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They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Monday, July 9, 2012

UPDATED: Can I interest you in my daring (iPhone) jailbreak?

By my admittedly low standards, it was rebellious.

No, it wasn't like breaking the law or even playing hooky from work. But it probably tops wearing white after labor day.

After weighing the pros and cons for months, I decided to jailbreak my iPhone. Sounds cool, right? The baddest of bad dudes would be involved in an actual jailbreak, helping criminals get back on the street. This is not quite so dramatic.

For those who don't know, unlike Android phones, iPhones are what people refer to as "locked-down" by the company that makes them, Apple Inc. While an iPhone user can choose from thousands of thousands of apps that allow the phone to do this, that and the other, Apple does not allow app makers to change core characteristics of the phone. In other words, for example, a company can make an app to play music files on the phone, but they cannot do anything to tweak Apple's native music player.

Apple's iOS operating system has come a long way over the years, so there may be fewer reasons to jailbreak than there used to be. However, there are still reasons, so I decided to go ahead and give the Absinthe Jailbreak a try. I had read good things, and watching a CNET How To video made me feel good about the endeavor.

I knew I would need time -- time to back up the data from my iPhone, time to perform the jailbreak and, if need be, time to reverse it -- so it took a little while to get to it. However, a little more than a week ago I sat down and got down to the business of setting my device free.

The process worked as advertised, and when it was over the famed Cydia app store had an icon on my phone. This is when I ran into two minor problems: the Cydia store is not the clean, polished work of beauty that Apple's App Store is; I didn't really know what I was looking for.

Mainly, I wanted to jailbreak because I'm a tech enthusiast and like to think I am ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. And I did want to add one tweak specifically. I think the iOS pull-down Notification Center is a wonderful thing but that Apple doesn't use it to its full potential. I'd see that it was possible to add a row to the notification center with quick access to settings such as wi-fi, 3G and, most importantly, brightness. Really, I just wanted to be able to adjust the screen brightness much more easily than Apple allows.

After jailbreaking my iPhone, I added settings (top row),
music controls (third row) and a shortcut to get to often-used apps
and apps I want to be able to access quickly while driving (fourth row)
to my Notification Center. I also added color to it

There are many options for this kind of tweak, but when I found the app SBSettings, I downloaded it (that goes a bit differently from what I was used to) and installed it (ditto).

I was very happy, but SBSettings proved to be a gateway app. I got hooked on tweaking (that sounds much more unsavory than it is) and added music controls to the Notification Center and used the app Activator to create all kinds of gesture shortcuts -- two-finger swipe down to go back to the home screen, two-finger swipe up to activate the camera, etc. Most recently, I downloaded a tweak that lets me swipe left and right within Apple's music player to skip through songs and to adjust the volume by swiping up or down.

 The thing to notice here is that I am able to have five icons in my
phone's dock at the bottom of the screen instead of the usual four.

I've also downloaded and tried out a few themes, the best being one for 2008's "The Dark Knight," which, along with giving you a movie-related wallpaper, replaces the unlock slider button with Batman's head.

 What I like about this jailbreak them is that you slide Batman's head
to unlock the phone. (Yeah, it's nerdy, but I like it, OK?)

Sure, none of these things sounds revolutionary, but taken as a whole they've truly enhanced my experience with the phone.

Jailbreaking has its downsides, though. If I need to take the phone in to an Apple store, I'll need to reverse the jailbreak first, as I've heard the techies at the Genius Bar won't touch jailbroken devices. Plus, when Apple releases updates to iOS -- iOS 6 is coming in the fall -- the updates typically undo the jailbreak.

Jailbreaking probably isn't for most folks, but if you're a bit bored with your iPhone and have considered taking the plunge, I recommend it.

Come on, be a rebel like me.


Since this post, I've ventured into the world of Dreamboard, a jailbreak app that allows you to apply different themes to your phone. I was interested in one particular theme, Metroon, which applies a look inspired by Microsoft's upcoming computer and tablet operating system, (I learn about Metroon from a story on The Verge.) Windows 8. Windows on an iPhone? I know -- it's blasphemy. But I don't hate windows -- I plan to buy Windows 8 for my PC -- and there are lots of Windows-inspired themes in the Cydia store.

The main reason I was interested in this was to bring some of the functionality of Microsoft's "live tiles," found on Windows 8 as well as Windows Phone 7. Primarily, I wanted calendar info to be on my main screen.

The first page of my Metroon home screen has a live calendar at the top, 
and it can display my latest text message at the bottom. To get back to the regular iOS look, 
I need but to tap the "Desktop" box to the left of the mail icon.

This is second Metroon page. Don't be fooled -- the Internet Explorer icon
simply opens up Apple's mobile Safari web browser

My lock screen has retained some of my "Dark Knight" theme, but it's Microsoft-ed it up a bit. Notice the time and date at the bottom and the music controls at the top. 

While Metroon set me back $1.50, Dreamboard is free and comes with a theme that makes your iPhone looks like its an HTC Android phone.

The only thing I really like about this HTC Android Dreamboard theme
is the integrated weather. That's not enough to use if very often.

In my limited time using these Dreamboard themes, there's reason to think it's negatively impacting battery life, so I may not run them much. Still, messing with this stuff is kind of fun.

-- Mark Meszoros | | @nhfeatures

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