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September, 2011

Tweaking That New HP Touchpad You Just Got…

DISCLAIMER: The following article may seem intimidating for some at first but it’s easy and I write a lot so that hopefully it walks you right through the process.  If you aren’t comfortable doing this, then don’t.  But it’s easy and if you don’t like it  you can always do a full restore back to stock on your Touchpad.  Don’t blame me if something blows up, though.  I’ve done this on two separate Touchpads with great results.

If you’re one of the lucky people that got a new HP Touchpad for $99 or $149 you probably feel pretty lucky.  They are a steal at that price, but they can get even better.  In stock form the Touchpad works pretty well, but it’s slow, lags, and skips which is one reason they did not sell well in stores.  If you held an iPad 2 in the left hand and a Touchpad in the right there is (probably) no way you’d have paid the same money for both.  That was  HP’s downfall.  But we can fix that!

The great thing about the Touchpad (well..WebOS really) is that there is a great deal of community support and the community has done some really cool stuff.  There are a number of forum threads and posts around with the information I’m about to give you but I wanted to create a simple walkthrough on what I’ve done with my two Touchpads.  I got a lot of questions about the one I had at VMworld last week, especially from others with Touchpads that were running a lot slower than mine.  Everyone wants to know how to tweak theirs, so here you go.

First, you want to update WebOS to the latest version, which at this time is 3.0.2 68.  This is easy.  If you let your tablet sit for a while it will go ahead and download the update and prompt you.  But if you’re like me you don’t have the patience for that (as it can be a few days) so you want to go to Launcher -> Settings -> System Updates.  From there you can check for new updates and then apply the latest.  Be warned, when I and friends forced our updates the download would time out.  In my case it probably timed out 10 or 12 times.  Just keep telling it to retry and it will pick up where it left off.  It’s REALLY annoying but after this update you won’t have anything like that.  So let it update and then reboot.

Now that you’re up to the latest code the next thing is to “jailbreak” the Touchpad, which unlike on an Apple device is very easy.  HP gives you access to the developer mode of the device.  From the main home screen field enter “webos20090606” in the “Just Type…” search box in the middle.  Don’t hit enter after you type it.  Instead you should see an icon for Developer Mode.  Tap that and then on the next screen slide the button to On.  Do NOT enter a password.  Just tap Submit.  Done!  Wasn’t that easier than an iPad?

If you have ever jailbroken an iOS device you know there are tools that let you install other non-app store apps on the device.  For iOS this is often Cydia, for your Touchpad this is Preware.  The next steps walk you through getting Preware installed.  This requires you connecting the Touchpad to a Windows or OSX system.  The first thing to do is install the WebOS Quick Installer.  A link to the latest version is here.  The link lists the requirements but it’s basically a Java application that runs on Windows or OSX.  While I’m an Apple fanatic I did my install under Windows as I had some issues installing the drivers required under Lion…plus…I don’t like installing temporary drivers like that on my main operating system so I did it under a Windows VM.  If the needed drivers aren’t installed it will prompt you to go get them.  They will be installed automatically.

You will need to connect your Touchpad to the system with WebOS Quick Installer.  Make sure of one thing.

When you plug in your Touchpad you will be prompted to put it in “USB” mode.  Do NOT do that.  Just tap Close.  If you see a big USB icon on your Touchpad you chose the wrong one.  Disconnect, reconnect, and do it again.

Next, click the Globe icon on the right side of the window.  You should now see a row of tabs at the top and a list of application types down the left side.

In the search field near the top left type Preware and hit enter.  You should see the screenshot below.

Click the Install button.  If you look at Launcher -> Downloads on your tablet you should now see the Preware icon.  If you’d like you can search for apps in the WebOS Quick Installer tool but for what we’re doing we no longer need to be hooked to the system.  You can disconnect the tablet.  Preware can install applications, patches, and kernels for us right on the device.

Now we’re having fun!  Click the Preware icon.  When it appears, click the “OK, I’ve read this.  Let’s continue…” button.  Preware will download the current list of installable packages.  Click Yes when prompted to associate Preware with .lpk packages.  At the time of this writing there are 500 possible packages to install.  Some are for other WebOS devices, but you can browse through and see what the options are if you’d like.  There are also other “feeds” you can add to Preware for beta and test software.  By default you get the stable feeds.

