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Bargain hunters picked up the defunct HP Touchpad for a song last week, and though WebOS isn’t exactly thriving, that doesn’t mean you can’t do some pretty neat things with it. If you want to go deeper, the WebOS tweaking community has got you covered.
While there isn’t much in the way of Android-style custom ROMs (yet), users can install non-market apps and software patches from PreWare, a repository of WebOS software maintained by PreWare.org. All it takes is a settings change on the Touchpad itself and a small Java program called WebOS Quick Install. It’s kind of like rooting or jailbreaking, but nowhere near as complex.
Activate Developer Mode
Turn on your Touchpad and press the home button. Tap the “just type” area and enter “webos20090606”. Tap the “Developer Mode” icon that appears. Tap the “on/off” slider in the top right corner, but leave the “DEVELOPER MODE PASSWORD” field blank. Tap “Submit”.
Installing WebOS Quick Install
Switch to your computer and download the latest version of Jason Robitaille’s WebOS Quick Install. It’s a Java app, so you’ll need an up-to-date version of Java, but it should work equally well for both Windows and OS X.
Connecting the Touchpad
Plug your Touchpad into your computer with the included MicroUSB cable. It’s best to use the cable that came with the device – it seems pretty picky about third-party cables. You should also use a USB port directly on your computer, not a hub or extension cable. Do NOT press the “USB Drive” pop-up that appears.
Installing Homebrew Apps & Patches
Switch back to your computer and double-click the .jar file you downloaded. It’ll probably install some drivers for WebOS hardware – just let it do its thing. When it’s finished, the Quick Install menu will appear. From this page you can mannually install apps and packages. Click the globe icon on the right side (which looks like an old-school Palm HotSync icon – nice!) to open up a menu with all the PreWare apps and tweaks ready to install.
Standard homebrew apps are on the “Applications” tab. Quality fluctuates across the 200+ entries, but there’s a lot of worthy apps there, and it’s all free. “Patches” is a great collection of advanced software tweaks that WebOS users have put together over the last few years. Just click “Install” underneath the description area to apply a patch. Two of the patches you’ll absolutely want to implement are “Remove Dropped Packet Logging” and “Muffle System Logging”, which cut down on the intensive back-end tech support services and should give you a noticeable speed boost.
The apps and patches will download and install across the USB cable right away. When you’re finished, just unplug the cable. If you want to remove patches later, just repeat the above steps and click Tools>Device Management from the main Quick Install screen. Save the .jar file in a handy location for when you want to use it again. Advanced users can check out custom kernels for overclocking and a huge variety of Linux programs that run on the Touchpad.