Jailbreaking’s Bleak Future

With the release of iOS 6 together with the recent JailbreakCon gathering, I figured it was time for me to once again take stock of where things stand on the matter of jailbreaking my iOS devices.

Over the years, I have been a strong supporter of jailbreaking. This has been both a matter of principle (I have never been entirely happy with Apple’s “closed” App Store policies) and practicality (there were numerous things I wished to do with my iOS devices that I could only do via jailbreaking).

In the past year or so, however, my enthusiasm for jailbreaking has waned.

The primary reason is because of the decline of “practicality” as a reason to jailbreak. Or, as the above linked Cult of Mac article calls it: “getting Sherlocked,” defined as “implementing a new idea only to have it copied by Apple later.”

In other words, almost all the reasons I’ve had to jailbreak my iOS devices in the past are now gone. They’ve been eliminated by the new features added to iOS over the years. I had this reaction after the release of iOS 5. My reaction has only gotten stronger with the release of iOS 6 — due to the addition of options such as Guided Access (which ended my need for the IncarcerApp jailbreak app).

The other reason I am down on jailbreaking (again, as I have outlined previously) is that the process of jailbreaking has become too much of a hassle for me to want to bother with it. In particular, after an iOS software or hardware update, it can be months before a reliable jailbreak arrives. Until then, I am forced to either postpone the iOS update or give up on the jailbreak. Too often, when a dependable jailbreak finally gets released, Apple is already preparing a new iOS update that will render the jailbreak useless. As I an unwilling to postpone major iOS updates, I typically wind up spending more of a year without a jailbreak than with one.

There also continues to be the risk that, as has occasionally happened to me, jailbreaking results in problems for some other apps on my iOS devices. A jailbreak attempt itself may go wrong, requiring a restore of the device to get things working again.

This is not a criticism of the people who work on these jailbreaks. I recognize that they are doing the best they can in combatting the obstacles that Apple puts in their way. It’s just that I no longer have the inclination to fight along side of them.

The lone reason I even consider jailbreaking anymore is to have root access to the drive — via utilities such as iFile. This access allows me to perform an assortment of activities that no App Store app will ever be permitted to do — from simply being able to view and edit all files on my iOS devices to sharing files over Bluetooth.

There are a few other jailbreak apps I would find helpful, but not helpful enough to overcome my resistance to the hassles of jailbreaking. I am no longer willing to rely on apps, no matter how potentially useful they might be, that I know I will have to abandon for months (perhaps forever) after each new iOS release. It’s a one-two knockout punch.

Another quote from the same the Cult of Mac article states:

There could come a day when Apple makes it so unfeasible to jailbreak that the community around JailbreakCon falls apart. But until that day, the future of jailbreaking is bright.”

I don’t share this “bright” assessment. I believe that “unfeasible” is just around the corner, if not already here. Even if an iOS 6 and iPhone 5 jailbreak eventually comes to pass, the iOS jailbreakers have never been more than a small percentage of total users. I am convinced that, with each new release of iOS, that number will shrink.

I still have my objections to Apple’s policies in this arena. The problem is that I no longer believe that jailbreaking will ever be the solution to these objections. Jailbreaking may continue to survive among a small community of users, such as those who attended and followed JailbreakCon. But its influence will be more and more marginalized going forward — until it reaches the point of irrelevance. I’m not looking forward to when this happens. But I believe it is what will happen. At some point, you have to recognize that the war has been lost and it’s time to move on. For me, that time is now.

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Apple’s crazy iPod nano

The iPod nano could be Apple’s answer to “How would a product evolve over time if its designers had a multiple personality disorder?”

Yesterday, at their media event, Apple introduced the latest in the line of iPod nanos. I’m sure the new nano is a fine device, a worthy successor to the previous generation. But come on!

One year the nano is long and skinny. The next year it looks almost like an iPod shuffle. A couple of years later it’s back to long and skinny. As if that is not enough, in between these flip-flops there was briefly a third basic shape: squat and fat.

Then there’s video support. Now you see it, now you don’t. One year, the nano doesn’t play video, the next year it does. Then video is removed. And now it’s back again.

Apple has never offered a clear rationale behind these shifts. They occur for no apparent purpose other than change for change’s sake.

