HP TouchPad already has USB host support; webOS 2.2 prepped for SD cards [video] | webOS Nation

HP TouchPad already has USB host support; webOS 2.2 prepped for SD cards [video] 49

by Derek Kessler Fri, 02 Sep 2011 10:54 am EDT

The HP TouchPad may not be the most technically advanced tablet out there, but it seems that webOS wasn’t able to take advantage of the hardware that was there. We do know that webOS wasn’t fully graphically-accelerated, not taking advantage of the Adreno 220 graphics chip as well as in could. But what else lurks within the TouchPad? How about USB host support?

RootzWiki member green discovered something interesting: the TouchPad actually has USB host support, albeit limited. He was able to hook up a USB keyboard to the TouchPad and start typing.

Okay, it’s a little more complicated than that. While host support is there, the TouchPad doesn’t provide power out from its Micro USB port. Green’s setup went like such: a USB keyboard hooked up to a Y-adapter, with one end drawing power from a computer or AC adapter, the other going to a powered USB hub hooked up to the TouchPad via a USB-to-Micro USB adapter. Once all was plugged in, the TouchPad’s virtual keyboard dropped away just like it was hooked up to a Bluetooth keyboard. Of course, hooking up all that isn’t the best way to get your typing on, but it opens the door for future hacks to make this happen. Keyboards might just be the tip of the iceberg, and we’re hoping HP is pushing forward with implementing full USB host support for the TouchPad. (video of the whole process after the break)

But that’s not all! webOS developer Sam Beckett posted a joke onto Twitter about even HP engineers capitalizing it wrong as WebOS in the OS code, but we saw something else interesting in the code, in a file titled format_sd.sh:

Format an SD card on $1, wiping anything that might have been there. Call this when some random card is installed, Next time you boot the card will be mounted and have a cryptofs container created and mounted so it participates fully in WebOS.

This isn’t ready for use yet. We don’t yet have any way to ask users what they want to do when we can’t mount a card, and certainly can’t willy-nilly nuke whatever they had on it without asking.

Huhwha? There’s a whole file in webOS dedicated to how the OS will eventually support SD cards? Yep, it certainly appears that way. This makes sense in conjunction with the USB host support, and we’ve been seeing webOS fans clamoring for external card support since January 2009 when the original Pre was announced. As the file notes discussed, it’s not quite ready for public implementation, but the support was/is being worked on for future card slot-sporting webOS hardware. You know, if that ever happens.

Update: Sam confirmed for us an interesting tidbit about the SD card file: it was taken from the webOS 2.2 doctor!


Awesome - I had pondered this functionality on the Touchpad and am so glad it's there. Keep up the good work!

Look at post near end for instructions on how to create your own cable without needing a USB Y cable, a computer or power USB hub.

Does this mean that our current Touchpads could someday support SD memory cards?

It means that our current TouchPads already support SD memory cards.


It wouldn't surprise me if some of this is included in the next webOS update, which will bring enhanced webOS features

And exactly what existing hardware will that update take advantage of?


That USB host port?

yeah, you plug that memory card deep into your crack, than you touch your TouchPad to share, and your arse becomes SD card reader, just like magic.

Oh wait, you mean that future software update will create SD card reader hardware in your TP? Now that is going to be AAAAAwesome! Can't wait to see

Your imagination is amazingly colorful in some ways, and yet surprisingly limited in others.

Won't be of much good since there is no SD module. But for future... Oh wait that's right there are no more future webOS devices to be made.

Wondering if this could be done with an external card reader and USB cable. If there is a way to get the KB to function, just maybe an external card reader. Sure it wouldn't be great for all functions, but if traveling, would allow someone to load up some extra media potentially.

I love it.... the OS that "doesn't function" as some say, has features built in that nobody knew about. This makes me smile on a Friday morning.

Features that don't function... great...

Did you read the article?! He had to hook the USB up through a y adapter to the computer to power the keyboard. Really functional.

