Developer Spotlight: Jason Robitaille | webOS Nation

Developer Spotlight: Jason Robitaille 71

by Derek Kessler Wed, 22 Jun 2011 8:22 am EDT

Join us as we talk to developers large and small in the webOS community. This week: homebrew developer extraordinaire Jason Robitaille. Are you a developer interested in getting spotlighted? Hit us up!

Name: Jason Robitaille

Company: Canuck Coding

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Official Apps: Internalz, ComicShelf, BUSgadget Mobile, Timmy Tracker

Homebrew webOS Apps: Internalz Pro, FileMgr, SysToolsMgr, LED Torch, PresetReset, Generic Service Frontend, Simple Service Tester

Homebrew webOS Patches: Over 60 patches; I’d rather not list them all, heh.

Homebrew Desktop Apps: WebOS Quick Install, Unified Diff Creator, Ipk Packager, Universal Novacom Installer, WebOS Repair Utility, WebOS Theme Builder, WebOS Clock Theme Builder, Ipkg Feed Generator

Current device: Pre 2 on Rogers

Tell us about yourself. Really, we want to know.

Well, I’m 23 and a student at the University of Manitoba,studying computer science. I love mobile tech and have been fixated on webOS ever since CES 2009. I’m at geek heart of and love it; a big fan of sci-fi and comic books, which incidentally what lead up to the creation of my ComicShelf app.

Positivity is a big asset of mine, which comes in handy given I don’t mind a challenge. Most people don’t know this, but prior to developing for webOS, I had virtually no Linux experience and never done any non-command line Java programs. HP webOS has been a great place to experiment and learn new things.

I welcome people to follow me on Twitter and get to know me better. It’s my personal account, so while I will tweet about my webOS app development, there will be things outside that realm too. I find Twitter a great place to interact with the community and a great platform to get feedback and requests on software releases.

What in your background led you to develop for webOS?

It all began when I got a Palm Zire 71 in my first year of high school. I absolutely loved it and used it constantly for organization. Unfortunately, it suffered the fate of a faulty slider and died after a year and a half with it, at which point I upgraded to a Zire 72. Again, I was enamored with Palm OS. It was at this point I wanted to experiment with programming. With each new personal coding project I got better, learned from my mistakes, and wanted to code more. Programming became a way to focus my creative energies in a productive way. Only a handful of my Palm OS programs were released and none of them were very popular, but I didn’t care. It was a fun hobby and most of the stuff I made, I made for my own usage.

Fast forward to 2009 CES. I was on an aging Palm TX and contemplating a jump to the iPhone. Then Palm made their big webOS presentation. I was floored. It was exactly what I was looking for. A beautifully multitasking smartphone with synergy PIM and great-looking apps. Ever since that announcement I’ve been hooked on webOS and my first contribution to the platform debuted on July 25th 2009 in the form of WebOS Quick Install v1.0.

So, WebOS Quick Install. It’s your creation, and without it the homebrew revolution wouldn’t have been possible. How do you get through the day with that kind of weight on your shoulders?

I don’t consider it a weight, so much as it’s a responsibility. WebOS Quick Install, to this day, is still usually the first step new users take into the world of homebrew. As such, I have a responsibility to not only keep WOSQI working stable and usable on all available devices, but also to keep it updated as the homebrew movement progresses. For instance, back when source code modification was first becoming popular, I expanded WOSQI v2.0 to include a Tweaks sections (which later evolved into modern patches). And when theming became the next popular thing, WOSQI v2.5 added its themer. As time went by, new features were added and old features were updated, as standards evolved and were refined.

WebOS Quick Install 4.x (especially v4.1.1) represents the next-generation homebrew desktop software for webOS. Not only does it sport a full-featured repository viewer and follows all current homebrew standards, but it is also the easiest release for new users to try. Gone are the days of needing a webOSDoctor and buggy usage. In fact, it now requires less maintenance, which is good for me, as it lets me work on other projects.

