update” command.)

Run the following command from xterminal: (no need to be root)
gconftool -s --type int /apps/hildon/update-notifier/check_interval NEW_VALUE

— Where NEW_VALUE is an integer number representing “minutes” By default it is 1440. You can change this to like 1440000. (=1000 days)

http://wiki.maemo.org/Customizing_Maemo#Disabling_Auto_Updates_Check
http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=59743

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5. Tweak media files tracking via tracker-cfg

N900 has a background running process called the tracker that goes through the filesystem and searches and indexes and thumbnails any supported media files such as photos, music and videos. When it does this, it can really slow down your N900 to a crawl as it uses quite a bit of CPU and disk I/O. Using an app called tracker-cfg, you can change its behaviour when indexing.

Some simple recommendations are:

1. Exclude directories which has many media files that you do not want seen in Photos or Media Player app by adding the directories under “NoWatchDirectory” section.
2. Enable “LowMemoryMode”
3. Set Indexing Throttle to 10
4. Then select Rebuild databases from the tracker-cfg top menu to rebuild the entire indexing DB. (tap the title)

Some people even disable ” Enable Thumbnails” as this will disable the slow thumbnailing of images/photos. You can try it if you don’t mind having no thumbnails.

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6. Use shortcutd to multi-task faster

Not exactly performance enhancing but is a must have app nonetheless. Although it has a few features, the only one you need to know is the half-press camera button triggering the task switcher. It allows rapid switch between running apps without the need to tap the touch screen. It’s also a must have when you are running a full screen app or game as it allows you to quickly switch tasks at an OS level without needing to revert the app back to a “window” mode. Oh, and don’t worry as it only gets triggered when the camera cover is closed. So it doesn’t interfere with the camera at all. The app is available from the application manager. I’ve found a nice youtube video posted by MyNokiaBlog below:

[vsw id=”2hX_binee0w” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

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7. Faster kinetic scrolling in launcher (app menu)

In the app menu (aka launcher), the vertical scrolling has been slowed down quite a bit since the recent OS updates. MohammadAG @ TMO has released a modified hildon desktop that makes the scrolling speed back to how it should have been. Now you can easily flick once upwards or downwards and the app icons will fling nearly all the way. Simple but very effective. The dev thread and installation instructions can be found in the provided link below.

Official developer thread at TMO: (install instructions at very first post)
http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=60599

Latest version as of December 4th 2010 for PR1.3: (first post at above thread is OLD and is only for PR1.2)
http://mohammadag.xceleo.org/public/maemo/debfiles/new/hildon-desktop_kinetic_2.2.140-1+0m5_armel.deb

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8. Use FAM instead of HAM

If you are the type to always search for new apps, install and uninstall apps often, then you should be using the alternative application manager called Faster Application Manager (FAM) instead of the default one called Hildon Application Manager (HAM). FAM allows you to select multiple apps and either install or uninstall all at once. Also, it performs less updates in-between tasks so you get what you want done quicker. Brilliant app.

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9. Use Conky and cpumem-applet to monitor load

I use these two apps to visually see how much CPU and memory is being used and by what process. cpumem-applet adds a small two vertical bar icon next to the battery icon on the top left which dynamically shows the cpu and memory usage. (see screenshot) I personally believe it is a must have app and is one of the very first app to install whenever I re-flash my phone.

Conky (also see screenshot) is a system monitor app which shows you many system information such as CPU, Memory, Swap, Processes, Wifi, Storage etc. It can show you quickly what process/app is using a lot of CPU. (similar to “top” output from xterminal) Both can be handy to catch out any processes, apps or widgets that is a resource hog. If you see a process using more than 50% cpu constantly and you are sure it shouldn’t be running or using up that much, you can kill it from xterminal via “kill pid” where pid is the process ID that you see for that resource hogging process.

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10. Boost your N900!

Okay. This is something I tried but didn’t really notice much. But some notice it big time. So here it is. It’s a script which modifies some system config and is meant to enchance mp3 playback quality, improve battery life and overall performance of the phone. Quite a promise! Anyways, follow the steps to backup the config files and then run the script to see if you benefit from the changes.

Official dev thread @ TMO – http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=63997

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11. epitaph’s N900 Performance Optimization Tune-Up Utilities

I haven’t personally tried this yet. But epitaph @ TMO says that his scripts are better than swappolube and also makes internet faster by tweking the networking portion of the N900.

Here’s what he wrote: “This collection of scripts can greatly enhance your user experience with the Nokia N900 smartphone by optimizing the Linux kernel virtual memory system, network stack and the network card and also this collection of scripts includes a traffic-shapping script to stop potentially dangerous network packets ( “firewall” ) by using the Linux iptables module and shapes the network traffic by using the Linux iproute module and such minimize the network traffic overhead in your intranet. It was ported from a Linksys WAG200 router with a rather old stock Linux kernel 2.4 installed. This script may be considered as aggressive optimization of your smartphone. If you want more information about Linux Advanced Routing & Traffic Control ( LARTC) you want to try this homepage: www.lartc.org.”

Well, if you are adventurous, why not try it out and let us know your experience? =)

Official dev thread @ TMO -> http://talk.maemo.org/showthread.php?t=67710

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12. More tweaks and mods and customizations!

Here is a wiki at TMO with many more customizations that you can do to your N900. Not all are performance related but fun nonetheless.

LINK – http://wiki.maemo.org/Customizing_Maemo

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Feel free to let me know if there is something that I’ve missed which may assist other N900 users!

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Reference/Source
– talk.maemo.org and its members (nearly everything)
– my-maemo.com (some screenshots)

12 thoughts on “Nokia N900 Performance Tweaks”

    1. Yes. But make sure to read the relevant forum threads for the latest information, instructions or binaries as some of them have old information at the beginning but have newer PR1.3 related updates later on.

      Thanks! Thumb up 0

  1. Nice collection. Very helpful for newbies. You have a mistake in the command to send apt-worker to oblivion. It’s –type not -type. Cheers

    Thanks! Thumb up 0

    1. Interesting. If you copy and paste my text, it is infact –type not -type.
      But the font used seems to make it look like a single hyphen. Doh.
      I’ll see if I can change the font or just point it to the maemo wiki. =P
      Thanks for the heads up though!

      Thanks! Thumb up 0

  2. WOW karam’s script is the most effective one
    it is really awesome
    and all others are 10% of what karam’s script do

    Thanks! Thumb up 0

  3. Never stops to prove it is the best review + information put together of the N900 that exsists today.
    Brilliant work Jay.

    Can’t wait for you to get your hands on the N9 hehehe.

    Thanks! Thumb up 0

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