Thursday, May 19, 2011

JAIL101: A guide to the Jailbreaking Virgin

In my previous post I talked about why I jailbreak my iPhone and some of the teaks that I have installed and liked. From the feedback I noticed that some people don't know much about jailbreaking, or have some misconceptions. Also noticed jailbreaking isn't for everyone, it just doesn't work with some people. This will give you a short basic introduction to jailbreaking and how to do it, as well as my insights to what is good and bad about it and who jailbreaking might suit. Let me know if anything I say is wrong, or if something is missing. Ask for help if you need it, and subscribe to this blog or follow me on twitter if you would like to get iPhone news, app recommendations and reviews, or informative posts such as this one. I might also write some posts about programming soon, so subscribe or follow if that interests you.

Simply put Jailbreaking is running a process which modifies the operating system of your iDevice enabling giving it full access to the operating system and enabling it to bypass limitations set by Apple. By jailbreaking you are able to change stuff in your iDevice system that for one reason or another Apple hasn't authorized. They way in which you will be able to change stuff after you jailbreak is that you will have a new app called Cydia, which you will use to download packages, or unauthorized-by-Apple apps that do certain things to your system. Saying things like unauthorized-by-Apple, or accessing operating system or doing things to your system might scare you off. But it is not doing bad things. Just because Apple hasn't authorized it doesn't make it bad! For example the sorts of things you can do by using Cydia packages is have different ways of notifications than Apple's default ones, or put shortcuts on your device. Here is a list of the Cydia packages that I have and like, along with a description or review, this should give you an idea of the kind of "things you will be able to do to your system".

Tethered Vs. Untethered
Before I get on to the How-To I will just explain that there are two types of jailbreaks. Tethered and Untethered. To put it really simply a Tethered jailbreak is one which you will have to connect your iDevice to your computer everytime you want to boot it up (or turn it on if it was off). So if you run out of charge you have to go to your computer.. I personally do not recommend doing a Tethered jailbreak!
Untethered jailbreak on the other hand is a process that you do once only with your computer, and then it is always there. The reason there are tethered jailbreaks is that it takes time for the jailbreaking community to get around Apple's limitations when Apple increases its security when they update the firmware/software, and the first attempts at jailbreaking usually end up to be tethered. Its just how it is. At the moment however, I believe that all jailbreaks are untethered and are available to the latest Apple firmware 4.3.3.

To jailbreak you need to plug in your iDevice to your computer and then run a jailbreak software from your computer. After that you follow basic instructions that the software gives you, involving mainly turning your device off or on and pushing or holding buttons. However to get your jailbreaking software you need to know a few things.
  • Firstly which iDevice you have, iPhone 4? iPhone3G? iPod? iPad? Which ever one you have, you will be able to jailbreak, but the software will be slightly different.
  • Which firmware your device has. This is the version of operating system and can be found out by navigating to Settings > General > About > Version on your iDevice. It would say something like "4.2.1 (8C148)". Your firmware version is the number (4.2.1 - whatever it says on your iDevice)
  • Whether you have a Windows, Mac, or Linux operating system on your computer. Some jailbreaks work only on Macs so keep that in mind.
After you have that information go to this wikipedia page, it usually has very up to date information and you will be able to find out what jailbreak software to use, with a link to its webpage. Have a read on the page as well, it will give you some good information. Checkout the history section which has up-to-date information about the latest jailbreaks.

When you have your software you will usually have to go through the following process: connect your device to the computer using the cable, turning iTunes off and turning the phone off. Running the jailbreak software, pushing buttons according to instructions, waiting a bit for the process to run, and that's it you are done. What happens then is you get a new app on your iDevice called "Loader" which you open to install Cydia. When Cydia installs that's it, you can download tweaks and utilities to your liking, and use your iDevice to its full capacity and potential!

