Jailbreaking 101: An Introduction From A Blind Perspective

Foreword

This guide is the first in a series of guides I plan to write. I would love to jump right in and explain more advanced topics, but one cannot understand advanced material without first knowing the basics. This guide gives an overview of the jailbreaking process and terminology from a blind perspective. It may appear to be for beginners only. However, I invite you to examine the questions being discussed before you decide you are too advanced in your iDevice knowledge to read it.

Some of you may be asking, why write a jailbreak overview at all. There is so much information out there on jailbreaking already. That's just it. There is too much information out there, and it is always changing. It takes a lot of time and research to figure out what is current, what is outdated, and what is simply misinformation. Beyond that, none of these guys are written from a blind perspective. Because many blind people have not been adventurous enough to delve really far into jailbreaking. And those who have experimented with it do not have the patience, the time, or the will to write guides about it. Everything you read in this guide will be information that will (most likely) not change. You will not know everything about jailbreaking when you're done. But my hope is that you will have enough of a foundation to feel comfortable doing more research on this topic. And you should be able to differentiate the reliable information from the misinformation.

Questions To Be Discussed

  1. So what is jailbreaking, exactly?
  2. Root access? Huh? What's that?
  3. If I don't have root access to my iDevice, then who does?
  4. My device works great. So why should I care about parts of it being unavailable to me?
  5. Is jailbreaking legal in the US?
  6. Is jailbreaking reversible?
  7. If jailbreaking is so cool, why don't more people do it?
  8. What do I gain by jailbreaking my iDevice?
  9. But I'm not a geek. Are there any benefits to jailbreaking for me?
  10. How do I jailbreak my iDevice?
  11. Why are there so many different jailbreak methods?
  12. Where can I find out the latest, most reliable jailbreak information?
  13. What is the difference between a tethered and an untethered jailbreak?
  14. If I upgrade to a newer firmware version, will my iDevice still be jailbroken?
  15. What is stock firmware?
  16. What is this custom firmware stuff I keep reading about?
  17. What is hactivation? I hear this term a lot but have no clue what it means.
  18. How do I create custom firmware for my iDevice?
  19. Are jailbreaks for new firmware versions of iOS released on the same day that unjailbroken firmware versions are released?
  20. How do I unlock my jailbroken phone?
  21. Can I buy a phone that is already jailbroken?
  22. What is the difference between jailbreaking and unlocking? They sound the same to me.
  23. Are there any jailbreaks that unlockers should stay away from?
  24. Can I unlock my iPhone without jailbreaking it?
  25. Is there any way to get an iPhone that is unlocked but not jailbroken?
  26. How do I buy an unlocked phone from someone in the US?
  27. What is Cydia?
  28. I heard that Cydia is inaccessible. Is this true?
  29. Is there an accessible way to access Cydia?
  30. Do developers of jailbreak apps actually have the ability to make their apps accessible?
  31. How easy is it to communicate with jailbreak developers regarding inaccessible apps?
  32. I hear you cannot download paid apps via Icy, Cyder 2, or SSH. Is this true?
  33. Can anyone get an app approved by Cydia?

Q. So what is jailbreaking, exactly?

A. You're probably aware that jailbreaking gives you the ability to run apps not approved by Apple. Many hear this and think, the only reason I'd want to do that would be to unlock my phone. But this definition does not completely or accurately describe all a jailbreak does. The term jailbreak refers to a hack that allows iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Apple TV users to gain root access to their devices.

Q. Root access? Huh? What's that?

A. Root access gives you read and write access to every single directory on your iDevice. Essentially, this means you have full reign over your iDevice. Anything you wish to change can be changed. With this access, you also have the ability to control what users can or cannot see and do. A user with root access can completely restrict any user from performing a specific task, loading a desired program, or from seeing or modifying files and folders.

q. If I don't have root access to my iDevice, then who does?

A. In an unjailbroken state, Apple has root access to your phone. You, on the other hand, do not. This means that Apple chooses what you can do or not do.

Q. My device works great. So why should I care that parts of it are unavailable to me?

A. I can understand why you'd be happy with your iDevice in its current state. Apple did a good job designing their devices. They work well right out of the box, and there is so much you can do with them. But what if I told you that you are only seeing a fraction of what your iDevice is capable of? Also, you might "care" if you knew that Linux and Unix do not restrict these accounts. Someone installs Unix or Linux, and that person has control of who has root access. This person may not always perform their daily tasks as root, but they have the ability to use root privileges if they choose to. Apple does not give you a choice. So if you feel like changing something about the way your phone works and Apple doesn't want you to change it, you won't be able to change it unless your phone is jailbroken.