By popular request and in an effort to make things easier for new users, I’ve now got plans in-the-works to make an official WOSQI manual/guide in the form of an App Catalog app. Kinda like what Preware Homebrew Documentation is for Preware. Such a tool could help people enter the world of homebrew with less difficulty and I could even add a form of interactive troubleshooting for common issues.

Why do you continue to develop for webOS?

A combination of factors, really. The webOS community has been so very supportive since the beginning and I’ve gained a sense of developer loyalty to them. And it definitely helps Palm and HP have been so supportive, both to homebrew developers and App Catalog app developers. HP webOS has proven itself to me as a platform with a lot of potential and I want to be along for the ride.

Do you do any development for other platforms?

I’ve looked into other platforms (and many of my friends have non-webOS devices that I’ve played with), but currently I’m still exclusively webOS-focused. Chances are I’ll expand to other platforms in the next year, but for now, I’ve got a number of webOS apps I still wanna release first.

What’s your take on the current state of webOS development?

To me, webOS looks like it’s experiencing some growing pains. Acquisition by HP, a missed product cycle, transitioning from Mojo to Enyo, and overall integration into HP has really caused some big ripples. With the TouchPad and Pre3’s upcoming releases, it looks like things will be smoothing out and moving forward with a more powerful HP-backed momentum. Now is a great time for new developers to come to webOS and old developers to return.

Where do you see webOS development going in the future? In particular, how do you see Enyo and devices like the TouchPad running webOS 3.0 affecting your development?

The biggest thing needed for webOS development is the developers themselves. Unfortunately, we’re in a difficult spot right now, but as we’ve seen recently, HP’s power and scale is starting to show its effects. It won’t be all at once, and it certainly won’t be as fast as some would like, but assuming HP continues to release new devices (preferably with solid release dates), then developer adoption of webOS will slowly gain traction.

My own development roadmap has taken a few changes since Enyo rose up as the future of webOS. Internalz Pro 1.5 (and the App Catalog equivalent, Internalz 1.1) will be my last Mojo release. All future Mojo app releases and updates have been scrapped in favour of Enyo-focused development. I want Internalz, ComicShelf, and all my other future apps (such as ArchiveXtractor) to fully work and be highly functional on the TouchPad and smartphone devices with Enyo.

Given the chance, what’s the one thing you would change about the webOS development process?

Honestly, I think webOS is on the right track, but a lot of its potential is not being used by the majority of developers. Hybrid apps and Node.js services are extremely powerful, but apps that harness such technologies are few and far between. Obviously the webOS 2.x software requirement is a setback, as such apps will only officially be available for the Pre2 and Veer (as well as the O2 Pre Plus and eventually the Pre3). I would love to see HP highlightthe capabilities of hybrid apps and Node.js services now that the TouchPad and Pre3 are nearing.

Apart from that, there’s a few minor things I’d love to see for developers. CSS3 @font-face support would be great and would allow easy custom fonts within webOS apps, which itself could have give apps a new and improved style. As well, it could be an interesting web-development twist if webOS would integrate WebGL support. It just seems like a natural fit given webOS’s web-based nature and it’s pre-existing support for OpenGL. The Webkit team has even added it to recent builds, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility, though there are serious security risks that would need to be addressed.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on Internalz Pro 1.5 (and Internalz 1.1), which will be my last Mojo update, and sadly the last release of Internalz Pro for webOS 1.4.5. Moving forward, I’m also working on an Enyo rewrite of Internalz and ComicShelf, though I’m not sure if they’ll make it out before the TouchPad’s release. I’ve also got some coding started on my ArchiveXtractor app, which is planned to support zip, unzip, and unrar.

On the homebrew side of things, I’ve recently released two big projects. First was my WebOS Clock Theme Builder and the associated software built around it. To date it’s the only OTA update-safe form of theming and is a very easy and quick way for theme developers to customize the Clock app. The second big recent release as mentioned earlier, was WebOS Quick Install 4.1.1, which greatly improved its stability and easy-of-use. Plus there’s that earlier-mentioned WOSQI manual app

I don’t have too much in-the-works for homebrew at the moments, as I’m putting all my focus in getting out my App Catalog releases, but I can say that I do expect to update many of my patches for webOS 3.x once a suitable webOSDoctor surfaces. Might even have an update to my outdated WebOS Repair Utility in the near future.

