I Jailbroke my iPod Touch yesterday and wanted to pass along some observations of the rationale, process, and results. I’ve had my iPod Touch for a couple of months now. I waited quite some time for a 64GB version to come out since that was the capacity I needed. Otherwise I would have bought one of the early models long ago. While waiting for a 64GB model, I kept up to date on both the technology and the culture surrounding it. Jailbreaking is something I have watched mature into a simple 5 second process following a simple download.

For those not familiar with the term Jailbreak, it is a process that opens up the iPod Touch or iPhone and allows the user to install software from sources other than Apple’s iTunes Store. While there really is “an App for that” for just about anything you can think of there are certain things that Apple does not want you to do with YOUR iPod. My interests in Jailbreaking are an equal mix of curiosity, entitlement, and necessity. I wanted to experience the process of Jaibreaking and explore the innards of the iPod Touch OS. I wanted to do this because I could even though Apple probably did not want me to do so. I also needed to fix at least one problem I encountered with an App I bought (GeoDefense Swarm – a great game BTW).

Custom Background and Digital Battery Charge (Click for full size image)

Custom Background and Digital Battery Charge (Click for full size image)

A quick Google search reveals that the latest version of the OS (3.1.2) can be Jailbroken. A program called BlackRain, available for both OS X and Windows, is easily found, downloaded, and run. The actual Jailbreak takes about 5 seconds. After downloading the program, you plug in your iPod Touch or iPhone, upgrade to v3.1.2 of the OS if you have not already done so, shutdown iTunes, and run BlackRain. During the process, iTunes will probably try to convince you to restore the OS on your iPhone. If/when presented with what appears to be a requirement to Restore your Touch/iPhone – Do Not! Rerun BlackRain instead. Afterward, the device usually reboots on its own. If the device does not reboot, you will have to reboot it manually. Once you get to the point that the Touch reconnects to iTunes without iTunes requesting a restore, you are pretty much home free.

Custom Unlock Screen

Custom Unlock Screen

If all goes well after the device the reboots, you will have a new App on the SpringBoard called BlackRain. You need to run the BlackRain App once to select and install an App Loader, I chose Cydia. With Cydia you can search for, download, and install all sorts of Apps. I wanted to customize the look of my Touch, so I installed WinterBoard. With WinterBoard I was able to set a background for the SpringBoard, make the Status and Task bars transparent, and change some fonts. You can also download a Theme from a large set of user developed themes, or create your own. I like Pandora, but want to do other things while listening to a stream of music, so I installed Backgrounder. Backgrounder allows the user to switch a running program to run in background. It is essentially an App that lets you run multiple Apps simultaneously. Apple only allows a few of their Apps to run in background, mail, safari, and a few others. Memory is limited on these devices, so this is probably not a bad idea. Only one App can be in the foreground, so you certainly need a way to switch between running Apps. mQuickDo does that and more. It is also an useful App that speeds up access to your most frequently used programs. Using gestures, mQuickDo allows you to manage the running Apps as well as provide a way to access apps more easily. It even allows the user to put a short list of 5 Apps on the unlock screen so you can unlock the screen and go directly to one of your most frequently used Apps with a single tap.

GeoDefense Swarm Screenshot

GeoDefense Swarm Screenshot

I wanted to snoop around the device, so I installed Open SSH, changed the default password for root, and can now mount the iPod Touch filesystem on my Mac with MacFuse/MacFusion. I was most interested in trying to fix a “problem” with one of my Apps – GeoDefense Swarm (GDS). This is a great Tower Defense game. The only problem is that the author has decided to irreversibly link the game to Open Feint (OF). OF is a site that keeps track of your high scores for the various levels, shares that information with your friends, and a few other things. I had no idea what OF was when I first bought GDS and so I activated it. Since I really do not have any friends who play a lot of games and would be interested in this sort of social interaction, I have no use for OF. The problem is that once activated there is no way to turn it off. During the game it will try to connect to OF after completing each level or when you switch between Easy, Medium, & Hard. It breaks the flow of the game for me. The real problem for most folks is that if they are using an iPhone, GDS connecting to OF will cost them something each time. This is especially bad if you are out of the country where the cost of cell phone networking often is extremely expensive. Basically, the author needs to put an ON/OFF switch for OF in the game, but has yet to do so (and may never do so). In my attempts to fix the problem I deleted the App from the Touch and iTunes, bought it again (Apple is good about keeping track of what you have already purchased, so this did not actually cost me anything the second time), and reinstalled it. OF was still turned on and had all of my account info. I suspected that there was some cruft left over in the file system that deleting the App did not clean up. It turns out I was correct. Mounting the file system on my Mac and browsing around was enlightening. I found the GDS directory and a GDS-specific .plist file. I browsed that file with the Property List Editor and saw that most of the contents dealt with OF. I also saw that all of my level achievements and high scores were stored in separate files. So I deleted the .plist file and restarted the GDS game. The first screen I was presented with asked if I wanted to use Open Feint – just like when I originally purchased the game! They really try to cram this OF stuff down your throat and there is a little button at the bottom of the screen that allows you to decline the use of OF. Everything else in the game was just the way I left it. Problem Solved.

For me Jailbreaking gives me more control over those things (devices and apps) that I have purchased. Things I believe I have a right to control in more ways than the OS allows by default. Artificial limitations on my access to and use of something I own is intolerable to me. Those walls simply must be brought down. Jailbreaking my iPod Touch does just that.