Jul 9, 2009

Teenagers now bond over 'Jailbreaking'

This piece of news takes me back to when I was a boy at school. I remember clearly that I was easily categorized as one of the 'geeks'. A title that I didn't mind having, because as we all know, it surreptitiously makes us way cooler than all of the popular kids, my 'gang' just didn't know it back then and neither did the cool kids for that matter.

Anyway, this great story comes straight from the website of the Wall Street Journal and tells the story of how a teenager by the name of Ari Weinstein foiled Apple's most talented software engineers and personally annoyed head honcho Steve Jobs. But first, a little definition of the term 'Jailbreaking' for the readers who may be unaware:

Jailbreaking refers to the installing of unapproved software on Apple's iPod Touch and iPhone which enables people to download a range of these unapproved programs onto their chosen device.

Jailbreaking software gives users access to applications which are, of course, not accessible t the more legitimate user. Such applications include ad blocking services for the hand held based web browsers or applications which allow the device to double as a modem.

Ari's mission this summer is not to take advantage of the good weather or spend his time hanging out with his friends; instead he has devised a loose knit team of hacker teenangers to probe the software on Apple's handheld devices for flaws. According to the article, Ari and his band spent up to six hours a day checking the software for security holes and this weekend one of his crew (named 'The Chronic Dev Team') has released the jailbreaking software that have been hard at work on. Despite the program only being a test version according to Ari, over a quarter of a million people have already visited his site to take a look.

This little hacker had early beginnings, and if you watch the small video on the article's page, you will see (in argument with his mum) that he started his love affair with computers when he was as young as two years of age. Properly hacking since he was eleven, Ari states that:
"Coding and testing things that may or may not work, and figuring things out, is a really rewarding experience."
An Apple spokeswoman has made an announcement condemning the practice:
"The vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones, and for good reason, these modifications not only violate the warranty, they also cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably."
It makes Jobs angry too, referring to the war against hackers as a 'Cat and mouse game', though admits that its Apple's job to prevent them from breaking in. I am inclined to agree. Jobs takes his point further though, and Apple have now filed a twenty seven page statement to the U.S. Copyright office arguing that the modification of a phone's software is in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The ruling as to this issue is expected this autumn.

Ari takes the more ethical side of this seriously though, and has a wise head on such young shoulders. He has researched the finer points of the act and regularly liaises with his lawyer who works for him on a voluntary basis.

Already having made 'thousands' from his downloads with users donating appreciative funds for support; Ari seems to be one of the brightest sparks regarding coding for his age. Though ensures us all that his intent is not malicious in any way. "Apple doesn't have the right to tell me what I can put on my phone. I only do hacking which helps people." Said like a humble genius, I wish this helpful hacker the best of luck in the future. Though i sure as hell wish it was this cool to be a computer geek when I was his age.


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