74 Jailbreak - AC/DC

As a recent convert to the iPhone, I had heard friends and colleagues and friends talk about jailbreaking their phones and wondered what the fuss was about. When I got my iPhone 4, I promptly jailbroke it and I must admit, I was still wondering. Many of the reasons for wanting a jailbreak or an unlock are sort of irrelevant now. In Canada anyhow…

I can tether my phone to my computer for data, so long as the data plan supports it. As I opted to pay for an unlocked phone at full price, I can also run the phone on, at my last count, 3 networks and 5 carriers in Canada.

Other features don’t really interest me. A wifi hotspot? OK, while this is cool, I have yet to run into a situation where I desperately need this. Facetime, Skype and other wifi only apps over 3G? Don’t really need this right now, though I can see why some people might be driven to jailbreak by this ability. Using the phone for data storage? Frankly, I keep a USB stick on my keychain for these occasions and it’s a bit cheaper than an iPhone. Custom themes? I could care less. Stolen apps? I’m pretty sure this activity has been eliminated, but uhhhh.. not interested. Other functions like MMS and Copy and Paste have been brought into iOS, eliminating the need for unauthorized apps that added these capabilities

So, putting aside the philosophical argument that I should be able to do all these things with my device if I want to (and who is Apple to stand in my way?) why am I still waiting for an untethered Jailbreak for iOS 4.2.1 (one that doesn’t require a computer to be handy should I need to reboot the phone)?

One reason is just pure curiosity. I’m always amazed by what hackers can and will do to products in order to put them to uses that the products’ creators never intended or imagined. I’d also like to see companies at least more curious about this activity, if not outright embracing it. So I’m waiting just because I’d like to participate in some (very) small way in this experimentation. I was an avid user of XMBC on the original XBox. In fact, the XBox (built in 2005, but still sporting a 2001 design and hardware) still sits in my rack and gets a fair amount of use as our primary music player and standard definition video player.

It’s just amazing that a few very motivated and very talented guys could create something like that with little money while the living room devices it competed with even three years ago couldn’t touch it. Trust me. I had some of them. They sucked. While I have no idea what Microsoft’s initial responses to this type of hacking was, I doubt it was embraced. MS seems to be more enthusiastic about how hackers have put the Kinect to new uses.

Today, the XBMC project is still going strong, and the XBMC core sits at the root of apps like Boxee and Plex. Microsoft might have a better living room franchise today if they embraced and/or co-opted some of these efforts five years ago. And while I’m sure Apple’s already thought of this, recent hacks to the new AppleTV should prompt Apple to open up the device to app developers so they can extend it (an Apple TV app store). In fact, Plex already has an experimental app which allows the AppleTV to connect to your Plex media library.

The other reason is control. While I wouldn’t classify myself as a heavy duty power user, I have a higher than average knowledge of how computers and operating systems work. I would like options open to me that enable my device to perform better. The jailbreak apps I find that I can’t do without are SBSettings and Backgrounder. Both of these apps really focus on delivering computing control to the user. For me, that’s about having real control over which applications are running and using up memory, and killing them if I want to, improving performance and freeing up memory for other functions and apps.

SBSettings

SBSettings on the iPhone 4

SBSettings gives me the control to kill an app from anywhere. There’s also some great control it gives over things found deeper in the settings app, such as putting the phone into airplane mode, or turning off wifi or 3G with a tap or two. These are great features, but I’m sure Apple will get around to giving us great ways to do this eventually. For me the great thing to do in SBSettings is bring up the running processes and kill things I’m not using. It gives me a feeling of control absent in iOS. Granted, I’m sure most people don’t care about this, but I do.

Backgrounder originated to offer multitasking when the iPhone didn’t. Now, iOS holds apps in the background and you can go back to them, but Backgrounder gives you a finer degree of control over when and how this happens. Best of all, it gives you a hardware control to kill the app. I have a double click on the home button (which overrides the iOS multitasking bar within an app, which is OK with me) set as my hardware control over when to disable apps from running in the background. When I’m finished with an app, I double click the home button, kill the app and go back to my springboard screen to do what I want next. Again, most people don’t care, but I find it a great way to use the phone. It makes it seem like more of a computer to me and makes me feel like I’m in control.

So I’m just waiting, and listening to a bit of AC/DC on the iPhone :-).