I am one of the lucky guys getting this hyped discontinued tablet from HP at the lowest price. I'll sum up here few things I did on it.

First impressions

I am an iPad owner for almost a year now, so I have my habits and I now know that tablets are mainly useful for consuming content (producing content is not really convenient when you have to use the virtual keyboard). The Touchpad is really what you expect from a tablet, full web consuming, multitasking, flash support, at a really decent speed.

The first thing that amazed me is the integration with almost every kind of web accounts, I added my Google account, my Skype account, my LinkedIn account, my Facebook account and so on... The only one lacking is Twitter. After my accounts were set up, I was able to directly video call a contact using Skype via the builtin messenging application, impressive !
WebOS' UI is really clever, it makes good use of gestures and allows to group activities into "cards", for example :

  • launch the mail client (self configured via account setup), click on a link, a new web browser window pops in the current card
  • hit the "activities" button / swipe up from the bottom of the screen to return to the list of cards
  • open a new browser card, navigate a few a return to the list of cards
  • I can then, with a holded tap, move my old browser card from the mail card stack to the browser card stack, if I want to tidy things
  • If I want to close a card, I simply swipe up or down the card from the activity list
  • Notifications are easy to close be simply swiping them out

A lot of things are based on gesture and I have to admit it takes a few hours to get used to, but it is very confortable. So far the only and the big problem everyone tells is that the App Catalog is quite empty, but for consuming website it is not that bad, and who knows what will happen in a few weeks...

Jailbreaking / Rooting...

We are now used to locked devices, Unix under the hood but locked access to it, for iOS we say jailbreaking, for Android we say rooting. In either it consists in gaining full root access to the device. That's were the folks at HP/Palm are really good, you don't have to do anything complicated to gain root access, it is part of enabling the developer mode !

Enabling developer mode

In the "Just type..." box at the top of the screen, enter "webos20090606" (without the quotes) it will bring an icon called developer mode, launch this software, enable the developer mode and do not enter a password when it is prompted (failure to do so would require a full reset of webOS using WebOS Doctor software)

WebOS Doctor software

WebOS is a really robust OS but if you go to far it might be possible for your device to be stuck. If this happens WebOS Doctor will allow you to reset to factory state your tablet.

Homebrews

This is the part where I am really impressed, the community around WebOS gathered and developed a package manager Preware and a lot of software : port of linux software, completely native software not in HP App catalog, patch to the system and so on. If you follow the few steps mentioned here your device will be a lot faster...

Installing Preware

  • Update WebOS to latest version (3.0.2 as of today) via Update manager or WeOS Doctor.
  • Enable developer mode (webos20090606)
  • Download WebOSQuickInstall It requires a valid Java runtime to work
  • Connect your tablet via USB to your computer, dismiss USB mount mode, launch WebOSQuickInstall
  • Now select, from the list of application available in WebOSQuickInstall (globe icon), Preware, and let the install run
  • When it's done, you can simply unplug your Touchpad, and launch Preware locate in the Downloads tab of your launcher

Performance tweak your device

Please note that while I find my device more responsive using the tricks I describe, I didn't run any benchmark to confirm it.

  • First thing to do is turn off logging : dial ##LOGS# in the phone app and you should have access to log levels setup. From there, clear the logs and set to minimal logging
  • Second thing to do regarding logging is disabling the phone home process that uploads log files to palm servers, launch Preware, search "Overlord Monitoring" and install this patch
  • Then, go to the patch section of preware and install the following ones to reduce logging at maximum :
    • Muffle System Logging
    • Remove Dropped Packet Logging
    • Quiet powerd Messages
  • You can add these patches to improve overall reactivity of your device
    • Unthrottle Download Manager
    • Faster Card Animations HYPER Version
    • Increase Touch Sensitivity And Smoothness 10
    • Unset CFQ IO Scheduler (especially if you intend to use another kernel, see below)

Don't hesitate to explore Preware, you will be able to find ad-blocking patches for example...

Using alternate kernel

As the Touchpad is Linux based, its kernel sources are available and it allows improving certain part of the system. For example, custom kernels for the Touchpad often includes access to BFQ IO Scheduler (better than CFQ in many circumstances), overclocking (HP downclocked the CPU from 1.5GHz to 1.2GHz to get the best power / battery drain ratio). Personally I use Uberkernel and Govnah to set frequency to 1.5GHz and you will notice that your device will be blazing fast. I will not detail this more here as it is pretty straightforward to do.

What else ?

I have did a lot more thing with the tablet for now, for example I have a smbfs share (Windows share) automatically mounted on start, SSH access, an xterm access. If I am not too lazy (blog posting in two language is a lot of work), I think I'll explain how to do this in another blog post.