My Experience With Jailbreaking So Far

Written by Mark Mackay

February 1, 2010 | 13:23

Tags: #cydia #dmca #iphone #jailbreak

Companies: #apple #eff

A few weeks ago a friend and fellow hardware enthusiast rocked up at my flat with his new iPhone 3GS. He'd jailbroken it and was naturally keen to show off his new toy. Like most of the iPhone owners I know, I was smitten with my iPhone as it was and had absolutely no desire to fiddle with it. That's what I thought until I saw what he'd done with his…
The first and most noticeable difference was the custom theme. A textured grey background permeated the backdrop and app icons, making the pages of apps look amazing. There are hundreds, if not thousands themes available. You can create your own images for everything to the backdrop, to keyboard to battery display and then transfer the files to your iPhone.

File transferring files via iTunes is limited. Organising photos is a particular frustration. File transferring a Jailbroken iPhone using WinSCP - or a similar SSH program - brings total freedom and fresh air by the lungful. You can transfer or modify pretty much any file on the iPhone to and from any desktop computer with the free software installed. For example, you can put your music collection on your work PC, change what apps are called, add custom ringtones or load up ROM files for retro gaming console emulators.

My Experience With Jailbreaking So Far
Left - My iPhone homepage with BlackMac theme applied and a few custom icons. Right - Final Fantasy VII on the iPhone. You can also play in landscape with the buttons overlaid transparently.

You can download emulators for the Gameboy, NES, SNES and Playstation amongst others. The Playstation emulator was my first port of call, as running Final Fantasy VII on my mobile phone was a prospect just about exciting enough to make me wet my pants. I made an .ISO file from my old Playstation disk, transferred it over and was in business. To get a playable frame rate, it's necessary to turn off the audio, but with some tweaking it is, apparently, possible to have things running smooth with the audio on. Investigations are underway. There are ways to increase your virtual memory and even overclock the CPU. The idea of overclocking a £500 gadget without the aid of a heatsink or waterblock is a little unnerving - hence the research.

There are a number of useful tools that have been made for jailbroken iPhones. SBSettings is one of my favourites and a good example of what’s available. It adds a feature whereby you swipe the top of your iPhone screen and a drop-down menu appears with various useful widgets. For example you can turn on or off, WiFi, 3G, and pretty much any other toggle without messing around in settings. You can even cancel processes running in the background to free up memory, great for running games. You can also use the tool to get rid of unwanted standard app icons such as Stock Market or the Contacts icon.

My Experience With Jailbreaking So Far
SBSettings is one of many useful tools available for free download on a jailbroken iPhone

Of course, by now you're probably wondering if jailbreaking is legal. Well, that's a contentious matter. There isn't much up-to-date info on the situation around the interwebs. Apple claimed in US court filings last year that it's not legal, but it leaned on America's controversial DMCA law for much of its argument. In the UK, there's no DMCA style law forbidding the breaking of copy-protection schemes, so really what you're talking about is installing freely, legally distributed software on a piece of hardware you own. That's modding and tinkering, and something we're in favour of here at bit-tech.

The US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) addressed Apple's claims around jailbreaking, saying:

"Apple's copyright infringement claim starts with the observation that jailbroken iPhones depend on modified versions of Apple's bootloader and operating system software. True enough... But the courts have long recognized that copying software while reverse engineering is a fair use when done for purposes of fostering interoperability with independently created software, a body of law that Apple conveniently fails to mention.

One need only transpose Apple's arguments to the world of automobiles to recognize their absurdity. Sure, GM might tell us that, for our own safety, all servicing should be done by an authorized GM dealer using only genuine GM parts. Toyota might say that swapping your engine could reduce the reliability of your car... But we'd never accept this corporate paternalism as a justification for welding every car hood shut and imposing legal liability on car buffs tinkering in their garages. After all, the culture of tinkering (or hacking, if you prefer) is an important part of our innovation economy.

Of course, many iPhone owners will be happy to choose solely from the applications that Apple is willing to approve, just like many Ford owners are happy relying exclusively on their local Ford dealer. But if you want to pop the hood, the DMCA surely shouldn't stand in your way.

Using a jailbroken phone to access copyrighted material - i.e. pirate software - is, of course, against the law, and not something we condone.

My Experience With Jailbreaking So Far
Drag and drop file transfer to the iPhone via WinSCP. Happy days.

If you want to have a go at Jailbreaking, it all starts with Blackra1n. Using the program in a cinch and the interwebs is awash with guides. I selected the option to install Cydia which is your port of call for access to the many awesome apps such as PSX4iPhone. Just make sure that if ever iTunes gives you the option to send information to Apple about what’s on your iPhone hard disk - such as the Apps Genius feature - choose No. I'll be writing another blog when I have everything set up and running smoothly on my iPhone and hopefully have it overclocked. It's been a lot of fun so far, I've added a lot of useful features to my beloved device and there's still so much more to learn.
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