Bustin’ Out Dead or Alive

JailbreakI recently was donated an “obsolete” iPhone 3GS, which had been behaving erratically occasionally, and its owner upgraded to a later model. I don’t “do” Apple, for a number of reasons, but took the phone to tinker with, and perhaps learn something.

I don’t buy Apple products, essentially because I don’t like the company’s attitude. I don’t like the way that everything is locked down and restricted; and I don’t like the way that consumers, software developers, and even mobile carriers are relentlessly exploited for cash. (Let’s all shed a tear for the poor mobile phone companies.)

I realize that most of the consumer victims of Apple are perfectly happy with their purchases. They believe the higher prices are because they’re buying “quality” and when they’re jumping through hoops to do things the Apple way, they don’t actually know that there is any other way.

Take iTunes, for example. There’s no fundamental need for you to have a special software application to buy stuff off the internet. A web browser is fine. But using the same software application to manage your phone for backups and updates and to buy media from an online store and to play stuff on your PC and to download apps is just MENTAL. No software developer would have come up that concept, except in this case where the objective was to lock your iPhone to one store and one account.

As you probably know, there is a process to break an iPhone free from Apple’s monopoly store, “jailbreaking”, which makes use of flaws in the system. Every time Apple plugs a hole, the hackers find another one, and so it goes.

RedSn0wIn my case, with a phone several years old, there was a well-established range of jailbreaking options and many a tutorial on the net. I chose a polished hacking utility called “redsn0w”, which subverts Apple’s firmware update to install jailbroken system software and an independent app store, Cydia (named after Cydia pomonella, a “worm” or larva often found in Apples). I’m a long-term user of Debian Linux, and was amused to see that Cydia uses a version of Debian APT to install packages.

From Cydia, I got a utility (“ultrasn0w”) to unlock the phone from its mobile carrier as well. Mobile companies lock phones to ensure that they get the contract and call revenue, but I’m sure that Orange got their money’s worth from that phone long ago.

Let me finish with another Apple story. I did once buy one of their products, a USB keyboard. I was fed up with the poor quality of PC keyboards, with their cheap, rub-off legends, and the Apple one was better-made, and looked stylish. So stylish, in fact, that you couldn’t actually type on it, since the keys had the feel and travel of those on a 1980s calculator. But here’s the Apple bit: it came with a USB extension cable (in case the built-in cable wasn’t long enough). But the two USB connectors to join the cables were made with a non-standard “key” and notch, to make sure that you couldn’t use the free extension cable with any other bit of USB equipment. Now that’s just plain nasty.

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2 thoughts on “Bustin’ Out Dead or Alive

  1. I’d be interested to hear how you get on with the jailbroken 3GS.

    Trying to avoid running to Apple’s defence here, but I’ve just recently been given a hand-me-down 4S (my partner got a 5S). Before this I was using Nokia or Samsung phones, with Android and pre-Android OS’s. The iPhone iOs 6 and 7 is a total dream in comparison to those other phones’ sluggish, constant crashing interfaces.

    I can actually run multiple apps and the apps run smoothly. Those two things make my experience immediately so much better. The phone is fast at accessing things like, your camera, your music, the internet etc. making it function the way you would expect a good piece of technology to.

    On the downside, yea, Apple’s prices are a bit crazy, especially for peripherals (like headphones, power leads, covers etc.) or upgrades (£100 difference between the iPhone 5s 16GB and 32GB models.)

    But I have to be controversial here for a second: I think iTunes makes sense. And currently I have a really nice situation, where I can click and drag music into my iTunes folder, then select “Add to iPhone” and the music gets sent wirelessly to my phone, instantly. That’s super handy, for when I want some new music and I can’t be arsed trying to find my microSD to SD converter / the specific USB to Samsung connector cable … And buying apps on my iPhone (I’ve purchased a load of very cheap creative music apps in the last couple of months … Total spend, less than £5!) has been quick and hassle free.

    The locked in thing: Compare the Apple App Store with the Android Store, where there are tonnes of junky, spammy apps smothered in ads to sift through before finding a reliable, cheap solution to whatever application you’re trying to pin down. There is a positive argument, at least from a customers point of view, of ‘quality control’ on the App market.

    Apple as a company have had a fair amount of dubious, exploitative practices in the past and I don’t know a lot about it, but in terms of the user experience, I’m so completely chuffed to have moved away from the stressful, buggy, crashy, shit-storm that was my last Samsung phone, to the world of iPhone, where things, actually, just work. … The battery life though… Sigh.

    • I doubt you’ll hear more about it. The iPhone will never be more than a toy to me; no iPhone can meet MY needs as a mobile device, with its non-standard software, non-standard charger, non-standard connector, no expansion. I had actually just upgraded my Android phone anyway to one that was basically similar to the one I’d used for a couple of years, but with a faster processor.
      Your experience with wifi sharing is just normal for me: everything is standard; everything is seamless. It makes no difference whether music, video etc. files are on my PC, server, phone, the internet – it all works just the same.

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