Thank you so much for your time. Any parting thoughts for the webOS community?

You guys are an awesome force. Seriously. You’ve been there for developers like myself since the beginning and have helped us more that you think. And while, yes, I’d love it if people would donate to support my software development or even purchase a copy of Internalz on the App Catalog, the simple fact is only the minority of users will do so.

But that’s not the only way you guys have helped my development. Over the past two years I’ve seen the community give back in many creative, helpful, and kind ways. How-to forum threads to help out new users and YouTube guide videos are amazing, but even smaller things like being helpful on the forums or a kind message of gratitude can be enough to make developing so much easier and brighten my day. That’s the spirit of the webOS community that I wish every developer could experience.


Only 23?! This dude has a bright future

Almost single-handedly saved the webOS community, and he's a Crazy Canuck! Way to go!

webOS QuickInstall=rooting made easy. Thanks Jason!

Homebrewing made easy, but "rooting" has always been as easy as typing "webos20090606" (or "upupdowndownleftrightleftrightbastart").

What you've described is NOT rooting, but the step necessary to enable dev mode. Rooting is still far more complex than that, but not necessary for most homebrew apps.

Props to you Jason.

I did not realize you are so young. Wow! Good luck in all your future endeavors. webOS would not be the same without you. Every homebrew user owes you a debt of gratitude. I hope they honor that with a donation. College costs money and and takes a lot of time in itself. To know that you also have done all the things you have for webOS in your spare time is astounding. I sure hope webOS remains your number one platform for development. Again, thank you for all you have done and will do.

I have enjoyed using your apps etc and thanks a million for all you do for all of us WOSers!!!

Awesome Body of work, Man!

I hope you got a new and free TP.

Now this is a wow moment. Can we say commercial showing the power of the Homebrew Community?

Where would we be without you, Jason.

Way to go Jason! Very well said, and your work is very much appreciated. Keep up the great work. May you have the best of luck in the future.

How do you compare developing in Enyo vs Mojo? SOmepeople say Enyo is a step backwards other's say its amazing once you learn it. What is your thought on Enyo vs Mojo?

Can't say much about Enyo, due to the NDA, but it's definitely a big change from Mojo and requires a change of thinking.

Internalz makes life as a developer so much easier. Thanks Jason!

Great interview. As always, Jason -- thanks!

Thankx a million Jason. You're work is definitely appreciated and will be all over the world. Keep up the good work. And i for one will keep supporting you.

You rock! Had no idea you were so young. Keep up the great work. I don't know where webOS would be without you and the great homebrew developers.


This guy does awesome stuff. your work is appreciated!

He IS homebrewing! Thanx for everything!

Yeah, although I am departing webos, I can commend your accomplishments. You truly saved webos, or at least delayed it death.

On a serious note however LOSE THE NECKBEARD!

Its somewhat masking the second chin. Known technique, used by many application developers

Shallow jerks! Put your picture up so we can make fun of things you cannot control. Too bad the world is full of **** heads like you two!! I put up with guys like you for years at school and now they're pumping gas into my Jag and calling me sir.... losers.

LOL!!!! Nice.

Yes he cannot control facial hair..... THATS WHY THEY MAKE RAZORS

in all reality, the lighting/shadow makes it look worse than it really was; usually I'm clean shaven

Who really cares about the way Jason dresses or if he shaves?! He looks like an ordinary college student to me.

I sure do not want to be nearby when the glass houses in which these shallow people live come crashing down. Grow up and worry about yourself.

dkmrules why are you still here? Just leave already ok?

Keep up the good work Jason (PLEASE)!

I am amazed! I doubled my enthusiams for my Pre Minus once I webOS quick-installed apps that let me overclock! Thanks Jason!