Yet somehow, with each iteration, Apple wants to convince us that the latest offering is the “best design ever.” This is getting to be a really hard sell. Following the shifts in the nano feels more like watching a pendulum swing than forward progress.

I half expect that Apple will someday introduce a new nano as “the second, perhaps the third, most amazing nano we have ever made. The best one was three years ago.”

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Dissecting Apple Link Bait

As the result of a mention on Daring Fireball, I wound up reading a column by Jon Friedman titled “Get that Apple iPhone 5 out of my face.” That was five wasted minutes I will never get back again. The article amounts to a worthless piece of link bait. Here’s why:

Mr. Friedman says: “I am proud to say that I won’t rush out to get an iPhone 5.”

First off, note the not-so-subtle subtlety here: Mr. Friedman doesn’t say he won’t buy a new iPhone eventually. It’s just that he won’t rush out to get one. Maybe he will buy one a few weeks after the announcement. But rather than clearly say that, he phrases it in a more “controversial” manner, designed to make it sound as if he’s fed up with Apple.

Regardless, I’m glad for him and his decision. But where is the news is in this proclamation? “Wait and see” is good general advice for all buyers of any technological device, not something to be linked to a gripe about Apple. Unless you absolutely need a new iPhone in a hurry, or know you want the latest from Apple regardless of what it is, you’re almost always better off waiting until the dust has settled and you can be reasonably certain you won’t regret your decision.

Further, I don’t see why this is a source of pride for Mr. Friedman. It takes no skill, talent or wisdom to not buy an iPhone. Anyone can do it.

Mr. Friedman says: “I don’t want to hear about the presumably superior way I’ll be able to take and store photos and all the rest.” Yet, in the next breath, he adds: “Apple makes useful, shiny products that are more crucial to my existence than clean air or water. No argument here.”

Huh? Give his obviously favorable history with Apple products, why would he not want to at least check out the new iPhone? This makes no sense. If he is unimpressed with the new device, he shouldn’t buy it. It’s not as if Apple forces anyone to sign a contract for an iPhone before they can touch one. And, on the chance that the new iPhone turns out to be a truly revolutionary product, what’s the advantage to sticking your fingers in your ears and failing to find out the news?

Mr. Friedman says: “Fool me once, shame on you — fool me twice, shame on me. I already feel like I got taken by this company. I’m talking about my unsatisfying experience with the much-hyped Apple 4S model.”

“Taken buy this company?” What in the world is Mr. Friedman talking about? He bought a perfectly good iPhone 4S to replace an apparently broken one. Why is that foolish? As far as the reader can tell, his iPhone 4S has worked as advertised. The only feature that Mr. Friedman mentions as at all “unsatisfying” is that Siri did not live up to his expectations. That’s it. That’s the entire basis for his tirade of a column.

Give me a break. Very few people have been completely satisfied with Siri. That’s true. It’s also not news. At the same time, many people have been charmed by Siri and use it regularly. In either case, problems with Siri don’t make you a fool for having bought an iPhone 4S. I have not met one person who would agree with this assessment.

Bottom Line

Mr. Friedman has decided not to rush out and buy an iPhone 5. Personally, I don’t really care one way or the other what Mr. Friedman chooses to buy — unless there’s an interesting story behind his decision. There isn’t. There is virtually no useful information to be gleaned from his column.

Instead, we have an article lacking in logic that offers general and unsubstantiated condemnations of all Apple iPhones, the company’s marketing policies and anyone who is “foolish” enough to buy a new iPhone.

But offering useful information is not the goal of this article. Its main purpose is, via its provocative headline, to attract hits. This is a common practice these days. Given the high interest in Apple and its products, a controversial headline with Apple in its title is almost certain to attract more than the usual amount of attention. Unfortunately, if you follow all of the links to such articles, you’ll wind up reading a good deal of garbage.

That’s why I typically don’t write about such stuff. Why give these articles more attention than they deserve? Still, every once in a while, I feel it’s worth pointing out an especially blatant instance of this trend. That was my intent here. If anyone is being fooled, it’s not Mr. Friedman. It’s the people who mistakenly take the time to read his column.

Posted in Apple Inc, iPhone, Technology | 1 Comment

After the Supreme Court ruling on health care…

Here’s a collection of thoughts that have been running through my head these past couple of days, ever since the historic Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Obamacare and baseball. The Republicans are like a baseball team that, having lost 3-0 in a nine-inning game, refuse to get off the field. Instead of shaking hands with their opponents and starting to prepare for the next game, the Republicans demand to play extra innings until they wind up with the lead and the win.

