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Palm webOS system upgrades mandatory; hacking scene forbidden from tethering

Nilay Patel
06.15.09
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We've seen a tremendous explosion in the webOS hacking scene ever since the Pre's firmware image leaked out -- between the easily-accessible restore more, Linux foundations and the directly-accessible HTML / CSS / Javascript application code, we've already seen everything from minor tweaks to full on NES emulation to Sprint activation hacks. In short, things are wide open at the moment, and people (including us) are excited by the possibilities -- but that doesn't mean Palm has to play along. In fact, two recent developments have us worried for the future of this happy little scene -- first, Palm's apparently forbidding the Pre Dev Wiki from posting any information about data tethering during the Sprint exclusivity period, and apparently threatening to have the site shut down if it happens:
We have been politely cautioned by Palm that any discussion of tethering during the Sprint exclusivity period (and perhaps beyond-we don't know yet) will probably cause Sprint to complain to Palm, and if that happened then Palm would be forced to react against the people running the IRC channel and this wiki.
Yeah, that's pretty aggro for a company that needs to court all the developer support it can. We're not sure what'll happen after Sprint's exclusivity runs out, but we can't imagine any other carriers are going to be thrilled about hacked tethering options either, so we'd say Palm's going to keep the pressure on until unlocked GSM webOS devices hit the scene -- and we can almost guarantee that tethering hacks are going to make it into the wild regardless of Palm's actions.

Even worse for hackers, Palm's taking an unusually aggressive approach to webOS system updates -- they're mandatory. According to the support docs, webOS updates are automatically downloaded in the background within two days of being available, and they're required to be installed within a week of the download -- after seven days and four install prompts, the phone will give you a ten-minute countdown and then automatically begin installing the update. Sure, we can understand why Palm would want all of its devices to be updated, and we know that a lot of webOS system foundations are in flux while the Mojo SDK is being finalized, but forced updates seem extremely heavy-handed to us -- it's one thing to try and maintain control over a platform, it's another to keep it with an iron fist. Of course, it's probable that we'll see a hack to bypass all of this extremely soon, so maybe it'll all work itself out, but we'd really like to see Palm develop an official policy friendly towards hacking and homebrew and stick to it -- the Pre and webOS have attracted a lot of talent in the past two weeks, and it'd be a shame to lose it.

[Via PreThinking; thanks, Justin]

Read - Pre Dev Wiki tethering policy
Read - Palm webOS updates support doc

In this article: hack, hacking, homebrew, palm, pre, sprint, updates, web os, webos
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