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Red Pill Mode: what it is, what does it do, what advantages does it have

Starting from PR1.1 firmware version, the Red Pill Mode is NO LONGER SUPPORTED on the Nokia N900. This article is kept only for "archival" reasons and for those who still (unlikely) use pre-PR1.1 firmware versions on their N900s. If your N900 has one of the newer firmware releases, information contained in this article is not valid for you.

In the App Manager, the "heart" of your Maemo device's 3rd party software support (installation, updates, removal) several functions have been restricted by default to provide the highest level of security and "end user friendliness". In the normal mode, the App Manager will only show and let you install the packages which are meant to be installed by end users and have been "approved" for general access. Which is a good thing for majority of "average users".

For the same purpose, in Maemo 5, Nokia has removed the ability to install standalone .deb packages, to make sure that only compatible and secure files can be installed via repositories.

However, for advanced users some of these limitations may be quite painful. For example, while being able to install 3rd party software via repositories only in most cases is a good thing (as such packages can then be easily updated and users will be notified about availability of new versions), in some rare cases possibility to install standalone .debs may also turn out to be more than useful. While it is still possible using the dpkg -i command in the X-Terminal, some less advanced users may be too scared to do this, especially that it needs enabling root access, which definitely isn't something unexperienced Linux newbies should do.

And here comes the Red Pill mode of the App Manager, which enables a couple of advanced functions, normally blocked in the (default) Blue pill mode, including:
  • more applications being shown for download. In the Red Pill mode, the App Manager will also show packages which aren't approved for general availability. These include development packages but also software aimed at advanced users.
  • the "Install from file" option in App Manager's menu. Using it, you will be able to install standalone .deb packages downloaded from the Internet and stored locally on the device.

In order to enable the Red pill mode, do the following:
  • launch the App Manager
  • Select "Application catalogues" from the drop-down menu (this will show you the list of configured repositories)
  • tap the "New" button
  • enter matrix in the Web address field
  • now tap on the blurred background above the current window (as if you wanted to dismiss it)
  • in the "Which pill?" requester that will be shown, select the "Red" button
  • that's it! - enjoy the enhanced functionality and the "Install from file" option in the menu

To go back to the default Blue pill mode repeat the above steps and simply choose "Blue" instead of "Red" in the "Which pill?" requester.

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