HP TouchPad in 2018

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I purchased two HP TouchPads a few years ago when they were fairly inexpensive. I wanted a larger tablet that wasn’t built cheaply. They worked great for a while but started to act up. I used them less and less until they just stopped working all together. I put them on a shelf and forgot about the for quite a while.

A buddy of mine who is still seemingly a huge fan of the HP TouchPad diagnosed that one had a main board and battery failure while the other just a battery failure. I put them back on the shelf and that is where they sat, once again. He followed up with me wondering if I bought a battery yet (keeping me accountable) to which I did not. He told me he had an extra battery and dropped it off along with the needed tools to disassemble and make the repair.

HP_TouchPad-01The guide I looked at made it seem like it would be easy to take the tablet apart, just work your way along the sides, as described and carefully separate the two halves. What seemed to be missing from the article was that you have to shim the screen from the backing to keep it from clipping itself back shut again.

Once the tablet was apart, I disconnected the halves and started the process of removing more pieces until I could get the battery out. I only ended up taking out 3 of the internal components.

Upon removing the HP_TouchPad-02.jpgUSB board, I noticed that one of the wires for the little vibrator motor had somehow broken free from the board. A fine explanation for why this unit didn’t have haptic feedback. Thankfully, my soldiering skills were adequate enough to correct the issue.

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There were only 4 screws retained the battery and it should be noted that once the screws have been removed, the battery will not come out easily as it is also adhered to the device. Very careful and slow removal of the battery was warranted as I learned my lesson about removing a lithium polymer battery years ago on another project. I didn’t want to rupture the sells and have a little fire or at least lots of heat and smoke.

Once I freed the battery from the case, I noticed that I could take a shortcut and remove the battery without disassembling all of the components as outlined in the guide. I freed the battery from it’s compartment, set it aside, took the new battery and using a flat tipped screwdriver, was able to insert the connector of the new battery into the board and fasten it to the tablet body.  I effectively skipped the last 15 steps of the guide I used and reassembled it.

Success… but it didn’t turn on.

I figured that the thing needed to be charged so I let it charge overnight. It still didn’t turn on and I felt obligated to let my buddy know that this TouchPad is dead and asked if he wanted the battery back. Then, he asked if I did the hard reboot, hold power and volume down for 30 seconds.

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I did just that and immediately it went to the ClockworkMod boot loader menu. I selected the CyanogenMod image already installed on this TouchPad and I was very pleased to see that it was fully functional.

Since I wasn’t going to leave this with a 2 year old version of Android on it, I began my search for an updated ROM. There are several options out there and some of the newer versions of Android seem to have Bluetooth or camera issues. I didn’t want to have any hardware issues so I ended up going with this version here. Everything works but it is an older version of Android with security patch updates.

 

Another requirement I made is that I wanted to ensure that there were no Google Services on this tablet as I didn’t want to weigh it down with all the data scraping and mining services. All I want from this tablet is to do causal web browsing, reading ebook and PDF documents so there is no need to install the Gapps package. I also wanted to see how useful a simple de-Googled tablet would be.

F-Droid-siteSince I did want to have access to applications on this device, I installed F-Droid. F-Droid is similar to the Play Store, an available catalog of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) Android applications. Most of the applications I want to run are available there and anything else it is possible for me to sideload or install using Yalp.

The applications I installed:

  • KDE Connect
  • Telegram
  • Syncthing
  • Fennec F-Droid, a Mozilla based web browser
  • Barcode Scanner
  • Book Reader
  • Yalp, allows you to download apps directly from Google Play Store as apk files.

Installed Using Yalp:

  • Discord
  • ASTRO File Manager

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Modifications to improve my usage experience

I turned off the KDE Connect Telegram Notification. Not because I don’t like Telegram but because I don’t want multiple notifications on my Desktop Linux machine for the same message.

To do so, withing the KDE Connect Application on the paired device Menu > Plugin settings > Notification sync configure button, scrolled down to Telegram and uncheck it.

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Next, I made the KDE Connect Keyboard an input option by going into System Settings > Language & Input and checked KDE Connect Remote Keyboard

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I set up a folder on the Tablet called Sync and using Syncthing have it tied to two of my openSUSE desktop Linux machines. It is an easy and efficient drag and drop method of putting files on the tablet instead of using KDE Connect. I figure, more options are better than fewer options for sharing data.

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Using Dolphin in KDE Plasma to drag and drop files right on the HP TouchPad file system is such a fantastic feature. This, combined with having a folder that I can use to sync between all my systems and a shared clipboard gives me the truly practical form of desktop/mobile convergence.

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What I like

HP_TouchPad-09The size of this tablet is perfect for how I intend on using it. I can check things, look up things, and use it for accessing references in either PDF, ebook or my favorite resource, the openSUSE Wiki. To copy and paste from the tablet is made super easy, thanks to KDE Conenct. Copy on the tablet, paste on the Desktop. This tablet has such a nice weight and feel about and the protective folio-style case is great. I have all the functions and features I need to do what I set out with this 2011 built tablet. Sure, it is old and well past a tablet end of life but it is fast, very snappy and responsive.

