Jail Breaking an iPhone Just Got Easier

My aging first generation iPod Touch is well out of warranty. So far out that I apparently no longer qualify for updates from Apple and have even had a couple of apps removed that increased their minimum OS version higher than a version I can currently install. At this point, I have entirely nothing to lose by jail breaking my iPod Touch.

Imagine my delight on seeing the news flash through the infosphere that the latest evolution of jail breaking for iPhones, iPods and iPads is a new web site you can visit and hack your device without having to download to or run anything from your desktop system.

Adrianne Jeffries at RWW is one of many with the scoop including full credit to those responsible.

The jailbreak is credited to hacker comex and the website is credited to westbaer and chpwn. Hacker Clayton Braasch posted an FAQ here. An alternative link to the jailbreak is available at http://jailbreakme.modmyi.com/.

Jeffries mentions the DMCA section 1201 exception that I discussed in the last podcast, the one making it legal to jail break your smart phone. I doubt that bit of legal esoterica entered into the minds of the hackers since that limit on the DMCA’s criminalization of breaking DRM doesn’t go so far as to legalize distributing the tools to set your phone free. I am curious, though, if anyone has done a legal analysis as to whether simply visiting a web site and sliding your finger qualifies as distribution, enough so to make a suit against the hackers feasible.

feeds | grep links > Android Bloatware, WordPress Firm that GPL Does Cover Themes and Plugins, and More

First Right to Repair Bill Advanced by Massachusetts

Mike Masnick at Techdirt shares what may potentially be good news for consumer rights and DIY’ers. Despite repeated failures at the federal level to introduce a law that allows owners to work on their car despite software and firmware locks, it looks like the states may finally secure this right. Massachusetts hopefully will only be the first to enact such a law, if they are indeed successful.

Auto makers are not the only companies trying to use technological measures like this to control their market. DRM would be an even more obvious example. However, given that is is arguably much easier to persuade law makers and judges that a car is a good owned by the buyer, a right to repair law is ow hanging fruit in terms of pushing back on this rent seeking behavior. I am most interested for how a potential win here may translate to other classes of goods, maybe not digital media and DRM but I could see it forming a beach head into helping to transform consumer rights with cell phones.

feeds | grep links > eFuse Won’t Brick Droid X’s, Electrodeposition of Circuit Traces, Study on Copyright Bypassing Contracts, and More

  • Motorola clarifies that eFuse won’t brick a phone
    As Slashdot points out, it goes into a recovery mode from which the original firmware can be installed and the phone completely recovered. I wonder if that also confirms that the Droid X could be hacked as have other eFuse equipped phones, even if doing so is more of a hassle than it should be. At least this reduces the risk of trying considerably, even if it is far from ideal.
  • Electrodeposition for circuit tracing
    Slashdot links to this IBTimes article that requires a little bit of parsing. What the researchers are working on are not the features on a CPU die, the first clue being they mention scales at 100nm which is much larger than what is found on a die. They are talking about the traces that connect processor elements and components on a circuit board. This won’t do much for power and heat issues on CPUs but across an entire electronic device, could have considerable potential.
  • Academics must review contracts’ effects on user rights
    I don’t know what this will do in practice, but what The Register describes seems like a good idea. One of the worst abuses of IP law has been the privatization of law through the anti-circumvention measures in the DMCA and the DEA and the increasing push of EULAs. What is being advanced here sounds like a comprehensive, empirical study of the potential harms caused by this particular situation. It’s unlikely to recommend wholly reversing things but just suggesting restoring the limits on copyright that have been diminished would be worthwhile.
  • VLC tackling Bluray playback
    Some good news reported by the H up until the end, that the VLC folks won’t have a valid license for the DRM systems used on commercial Bluray discs, AACS and BD+. So in and of itself, VLC will be able to play back the Bluray formats themselves but won’t be able to do so for the vast majority of commercial discs.
  • Wine 1.2 released
  • UK-wide tween hackathon with open government data
  • When the pay-what-you-want model benefits companies, charities and individuals

Worries over Droid X Anti-Modding Measures May Be Overstated

The original story I posted yesterday did indicate that the eFuse chip used in the Droid X may be used in other Motorola handsets. That claim is looking increasingly credible. I saw a tweet well after writing up the story that may tempers concerns over the ability of new Droid X owners to express their ownership.

This breaking news may not be as dire as many are claiming, as a google search of OMAP3 and e-fuse reveals that current OMAP handsets already have e-fuse in place as part of the M-Shield hardware security technology built into TI’s OMAP system on a chip. It is on the very hackable DROID and the not-so-hacking-friendly Milestone, but it is not being used by Motorola to lock the bootloader of the handset. The current theory being put forth by the non-alarmists in the Android hacking community suggests that the DROID X is locked in a similar manner to the Milestone. Though it may be difficult to crack, and may lead to many hairs being pulled out, mucking with the bootloader probably won’t brick your phone. As the DROID X lands into the hands of the Android hacking community in the upcoming days, we should know a lot more about the state of rooting and flashing on Verizon’s flagship Android handset. Be calm. Stay tuned. It’s just a phone.

This doesn’t change speculation about Motorola’s stance towards modders. Bradley Kuhn, of the Software Freedom Law Center, has a telling post on his blog.

We [Motorola] understand there is a community of developers interested in … Android system development … For these developers, we highly recommend obtaining either a Google ADP1 developer phone or a Nexus One … At this time, Motorola Android-based handsets are intended for use by consumers.