Personally I wouldn't be using a wired KB with my TP.

Yes I read the article, and I like the potential for this. As I posted above, the USB function combined with a possible SD card reader would be a great addition. Even if you had to run external power.

From the tone of your post I know you are going to look for anything to be negative about.

For me, I am already happy with my device, the potential for added features that I didn't have any expectation of having sounds like an awesome bonus to me.

...so you haven't noticed, where all the future of TP/webOS lays? Let me spell it for you: it lays on the workbenches of some passionate folks, who will dissection it here and there, without any real-world impact to anyone else, apart from some fans, who for some reason will shout "aaaaaaawesome!", everytime someone hardwires this or that historical device to a lamp, fan, a toaster, or franken-keyboard.


Yep, that's what's really awesome. I want my fans hooked up to my TP. I notice that you are alreay green with envy. I can't imagine how green you'll be then.

Some people mod hardware and hack software, other people do mods and hacks on nouns like "dissection" to turn them into verbs. There's room for everybody.

Don't be mad at me because my webOS devices fit my needs. Not saying you need to like em or own em.

Are you a missionary from another operating system trying to save us poor webOS followers from a future of neglect and sorrow?

Maybe there never will be another webOS device. Maybe there will never be another update. Maybe there will never be another app added to the catalog. You know what? I don't care! I like my Pre 2, and I like my TouchPad, and neither you nor anybody else is going to keep me from being excited about developments like this!

Yes, I will cheer when the webOS homebrew community has small victories that relatively few people care about because I'm one of those few people that do care. Why does this bother you?

OK guys, fair play for you: if your webOS device fits your needs TODAY, with all that it does TODAY - that is very reasonable to be happy with them. That is why I planned to buy Pre 3 for myself, until geniuses at HP "firesold" & discontinued it before it get released, making it effectively unavailable for me.

My point is, there's nothing "awesome" in someone hacking a wire here and there to some hardware.

You want to see "awesome" - go and check Nook Color developments, how to transform $250 eReader tablet into a fully-fledged Android tablet, for example. With overclocks from stock 800MHz to 1.2GHz to boot. Truly, $99 firesale Touchpads are no match, but unfortunately, geniuses in HP made $99 Touchpads unavailable to about 99% of real fans, but available for some random opportunists instead.

"(...) other people do mods and hacks on nouns like "dissection" to turn them into verbs. "
Grappler, answer is simple: some people are just not native english speakers. Can't argue with arguments, argue with grammar - good for you :)

SD...huh...I guess that explains the slot on the lower right side edge.

SIM card slot.

Do USB flash drives work without power?
Using one would be reeeaaally interesting.

I saw this a few hours ago and bought the components for the USB part from ebay. I also purchased a £1.50 AA emergency phone charger with female USB attachments. Just an idea to see if that could supply the necessary power to the USB devices, then it would be 'slightly' more portable.

I like this idea. I'd love to know how it works out. I would definitely pack it with an SD reader for travel.

webOS Internals (Rod Whitby) and Jason Robataille were discussing this on Twitter this morning and apparently the TouchDroid peeps are not the source of this. The CyanogenMod peeps are. The orginial source is on the webOS Internals wiki here http://www.webos-internals.org/wiki/USB_Host_Mode

I smell a hardware hack to use the SIM card slot for an SD/micro SD card reader. :D

how about a hardware hack to put a real USB type A host port in the SIM card slot? one with +5v power.

I'd LOVE the ability to plug in a usb flash drive and write files to it. it very often happens that I have to work on or fix a computer that for whatever reason can't get online; usually I have to get to another computer that can get online, download what I need and put it on a flash drive. if I could do that with my touchpad that would be extremely useful.

the touchpad would need the standard usb flash storage drivers, and of course FAT32 and NTFS file system drivers (though I'd take just FAT32 if need be). though I guess it must already have the file system drivers?