There are a few misconceptions that I have heard people talking about, just to clear those up, here's a short list: (ASK ME IF YOU ARE IN DOUBT ABOUT SOMETHING)
  1. ALL JAILBREAKING SOFTWARE IS FREE! Don't get conned into paying money to jailbreak, if someone asks you for money for the software. The software are available to download from the internet for free. Some people/retailers will charge you money to actually do the process (mentioned above) which is fine if you don't want to do it yourself, but the process is so easy as described above that I personally think it will be a waste of your money to pay someone to do it for you!
  2. Jailbreaking does NOT disallow you to use the appstore, and it does NOT change anything to do with your already existing free or paid appstore apps. The appstore is still there and you get another alternative to the appstore which is Cydia.
  3. Jailbreaking is NOT about pirating software. Although it is common for jailbreakers to pirate software, that is not the purpose. They do it because it is possible with jailbreaking to get free/pirated software from the appstore. However I recommend you purchase your appstore apps to support their developers, and wont explain how you get the cracked/pirated apps here!
  4. Jailbreaking is NOT about getting free software. A lot of the Cydia packages and apps are free, and some are paid. You pay through Cydia instead of through the appstore for the Cydia apps, and for the appstore apps you pay through the appstore as you normally would! Like mentioned above you COULD get free/cracked/pirated apps that are paid on the appstore but that is NOT the point of jailbreaking. The point is to get more control over how your device acts and looks (my opinion)!
  5. Jailbreaking itself does NOT slow down your iPhone. Having said that, it is actually installing some specific packages from Cydia that can slow your device a bit. But you can control what you install, and you can uninstall a software anytime if you think it is slowing down your device. Also you can get software which allows you to optimize stuff and actually make your device faster.
  6. Jailbreaking does NOT kill your device's battery. Again, like the previous point some Cydia apps could do that as they might run in the background even when you are not using your device. However this is not much different than the drainage of your battery when you are playing games from the appstore or keeping apps running in the multitask. You are able to save battery drainage with some techniques, and I might make a post on that sometime later. However the battery drain isn't that bad. My jailbroken iPhone lasts a bit less than 2 days 48 hours, with regular use and quite a few applications running in the background continuously. Compare that to your non jailbroken device and you could get the same. All depends on how you use it!
  7. Jailbreaking is NOT illegal. Apple doesn't like you jailbreaking but it isn't illegal.
  8. If you have other doubts which I haven't mentioned and you want cleared up, don't hesitate to ask!

Pros and Cons
Now that we've ruled out some of the misconceptions there are still a few disadvantages to jailbreaking, and advantages of course. I'll list what I can think of, or heard people complain about here:

  • Apple warranty is void while the iDevice is jailbroken. However if you need to take your device to Apple you can just restore using iTunes.
  • Updating to the latest Apple firmware isn't always good for you. Updating firmware will remove your jailbreak, along with any other Cydia apps you have added. So make sure you back up and check that there is a jailbreak available for that software before you update via iTunes!
  • Actually updating becomes a hassle because you need to separately backup your Cydia apps before updating and then re-jailbreak after you update and restore your Cydia backup separately.
  • Because jailbreaking gives you so much control over your iDevice, you can actually screw it up if you download stuff you are not sure about. You can make your phone crash, make it slower, or drain its battery faster if you are reckless with your Cydia apps downloads. Always read descriptions properly and check out reviews before downloading a Cydia app. I have one set of Cydia apps review here.
  • Jailbreaking gives you the temptation to download free stuff and pirated apps, and that isn't good for developers or the community (or Apple). When the developers don't get money for apps you are pirating they aren't motivated to make new ones, and the iDevices are all about the endless availability of apps. So think twice!

  • You have more control of your iDevice. It is yours so you get to control it like you are supposed to. Customizing themes, and icons and fonts and all that makes your iDevice more personal.
  • You have more features and tweaks that make your iDevice easier to use. This includes shortcuts, which if used correctly can save you battery life, and access your information faster.
  • You have at your hands the opportunity to have a larger number of options in terms of apps and tweaks than if you were not jailbroken. The endlessness of apps is multiplied!
  • You can improve upon features that already exist in your iDevice but ones that Apple haven't done correctly. Examples include adding plugins to your default apps, such as messaging or the camera app (timer functionality!). Also features such as notifications and folders and others can be improved.
  • Check my other post out for more of the kind of stuff you could do with jailbreaking!
For me, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, that might not be the case for everyone!

Is jailbreaking suitable for you?
Jailbreaking is not for everyone! I used to think people who didn't jailbreak were idiots for not using their devices to the full capability, but talking to some people and comments from the readers I understand that it just isn't suitable for everyone. Here are a few points to consider to figure out whether you want to jailbreak or not:
  • If you are using ur stock / unjailbroken iDevice, and get annoyed with a feature limitation or popup or anything, you might want to jailbreak.
  • If you are just using your iDevice as it is, and don't want to bother with customizing it, and managing your device by yourself, you probably don't want to jailbreak.
  • If you don't use your iDevice much, or if you use it mainly for communication, you don't need to jailbreak.
  • If you want your iDevice to be used as a powerful device, nearly a computer, JAILBREAK.
  • If you are not that into technology, and don't want to get too deep into figuring out what tweaks work for you and what is safe and what drains batter and so on, don't jailbreak.
  • Adventurous and want to try new things out? Jailbreak!
  • Want to show off to your friends and do things with you device that they can't cuz they're not jailbroken? Jailbreak!
Thats all I can think of. Personally I think everyone should jailbreak and try it out. If it doesn't work for you, just chuck it away.

Thanks for reading!

Hope this post was useful and informative to some people at least. If I did say anything that wasn't correct, please feel free to correct me. Any requests? Don't hesitate to ask!

If you are interested in iPhones or iDevices and their apps or tweaks, jailbreaking, programming, or any of the stuff I talked about today, please subscribe to this blog or follow me on twitter.

Have a good day or night, wherever you are, whoever you are.
Its been a pleasure.

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