As Bradley notes, at least they admit their policy up front. However, I reject the content on its face that a end user focused device must preclude hackability by modders or simply owners with a bent for tinkering. There is undoubtedly a different motivation at work, having to do with support costs and hassles. I’ll reserve any credit for Motorola until they cop to the real reasons they use anti-modding measures: not user convenience but their bottom line.

Motorola’s Droid X Self Destructs if Modded

Just because the Android platform is open source and thrives because of the ability for anyone, end users or third part phone makers, to modify it doesn’t mean that everyone is necessarily on the same page. MobileCrunch has news of an electronic “fuse” in Motorola’s otherwise well received new handset, the Droid X. Several other sources have picked up the story since it first hit my feeds.

The MobileCrunch post has an update explaining that other Motorola phones have a similar “feature” to prevent tampering with the boot loader. If that is true, I think generalizations about Motorola being against open systems is at least partially true. Clearly they enjoy the benefits that Android’s openness brings, what they are against is owner override. This is more of an issue of whether we own the devices we buy or merely license/rent them. I’d be willing to bet that the fact that Droid X runs an opens tack didn’t even enter into the phone makers thought process behind including an “eFuse”.

feeds | grep links > Data That Fades, More on the Shift to Parallel Computing, and More

feeds | grep links > Data Retention Snuck into Child Protection Declaration, Where Are the Promising E-Book Readers, Another Case Against Apple’s Tools Restrictions, Macedonia Enables Massive Online Surveillance, and More

  • Search data retention clause snuck into EU child protection declaration
    EFF has the details, including that a majority of members of the EP didn’t spot the close and signed the declaration. Several have since withdrawn their signatures. Once again, no one is suggesting that protecting children online is a goal not worth pursuing. As the post says, it is not worth utilizing measures to do so that compromise other human rights.
  • Where are the promising e-book readers, post-Kindle, post-iPad?
    Jon Stokes at Ars Technica takes a look at two of the more promising e-book readers announced but not yet on the market. Both appear to have succumbed to delays and possibly an inability to deliver on ambitious technology promises. Both may be in financial trouble, with rumors of sale being sought for the companies behind them. Stokes sees the iPad as contributory but not entirely causative for the once promising future of these devices having evaporated. I’d be more upset if I, like Stokes, wasn’t still being print editions and enjoying them more than any kind of screen.
  • Apple’s iOS tools should compete on their strength, not arbitrary rules
    Dana Blankenhorn at ZDNet’s Open Source blog has a decent rant that sums up many of the issues with Apple’s restrictions on tools and languages for its mobile platforms. He talks up Appcelerator, a company and tool caught in the middle that translates from other languages to Objective-C, seemingly getting around Apple’s restrictions. It is unclear whether this tactic will work but the adoption by developers points to a clear opportunity if Apple would just relax about its proprietary tool chain.
  • Macedonia introduces law allowing deep, persistent online surveillance
    Cory shares the horrifying tale at Boing Boing, what reads like any cyberlibertarian’s worst nightmare. Just about everything a law enforcement agency could want for wire-tapping online appears to be included. I don’t know what the history of policy is in Macedonia but it seems clear that the government ignored advice from several NGOs that gathered to discuss the human rights implications of the draft being passed without amendment.
  • Did SC use 2nd hand voting machines de-certified in another state?
  • Why banning filming of police is a terrible idea
  • New technical paper on ways to shift TV spectrum to wireless broadband

Apple’s Minor Concession on Interpreted Languages, Libraries on the iPhone

Via Hacker News, this AppleInsider post calls attention to a small addition to the controversial section 3.2.2 of the Apple Developer Agreement. The difference in kind remains between first class languages in Apple’s preferred tool chain and everything also, the concession is more a matter of degree.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, with Apple’s prior written consent, an Application may use embedded interpreted code in a limited way if such use is solely for providing minor features or functionality that are consistent with the intended and advertised purpose of the Application.

So platforms are clearly out, like Flash and I would presume Scratch, but using interpreted languages if they are embedded only to support some application feature is allowable. Tidy little loophole that will undoubtedly please Apple apologists but still entirely precludes 3rd party tool chains whether they are competitors or not.

feeds | grep links > ZFS Linux Port Stalls, FroYo on iPhone 3G, Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group, and More

  • Adoption of Linux ZFS port hampered by license issues
    There has been a lot of interest in ZFS, including rumors of Apple offering it as a choice for OS X. The feature list is impressive, including a staggering 128-bit address space, snapshotting to provide native support for rolling back the state of the disk, and some novel concepts around managing disks and volumes. Unfortunately Sun’s license choice, as Ryan Paul at Ars Technica explains, prevents the merging upstream of the recent Linux port or distribution of the file system in binary form. My understanding is that license compatible alternatives already available for Linux are catching up, if not already comparable.
  • Android 2.2, FroYou, hacked to run on iPhone 3G
    Wired has details of another early stage port, again targeting an older model iPhone. I am pleased the hacking community undertaking these ports is bringing the latest Android features but wonder when they’ll get around to a port, stable or like this one unstable, for 1G iPod Touches.
  • Chrome Frame beta brings welcome improvements
  • Broadband technical advisory group set to launch
  • More on broadband advisory group
    The emphasis of this group’s efforts will be on trying to define what constitutes reasonable network management, Nate Anderson at Ars Technica explains. The problem with that, as he points out, is users are left out of the cold. At least one public interest group, the Open Internet Coalition, is already speaking up though more over concerns that the proposed BITAG could sap the FCC’s “third way” plan. This certainly echoes earlier concerns about the first suggestions of a loophole for reasonable network management.
  • What’s new in PostgreSQL 9.0
    Via Slashdot
  • Eye sight control for smart phones