webOS 3.0.5 update makes future built-in app updates more flexible
Something interesting happened back in April 2011 with the webOS 2.1 update. HP moved the App Catalog app package from the ROM (/usr/palm/applications) to the third-party application folder, otherwise known as /media/cryptofs (cryptofs being Palm's solution to the application space limit, allowing application files to be stored on the larger USB partition but encrypting to folder to prevent unfettered app copying). The move has carried through into webOS 3.0, allowing HP to update the App Catalog at will and independently of the OS, an ability they have repeatedly exercised.
While moving the App Catalog and later Maps into /media/cryptofs was interesting, it's always seemed more like an experiment than a long-term plan. It's been nearly eleven months since the App Catalog was moved with webOS 2.1, but with yesterday's release of webOS 3.0.5, a whole slew of built-in apps moved over into the app storage folder. Specifically, Calculator, Calendar, Camera, Clock, Contacts, Email, Messaging, Music, Notes, and Photos & Videos have all slipped over. That leaves just Phone & Video Calls, Web, and the preferences apps all alone as an integrated part of the OS.
The cool part about this is that all of the moved apps can now be updated independently of webOS itself. This is definitely a big deal and our hope is that HP leverages this flexibility to rapidly add new features to apps without having to worry about packaging it with a webOS update. In fact, this may lead to fewer webOS updates, leaving OS updates to merely providing the supporting infrastructure for the apps and features to the apps themselves.
There is one issue, however, with the move, and if affects a significant portion of our readership. Moving the apps to /media/cryptofs breaks Auto Update Patch Technology for automatically updating homebrew patches via Preware. Homebrew developer extraordinaire is already at work finding a way around this roadblock, but in the grand scheme of things it won't be a huge deal or long-term issue, though in the meantime a large number of patches will have to be altered and manually updated to compensate for the move.