Baseball doesn’t work that way. And neither does America. In the battle over Obamacare (as even the Democrats now call it), the Republicans lost in the House, lost in the Senate, and lost in the Supreme Court. It’s time to move on. Perhaps, if Romney wins the presidency, there will be a chance for a rematch. But let’s cross that bridge if and when we come to it. In the meantime, there are more important things to worry about than games that have already been decided.

Justice Roberts and conscience. I never thought I’d be saying this today, but I have new-found respect for Chief Justice Roberts. No matter how he votes on cases in the future, and I am certain I will often disagree with his votes, I will feel much more confident that his decisions are based on conscience rather than partisanship. That’s all I can ask. My change of heart is not primarily derived from his critical vote, a vote that created the 5-4 majority in favor of upholding the Affordable Healthcare Act. That helped. But that’s not all. More significant were the words in his written opinion:

“It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices…We (the Supreme Court) do not consider whether the act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the nation’s elected leaders.”

In other words, a justice’s vote should not derive from whether they believe a law is good or agrees with their political viewpoint, only whether it is constitutional. I agree 100%. If only all the other eight justices followed that principle.

How can you tell what’s inside the head of a Justice? One way is to try out hypothetical tests. Here’s one: If Romney were president back in 2008 and he had passed a version of Romneycare with the support of a Republican Congress (basing his support on the law’s success in Massachusetts and the fact that it was originally a Republican idea), and the Democrats had challenged it, and the law arrived at the Supreme Court, do you think the justices would have voted the same way as they did this week? If you answer no for any justice, then that justice is voting out of partisanship not conscience or law.

And my number one candidate for an obviously partisan judge is Antonin Scalia. Check out these two recent articles: “Antonin Scalia, ranting old man” and “Time for Scalia to seek his true vocation – politician.” They say it better than I ever could.

The minority. It is still hard for me to see how the minority of the Court on this decision would have not only struck down the individual mandate provision, but the entire law. Even if you think the other parts would not be viable without the mandate, that’s for Congress to determine. As long as the provisions are constitutional, they should remain. And they were.

Speaking of minority opinions, I still have trouble wrapping myself around the notion that having half the Court disagree with a decision is irrelevant. A 5-4 decision means the same as a 9-0 decision. But that’s the way our country works. I accept it.

Popularity. People keep citing the low popularity of Obamacare among the American public. It’s true. It’s also true that people very much like many of the provisions of the law. If the Democrats can ever manage to aggressively explain and defend the law (something they have shown no inclination to do up till now), I believe many minds could be changed. Also, as more of the provisions go into effect, and people see it working well, minds will be changed.

I believe that, for many Republicans, the rush to overturn Obamacare stems not from their belief that it is a bad law but from fear that it will ultimately turn out to be a good law, one that wins popular support. This would mean a huge political loss for the right.

The extremes. I continue to be surprised by the level of vitriol in this country right now. It’s one thing to believe that Obamacare is bad law. That’s a legitimate debate. I happen to believe the law is a move in the right direction, even though it is far from perfect. But I understand others disagree. Heck, there are people on both the left and the right that believe it is a bad law, but for very different reasons. Regardless, the survival of this law does not mean the end of this country, or freedom, or the world. Some of the comments I see posted on the web are simply beyond belief. Here are two examples:

A reader commenting on the Supreme Court decision wrote: “The fire in the belly of the right had better be ignited immediately or the country will fall totally into Marxism and become a flaming dictatorship.”

Give me a break.

And a Michigan attorney who has held positions in the state Republican Party wrote: “If government can mandate that I pay for something I don’t want, then what is beyond its power? …Has the Republic all but ceased to exist? If so, then is armed rebellion today justified? God willing, this oppression will be lifted and America free again before the first shot is fired.”


Krugman. As if often the case, I agree with Paul Krugman. I’ll let him have the last word on this week’s ruling:

“In short, unless you belong to that tiny class of wealthy Americans who are insulated and isolated from the realities of most people’s lives, the winners from that Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with — and, very likely, you. For almost all of us stand to benefit from making America a kinder and more decent society.”

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