February 05, 2013, 5:23 PM — Much as I think of myself as an honorable person, I admit that I occasionally break the rules when I believe that doing so harms no one and enhances my life. Take jailbreaking--the process of getting complete access to an intentionally hampered device--for example.
Earlier this week, evasi0n, an untethered jailbreak for iOS 6 and 6.1, was released. (This is the first iOS 6 jailbreak that "sticks" after you restart your device. Previous jailbreaks required that you cable your device to your computer to rebreak it each time you restarted the device--thus the "tethered" versus "untethered" designation.) And, once again, I weighed the benefits and risks of jailbreaking my current devices.
A necessary evil
I'm a veteran jailbreaker--stretching back to the days when the term had yet to be coined and you hacked into the original iPhone via the Mac's Terminal application. My friend Ben Long and I broke into the phone for one simple reason: to capture screenshots of the iPhone's interface for a book I was writing. Years later, Ben and I used available tools to jailbreak an iPad so that we could project its entire interface for a Macworld Expo session we were conducting. In each case, a jailbreak was necessary because Apple didn't provide the features required to accomplish these perfectly reasonable tasks."
That said, it would be inaccurate to claim that I stopped at these purely necessary uses. In those earlier days, people developing apps for jailbroken iOS devices had some terrific ideas--enabling you to do things such as tether other devices to the phone for free, block unwanted SMS messages, remotely browse the contents of your device, and perform tasks over a 3G network that were normally restricted to Wi-Fi. Jailbreak apps also provided features such as an endless supply of themes, a single drop-down menu for configuring common settings, and notifications. And although jailbreaking is not the same thing as unlocking, a jailbreak was necessary if you wished to unlock your iPhone (a process that the Librarian of Congress recently determined to be illegal). When I found a feature helpful, I adopted it.