Touchy Mods

ComputingOpen SourceVoIP

Someone asked me for more detail on the iPod Touch mods from my last blog entry.

But first, an aside : One of the issues while writing in something like Blogger on the iPod touch or iPhone is that text entry can get a bit cramped. I can be almost impossible to move the cursor to the top line. You cannot select text, then click a button to do something to it, unlike the typical editing paradigm. Writing rich-text editors that work in a web browser has never been easy, the new gesture interface of touch-type products is going to require some new thinking all round.

So, without copy and paste, text-selection, link buttons etc. I just could not be bothered to add links to my last blog post. Now I am writing this on my MacBook, it is less of a problem …..

Hacking My iPod Touch

I used iJailbreak, a pre-packaged set of jailbreak software, controlled by an AppleScript. Put together by AriX, a clever 13 year old (nice one lad).

There is next-to-no documentation, though do not let that scare you off, it is very easy and takes less than 10 minutes.

Following this vague run-through, I launched iJailbreak on a Mac, browsed the iPod to a URL for the famous TIFF exploit, then followed the steps I was asked to perform.

You need to re-boot the iPod several times during this procedure, so I recommend turning the Passcode Lock off (in Settings/General).

Lo and behold! There are several new icons in your home screen.

Delightfully, iJailbreak adds several of the applications from the iPhone that are missing on the iPod touch. Mail and Maps being the most noteworthy IMHO, as the mobile versions of Google Maps and GMail suck. I imagine Apple may not be too chuffed at this aspect of iJailbreak!

You can immediately start looking for more application to add, as iJailbreak thoughtfully adds the Installer package manager to your iPod.

I recommend that you first activate Sources/Community Sources, which adds a plethora of new applications to what is already there.

I immediately installed the lovely Sketches and the useful BSD Subsystem.

I had SSH’d into the iPod earlier, but found it did not have commands like ’ls’ etc, so was not sure how I could use it, installing BSD Subsystem solves this.

You log in via SSH using the username ‘root’ and the password ‘alpine’. These will be well known and I am not sure you can change the password or not. There clearly needs to be a way to turn SSH off!!

My final hack was to fix Calendar editing, the fix is here. I used Fugu on the Mac to log in to the iPod, navigate to the folder and make the edit via BBEdit, though this could have been done via SSH on the command line (now BSD Subsystem is installed).

So, I am happily using MobileMail to access my GMail account. MobileSafari is doing a great job. I read my RSS feeds using Google Reader, I find this is the best starting point.

I am watching recorded TV programmes streamed to my iPod from EyeTV.

I am controlling iTunes playback on my Mac with the music library, using Remote Buddy. Including control of which AirTunes speakers to play back through was masterful, not including access to iTunes Sharing is less so ……

ATM it looks like the iPod touch could be a really useful little general-purpose computer.

The situation is not stable however.

The TIFF exploit that allows the whole Jailbreak process to happen will surely be fixed soon, throwing everyone who updates back into the vanilla state again.

An official SDK is on it’s way, but who knows what restrictions Apple will place on 3rd party application installation. For sure Apple won’t like applications built-in to the iPhone appearing on iPods ……

What am I looking forward to? Google turning on IMAP access more widely (I still do not have this option on my account). MobilePreview getting PDF support so using MobileFinder etc. I can carry PDFs documentation around with me. Some kind of MobileVLC or Perian video codecs for QuickTime so I can play more video formats. A microphone hardware hack and a SIP VoIP client :-p

Update. I confirm that my iPod continues to work fine (syncs with iTunes etc.) after I changed the default root password. I only had to ssh in and run the ‘passwd’ command.