Saturday, October 27, 2007

Touchy Mods

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.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Impressed

I am writing this on my new iPod touch, using Blogger.com.
This little machine is impressing the bejesus out of me.

It was easy to jailbreak.
I have MobileMail and Google Maps etc. from the iPhone running.
The MobileCalendar hacked to allow editing.
SSH, BSD, MobileFinder, Sketch and other goodies.

I am demoing Remote Buddy to control the sounds around the flat and streaming video from EyeTV.

Crikey!! And I even have some music on it!!

Hey! One day this will even be an open platform!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Grotty Gibbon

Yes, they have done it again.

Ubuntu have rendered my server un-bootable after following the recommended upgrade path from Feckless Fawn.

I don't have time to mess around like this any longer, this I expect spells the end of my attempts to use Ubuntu.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

iPhone SDK it's Official

Apple released news that an iPhone (and iPod touch) SDK will be released in February 2008.

Well thank goodness for that!

I was becoming dismayed by the whole situation.
It seemed completely daft, Apple hampering such cool devices by not supporting 3rd party software.

I did not like the idea that Apple may move towards more closed platforms.

So greatly reassured, my iPod touch should arrive at the end of the month, it will be my first iPod.

After seeing stuff like Remote Buddy and hearing about the deal between FON and BT (I'm a Fonero) etc. it seems it could be useful for more than just portable media.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

When in Rome

I just got back from a very pleasant week in Rome at the Cocoon Get Together, catching up with old friends and colleagues.

I would really like to thank Simone Gianni and his team for doing such a great job of organising and running the event, plus Gabriele and Maurizio for various extra-curricular activities they arranged : )

Rome is a beautiful city, the weather was lovely, the last touch of summer (my photos so far).

I have just published the talk I was honoured to give, the other talks are available here.

Being such a guilt-ridden eco-freak (and having flown to the West Indies twice this year already) I decided to go by train. London to Paris on Eurostar, a night staying with friends, the Artesia sleeper to Rome the next night.

I love travelling on trains, you meet people. Our couchette compartment was a magnet all night for drink and wild conversation. British, Italians, French, Russians and Americans, it was a gas.

The downside is that it is really expensive compared to flying and our sleeper carriage was in a very poor state of repair. I was in the same carriage in both directions, it had 2 toilets, 3 washrooms. 2 of the washrooms had the door broken off, 1 toilet and washroom had no water.

But everyone was so nice about it : )