Is it more natural to just let something go extinct or to keep patching it until you run out of band aids? This is an important question!
I recently got another little hint that my Transformer Prime might just be getting ready for assisted care. This time it was the keyboard dock--wouldn't take a charge, and wasn't getting along with the tablet well at all. Some keys worked, some didn't. Some worked so well they pressed themselves and that sort of thing. Not good. When I plugged it in with the keyboard and tablet docked, the little yellow light would flash for awhile, then stop. No green light. No charge, either. They keyboard went clear dead, and I couldn't get the tablet to charge while the keyboard was attached. The tablet charged up just fine by itself, but the keyboard just wasn't up to it.
The Transformer Prime has been a bit of a disappointment overall for me. The radio problems, the lag problems, the tech support problems, even the GPS problems which I don't really have a use for, all of this has let me down. The letdown came as a result of high expectations. The form factor seemed just perfect to me, and it was. It still is. Apparently, that is a signal to the tech industry to stop making things.
The TF201 is the thing I've wanted instead of a laptop for years, and Asus did a really nice job of it. Not perfect, but nice. Nice enough that I waited a long time for fixes that didn't happen. Asus, it seems, had got the signal.
I finally gave up on Asus a few months ago and started tinkering myself. I have mixed feelings about the results.
The only reason I haven't dumped the thing and moved on is the keyboard. I got it because of the battery in it. You can't have too many batteries. Maybe because my expectations for the keyboard were so low--it's the smallest I've ever bought on purpose, and there's a point where a keyboard is too small to be worth the trouble. That's what I expected. What I got was a really tiny little chicklet keyboard that looked like it wouldn't be worth the trouble. To my surprise, it is totally worth all the trouble, including what I've had to do to keep this old jalopy running. Maybe it's the way the keys are designed and spaced, maybe some mechanical magic.. I don't know, but it's something. I'm using it now, and I prefer it to my full sized keyboards. The bad part is that I think Asus abandoned it along with the Transformer Prime. I've heard some of their new stuff has this keyboard, but I haven't tried one. All I've seen are chrome books or full on notebooks, not Android. Whatever. I'll wait until the smoke gets out of this one before I go shopping.
Beside the keyboard getting a bit touchy about working with the tablet from time to time, the tablet itself had problems and was developing more. So I didn't get the GPS dongle, but they apparently thought I did, and whatever the class action deal was for the WiFi problem, I ended up with a check for fifteen bucks or thereabouts. Asus did upgrade to Jelly Bean fairly quickly, and popped out a couple of updates to that in a timely manner--but that's the end of the good news in that area. I waited through a season or two of rumors, then faced up to the truth. My tablet and I were orphans, and would have to fend for ourselves.
So I went to the source of all tech solutions: Google. I searched for something like "transformer prime lag freeze fail frustrate more beer please" and started cruising through the results. From that, as well as some great tips and answers from forums and Google+ communities, I got some things that have fallen somewhere between the keyboard and the tablet as far as my satisfaction with them.
One set was sort of obvious and I should have thought of them myself--cold booting Linux occasionally, clearing out the cache occasionally, "trimming" the SD memory, getting rid of a few trillion apps I didn't use. Stuff that's kind of generic geek. Then there was one that still seems like magic to me: the tin foil hat.
TIME OUT: To cold boot to Linux, turn the tablet off, then hold the power and the volume down buttons until it reboots. It will show a screen with four boot options--at least one of them will wipe everything, so be careful. If you don't do anything at all, it will do the cold boot in a few seconds.
I use App Cache Cleaner Pro to blow the cache out (this one doesn't require root access--the rest do) And "LagFix (fstrim) Free" to do the trimming. This one requires root, as I recall. Trimming is a Linux command that ought to be in Android but isn't. It basically does the same kind of thing defragging does to a mechanical disk drive.
TIME BACK IN: Tin Foil Hat
I saw a tip online that said I could really seriously boost the WiFi performance by taping a piece of tin foil over the upper right hand corner of the screen. This was not on the Onion, and there wasn't even a hint of sarcasm or anything--and nothing to buy. Beyond that, it sounded exactly like those useless decal things to "boost" cell phones. Because I didn't think it could make the WiFi any worse, I tried it. That foil is still taped up there, and it's still giving me a consistent 30 to 50% boost. I don't care what anybody says, it's staying.
There were some slightly geekier things I learned about and did through a cool utility named "ROM Toolbox Pro". This thing let me adjust the cache size for the file system the SD memory uses, fool with CPU Governors and I/O Schedulers, which I'd never heard of before, and run benchmark tests to see how it was all doing. Nice, and "every day you should learn something." I'm a little smarter, and the tablet is measurably faster and snappier.
Then there was this totally incomprehensible thing I have given up on understanding. It lets the user adjust the amount of entropythe randomness-- that the system uses for something that makes no sense to me. I don't know why it needs it, or what it really does with it, or why adjusting it reduces lag, but reduce lag it does. The app that does that magic is sEFix.
All of this free and/or cheap tinkering has made a huge performance difference. I didn't do any careful measuring when I first got it, so I can't say for sure how much better it is working compared to when it was brand new, and I can't exactly, you know, document that it is any better at all, but it is. I'd say it's a lot better. Probably a hell of a lot. So I have mixed feelings.
The larger feeling mix is about Asus. I mean, I spent maybe ten bucks on some apps, a few hours tinkering, and taped a piece of freakin' Reynolds Wrap to my tablet and fixed almost every annoying bug involved. Every complaint I had or read about except for the GPS thing. It was fast, cheap and easy.
So why didn't Asus do it...or at least refer users to the solutions they could do on their own? How can the outfit that took a chance on this cool form factor, and who created the greatest little bitty keyboard in the universe, not solve the problems that turned those innovations into crap?
Now that so many of what were essentially software problems are fixed for me, the hardware is showing its age, and hardware is harder (by definition) and generally more expensive to keep alive. I'm enjoying the ride, but I worry about parts.
I'll just file that question away with other mysteries of the universe and go on keeping this sucker going as long as I can. On the bright side, I bathed my keyboard dock in contact cleaner and blew it out with canned air, and now it's working fine again. I'm getting used to the way that tin foil looks up in the corner, too.