Q. Is jailbreaking legal in the US?

A. Yes, it is, thanks to a DMCA exemption which specifically allows it.

Q. Is jailbreaking reversible?

a. I know I'm about to lose some people here, so if there's something you don't understand, just be aware that I will be explaining this more thoroughly in future guides. Or you can feel free to do your own research to figure out what doesn't make sense to you.

If you have not unlocked, then yes. Simply hit the restore button in Itunes to restore your phone to its factory defaults. Unlockers are a bit of a different story. You'll be able to restore to 4.1 and below, assuming you have saved your shsh blobs. 4.2.1 has a baseband check. If your baseband matches your iOS version, you will be able to restore just fine. However, if you do not have the baseband you are supposed to have for your iOS version, Itunes will put your iPhone into recovery mode. Tiny Umbrella can kick any i-device out of recovery mode that is running 4.1 and below, but 4.2.1 does not allow for this. So if you're an unlocker, you're better off staying on 4.1 for now.

Q. If jailbreaking is so cool, why don't more people do it?

A. Jailbreaking voids your warrantee. This means that if Apple finds out you jailbroke your phone, you will have to pay money to have it fixed. Of course, there are ways to keep them from finding out your phone was jailbroken. But if you can't hide the fact that your phone was jailbroken, then you're stuck paying money to have it fixed.

Q. What do I gain by jailbreaking my iDevice?

A. Unjailbroken, your iDevice is just a iDevice. It's a very cool iDevice, almost netbook-like in capability. But when you jailbreak your iDevice, you have the power of unix at your fingertips. Many of you may not be familiar with Unix, but what about Linux? Linux is based off of Unix, and even people who know very little about tech know that Linux is an extremely powerful operating system. With Unix, which has very Linux-like qualities, in your pocket, there is almost no limit to what your iDevice can do.

Q. But I'm not a geek. Are there any benefits to jailbreaking for me?

A. Yes. Benefits of jailbreaking your device include being able to install any app you desire, unlocking, tethering, and accessing your entire device via your PC or mac either via command line or third-party file managers. Partially and fully sighted users may also be interested in the endless variety of themes available for jailbroken devices. These allow you to change your device's layout, icons, sounds, wallpaper, dock, status bar, chat bubbles, keyboard, and much more.

Q. How do I jailbreak my iDevice?

A. The answer will all depend on a few factors: the OS you want to jailbreak, the model of iDevice you have, and whether you wish to unlock or not. I will cover the actual jailbreak process in a future guide.

Q. Why are there so many different jailbreak methods?

A. Jailbreaking is accomplished by making use of exploits found in Apple's code. Apple closes these exploits in new firmware versions, thus making it harder for hackers to create jailbreaks. Every time a hole in Apple's code is closed, hackers must find new holes to exploit. With these new holes come new methods of jailbreaking.

Q. Where can I find out the latest, most reliable jailbreak information?

A. I've found the IPhone Dev Team blog to be the best place to find jailbreak info. Visit there blog at blog.iphone-dev.org. These guys are an elite team of hackers. They work on jailbreaks for all models of iDevices. They also warn you when they see a jailbreak that would not be good for a specific group of jailbreakers. Unlockers are the group they warn most of all. If you want a more thorough explanation of the info contained in their blog, redmond pie is a good place to go. Redmond Pie is a site devoted to bring you the latest in technology news. You can find the Redmond Pie blog at redmondpie.com.

Q: What is the difference between a tethered and an untethered jailbreak?

A: A tethered jailbreak requires you to plug your iDevice into your PC or Mac every time you wish to reboot it. This is because the jailbreak you applied does not have the ability to boot into a jailbroken state without the aid of a computer program. Tethered jailbreaks aren't as bad as you might think. I have never had to reboot my phone against my will. You sometimes need to reboot when installing jailbreak apps, so if you have a tethered jailbreak, I highly suggest being near a PC or Mac when installing jailbreak apps. Other than that, you should never have to worry about rebooting. An untethered jailbreak is the kind you want, if possible. This kind of jailbreak lets you reboot the phone the way you normally would. It allows your iDevice to enter a jailbroken state independently.

