Like iOS 5? Thank a Hacker

Apple fans hypnotized by their shiny new iPhones and mobile operating systems owe thanks, in part, to the work of jailbreakers whom Apple once said would destroy its business model.

That’s because the new iPhone 4S launched Friday and its new iOS 5 mobile-operating system’s Wednesday roll-out likely never would have come to fruition if Apple’s protests over legalizing phone tinkering had been heeded.

Judging by Apple’s own words, the iPhone should be defunct by now because of the U.S. Copyright Office’s decision last year legalizing mobile-phone hacking, known as jailbreaking.

That’s what the gadget maker told the Copyright Office in 2009 — when Apple shares were $127 — as it lobbied against calls by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to legalize jailbreaking.

Now the blockbuster iOS 5 incorporates some of the great hacks introduced by jailbreakers who modified unlocked iPhones when doing so was illegal. Among others, those hacks include pulldown notifications, home-screen camera access and wireless syncing.

Greg Joswiak, Apple’s iPhone marketing czar, publicly claimed in 2009 when iOS 3.0 was the rage that legalizing jailbreaking would gut its business strategy.

“This would severely limit our ability to continue what we are doing as well as innovate for the future,” Joswiak told the U.S. Copyright Office during a public hearing on the issue.

Thankfully for Apple the government sided with the tinkerers.

Jailbreaking — and there’s plenty of jailbreak hacks out there for all manners of smart phones — allows users to tweak a phone’s operating system and also run apps not included in official app stores.

Two years after Joswiak’s comments, Apple’s stock closed Friday at $422, an all-time high. Its iPhone sales have mushroomed from 30 million units sold to 129 million. Analysts expect 4 million iPhone 4Ses to be sold this weekend alone.

What’s more, 1 billion apps from Apple’s iTunes had been downloaded when Joswiak uttered his statement. Now, more than 18 billion apps have been downloaded, and Apple predicts 1 billion app downloads a month.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act forbids circumventing encryption technology to copy or modify copyrighted works — in this instance encryption protecting the bootloader connected to the iOS operating system itself. The Copyright Office granted an exemption to the law (.pdf) for mobile phones thanks to the petition filed by the EFF.

That said, performing a similar hack on videogame consoles remains a civil or criminal offense, and prosecutors have gone after hackers for simply modifying hardware so it can run unsigned code.

But every three years the Copyright Office entertains proposals for DMCA exemptions, and the next round is right around the corner.

It’s clear that jailbreakers promote innovation as they exercise their freedom to tinker. Now it’s time for videogame-console modding to get an exemption too.

Photo: patrick h. lauke/Flickr

With iOS 5 You’ll Be Stalked Like Never Before

Apple’s latest iOS brings enhanced location services to your iPhone. So enhanced that some apps make it seem a little bit scary at just how well they’re tracking you, even when the app isn’t running—but it’s a good thing! Right?

Updated location features in iOS mean that apps like Foursquare and Apple’s own Reminders can notify you when you enter or leave a geographic region. For instance, Foursquare’s new feature Radar will pop up a notification when you’re near a location—or people—that Foursquare thinks might be of interest to you. How? An updated Core Location feature, Region Monitoring.

Region Monitoring isn’t new to iOS. In fact, it was part of iOS 4. But the latest incarnation has received a few new APIs and been tweaked out so that developers, including Apple, are actually using it. Since Core Location is a system-level service that can be accessed by any app on your device, if an app or service on your device is gathering location information via Wi-Fi, cell-tower triangulation, or GPS, that information can be shared passively with other apps. For example, if the Maps app is open, the GPS information is automatically shared with any apps that are tapping into Core Location. Or the new Find My Friends, which in our testing keeps pretty accurate and well updated tabs on you.

The Region Monitoring feature allows apps to register to be notified when a device crosses the threshold of a geographic region. This information can be denoted by location, radius, and accuracy. Because Core Location is constantly running, the app doesn’t have to be running in the foreground or background to receive this information. When iOS determines that you’ve entered a registered area, it tells the app and the app throws an alert or notification. This is what happens when you get to the market and Apple’s Reminders app tells you that you desperately need to buy toilet paper with a notification.

According to the developers I spoke with, unless an app is abusing Core Location and constantly sending notifications based on Region Monitoring, there shouldn’t be any substantial battery drain. In fact, Apple seems to always be tinkering with iOS to enhance the accuracy of Core Location without killing your battery every time you drive through town. (Interestingly, iOS 5 now hounds you when turn off Wi-Fi, reminding you that it helps deliver more accurate location results. That’s partly to help their crowd-sourced Wi-Fi location database, of course.)

While to-do list reminders and being told that you’d probably love to get a massage from that place down the street is fine and dandy, the Region Monitoring feature could be used for stuff that’s actually cool. Yelp could pop notifications to great restaurants in your area when dinner time rolls around. History buffs could get an app that pings them when they’re near the location of some epic battle. And that whole geocaching thing could be enhanced with notifications leading you to your destination. Of course we’ll probably just end up with Groupon telling us the horrible pizza place down the street has two-for-one sausage slices at 11PM.

Photo: GPS tracking logs from Portland visualized Credit: Aaron Parecki

CAINE (Computer Aided INvestigative Environment) – Digital Forensics LiveCD

CAINE (Computer Aided INvestigative Environment) is an Italian GNU/Linux live distribution created as a project of Digital Forensics. CAINE offers a complete forensic environment that is organized to integrate existing software tools as software modules and to provide a friendly graphical interface. The main design objectives that CAINE aims to...

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