When I was 23, I was attending the University of Hawaii studying Drama Education, riding my boogie board, playing basketball, hanging out with cute Hawaii girls and walking past the computer lab thinking: "no way those guys are going any where!"

And, now look! They did go somewhere, albeit to Winnipeg... Come to think of it, seems a little unfair.

Oh, well, Jason, you get yourself on a plane and hit the beaches in Hawaii: I'll tell you the great spots to go. Just take along some SPF 50 or something. ;-)

Jason is THE MAN!!!! My son works for a guy who tells him that because he is young he cannot make his mark in the world. I'm gonna have my boy look at Jason's work for inspiration!

Thanks Jason for showing the world that wisdom in not measured by years, but by achievement!

Jason, there are not enough Props to send to you here!! Thanks for the love.

Jason, Thank you sir.
You are the reason I did not throw my pre minus against the wall 3 months after purchase.
Because of you I was able to easily install all these homebrew apps, which brought life to my phone and webos experience.

I am probably leaving WebOS soon, because it looks like the pre 3 won't be available on my carrier of choice (Sprint), but despite that... you've done an excellent job. I honestly would have switched to IOS or Android long ago if it wasn't for you.

Tim From toronto here....struggling on the pre- on bell, but with all of your fancy webos loving I really want to thank you Jason....I stand alone in my work place with my pre....but becuase of the hard work people have given this whole community..... I will follow.
HAIL to "Jason of winnipeg"....and welcome back jets...ya I still say jets
:) a fellow Canuck

You are wise beyond your years. I have to agree with the consensus that YOU were one of the key contributors that kept webOS relevant. Thank you very much!

About time Jason got his own spotlight page..

If WebOS were a country, there would be a national holiday called 'Robitaille Day' and statues of him would line the streets everywhere...

Thank you Jason! Without you and the other homebrew gods I probably would've left webOS long ago. Keep up the awesome work!

thank you, thank you, and thank you. Without your work WebOS will not be the same, an honor to have you on board!

**** yes!!!

Jason, I would like to thank you for all that you have made possible in the webOS world.

No Posts usually go for so long without a negative comment, so here goes..... Jason, you're a f@#king horrible dresser, but absolutely the best thing that ever happened to webOS. I can't count how many times I've researched and researched and then relied solely on your advice. I also use a number of your patches. Thanks a million Jason, and keep up the good work I hope.

This guy rocks. He's got a very bright future ahead of him. We can't thank him enough for all the work he's done.

What can I say Jason you kick @ss!!! I'd hate to think where I (we) would be without your work! Thank you so much and keep up the great work!!!

Jason thanks so much for all you have done to make my Pre- so much better. Hopefully you will do the same to my next Webos long as Sprint gets one!

Programming takes SO-O-O much time. I marvel at how a student with much to do has found the time to create so many programs, much less such pivotal blockbusters for the WebOS community. Your accomplishments are hugely appreciated by us all. THANK YOU. Good luck going forward and may the force ever be with you. If HP doesn't try to hire you they're foolish.

Hpalm should be paying you for keeping their platform alive. It's because of good willed developers like you that make products more enjoyable and usable.

You definitely have a bright future ahead if you're doing all this at age 23. Congratulations for finding and using your talents for good, so quickly in life!

Thanks for your hard work and continued dedication. I can honestly say that I would have given up with WebOS if it wasn't for your wares.

Jay, I've said it before and I'll say it again: Thank you. I would have stayed with webOS regardless, but you have made it infinitely more enjoyable. You, sir, are awesome.

People, if you haven't donated to Jason...get on it already!

Jason, you the man! I've downloaded many of your patches, never thought someone so young would have created these. Any truth to the rumor that your genius is behind Winnipeg getting Atlanta's NHL team? :)

Thank you for all your wonderful work, Jason!

Thanks, Jason, for helping keep my Pre minus cool since the launch and keeping me patient for the next generation of WebOS and the Pre 3!

