Ubuntu de-bricked my Android Jelly Bean Touchpad

I was just about ready to throw away my favorite tablet.

This past week I thought my Android Touchpad had finally given up the ghost. I was out in San Francisco for the RSA Conference. I shut down my Touchpad just prior to my plane landing at SFO. It had plenty of battery left when I shut down, but when I tried to turn it back on in my hotel later it would not boot at all. Dead, dark, finished. I plugged it into the charger and after a few hours it seemed to be fine. It booted right back up.

The next day, though, I shut it down again to take it to the show floor with me. When I went to turn it back on in the press room again it was dead. This time, no matter what I did, nothing helped, it stayed dead.

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I brought it back to my hotel room that afternoon and plugged it into the charger. I kept it plugged in charging all week and still nothing. I came home yesterday and tried everything I could think of, and again nothing worked. I finally came to the realization that my Touchpad was done. What was I to do? I did what any geek confronted with the same thing would. I started looking at Amazon for deals on 10.1-inch Android tablets (I still like the Google Nexus). I also considered spending the thousand bucks for a Surface Pro (that passed quickly). I was bummed about my Touchpad, but excited to go buy a new tablet.

As readers of my blog know, I am a big fan of CyanogenMod running on my rooted HP Touchpad WebOS tablet. Over the last year plus, I have had tablet envy every time a new Android pad comes out. But each and every time, a refresh of my Touchpad brings me back to my trusty HP.

Before pulling the trigger on a new tablet I tried one last thing. As a last resort I decided to go into CyanogenMod Touchpad developer extraordinaire, JC Sullins "TPDebrick 004 thread" on the Rootzwiki site. JC had started a whole thread on some work he had done in bringing bricked Touchpads back to life. Actually, when rooting them, it is not uncommon for a Touchpad to get bricked. It seems that if you let the battery run down, sometimes they won't charge back up at all. So JC Sullins had come up with some fixes. A series of scripts he wrote could help sometimes. But there was a warning that this could also result in your Touchpad being bricked, if it wasn't already. While scary, I figured I had nothing to lose and would give it a try.

A quick look discouraged me, though, because while JC is a wizard and if anyone could help it would be him, you needed to run the de-brick scripts on an Ubuntu machine. I have Windows, Android, Mac and iOS in the house, but no Linux. The idea of setting up a dual-boot machine to take a long shot at fixing this old Touchpad just sounded like too much work.

But never underestimate a Geek's will to hack and overcome. I followed some threads and links and was soon setting up a USB bootstick of Ubuntu 12.04 desktop. If you have never done it before, it is really easy. With my fiber connection at home even large downloads were a snap. I downloaded the Ubuntu release and a few other programs. You really just follow the step-by-step instructions on the Ubuntu community site. Using PenDrive Linux's installer to set up the USB bootstick, it could not have been easier.

Just a few minutes later I had booted my laptop into Ubuntu 12.4 and frankly it ran like a charm. I was very tempted to install it right onto the hard drive and run a dual boot with Windows 8 on the machine from now on. But since I kept the USB stick, I figure I can always boot Ubuntu if I want to anyway. I tried to remember I was here to get my Touchpad de­-bricked and stay focused. But I guess Geek ADD got the best of me. I went through all of the options on the Ubuntu desktop and stopped just short of setting up the Ubuntu One cloud-based storage option. It has everything: Libre office, its own app store, etc.

Anyway, back to the Touchpad. I followed Wizard Sullins's instructions to the tee. I opened a terminal, installed the tar files, and ran the scripts. I then came to the part where I had to plug in the Touchpad via USB. I did, but couldn't see that it did any good. I was committed at this point, though. I held down all of the buttons the way JC says to. Still nothing. I ran the next script from the terminal window and it looked like something was happening.

A bunch of lines ran on my terminal window on the laptop. It was evidently communicating with the Touchpad, which was still dark. The instructions said this could take 5 to 10 minutes and I would get an "All Done" message when it completed.

After just a few minutes, though, a message came up in the terminal window on the laptop:

Sending secureMode...

Sending openMulti ...

MSG: Open multi failed, unknown error

ERROR: Open multi failed, unknown error

Invalid openMulti response.

Cannot write file tz.mbn


Drat, Drat, Drat! I was so close, I could almost smell my pad working. Before doing anything else, I searched through the 30 or so pages of the de-brick thread. The news there was not good. It seemed several people had come to this same point when the script aborted. JC Sullins had looked at the output files and it indicated some sort of hardware failure. JC had basically said he didn't know what exactly but if anyone did, to speak up. So that was that. After all we had been through together it was time for me to move on from trusty old Touchpad.

I decided to try and rerun the script as I was still plugged in via the USB cable. The terminal flashed a message that the Touchpad was not in USB terminal mode and I had to press the three buttons again for 30 seconds, then I could rerun the script. I wanted to give it one more try.

I pressed the buttons and started counting down to 30. After about 6 or 7 seconds my Touchpad lit up! The moboot screen came on and the default CyanogenMod option ran. Before I know it that Stargate-like start up animation for the Jelly Bean version was running and my Touchpad was back. It said it was still in USB terminal mode and Android debugger mode was on, but it worked.

The battery showed it was full, as I suspected it was. I shut down debugger mode and unplugged from the laptop. Everything was working fine. I updated some apps, cleared the cache and Davlik cache, rebooted (but did not power down) and everything seems fine.

I put my experience up in a post on the de-brick thread, thanked my computing gods and went about my business. I dare not shut the Touchpad down though. I have it in the Touchstone charging panel, so it stays charged and never really shuts off.

I know sooner or later I am going to have to shut it down. I don't want to tempt the fates. Maybe I will downgrade back to Ice Cream Sandwich. I don't know. But for now just having that comfortable old Touchpad back was enough for one day.

Many thanks to JC Sullins and all of the rest of the developers and community members of the TP forums on Rootzwiki with a special shoutout to Nevertells. who is always there with some advice. The work they do is greatly appreciated!

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