What I Don’t Like

I have an outdated version of Android but with the security patches back-ported though, I do like the dark look of the older Android UI, so lets call this point a wash. The downside is, it doesn’t allow for certain newer KDE Connect features as noted here by one of the developers.

I also may have done something to disconnect the internal speakers as I don’t hear sound unless I plug into the headphone jack or Bluetooth speaker. I am not really using this for multimedia and the workaround is satisfactory.

I am not a fan of the rear facing only camera on the tablet. It also distorts the image during the “live view” but the picture itself has the proper aspect ratio. Unless if I want too take some awkward selfies, I don’t see this as a terrible issue.

Final Thoughts

I am very glad to have a working HP TouchPad once again. Is it indeed limited but I am not using it like a brand new tablet, I am using it closer to how a tablet was used 7 years ago. I am also not using this tablet like I would a proper computer as that would require a keyboard and mouse and once I have added those items, I may as well use a laptop. This fantastic little device does just what I want it to do, superbly.

Using KDE Connect and Syncthing, I can have the proper mobile/desktop convergence with my openSUSE Linux desktops in a highly practical manner anywhere I go, without the need for a third party service.

I am not sure what I will do with the other tablet now. This one is just so great, I might have to get the other one working just to keep in my cubicle. Would I recommend this tablet to someone else? For most people, probably not, unless they like to noodle around with technology.  Was it worth taking the time to fix it? Also, probably not but the satisfaction for me out of making this older yet perfectly usable hardware functional once again makes it more than worth the time and effort.

Further Reading, useful links and such

I Fix It Guide for the HP TouchPad

Tenderloin Android ROM I have installed on my HP Touchpad

openSUSE Wiki

KDE Connect Developer Nico’s Blog Post

KDE Connect Community Site

Casio Synthesizer Rescue Repair

Casio_Keyboard-Transparent.pngWhen I’m not playing with Linux things, I am often noodling around with other machines, appliances or electronics. I have developed this delight in fixing things which has turned into this sense of, “I can fix it” attitude toward just about anything.

I only wish I had a magic hammer…

Recently, a neighbor was telling me that within a few hours of her eldest son unwrapping a birthday gift of a long sought after musical instrument, some horseplay rendered it inoperable. I told her, “I can [probably] fix it.” Grabbed my little electronics tool box and moseyed my way over to her house.

20180330_175105.jpgThis Synthesizer is a 61-key, Casio CTK2400. The back of this machine had only two ports, a 1/4″ (6.35mm) and a USB Type-B receptacle. No Midi or separate line out. Looking inside the jack, there were the remains of A TRS 1/4″ to 1/8″ headphone jack adapter which broke off inside of the keyboard. It broke off in such a way that the portion inside could not be easily removed. The tip of the jack was stuck inside of the socket which deactivated the internal speakers. My observation of the portion that had broken off of the adapter made very apparent that it was poorly manufactured as the ring detached itself from the sleeve. I tried a few “of course it won’t work” action to remove the tip, then decided it was time to open the keyboard up. After removing several screws to expose the main board, I discovered that the headphone socket was enclosed on the board so I could not push anything out from the inside.

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Expected socket configuration.

I was expecting to see something open and exposed so I could just, knock out the bits similar to what is pictured on the inside of the keyboard but was greeted, instead, with a plastic, closed off box that looked to be sonic welded shut. The keyboard was then reassembled.

Swing and a miss…..

I put the keyboard back together to use a pair of tweezers and a screwdriver to dig out the broken bits. Nearly everything came out but just the very tip of the jack. I was at a loss of what to do next and I did some searching on the web of varying key terms and eventually found how someone else used super glue and an ice pick. I had the super glue but not the ice pick .

 

Headphone Jack tip

I took a very small slotted screwdriver, generally used for working on small electronics, put a glob of superglue on the end and pushed it carefully against the remaining jammed bit inside the keyboard and held it firmly in place. I waited for a few minutes and slowly, carefully pulled out the 1/4″ tip.

Success!

I plugged in the keyboard to make sure it worked after all the probing, digging and tugging. Sure enough, it worked just fine, I noodled around with it a bit and thought, “What a nice little synthesizer.” Regrettably, I have buried that musical talent many years ago.

I returned the keyboard, now in proper working order to its owner. It was great to see a the expression of joy come over that kid’s face as he could once again play his brand new instrument.

The Curiosity Bug Bit Me

I had to learn about this keyboard, what was that USB port for and is it something Linux friendly. I downloaded the manual on the machine where I learned that this is some form of USB MIDI interface. Doing some further search where I landed on the Arch Wiki and it had a lot of good information on it. That is, unfortunately as far as I will go with it as it is not my machine to mess with. I was very encouraged that, although not often in the Linux spotlight, there looks to be a lot of effort in this area of the arts.

Final Thoughts

Fixing electronics and appliances, even basic issues brings about quite a bit of satisfaction. Restoring happiness to a kid on his birthday is just the best. I am grateful that the internet has empowered and made it easier to fix things, you know, when you get into a bind.

Music creation on Linux is a thing and I hope to see it continue to be an area of active development. Perhaps, one day, I might be able to dust off what little musical talent I have and dovetail it into my Linux hobby.

External Links

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/USB_MIDI_keyboards

Headphone tip removal