Where the hell did you go?

As some of you – ok, the one of you – may have noticed, I have been notably absent from my ranting and raving about the man in the moon this past week. Fear not friend, for I will explain my departure – you need not worry longer.

This past Friday (7 days ago), Apple decided to announce their iPhone. For those of you who have finally mastered grunting and are still working on perfecting fire and the wheel, the iPhone is quite possibly the sexiest piece of technology ever released. I could literally spend hours upon hours going on and on about why I love the iPhone to pieces, but there are quite literally millions of blogs in the ‘blogosphere‘ (God, how I hate that word) and I’m sure nearly half of them have devoted entirely too much bandwidth, typing and reading time to that very subject. Trust me, the subject is well covered and if you really care about it, just Google “iphone”.

At any rate, while most people have been going on and on about how wonderful the device is, I’ve been part of a somewhat underground project to unlock the iPhone. No, this isn’t some trick where I use flawed logic (get it, flawed logic, like the name of the site? God, I’m funny) to make you believe that the iPhone really has a lock and key to use it, like some prison cell out of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. What I’m talking about is actually far more sinister than that.

Back on June 22, I wrote an article entitled ‘Phones, phones, phones‘ where I explained in fairly decent detail the practice of unlocking a cell phone. I was able to unlock my cell phone in a few minutes thanks to the research that had been put in behind the scenes by a group of people who believe that information should be free: hackers. Before you get the wrong idea, these ‘hackers’ are hackers of the truest sense; they do not intrude on other systems or sabotage data, nor do they make attempts to blackmail large corporations. They simply spend hours upon hours of their own free time trying to find out how to remove certain restrictions that your phone carrier places on your phone. (I go into more detail in that article if you want to read more.)

At any rate, this past week, I’ve been directly involved with the group of hackers working to unlock the iPhone. You see, Apple decided a long time ago that rather than provide users a choice of which cell phone service provider to use, they would enter into an agreement with Cingular (at the time; they have since merged with AT&T Wireless and kept the AT&T namesake) to allow the big orange to be the exclusive provider in the USA of iPhones for 5 solid years. Knowing that Apple has a growing number of what I like to call ‘fanboys’ (people who were purchase any product based on the brand name alone, regardless of the quality of the product itself), Cingular jumped at the chance to have a huge number of guaranteed sales.

Unfortunately, Apple had to make a good faith effort to keep up their side of the exclusivity agreement, which meant that they had to lock down the device as best they could, to prevent people from purchasing a phone, cancelling their service contract days (or hours) later, and bringing the phone to a new provider, thus taking away from Cingular’s bottom line. I don’t blame Cingular for forcing Apple to do this, however I do blame Apple for entering into the agreement in the first place. Taking away choice from the consumer is a bad, bad thing Apple.

The group that I’ve been apart of has made some incredible strides in the past week – we’ve not only succeeded in breaking activation (when you first buy the phone, the phone is quite literally a pretty looking brick until you pay AT&T your signup fee, at which time the phone is activated; we’ve hacked it so that this is no longer the case), but we’ve also succeeded in accessing the raw file system that the phone uses to store its data (Apple had tried very hard to keep people out of this for multiple reasons, one of which being ringtones – they want you to buy ringtones for $0.99 through iTunes, their online store; with our hack it’s quite possible to make your own and put them on the phone directly). In fact in just 7 days, we’ve had nearly 50 people at one time or another actively participating in breaking into the phone. We’ve had people who are incredibly experienced programmers and electronic engineers to people who are donating their iPhone to the cause by allowing people in countries outside of the USA (where iPhone hasn’t been released yet) to do testing remotely. This is one of the single largest congregations of hackers that I’ve seen all reaching toward a single goal and all working together.

There are other similar projects out there with similar goals but due to their size, they simply can’t compete with our numbers. Some of our members have already been interviewed for magazines, other web articles, and even one for a TV program, so we’re obviously doing something right. It really feels good to be part of a movement like this from the very beginning, knowing that the work we’re doing is going to be used by so many people once it’s done.

At any rate, between that, job hunting, hanging out with Ashleigh, and playing Tiger Woods ’07 on our new Nintendo Wii, I haven’t really had a lot of time for updating the blog. I do plan on changing that, however my job hunting will obviously take precedence as funds are running pretty low.

This is nexxai signing off, saying “For God’s sake, don’t pee into the wind.”

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