Your iPhone — The Time to Jailbreak is Now!
I’ve dabbled in jailbreaking my iPhone a couple times, with varying luck. When I had a 3G, despite trying several times, I only got it to boot jailbroken once. Usually it failed somewhere and got hung followed by a looong restore process. Since I need to use the phone this got old in a hurry.
The the Spirit hit me. And it was good!
My current iPhone is my second 3GS, the first having failed to survive a fall whilst the earbuds were in my ear. This hurt my ears, yes, but also bent the socket badly. The Genius Bar folks gave me a new (refurb, I am sure, but hey) phone, for which I am very grateful.
Prior experiences with the jailbreak tools were a little off-putting as they are pretty power-user oriented. While I am a power user, I do need my phone to work. It seemed a low percentage place to dabble. Further, once the 3.x firmware was out, there was no untethered jailbreak for the 3GS. What’s the difference between a tethered and untethered jailbreak?
An untethered jailbreak is useful. A tethered jailbreak is not.
Not really, but for me it is true. An untethered jailbreak is one which can boot the device without being plugged into iTunes. Like your stock Apple firmware. A tethered jailbreak needs to boot while connected to iTunes. My hatred of iTunes means that I almost never sync my phone; I buy my apps via the phone, keep my important data in the cloud (Google Mail/Calendar/Contacts, Evernote, etc.) and stream my media (Rhapsody, Slacker, Pandora). I only ever sync with iTunes when there is new firmware for the phone.
So for me, jailbreaking had been a no-go, because I wasn’t willing to tether just to reboot the phone.
Let the Spirit Move You! Amen!
Recently, various sites starting reporting there was a new, simple jailbreak tool called Spirit. Apparently it used a previously unused method to jailbreak your phone, worked on all hardware and all firmware, even the iPad. And it was simple — just a click a button and it either succeeded or failed. Sounded good to me.
A week ago one night I had time (while tests were running and my family had gone to bed) so I fired up iTunes, backed up the iPhone, downloaded the 3.1.3 firmware (I was running 3.1.2), upgraded the firmware, backed up again. Once all that was done, I downloaded Spirit. Left my iPhone connected in iTunes, and ran it.
Damn. An error regarding libeay32.dll (This is on a Windows XP machine). Googling was inconclusive, but one guy in a forum somewhere suggested installing “OpenSSL Lite”. This made a modicum of sense as libeay32.dll googled as part of the ssl package. I installed OpenSSL Lite (installing the Visual C++ 2008 Redistributable first, putting the libraries in Windows\System32) and tried Spirit again.
Didn’t take thirty seconds for Spirit to say my phone was jailbroken. Took longer than that to reboot, but reboot it did. I flicked past my full first page, and there in the last slot of the second page, was Cydia. Cydia is the primary installer for jailbroken apps; it seems to be based around Debian’s dpkg package management code. This is wonderful as dpkg is tremendous for package management. If you use any Debian-based linux distribution (Ubuntu?), you’ve used dpkg.
Oh, happy day! First stop was Backgrounder, second was PDANet. I used PDANet with great success in the past on my Moto Q, so I was expecting it to work. Which it did. I grabbed MyWi as well, for comparison testing. The key for a WiFi/3G router app is if you can run it sustainably while it is plugged into the wall. I’m not going to be a big tethered user, but I do have a week’s vacation this summer with no internet. My wife has a 3G card courtesy of her job. Me, I’ve got my iPhone. The iPhone ought to be able to provide enough to get by.
What blew me away was how well Backgrounder works on my 3GS. Slacker, Pandora, MLB At Bat, Rhapsody — just work. The interface is clean, and on a 3GS there is plenty of memory for the background apps. Yes, the battery drains, but not moreso than if you left the app run in the foreground. Plus, the iPhone battery sucks anyway.
The other lovely thing is just the sheer joy of seeing Debian package installation proceed in the little Cydia install dialog. Warmed my heart.
So Backgrounder and PDANet suddenly make my phone vastly more useful. What do they have in common?
Crippled by Choice
Both are apps that could have been working on the iPhone years ago. Disallowing them cripples my phone by choice, a choice that wasn’t mine.
Backgrounder is disallowed by Apple, because multi-tasking applications is too hard for users to grasp. Only now, with the upcoming release of 4.0 will we get backgrounding of apps, and that only for apps that are written to take advantage of it (at least that is my understanding; I hope to be wrong).
PDANet and its tethering brethren are disallowed chiefly by AT&T, probably because of the strain it would put on AT&T’s creaky network. Sad, but probably true.
In either case, it is entirely someone else’s elective choice that kept me from using my phone as I wanted to. Sure it is Apple and AT&T’s right to restrict the phone as they see fit, just don’t expect me to like it.
One Week Later
I waited a week to post this, and I have a couple of further observations. I augmented Backgrounder with Proswitcher, which gives nifty visual task switching (in the vein of WebOS). It works really well. The only flaw I have found is that if a backgrounded application is playing audio and a call comes in, it doesn’t quite recover well. Minor issue — if you took a call you already interrupted playback anyway.
SBSettings is a neat app that solves another small niggle. From anywhere, you can access a menu of settings by swiping the status bar at the top of the screen — the toggles allow you to control WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. It is really handy to toggle WiFi on and off without churning through three layers of menus.
Easy conclusion? Don’t wait — grab Spirit and jailbreak your phone. There’s a whole host of interesting and useful apps in Cydia, but backgrounding and tethering will extend the useful of your iPhone a lot. So if you are a 3GS owner, and to a lesser extent a 3G owner, don’t wait: the time to jailbreak is now.