You can download the files to your TouchPad and connect it via USB to the computer ;)

I think an SD Card was always intended as an expansion. I see the sdcard folder in /media/ all the way back in 1.4.5.

Very interesting and not much of a surprise since the hardware is there already, why plan to enhancing its use later and extending its options.

Very Cool video and thanks for the information. Between this USB host options and GPS options...the skies the limit for those motivated! Sorli...

I'm hoping for an attachable rear view usb camera so I can chase some cows with my truck an video them. But seriously this is great news!

So the Palm/HP webOS dev team spent who knows how much time working on software features for hardware that never existed and didn't bother focusing on the hardware they DID have (graphics acceleration, performance optimization, etc.)? No wonder webOS is going the way of OS/2 Warp!.


The SD card support was for webOS 2.2 which means phone development. Do you know what other phones were in the pipeline? Probably one with an SD card slot.
You're getting upset over something unrelated to the tablet.

This is directly related to the tablet (and others). Had they spent their time on things DIRECTLY related to the hardware sitting in front of them, the reviews wouldn't have been so crappy and things would have been vastly different.

They squandered their time on things that didn't/don't exist.


So what are the realistic chances of a mirco usb SD card reader working with the touchpad? Are there SD card readers with their own power source?

To have an extra 32gb of media to take while traveling would be awesome!

it would be nice if they would allow you to plug in a normal keyboard and a mouse. Specially for most of the gaming sites like shockwave. Or zuma in facebook. Using your fingers is not always the most ideal way to surf the web specially when you have it docked.

To those making efforts to make better a tablet others get enjoyment from: you are to be commended. Thank you for sharing what you're learning. Your work is our gain.

To the WebOS programmers who worked long hours planning a product that through no fault of their own was canned: Thank you for putting together a really neat and fun product. I'm enjoying it.

To those who can do nothing but knock the former: You add nothing and you gain nothing with your commentary. If it were possible to create an app that would enhance the miserable and pitiful existence that leads you to post utterly unhelpful and embarrassing notes I'd pay for its development and make it available to you at no cost.

Hmmm interesting... I have a portable ext HDD with a builtin battery. I'm going to have to try it out and see what happens. First I'll need to find an adapter cable though. It's the Seagate GoFlex Satellite...

I was just about to post the same exact thing...

So I'm not certain exactly what drivers the TouchPad already comes equipped with but I think the first thing I will test is whether my portable and powered External Hard Drive will be able to hook up to the tPad via USB2.0 with a micro USB to USB converter cable.

Well, I think we can deduce 2 points from this:
1. HP had future HW planned that would take advantage of this capability.
2. The fact that webOS has this capability and that competing devices (phones and tablets) typically have expandable storage makes it easier for webOS to be licensed and used on a potential licensee's existing (or near-term) HW.

As far as existing HW goes (Touchpads and Pre/Veer/Pixis), it's pretty much an academic exercise that's not very practical in the real world since none of the current webOS host devices can power the USB device.

What do I wanna do with a mounted SD card? You kidin me???? Tell me a better way to backup your pics when on holiday !!! On a device which has a bigger screen and 32GB storage and with a tethering phone you got access to flickr, facebook etc !!! Seriously get this working for me please !!!!

Greetings people. I have done this on an iPad. Also I connected a USB barcode scanner to it and it would work.

Same trick though with the y cable for power.

The reason I registered to post here was about the USB support.

On the iPad if you connect an SD card with a card reader it would only recognise a DCIM folder but a USB hard drive works the same way.

Perhaps the DCIM trick will work here?

Looking at this post I left out the bit about the iPad only recognising images in the DCIM folder. It would be I interesting to see if the touchpad works the same way

You'll understand if I withhold my enthusiasm for this discovery when my TREO 680 has a SD card slot!

