Palm Gives WebOS Homebrew Hackers a Little Love

Photo: A Palm Pre sporting a Ubuntu Linux boot skin.

Up until recently, if you wanted to hack your Palm Pre, you hopped over to the Pre-Central forums for all of your hacking needs, where you could find concise and usually simple explanations from the experts of WebOS Internals and the like. It was all at your own risk, of course, but you were treading a path that someone who knew more than you had already trail blazed (and uploaded screenshots in a how-to form). Well, those days seem to be over--and for the better. Palm has made Rod Whitby's Preware Homebrew Documentation available for download, and with it they’ve put the knowledge, tools, and know-how of a few years worth of hacking into every WebOS users hands. Now everyone can have thousands of well-made and free applications, patches, themes, and assorted customizations all rolled into one package by a supportive community.

In what seems like another age, I owned a Palm Pre on Sprint’s network. It was a decent phone, though it had some quirky hardware issues that ultimately led me to move on to what I considered to be better things. One thing that I’ve yet to find a clear set match for was WebOS.

Before Android RIM’s Blackberry platform and Apple’s iOS dominated the market, with offshoots like Palm getting the scraps. In Palm’s case that was a huge shame, because WebOS was everything a mobile OS should have been at the time and wasn’t. For one thing, it was linux. It had true multitasking, multitouch, and it was easily customized via a built in “root” mode (you opened any search field and typed in updownupdownleftrightleftrightselectstart) that allowed you to load custom applications, themes, or whatever else.

Those applications, themes, and whatever else came from a vibrant community of people willing to spend their time to make WebOS better - largely for free. I was new to customizing mobile phones; I can’t count the number of times I posted on the forums about bricking my Pre and had an immediate idea from someone with a fix, usually a fix that worked. It was a pool of experience and willingness to extend a helping hand. It’s one of the best home-grown communities I’ve ever been a part.

Now that Palm's extended this olive branch to the Palm homebrew community, the community that made it all possible can get something back as well, since the proceeds from each sale will be applied to the development of Preware and other Homebrew applications.

Updated 10/13/2010 4:43PM PDT to include the name of the Preware Homebrew Documentation creator.

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