Q. If I upgrade to a newer firmware version of iOS, will my iDevice still be jailbroken?

A. If you update to stock firmware, no. Stock firmware is not jailbroken, so you will lose your jailbreak. So I suggest not upgrading until a jailbreak version of your desired firmware is available.

Q. What is stock firmware?

Stock firmware is any firmware you download directly from Apple, whether it be through Itunes or their servers.

Q. What is this custom firmware stuff I keep reading about?

A. Custom firmware generally has hactivation and a jailbreak built in. Custom firmware also prevents your iPhone from updating its baseband. This is useful for unlockers so that they don't accidentally upgrade to a baseband which is not yet supported by Ultrasn0w. In less technical terms, it allows unlockers to keep the ability to unlock their phones.

Q. What is hactivation? I hear this term a lot but have no clue what it means.

a. Hactivation is the process of activating your phone without a sim from an Apple supported carrier. How different hactivation methods accomplish activation may vary, but in the end, they allow you to use your phone without accepting a contract with a carrier other than the one you're already with.

Q. How do I create custom firmware for my iDevice?

A. Mac users can do this by using Pwnagetools. At first glance, this app looks inaccessible, but I have been able to cook custom firmware with it. I will be writing a guide on how to do so in the future. There is a Windows version of this app. It is written by a different developer who is not actively updating it. Therefore, it may or may not work with the OS version and i-device model you wish to jailbreak.

Q. Are jailbreaks for new firmware version released on the same day that unjailbroken firmware versions are released?

A. No. Hackers first have to find exploits in Apple's code and then create programs to make use of them. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for them to do this.

Q. What is the difference between jailbreaking and unlocking? They sound the same to me.

A. Jailbreaking is the process one goes through to gain root access to an Apple device. Unlocking allows you to use your phone with a different carrier other than the one you purchased the phone on.

Q. Are there any jailbreaks that unlockers should stay away from?

A. Any jailbreak that does not preserve your baseband is probably a bad idea. It is best to research any jailbreak you are planning to try. Just because people have jailbroken their phones successfully using a specific method does not mean it is the right method for an unlocker.

Q How do I unlock my jailbroken phone?

A. Install a jailbreak app called Ultrasn0w, assuming you are using a supported baseband. I will explain this more in a future guide.

Q. Can I buy a phone that is already jailbroken?

A. Yes, ebay has plenty of them in a variety of conditions. If you're worried about looking like you bought a used phone, just look for one that says it's in mint condition. Mine actually said it was brand new. The reason being that it was an Apple Care replacement that had never been used. You might be able to find a phone like that which has only been used during the jailbreaking process. Mine was locked when I bought it.

Q. Can I unlock my iPhone without jailbreaking it?

A. No. If you bought a locked phone, the only way to unlock it is by jailbreaking it.

Q. Is there any way to get an iPhone that is unlocked but not jailbroken?

A. Yes. You can buy a phone that is already unlocked either directly from Apple or from an Apple supported carrier. However, this cannot be done in the US. If you live in the US, you will have to buy your unlocked phone from another country. Apple or a supported carrier may or may not ship the phone directly to you. I would imagine you may have to ship the phone to a foreign address.

Q. How do I buy an unlocked phone from someone in the US?

A. Ebay is full of them. However, please be aware that any unlocked phone you buy from someone who previously purchased their phone in the US will also be jailbroken. AT&T does not sell unlocked phones. An AT&T phone can only be unlocked by jailbreaking it.

Q What is Cydia?

A. Cydia is described by many people as the unofficial app store or the jailbreak app store. But unlike the official app store, Cydia doesn't just look to one source for apps. Cydia comes with five default sources, or repositories. And you can add more to its sources list.

Q. I heard that Cydia is inaccessible. Is this true?

A. Yes and no. The app itself is completely inaccessible. But there *are* accessible ways to access Cydia repositories.

Q. Is there an accessible way to access Cydia?

A. Yes. There is an accessible app finder for your i-device called Icy. See the Icy app directory entry for details on how to obtain it. There is an app for the PC called Cyder 2 which lets you download packages. They must then be copied to Cydia's autoinstall directory to be installed. You will not see the apps you've installed until you reboot. And lastly, you can install apps via ssh. Just get OpenSSH and Apt for your i-device. They're in one of the default Cydia repositories. Then connect to your iPhone using your favorite SSH client. I will be writing a complete guide on installing apps via SSH in the near future.