First, let’s install some patches/patches/kernel.  Click “List of Everything” and you can either scroll or (my suggestion) search for these.  Note that if you’re prompted to restart Luna (the interface) just say to do it Later.  We’ll do it at the end.  Also allow it to install any dependencies if requested:

  • Muffle System Logging – WebOS logs a LOT by default.  We need to cut this down.  Greatly improves responsiveness.
  • Remove Dropped Packet Logging – Same as above.  We don’t need it logging network activity.
  • Faster Card Animations HYPER Version – Speeds up many GUI animations.
  • Govnah – Application that let’s us set CPU profile and monitor performance.  You’ll need this in a minute.
  • Increase Touch Sensitivity and Smoothness 10 – Smooths out scrolling.  Nice compromise between some other packages.
  • Unthrottle Download Manager – By default the download manager is throttled to 64KB/s.  We can fix that.
  • Ad Blocker – Optional.  Installs an ad blocker for the web browser.  I have found some problems with this so if a page doesn’t act right remove it.
  • Remove Tap Ripple – Gets rid of the ripple on a tap.  Some people like this, some don’t.
  • UberKernel  – This will install an entirely new OS kernel on the device that let’s us go up to 1.5GHz and adds a new CPU scheduler.  Nice.  Reboot after this installs.
There are many other patches and applications you can add so feel free to look through and try ones that might interest you.
After you have restarted your Touchpad with the new kernel go to Downloads and launch the Govnah application.  Again, click the button when it appears.  By default your Touchpad runs at 1.2GHz, which is actually under the rated spec of the physical CPU in the device.  Why didn’t HP do it?  Probably battery life but I used my Touchpad a lot at VMworld and on the trip out to Vegas and back and battery was very good.  Once you load Govnah tap the PROFILE option which is set to Palm Default by..well..default.  Change that to OnDemandTcl 1512 to bump the CPU to 1.5GHz.

One thing to keep in mind.  The CPU does not run at full speed at all times.  Each core, of which there are two, scale in speed up and down as needed at the time.  Right now my Touchpad is idling at 192MHz on the first core and 0MHz on the second core.  By going to 1.5GHz you are only raising the maximum which is why the change in battery life is minimal.  It only scales up as needed and you can go in the Govnah app to see it do this.  No worries about killing battery.

There are other kernels out right now that go up to 1.9GHz.  Plenty of people are running 1.7GHz and I’m about to do that to my 32GB Touchpad, but for most people the stable and tested 1.5GHz kernel is just fine and flies.  You can now exit Govnah…and you’re done.  I told you it was easy!

Enjoy your new superfast Touchpad!  Another suggestion I have is that if you haven’t, pick up the HP Touchstone charger as well.  This thing is COOL.  It lets you sit the Touchpad on the stand and charge by using induction, so no wires!  It only takes a little longer to charge than plugging in but it’s very handy for your desk.  Another very, very cool feature is that when you sit the Touchpad in the Touchstone it can activate the Exhibition app and show you a clock, Twitter, Facebook, picture frame, and all sorts of other stuff depending on installed apps.  If you have three Touchstones in your house you can have the Touchpad do different things on each Touchstone.  It remembers what you set for each one!  I want that on the iPad 3.

22 thoughts on “Tweaking That New HP Touchpad You Just Got…”

  1. good stuff, thanks for the easy to consume 1 pager! one question, can’t we use WebOS Quick Install to do most of the patch installations? it’s a lot faster that way compared to using Preware on the device…

    1. You can…I just don’t as I like to untether the tablet ASAP. Also I wanted to get people used to using Preware since I figure that’s what they’d use after the initial install.

    1. Tough to do with no Android port yet. 😉 I’ll say this…so far I’m liking WebOS. It’s very polished as are the apps. I expected to go Android on it at some point but now I’m not so sure.

  2. I’m loving life on the 1.5 overclock. Definitely should have done it BEFORE VMworld where I was hauling around the 189-page event guide PDF. On a related note, I wish the Adobe PDF app had a search function.

  3. Thank you so much! I am not a computer geek, but thanks to your easy to follow instructions, my touchpad is working faster and smoother. I feel techie! 🙂

  4. Just as two other comments stated, very well prepared and easy for the “newbie” to accomplish. I’d like to learn if you have done any more to your touchpad. I am still wondering if I should keep this OS or change to something familiar. The next set of instructions I have found aren’t as easy to follow as your’s were.

  5. Hi,
    I am wondering if these fixes still work as described now in 2016 and after the cloud was taken down. I’m getting really tired of the reload *feature* occurring on ebay and other sites, though it doesn’t happen on all sites.

    Thank you

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