God, People are so damn sour. This is really cool, simply because if some dev or the next webos update allows for a usb host cable, that will mean you can hook up sd card readers, usb sticks, usb mouse dongle... etc. This is great, I have a 32gb, but how great would it be to plug it into my ex. hdd with 750gb filled with movies for when I travel. Also, for all you sour people, there are some awesome apps that are out there that take advantage of usb host, like dslr controller. If someone would dev that for webos that would be amazing! So to all you haters, SHUT THE **** UP! If you don't like, or don't have a TP, F#$K OFF!

I was actually able to do this without a powered USB hub, computer or a Y USB cable. What I did is as follows and it works great. Instead of having to have a computer you just need an outlet.

Parts needed for cable creation:
- Electrical tape
- 1 (USB extension cable) $5.00 online
- (1/2 of a USB cable with Male end). You just need the Red and Black wires.
- Aluminum foil for shielding

For Connections after creating cable:
- (Mini to Female USB cable) as in video. Purchased Mine $2.60 on Ebay.
- Any USB power adapter works for powering keyboard. One supplied with touchpad works as well.

Cut the USB extension cable in half and reconnect the wires as they were originally. Then connect the Black and Red wires of the (1/2 USB cable with Male end) to the red and black wires of the (USB extension cable). That is pretty much it.

Make sure you shield the wires with aluminum foil after taping them or there will be cross talk. I was having repetitive characters before doing this.

Label the ends with tape so you will never be confused where to plug things in.

Making connections:
1. Plug the (1/2 USB cable with Male end) to the USB power adapter.
2. Plug the keyboard into the Female USB end of (USB extension cable).
3. Plug the (Mini to Female USB cable)in to the Male end of (USB extension cable).
4. Plug (Mini to Female USB cable) to the touchpad.

Make sure the touchpad is turned on and you have the onscreen keyboard up before plugging into the touchpad. The onscreen keyboard will disappear and you will be able to type with the keyboard.

You can now type as fast as you want on the touchpad and I can type around 65 WPM. There is no lag or mistypes as I can see. Volume controls and everything else work too.

If the keyboard does not work, for reasons unknown probably due to driver, it may be necessary to restart the touchpad before keyboard will work. Also, if the screen goes off and you have to unlock it you will need to unplug and replug the touchpad connection.

One more thing this setup does not charge the battery. It may be that green and white wires need to have supplied power as well. To charge battery you will need to use the USB extension cable where all for wires are involved. In other wards use the USB extension cable as it should be used.

Hopefully these instructions make sense and are easy enough to follow. Of course following these instructions are entirely up to you and at your own risk. Very low voltage and amperage is used when plugged in.

One more thing. I have tried a mouse which the light does come on but has no response. An external hard drive as talked about above does not have any apps that will work with it. All apps I see are for the internal HDD.

I am going to try the suggestion connecting a USB flash drive when I get home and shut it down and restart to see what happens.

After reading this a few times it's time to pitch in , what I am going to try is wire a 1 gb USB flashdrive to 2 , 3 volt rechargeable batteries , 2032 button - watch batteries , I have a micro USB to female USB adapter coming , this will allow me to attach my thumbdrive to my touchpad. And with the battery power I want to see if I can transfer or view any files . If this is successful they also make a sd card adapter that plugs into the USB port and that should work as well. If I want to transfer files there should be enough battery to do some , I just don't know how many files before batteries run out , but then down recharge them for later. Any thoughts or input would help. I may not get to try this till around the first of the year . I am still waiting for adapters to arrive in the mail . Thanks .

Just noticed a new app on preware - USB FlashMount OTG on Preware - Here is a new exciting app for the touchpad for webos. Mass storage support. I will try it tonight. Looks very promising.

@quantumxy: don't connect the green and white also. The cable won't work anymore (spend all evening figuring out why cable didn't work until i cut the green and white wire...)

But otherwise: Thank you very much for the plan/description. I will make good use of it while on holidays, 'cause no need of a laptop anymore :-D