Jailbreak: Five Things You Need to Know


So you’ve just jailbroken your iPhone. Congratulations! Your iPhone life is about to improve in so many ways. Be sure to follow our Jailbreak series to get the most out of jailbreaking your iPhone. Going forward, here are some tips to bear in mind.

1. Never upgrade firmware directly via iTunes

In the process of jailbreaking the iPhone OS, a partition inside the iPhone OS is created specially to store the files and data necessary for jailbreaking to work. This partition is typically 500MB. If you look at the storage bar of your device in its iTunes page, you’ll see this 500MB partition marked as “Others”, since, naturally, iTunes does not recognize this third-party addition.


When a user attempts to upgrade the iPhone firmware by clicking on the ‘Upgrade’ button in iTunes, it will not count the 500MB into the storage space available to install new firmware. The result is that these 500MBs are effectively “lost.” For example, if you directly upgrade your jailbroken iPhone — running, say, 2.2 — to 2.2.1, you’ll find that you now have 1GB of used space in “Others”.

If you wish to upgrade the firmware of your iPhone, always restore to the default firmware first. After you’ve done so, you can safely click that ‘Upgrade’ button in iTunes.


2. You can be a law-abiding customer

Jailbreaking and unlocking are, to the uninitiated, one and the same thing. Do know, they’re not. Jailbreaking frees your iPhone to run applications and code that are not signed by Apple, while unlocking frees the device from the carrier that it is bound to as part of the service contract you’ve signed with your carrier of choice.

So, the fact is, yes, you have to jailbreak before you can unlock your iPhone, but unlocking is not a necessary step in jailbreaking. While tools such as QuickPwn and Pwnage include unlocking as part of their procedure, it is equally easy to skip that step. You are certainly not obligated to unlock if you choose to not violate the terms of service set by your carrier.

3. There is more than meets the eye in Cydia


Cydia, the jailbreak equivalent of Apple’s App Store, is, on the whole, well-designed and easy to navigate. But, being a community, pro bono effort, it is ad-supported. If you are new to jailbreaking, here is how you separate the wheat from the chaff.


This is what you’d immediately see when you click on an item listed in Cydia. Of most interest to you is perhaps the ‘More Information’ link. But before you tap on it, wait a couple of seconds (or more, if your data connection is slow).


What just happened? Ads have loaded and the ‘More Information’ link has been pushed down, out of sight. If you’d tapped before the ads could load, you’d have most likely tapped on the ad instead of the link you intended to visit. So, when browsing in Cydia, patience will go a long way in making your shopping experience a more pleasant one.

While we’re still on the subject, the only page links in Cydia that matter to the typical user are listed below.


More Information — Tapping on this takes you to a sub page where you can usually find a detailed write-up of what you are about to install. But sometimes, a More Information link can take you to an external site. This varies from developer to developer.


Changelog — Some developers offer a list of the changes the latest version of his or her application contains. Reading the changelog gives you a better idea of what to expect, and whether the app is worth upgrading.


Screenshots — Most of the hacks available in Cydia are visual ones. This is especially true of custom themes. Most developers will include screenshots — “Screenies” as they are commonly called in the jailbreak community — accessible thru the ‘Screenshots’ link.

But remember that every page in Cydia contains ads. So wait a while and let those screenshots load.

4. Secure your iPhone

icon Being an operating system with UNIX components, iPhone OS has a root account. The default root password has already been made widely-known on the Internet, so any one with some knowledge in SSH can easily access the contents of your iPhone wirelessly. Be sure to change the password after you jailbreak your phone.

  1. Fire up Cydia on your iPhone.
  2. Browse or search for an application called MobileTerminal and install that.
  3. Open MobileTerminal and type ‘passwd’ (without the quotes).
  4. You will be prompted for the old password; for iPhone OS 2.2.x, the password is ‘alpine’.
  5. Hit the Return key. You’ll be asked to input a new password.

As an extra security measure, you can install utilities such as BossPrefs or SBSettings and turn off SSH.

5. If your device is getting sluggish, uninstall WinterBoard

“Jailbreaking slows down your iPhone.”

“Your device will become unstable.”

I often hear these two comments about jailbreaking. To be fair, there is some truth in them. If you think the performance of your iPhone is beginning to feel really sluggish, chances are you have installed too many WinterBoard themes and hacks.


WinterBoard is a well-known feature of the jailbroken iPhone. The most visible part of WinterBoard that you see is as an application that lets you apply themes to the user interface of iPhone OS.


The invisible part of WinterBoard is a platform for system hacks to run, injecting code into iPhone OS while it is running on your device. In an over-simplification, it does this via a system process called the Mobile Substrate. Mobile Substrate runs beneath SpringBoard, Apple’s name for the home screen of your iPhone. You can think of SpringBoard to the iPhone what the Desktop is to Mac OS. Some system hacks are dependent on WinterBoard, ‘piggy-backing’ on it and running in the background.


An iPhone freshly rebooted typically has about 30—50MB of free memory out of the total 128MB available to iPhone OS. Running in the background, WinterBoard typically takes up 11MB or so. Add a theme and some hacks, and it adds up quickly. Remove WinterBoard, and you will see a dramatic improvement in the responsiveness of your iPhone. But you’d lose what many users consider as the most compelling reason to jailbreak the iPhone, so it’s really your call.

If you really must keep WinterBoard, go easy on the number of themes and WinterBoard-dependent hacks you install. Also, uninstall the themes and hacks that aren’t in use; you can certainly claim some speed and memory back this way.

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