The CyanogenMod team has released the third alpha of Android 2.3 'Gingerbread' for HP's cut-price TouchPad tablet, giving those who managed to snag one of the few remaining devices a more reliable version to play with.
Although still designated an alpha, the CyanogenMod 7.1 Alpha 3 release is surprisingly polished. Designed to sit alongside the existing webOS platform from Hewlett Packard - and allowing TouchPad owners to boot back into the stock operating system should they so choose - it brings all the functionality of Google's Android platform to the device.
Building on the work one in the previous two alpha builds, this latest release - based on the 'Tenderloin' parent release - fixes the so-called 'sleep of death' bug from earlier editions, where the TouchPad's CPU would go into a power-saving mode and refuse to wake the device from standby without a reset.
The new build also improves the tablet's Wi-Fi connectivity, preventing the signal from being lost when not used for long periods of time, and improves the performance of Android applications running in full-screen mode.
For those lucky enough to get their sweaty hands on one of HP's rather rare TouchPad 4Gs - only officially released in the US, and adding mobile broadband connectivity to the TouchPad's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios - there's improved support, described by the team as 'preliminary'.
While the new update will be welcomed by those that have chosen to take the plunge and installed Android on their TouchPad (there's a guide to doing so over at our sister site IT Reviews), there's an even more exciting project in the works: a port of Google's Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' operating system.
Unlike Android 2.3 'Gingerbread,' Android 4.0 uses a revamped user interface developed specifically for large-format devices like the TouchPad as part of the Android 3.0 'Honeycomb' release. Although Google kept the source for that release secret, it has released the full source code for 'Ice Cream Sandwich' - meaning developers can, and have, start porting it to other devices.
Android hacker 'fattire' has announced the start of work to port the latest Android OS to the TouchPad, but it's looking like the project will take a little while to complete: although images of the device booting up to the lock screen have been posted to the RootzWiki forum, support for the touch-sensitive display is not yet operational - making it a trifle hard to use.
With 'Gingerbread' already available and 'Ice Cream Sandwich' on the way, the TouchPad is truly a bargain that keeps on improving with age.
The latest build can be downloaded here in a format suitable for a fresh or upgrade install.