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Hacker frees iPhone from Jobsian tyranny (again)

$10,000 worth of integrity

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Would-be iPhone jailbreakers and unlockers around the globe can breathe a sigh of relief today. Not only has the latest iPhone baseband update been unlocked, but the hack's young developer is determined that it can be accessed for free.

Since the iPhone was first released in June 2007, many iPhone owners have argued that after shelling out hundreds of dollars for their pricey handhelds they should be allowed to use them as they want - to install applications not bought in the App Store, choose a wireless provider that actually provides service in their area, use non-phone-related capabilities such as the iPod without having to sign a two-year activation contract, or even use their phone when traveling in other countries.

It didn't take long for George Hotz, a teenage hacker known as Geohot, to unlock the iPhone shortly after it first debuted. Since then, there's been an ongoing competition as Apple plugged exploits with firmware updates and hackers found new ways to jailbreak and unlock iPhones. All along, Geohot has remained a leading figure in that battle.

Last month, when Apple updated the iPhone OS to 3.1.2, the company also rolled out an update to the baseband that silenced countless liberated iPhones around the globe. Geohot soon released a jailbreak for the new iPhone OS, but there was still no unlock available for the new 05.11.07 baseband. According to reports, Geohot had no plans to unlock the latest update, and many alarmists began to worry that the new baseband was impenetrable and their days of iPhone freedom might be over.

Then Geohot announced that he would release an updated version of his blackra1n jailbreak along with a new unlock, called blacksn0w, on November 4th. According to his blog:

  • blacksn0w is the unlock for the latest 05.11.07 baseband, and will also enable official tethering.
  • blackra1n, a jailbreak for 3.1.2, has been updated to RC3, with hacktivation support, 15 second speed improvement, Tiger+PPC support, and installation of the latest blackra1n.app.

Not to look like a slacker, he then bumped the release up a day to November 3, saying that his testing was going well. Working the crowd, he asked his fans and followers to tweet about the new release as the noon EST launch approached. Demonstrating that there is a sizeable community of users unlocking and jailbreaking their iPhones, blacksn0w became one of the top trending topics on Twitter.

We decided to give blackra1n RC3 and blacksn0w a shot - and they worked, unlocking our test phone in about one minute. And, unlike Geohot's first iPhone unlock, blacksn0w doesn't require a soldering iron. You just connect your iPhone to a system and run the executable that's available on Geohot's website.

And Geohot want to ensure that you can join the iPhone freedom corps for free. Geohot was offered a $10,000 award for the new jailbreak by Jody Sanders, who runs an iPhone unlocking business in the UK. But Geohot wanted nothing to do with Sanders, who has in the past been spotted claiming credit for other people's work, and taking money for software that's available for free.

So in a recent blog post, Geohot responded to Sanders's offer by saying: "I am declining your $10,000. Why? Because you, and the rest of the iPhone unlock sites out there are scum. You make money selling freeware; that's not cool, and I am in no way going to legitimize it. Seriously, the people who really lose here are the customers."

But the real winner here may be Apple, which can now sell even more iPhones to users who otherwise wouldn't be willing to work within the restrictions imposed by Apple and its authorized iPhone carriers. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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