Q. Do developers of jailbreak apps actually have the ability to make their apps accessible?

A. I once heard someone say that most jailbreak apps were probably inaccessible because the developers who make them do not have the tools to make them accessible. Firstly, anyone can gain access to the iOS development tools and documentation for free. All one has to do to gain access to Apple's development tools is to sign up at their site as a registered developer. Second, because anyone can gain access to iOS development tools directly from Apple, developers do indeed have the ability to make jailbreak apps accessible.

Q. How easy is it to communicate with jailbreak developers regarding inaccessible apps?

A. Consider this. When you find an app in the official app store which is inaccessible, you have three choices. 1. Tap the report a problem link. This lets you report any problems to the developer, but they have no way of responding to such inquiries. Some developers will specify a way of contacting them in their app descriptions; many do not. 2. Write a review of the app. Well, that's nice. Everyone knows the app is inaccessible now, and you have the satisfaction of giving the app a bad rating. But again, you still have no real contact with the developer. 3. If no contact information is specified, you can attempt to track down the contact information of a developer via google. You may or may not find it. If you don't, you can post in a forum and hope the developer will get back to you. But if you use Icy, which is an accessible jailbreak app finder, you can easily email the developer of an app regarding its accessibility. You have direct contact with the app's developer, and you didn't have to go outside of your app finder to get it.

Q. I hear you cannot download paid apps via Icy, Cyder 2, or SSH. Is this true?

A. Yes and no. If the app requires you to purchase it before installing, you will not be able to download the app. However, many apps allow you to try before you buy. They generally have a button or link inside them which will lead you to a site where you can buy the app using Pay Pal or a credit card. So you can try out the app, see if you like it and whether it's accessible or not, and then buy it. The official app store doesn't let you do that.

Q. Can anyone get an app approved by Cydia?

A. Yes and no. Cydia does not have one central source where all apps are submitted and reviewed. Instead, each of the default repositories, as well as any other repositories, has its own rules for submission. If you don't like them, you can always host your own. You might want your app to be on a well-known repository, but one repository saying no does not mean that your app can never be downloaded by the jailbreak community.

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8 Comments

thank you and a few questions

This is a really great guide. I appreciate this, and also have a couple questions:

  • I heard that after you jailbreak you can play ogg files. is this true?
  • I also heard, that if you have an iPod touch after you jailbreak you can pare an external gps receiver and then use apps like navigon for navigation?
  • Once again thanks!

Hmmm. I'd never heard about

Hmmm. I'd never heard about this GPS hack before, but this site confirms it. http://j.mp/gXeVmd As for ogg files, I'm pretty sure I got them to play in OpenStreamer, but I didn't like the way OpenStreamer made files sound. Perhaps there is another accessible ogg player. I use iFile to play music. THat's a jb app, but that doesn't do oggs. However, it lets you browse your drive for files, and you can store them wherever you want. You can even copy and paste your files over using Iphone Folders on a PC or Mac. I'll see if I can do some research on a better ogg player.

very good

very good guide... please go on

Obtaining Icy

Note that i-Mods.myrepospace.com is currently down, and has been for about a month now. At least on port 80. A port-scan of that hostname isn't turning up much, either. Is it still accessible within your Apt/Cyder2 instalation? And by accessible, I mean, can you reach it over the internet, not access it with a screen reader :)

Playing OGG Files

VLC Player plays OGG and FLAC. And its not even a JB app. Just name your files with a .mp4 extension and transfer them through the file sharing section of iTunes. Sure, its not very convenient as a solution, but it works, and playback sounds fine.

Icy

Icy is still around. I just grabbed it from i-mods last weekend using Apt. My i-mods.list file looks like this, without the quotes. "deb http://cydia.myrepospace.com/i-mods /"

Icy Again

Upon clicking the link I just posted here, I am presented with a blank page. However, I am still seeing Icy's complete package name in apt-cache search. The complete package name is com.myrepospace.i-Mods.icy. I have updated the Icy entry in the app directory to reflect the url I have in my i-mods.list file and have included the complete package name for anyone else who is having trouble.

I was always curious about

I was always curious about what exactly jail breaking was, so as others have said, thanks and very good guide. What I want to know is: Is there a difference in the applications made for JB phones as oppose to non-JB phones? If so, what is the main differences? And also, I have a feeling jail breaking is illegal where I am in Australia; But I just don't understand still how it wouldn't still be illegal anywhere if Apple doesn't support it; they know it's going on obviously.