I Rooted My Touchpad And Installed Android - Why?

What Drives The Geek To Tinker?

As readers of my blog know, I have been a WebOS Touchpad user since HP put the tablets on fire sale. I bought 4 of them, one for each member of my family for less than it would have cost for one iPad.  I called for HP to open source WebOS and was thrilled that they did, though I have been less than thrilled with an apparent lack of progress in terms of tangible results since then.

Overall my family and I have been happy with our WebOS Touchpads.  I use mine primarily for email, web browsing and some Facebook/Twittering.  My boys use it to track their fantasy sports teams, Facebook, YouTube and an occasional email (kids don't do email, but that is another story). They play Angry Birds and a few of the other games available as well as the Amazon Kindle app to read books.  My wife is not really a techie and she doesn't use her Touchpad much at all.

I have to admit that I have grown frustrated by the lack of apps and updates to the WebOS ecosystem.  I have been watching with one eye the progress that the CyanogenMod team has made in porting first Android Gingerbread and now Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) to the Touchpad.  But I am so busy these days, I have not had a lot of time to really look at it.

Recently though I have realized that though they were cheap, I at least am not really using my tablet to its potential and should be getting more out of it. At least that is what I was telling myself. I was going to increase my productivity and do some research that could lead to a nice blog article here on Network World. What could go wrong, the CyanogenMod allowed for a dual boot environment and I could always go back to WebOS. No risk. Yeah right.  You and I both know what was really at play here don't we? 

What makes a geek tinker? Because we can, that's why.  The idea of being able to conquer any problem in our way. I felt the CyanogenMod was out long enough, it was time to give it a try.  Did I have the chops to root the pad and install the new OS. It would void my warranty (what warranty on a defunct product anyway). I could end up with a brick for a tablet and no where to go to fix it. That was the risk I was willing to take. It is the same thing that drives me to jailbreak my iPhone.  The same thing that drives me to install and try new software. I know I am not alone here either.  How many of you are the same way? We experiment because we can. There is some perverse pleasure we get from tinkering with technology. Of taking on the risk, of something going wrong, but we can make it right.

So yesterday I sought to satisfy my inner Geek by rooting my Touchpad and installing Android on it.  The reviews said upfront the camera and microphone won't work, but besides that it is actually pretty snappy.  Android on the Touchpad is still superior to Android on many tablets sold with Android today.  So only half believing all of the hype, I gave it a try.

I read a good how to guide and began to download all of the software I would need. Of course I ran into an obstacle. The software repository that much of the software was available to download from was down.  Did that stop me? No, that is half the fun. I had to Google around and find other locations for the software and make a decision on whether they were safe or not. So the adventure was on!

I located the software, made it all ready on my laptop and went to plug the Touchpad in.  Well my USB cable stopped working. Was this a sign from God that I shouldn't do this?  Nah, it was just a faulty cable.  I found another USB cable and though my Touchpad complained that it wasn't the official HP cable (not sure how it knew) I used it and it did the job.

I created some folders on the Touchpad, uploaded some zip files and away I went. I went to the command line on my Windows 7 box and presto I kicked off the install on the Touchpad.  There is something magical about watching the lines of commands fly by the screen of a command line interface that gives a real Geek the kind of high that no drug could.

In just a few minutes my Touchpad was sporting a sleek Android face.  The set up went smooth as silk. It even installed the Google Apps package that doesn't come stock with the CyanogenMod distro.  I went to download some apps, set up email and I ran into the freaky WiFi issue that many people complained about with this process. My WiFi would connect for a moment and then drop.  It was maddening! I couldn't stay on the network long enough to download any apps, log into a mail server or surf the web.  

I went back and forth trying everything that I could think of. Finally I did what any Geek does, I Googled WiFi problems on Touchpad Android and read a bunch of forum postings by people who had similar problems and what some of the suggested fixes were. Again the challenge of the hunt had my blood pumping. Was this exciting or what? My pad would be useless without WiFi. Would I be able to lick this problem?  

Just in case I rebooted back to WebOS to make sure it still worked. Whew, it was still there. That made this whole thing like walking a tightrope with a safety net underneath me. I'll admit it took some of the adreniline out of it for me.  What good was it if I knew that if I couldn't get it to work I could always just go back to WebOS.

But I pressed on, I read everything I could find on Android WiFi problems on Touchpads. And believe me there is a lot out there! But I realized that not everyone had my problem. There were several different types of connectivity issues at play.  So I honed in on the type of problem I was having. It seemed that perhaps Android did not like the channels my router was using. Several other router settings were mentioned as potential things that could make my kind of intermittent connectivity better. Also there were several free WiFi fixer apps in the Google app place mentioned.

I put up with the tortured on and off connectivity to download the WiFi fixers. I logged into my  router from my laptop and made some changes to the kind of security, channels and other settings.  I unplugged and rebooted everything.  I then held my breath as a I reconnected my Touchpad to the network. It seemed to work! I had a good signal and it was staying on. I went to the app store, picked a couple of large apps and watched with glee as the download bar ripped through the MBs downloaded.  I watched a few YouTube videos, full screen and it was good. I downloaded Netflix and watched a couple of minutes of movies.

As Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy once said on the orginal Star Trek, "my God Jim, I think I can cure the common cold". Now I really started to play. I explored all of the inner depths of Android. I downloaded oodles of apps and content. Live wallpapers to eat up resources? Sure.  Sports news, games, utilities? You bet. I was getting my fix in spades!

Finally after more hours than I realized, I looked up and it was 2 AM. Satiated for the night I plugged my Touchpad into the charger (going to have to watch what kind of power usage I get) and went to bed one happy Geek.  I can't wait for what today brings!

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022