(BTW: this is a thanks from an old **** who's not too old to learn geek stuff--been studying PHP these days!....but you know what they say: a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing...).

thank you for everything Jason. your the man I would see your name on everything and think that guy is awesome. I'am from michigan and would love to have a conversation about some ideas. hope you receive recognition and continued success you deserve.

Wow, I also had no idea you were so young, which I hope you realize is a compliment from everyone! =)
Without you, not just homebrew, but the entire webOS platform would be in such a different place, I can't even fathom it.

Reading you background was almost like reading my own biography (with a Palm background) except I don't develop.
I'm 24 and also a Computer Science major, but have been a bit less motivated lately because I feel like I have no direction (what to do and where I'll be).
webOS has had me interested (from a development perspective) since I got my Pre Plus at launch. Could I ask you for some tips on getting started, maybe? What helped you get going?

yea, sure, contact me anytime on twitter :) Article has my id

I'm 39, and have done quite a bit in my life. Still, people like you make me want to kick myself in the shorts and do more with my life. You are an inspiration, dude.

Thanks so much your dedication, loyalty, coding skills, and enthusiasm for webos. Everyday I pick up my phone, I enjoy it that much more because of your hard work.


Your software and apps are the ABSOLUTE sole reason why I've stayed with my old pre- for as long as I have. I have 16+ years as a Sprint customer so I won't be leaving them if the Pre 3 dosesn't come to Sprint but I am happy to say that I will be making a donation regardless of the outcome.

Keep using your "positive" thoughts as a strength for it will always lead you to success.

Thanks for all your work.

Jason, you are the man! If not for all the Homebrew goodies you created I would have switched to Android a loooong time ago. HP should write you a $1MM check to thank you! Lastly, I'm very impressed that you've done all this at such a young age. You have a sparkling future ahead of you!

Jason, you have been one of the bedrock figures (imo) of the webos community. Thank you for all you have done to make this platform kicka$$!

Thanks Jason, You rock!
from a fellow Canuck - Toronto


You better be available on Sprint. I've been a Pre- owner since day one, and deserve you on Sprint. I'm a Sprint premiere member and I demand that Jason be available on my network. HP said they would "make things right".....they better make sure I can purchase Jason, because I'm still limping along with my Pre- and I was told I would be able to get Jason sometime this summer.

Whoops, this article has nothing to do with Sprint.......sorry.

You rock Jason. Thanks for all your hard work.

What a wonderful world we would have to look forward to, if more 23 year olds had your ambition, drive and mostly, attitude. Your selfless work has been a major factor in keeping webOS thriving, when all hope seemed lost. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do. You are admired, respected and greatly appreciated.

oh hopefully the Pre2 will get an update on enyo so that i can use ArchiveXtractor - this is so needed.

Sorry to say I have moved to an EVO but would have done so much earlier if not for you. I so enjoyed WEBOS, and overclocking etc. Thanks young man for putting fun into phone.


You have kept me interested in my Pre-.

Your work is amazing.

I had no idea you were so young. You have a very promising future ahead of you.

Keep up the good work!!

Jason, as others have said if it were not for your contributions to WebOS, it would have died completely, it seems like you fix everything Palm/HP missed as far as features and general useability of the OS., I wish you the best and thank you, thank you, thank you! I do have a question though,. Why is no-one interested or capable of creating a Wii-mote app for WebOS? for emulators and such? I hate touchscreen controls and it is available for PC, iOS, Android and others? Is this a project you could perhaps look into one evening? I'd appreciate it sooo much! either way, YOU ARE THE MAN! Best wishes!

Jason, you are by far the best homebrew developer I have seen around. Without you WebOS now would be desert.

My best compliments.

Show your support for Jason by joining this facebook group!

Namaste from India !!!

Lots of appreciations from the other side of the world !!!

You may not know, but your efforts have ensured that the handful of Palm & webOS users here too can aspire to own this marvelous OS, which officially are out of bounds for us.

You have fulfilled many of our aspirations!!!

God Bless & Wishing you a "Rich" future.

Thanks so much Jason. HP owes you, seriously.