The Palm Pre has only been in customers' hands a few weeks, and already the hackers are hard at work tearing down the guts of the software to make it do wonderful, unnatural things. And while Palm has requested that Pre developers obediently refrain from building tethering applications for fear of reprisal from Sprint, hacking is at the core of the Pre's DNA: its ability to sync with iTunes out of the box is a result of some clever spoof code in the device's media sync mode. In that spirit, here are the top five Palm Pre hacks out right now. None of them are for the uninitiated, so take them as proof of concept. That said, if you're a Pre owner dying to dive into the hidden power of your device, look for WYSIWYG tools that emulate a lot of these workarounds to pop up soon.
Play NES Games
CrunchGear reported yesterday that an enterprising group over at the Pre Dev Wiki have managed to load a NES emulator onto the device. It's no piece of cake—you'll need to gain root access and do some work under the hood of the OS—but as far as Linux hacks go, not the hardest, either. (To see how to gain root access to your Pre, read on.) Instructions for the hack are here.
It was only a matter of time before some enterprising cheapskate figured out how to use their Pre without being tied to a Sprint data and voice plan. Sure enough, developer Steve Troughton-Smith, based in Ireland, did just that. Consistent with other reports, Troughton-Smith reportedly said the Pre's webOS was readily hackable, and he was quickly able to eschew the activation process that usually leashes the phone to its provider. Once that was done, he loaded a modified version of the webOS onto the device, enabling all the out-of-the-box apps, as well as full functionality including Bluetooth and WiFi. Sure, it's a throwback to Palm's pre-smartphone days, but cool nonetheless.
In keeping with hackers' desire to shame modern gadgets into running '90s-era games, the classic first-person shooter Doom has been ported to the Pre with almost full functionality. The process is an exercise in jargon-translation, but that doesn't make it any less fascinating. To read how it was done, check out the steps here. Then see the result below.
Gaining Root Access
In most modern computer operating systems, the "root" user is a kind of superuser who has unrestricted access to every account and directory in the machine's OS. Logging in as the root user lets you mess with things that the developers of the OS never intended, which is either a terrible idea—if you're a noob—or the key to making real hacks possible.
Here, a hacker shows how connecting a Pre in developer mode to a PC loaded with a simple rooter program can gain you access to all of the phone's features, without restrictions.
Getting into Developer Mode
The Pre has an ingenious conduit for its developer mode: from the launcher screen, just type the phrase "upupdowndownleftrightleftrightbastart," and up pops a hidden application called Developer Mode Enabler. Gamers will recognize the code as a relic of the Konami game Contra.
Pre as Kitchen Tool
If the last four hacks went clear over your Palm-obsessed head, here's one you can definitely perform. The bottom of the device is designed to be so sharp, Gizmodo reports, that it can actually be used as a pretty effective cheese slicer. Delicious and disgusting. Check out the video here.