Review – How To root the HP TouchPad, enable developer mode, take screenshots overclock and side load apps


Like many other people I was fortunate enough to score a $99 HP TouchPad and while it is no iPad 2, it certainly worth the investment. I got to play with it for about a week, tweaked it to my needs and the experience accumulated is described in this comprehensive guide that will enable everybody to get the most out of this toy, at least until a stable Android port is available.

Before proceeding with the following steps, do not forget to update the TouchPad OS to its latest version, currently 3.0.2. It will bring a large number of improvements including a much more responsive app store.

Step 1: Root / enable developer mode on HP TouchPad

While actually rooting the device is not the same as enabling side loading apps, the latter is what most users really want.

1. To enable developer mode, navigate to the Home / Just type box and input webos20090606 or upupdowndownleftrightleftrightbastart. A windows will pop-up where you can turn the developer mode to On. The default password for developer mode is empty but you can set a new one if you want to limit access to the developer mode.

Once the developer mode is enabled, you can side load apps using Preware, webOSQuickInstall or InternalzPro.

 

Step 2: Installing Preware

Beside the official HP apps you can find in their official store, there is a large number of application and tools written for webOS by independent developers, some optimized for Touchpad, some not. Most of them are free and among them various overcloked kernels if you feel adventurous. Anyway, installing Preware is the first step you need to take after you enabled side loading / developer mode on your Touchpad. Besides giving access to homebrew, Preware can also help you install IPK files (the standard HP TouchPad app files). Here is how to do it:

a. Download and start WebOS Quick Install

b. Put your TouchPad in Developer Mode

c. Connect your TouchPad to your PC via USB. Do NOT select USB drive mode.

d. Select Feeds (see picture). After the initial download of various feeds, search for “Preware”. Once you find it, click Install, then restart the TouchPad.

 

 

Step 3: HP TouchPad Performance Optimization

Due to some weird decisions by HP Engineers, HP TouchPad comes with system wide logging enabled. While as a developer I certainly feel the need to log various system errors, having it enabled by default across all categories severely impacts the overall performance. Fortunately we can turn all the logs off in several simple steps:

a. Navigate to Launcher->Apps Tab and select Phone and Video Calls

b. Go to the DialPad and type ##5647″

c. Select Dial. A new windows will open containing the Log screen

d. navigate to Change Logging Levels and set it to minimal in the subsequent screen

The first four steps will set the Log level to minimal. However, we can turn them off completely with two additional patches that you can find in Preware.

e. Open Preware and install these two patches:

  • Muffle System Logging
  • Remove Dropped Packet Logging

At this point your HP TouchPad should be significantly more responsive than before. If you want to increase the performance even more, read the next step about how to overclock it.

Step 4: HP TouchPad Overclock

Warning: Playing with kernels and overclocking your TouchPad might result in bricking your system or stability issues. Perform this step only if you are aware of the risks.

To maximize the battery life HP engineers under-clocked the CPU from its native 1.5GHz to 1.2 GHz. However, I am fairly sure that everybody wants to squeeze the last ounce of performance from their new toy and fortunately there are several options available from very safe to adventurous. I will detail all of them below:

1. Overclock to 1.5Ghz using UberKernel – Currently the safest method of overclocking since the TouchPad CPU

Look for Uberkernel in Preware, install it and restart the tablet (Luna restart is not enough, you’ll need a hardware restart – Hold home and Power buttons pressed together for a while)

2. Overclock to 1.7Ghz  – 1.9Ghz

In order to perform further overclocking, new test kernels must be added. To access the latest builds of these kernels, you need to add new feeds into Preware app. To install new feeds, open Preware and click the top left Preware button. Select Manage Feeds from the menu. Scroll all the way down and you will see the Add Feed button.

There are three new feeds that need to be added. You will have to fill the name and the feed URL exactly as described, then click Add Feed.

1. Add feed webos-testing-all

Name: webos-testing-all

URL: http://ipkg.preware.org/feeds/webos-internals/testing/all

2. Add feed webos-testing-armv7

 Name: webos-testing-armv7

URL: http://ipkg.preware.org/feeds/webos-internals/testing/armv7

This feed will give you access to Govnah, an app that will allow you to change kernel governor settings on-the-fly. Once the feed is installed you can search for Govnah, install it and then restart the TouchPad.

3. Add feed webos-kernels-testing

Name: webos-kernels-testing

URL: http://preware.is.awesome.com/

The last URL is not a real one. After you will add the third feed, the device needs to be restarted and the URL will be replaced upon restart with the real one.

After the restart and after all the feeds are added, start Preware again and you should be able to find F15C Eagle (Touchpad) kernel. Install it and restart the TouchPad. Use Govnah to adjust the CPU frequency to one that is giving you a stable experience.

Step 5: Add extra Games and Homebrew tabs

Once you start collecting applications (either if you get them for free from HP via their regular coupon codes or you side load), you’ll realize having them in a huge list won’t cut it. Unfortunately webOS doesn’t feature App folders and at this point, you can either keep the apps under the Downloads tab or move the ones you are using most often under App tab. While not completely solving the problem, I found a small utility in Preware catalog that adds two more tabs: Games and Homebrew. I moved all my games and homebrew tools out of Downloads tab and everything is much less cluttered now.

To install: Open Preware and search after “Add Launcher Tabs“, then install it. Upon restart, the new tabs are waiting for you.

 

Step 6: Apps & Tools

There are several apps and patches I would recommend: Internalz Pro – an excellent file Manager for the webOS, pReader and Unhide Dev Mode Icon patch (also found on preware) that will make the DeveloperMode icon permanently visible so you can enable / disable the developer mode as needed.

Step 7: Enabling Hulu

A Hulu native app wasn’t written for HP TouchPad and likely it will never be. Fortunately HP TouchPad does Flash and if you also overcloked it, at least up to 1.5Ghz the tablet can play Hulu reasonably well. Of course, HULU hates everything not under their control and locked TouchPad out but the bad boys never rest so we have patches available to take care of this aspect. I mentioned before that Preware is the must have app and I’ll prove it again. Open it,  search for Hulu and you’ll find a patch called Hulu Fix (currently version 3.1)/ Install it, restart your TouchPad and you should now be able to watch Hulu in the web browser.

Step 8: Taking Screenshots

If HP TouchPad would still sell, the mechanism of taking screenshots would probably be a reason for Apple to sue them. Why? Because the manner of taking screenshots is completely similar with iPhone / iPads – just push and hold both Power and Home buttons simultaneously, then let them go and the screen will immediately flash confirming that a screenshot has been taken. You can then navitage under Gallery-> Screen Captures and your newly taken screenshots are all there. Easy!

If you feel the need to copy them on your computer, plug-in the TouchPad and enable USB mounting. The folder where all the screenshots are stores is right under root\screencaptures.

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