Over the past couple of days, there were some interesting developments concerning a fix for Android’s tendency to lag, particularly with regard to the ASUS Nexus 7. A new tweak posted on XDA promised to greatly reduce the amount of lag found throughout the entire OS. Unfortunately, it now seems as if the hack may have over advertised its effectiveness, as more and more users are not seeing any results.

Before discussing whether the hack works or not, we first need to examine how the modification purports to work. All of this started when an XDA senior member posted a new hack that he had discovered for himself, which he said had significantly reduced the lag in Nexus 7 games. The change deals with how Android handles random data, and is explained best by the hack’s creator.

Google’s JVM, like Sun’s, reads from /dev/random. For all random data. Yes, the /dev/random that uses a very limited entropy pool. Random data is used for all kinds of stuff.. UUID generation, session keys, SSL.. when we run out of entropy, the process blocks. That manifests itself as lag. The process cannot continue until the kernel generates more high quality random data. So, I cross-compiled rngd, and used it to feed /dev/urandom into /dev/random at 1 second intervals.

In the original posting, XDA warned of two potential flaws when using the modification: Increased battery drain, and more vulnerability to to hackers. While the XDA posting was cautiously optimistic, other Android blogs picked up and didn’t always mention the downfalls. As a result, many posts read as if this new tweak was a magical solution to all lag problems in Android, period.

Because the Android world was promising too much and the hack was delivering too little (and in some cases even drastically reducing battery life), people became skeptical. In discussions on Reddit, Google Code, and other places, many reputable developers began to speculate that the hack was almost entirely dependent on the placebo effect. Reasons why it couldn’t work have been explained in detail, as well as reasons why it could, but the clear takeaway is that the Entropy Seed Generator hacks works little if at all.

There is still quite a bit of debate going on, but it seems clear at this time that the hack is not worth the effort to install. This is a bit disappointing, as I was understandably quite excited to read that the reported “90%” of lag could be eliminated easily from the Nexus 7. Now, I’m glad that I didn’t install the modification, as it seems to mostly cause problems. I suppose this is yet another case where a promise that sounded too good to be true turned out to be just that.

[xda-developers 1,2 | Google Code]