The HP TouchPad is a tablet with a 9.7 inch, 1024 x 768 pixel display, 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and webOS 3.0 operating system. But with HP discontinuing the TouchPad and all webOS smartphones, the future of the operating system remains uncertain. Fortunately you may not be stuck with webOS… or at least not only with webOS.
Projects are already underway to port Google Android to run on the TouchPad. The open source operating system already supports devices with similar hardware, but it could be a while before we see fully usable versions that work with HP’s camera, WiFi, and other hardware.
In the meantime, hackers have already figured out how to run Ubuntu Linux on the TouchPad. The process is a bit complicated, and what you actually end up doing is partitioning the storage space on the tablet, installing Ubuntu alongside webOS, and then choosing which to run.
Here are the steps you’ll need to take to do that:
1. Install Preware
PreWare is a repository system (or app store) for homebrew apps and utilities that aren’t available from the webOS App Catalog. It’s a great resource even if you don’t plan on installing Ubuntu on your TouchPad.
You can do this using the official HP software developer kit, using the webOS Quick Install tool, or by using a standalone installer.
- Using OS X or Linux you’ll need to install git and Java runtime, install Palm Novacom software, and download the meta-doctor scripts.
- Download and run the webOS Doctor.
- Create an ext3fs partition on your device, making sure it’s large enough for an Ubuntu installation.
- Follow the instructions to mount the ext3fs partition when your device boots. (You can find more instructions at the PreCentral forums).
- In PreWare, make sure the WebOS Internals Testing Feeds are enabled.
- Install Xecutah, XServer, and Ubuntu 11.04 CHroot.
- Run XServer.
- Return to Xecutah and tap Ubuntu 11.04 Chroot.
These steps will get you to a command-line version of Ubuntu Linux. From here you can use apt-get install to install Ubuntu packages. For instance, you can install icewm, Xfce or LXDE to give yourself a graphical user interface. Theoretically you could also use GNOME, KDE, or Unity but they require more system resources.
Not all Ubuntu Linux apps will work on the TouchPad, since the tablet has an ARM-based processor and many Ubuntu apps haven’t yet been compiled for ARM.
Users have reported that Firefox, Chromium, and the Flash plugin for those web browsers appear to work though. Other apps reported to work include the LibreOffice office suite, Transmission bittorrent client, and even VNC software for logging into a remote computer.
You should also be able to use the webOS on-screen keyboard to type when using Ubuntu. In fact, right now even if you’re using a Bluetooth keyboard the on-screen keyboard shows up, but developers are working on a fix for that.
Thanks to the folks at the PreCentral forums for much of the info!
If you’re looking for an easy way to install Ubuntu or virtually any other Linux distribution on a PC, check out our guide for installing Linux using a USB flash drive.