I dual booted my Touchpad with CyanogenMod last week, and it has made me notice a lot of things about the Touchpad, WebOS, and Android that I hadn’t fully appreciated before. I wish I had thought to post these as snippets instead of a wall of text, but I foolishly gathered them up and am posting as a set.
Details about putting CM7 on the Toucpad are here in this RootzWiki forum thread. Yes, their page and documentation are a forum thread with 100+ pages of screeching morons obscuring the content – that’s how the Android community tends to be.
The whole CM7 install process is pretty graceful – I had a minor hiccup in that it claimed the gapps would be installed on the first ACME run if I put them in the cyanogeninstall directory, but I had to go in with ClockWork and flash them later – then it hung on the setup autorun on the next boot. Fine after that. During the initial install, I found myself using the phrase “Oh jeez, there is some Linux shit going on” – it looks like the ACMEInstaller is just a fancy initrd image with some utilities and scripts baked in that does some FS manipulation and archive decompression. I appreciate it when Linux is Linux.
Onward to notes:
- Android’s multitasking behavior is still fucking terrible. In WebOS, things are “Running” “Background” or “Not Running”, and the background apps are kept up as cards that you swap between after hitting the chin button. In Android, you hit the home (and/or sometimes back) key, what you were doing disappears, and it may or may not come back when you relaunch the app, depending on how much RAM the intervening activities take. I will never warm up to this, because it is wrong.
- Android without the full set of hard buttons sucks. I don’t know how much they did to alleviate that in ICS now that they aren’t requiring buttons, but as it stands having hard home/back/menu is one of the few Android features I like better than every other platform, and the soft substitutes really don’t cut it.
- The Gingerbread soft keyboard continues to be full of fail. The (modded for arrow keys) WebOS soft keyboard still reigns as the least contempt generating software keyboard I’ve tried.
- In a related matter, Android also sucks at text manipulation. Apparently, iOS does too. I’d been blaming the difference in fine manipulation between the Touchpad and the MT4GS on screen size, but its noticeably clumsier in Android than WebOS on the same hardware. This is extra sad since the Gingerbread select/copy/paste behavior upgrades are “Matias Duarte already solved this once, clone WebOS’ behavior.” The thing that is really striking is how much having cursor keys helps – that is the shittiest thing about the hardware keyboard on my MT4GS as well, and I hadn’t really keyed in on it until I had the 1:1 comparison. I’d also really like my Ctrl key back like the n810 had – so many stupid interactions can be avoided with a bucky bit. The TouchPad branded Bluetooth keyboard actually HAS control keys, but they aren’t mapped on either OS. I’ll have to try plugging an alternative soft keyboard in – suggestions welcome.
- Most things are (perceptively) faster in Android – especially with regard to the browser. WebOS is overdue for a WebKit update.
- WebOS has an amazingly slow boot process, especially considering the hardware is tailored for it. Not much else to say about that.
- The (Adobe) PDF readers are comparable – the Android version is a little faster, and the WebOS version has nicer interactions. I can’t really speak ot the pre-patch version on WebOS because I patched it as soon as I saw the stupid automated search instead of a proper file manager behavior, which unfortunately cannot be readily eliminated on Android.
- As always, the two things that make Android desirable are Google’s services, and the size of the app market. Gmail integration – win. Gtalk integration – win. App market with a shitty but free anything … eh, we’ll call it a win. Unfortunately, the biggest thing I want (a good Google Reader client) didn’t come, because Reader force closes in under a minute every time in the current build. known bug, but ruinous.
- Android’s behavior with multiple devices on a single account is absolutely fucking retarded. It decided to pull in most of my applications and a seemingly random collection of settings from my phone, even where they don’t make any sense on the different OS version and device type. Then it apparently crapped up some of the alert settings on my phone.
- The rotation behavior is better in WebOS. Even with a hacked-on locking tool (which lives in the notification area instead of the status bar – anyone know of one that lives in the status bar and allows both portrait and landscape locking?), Android is still clumsy.
- The little drop down menu of frequently used settings that lives in the top right on WebOS is another place where it just does things better than any other platform I’ve tried. The various Android builds I’ve played with all have some way to get to controls from of the notification area, but it is always clumsy, and there needs to be a standardized interface for that.
- (This has nothing to do with the Touchpad) My preferred Android GBA Emulator seems to have disappeared from the market. It doesn’t appear to play nice with the Touchpad, but I’m keeping an APK stashed away for other devices. Thank goodness for side loading.
- When I bought the pile of accessories, I thought I would use the case always, the keyboard often, and the inductive charger would be amusing. I use the case sometimes, the keyboard on rare occasions, and the inductive charger/stand is amazing.
After owning one for a while, I still think that the ~10″ tablet form-factor really isn’t good for much, even though they make good toys. It’s too bulky to have on you at all times like a phone/<5″ tablet, and dramatically less functional than a laptop. The one thing they are really good at is static content consumption – PDFs, Comics, ebooks, etc. I also use it as an extra (independent) display for media playback and such, but a lot of content sources actively block mobile devices, so it isn’t actually ideal for that. I always hear people talking about how tablets are great for web browsing, but my browsing habits run into problems with the lack of decent tab/window behavior and available RAM, rendering it about as usable as a browser as my phone. At $200 it’s reasonable, but the $500+ price point tablets are being pushed at is ridiculous – go buy a nice phone and a laptop before contemplating a tablet.
I think the Touchpad will be spending most of it’s time in WebOS, but it’s damn cool to be able to swap. I’m sure there will be an ICS build for it in short order, and I’m sure I’ll try it, because that is really what the Touchpad is good for – playing with mobile platforms.