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Tyler on Ubuntu: Jailbreaking and Why it’s good for us.

In case you all haven’t heard, back in late July, Jailbreaking devices was ruled to be legal by the United States government, and similar bits of legislator are seeing movement in other notable countries (although those of you in the UK ought to know that it’s technically always been legal there). Many countries have never had laws against it, or copyright laws that support claims made by companies such as Motorola, Apple, or Samsung that jailbreaking was somehow illegal.

You’re probably wondering by now how in the world this could possibly have any impact on Ubuntu, or you, the Ubuntu user. The answer? More ways than you think.

Interoperability

Quite honestly, this is a point long overdue, but I’m going to say it anyway. There was once, not so long ago, a time when those of us who owned Apple mobile devices of any type were screwed when it came to using Ubuntu. There were a few monster workarounds that yielded less than spectacular results, and even those were generally only for older generation devices. Especially once things got to the point of the ‘touch’ generation of devices, which added apps and multimedia uses, Ubuntu users were left with hard choices of virtual machines with absurd USB workarounds and shared folders (and really slow sync times), or a dual-boot that we wanted to avoid for this very reason. I remember painful boots, having to wait 15 minutes to install windows updates and a new version of iTunes just so I could sync up a new album, or backup my apps. However, the Jailbreak community provided some very nifty ways to set up your iPhone or iPod to sync up wirelessly, which, while not optimal, was very welcome to nothing at all.

Eventually some very hard working folks at usbmuxd worked out a way to mount iPhone’s and iPod touches out of the box with Ubuntu, which was included in vanilla 10.04 (and there was much rejoicing).

However, it should be noted here. Big companies, for the most part, don’t care about Ubuntu. So when media devices become increasingly locked down, even those based on Unix and Linux kernels (I’m looking at you, Droid X), it is up to the Jailbreaking community to come up with ways to allow us to sync and use our devices with our Ubuntu Desktops, the way we want.

Now that it’s legal, I expect we’ll see even more growth in those realms. With significant demand, nothing will stop a large amount of apps that seamlessly work together with Ubuntu and Ubuntu apps, without having to worry about the closed-garden software center of the iOS, or the locked down boot-roms of many Android devices.

Naturally, none of that happens for free. People have to spend time planning and exploring, money has to be paid to run servers, and people have to actually develop the stuff. But without the added risk of possible legal action, whatever portion of Linux users who also have iPads, iPhones, iPod touches, Android phones and tablets, or any other device of that sort can now feel free to find new ways to bring the devices together, both on the Desktop developing side and on the Mobile client side.

So, while the iPhone (or other comparable, previously closed hardware/software) is nowhere even close to being open source, we do now finally have the ability to legally have software harmony between the mobile and desktop world. We just have to create it.

The Freedom We Want

Which, all said, is what we want. While there are plenty of apps available in the app store, there are tons of things that I know those Apple devices could do if the rules allowed it. Jailbreaking = Creativity time. Legal jailbreaking = Creativity time without repercussion. I see that being a win-win.

I’ve searched around the Ubuntu forums, and sure enough, there are  several threads asking if Ubuntu can be installed on the iPod, the iPad, the Droid, whatever. While I don’t know why you would actually want to do so, from a usability point of view, there is no legal restraint keeping us from doing such a thing. If future versions of the iPad increase in power and connectivity, why not have an available version of Ubuntu to run on it? Why not spin our own alternate software to run on our device?

Because that’s what this ruling means. It becomes our hardware again. A huge battle has been won in allowing the use of the software that we desire on the devices we buy, legally. That is huge, guys, and Apple has always been resistant to it. But they no longer have the ability to threaten with illegality.

Increasing Familiarity with Alternate OS’s and Unix

This is also something that will, in the long run, turn out to be huge even if it’s nearly impossible to measure, and even harder to really visualize.
Let me tell you a story. Well, less of a story and more of an overview. I have taken a friend of mine from point A, which was someone who didn’t really care about what his device did, he just did what the device told him, to point… I don’t know, G, wherein he jailbreaks everything he owns and runs Ubuntu on all his computers. The steps in between started with installing free software solutions like OpenOffice, to illustrating the benefits of Jailbreaking, to showing the ease of Repository use, the power of the terminal, and the complete controllability of Conky scripts and Compiz. He went from being one of those people with a 4 minute Windows boot time due to endless error messages and Java updates and bloatware to running Ubuntu and writing his own scripts.
I gave him a taste of freedom through Jailbreaking and software like Firefox, Chrome, and VLC, and this brought him into using Ubuntu full time.
Jailbreaking gaining momentum means more users becoming willing to install things that they want, instead of what they are told to want. It means that they decide what their computers and devices will do for them, instead of just putting up with their computer for the minimal amount of time necessary. It means that our devices will become a bit more Human friendly, instead of dictated to us by CEO’s.
And that, friends, is a good thing for Ubuntu.
Tyler Brainerd is an End User Nerd, who has recently graduated college. He is a usability hobbyist, seeking a friendlier, more useful electronic experience for everyone he can possibly convince to care. On occasion he actually bothers to do what Joey asked him to, and write posts here on OMG!Ubuntu about usability and his own predictions of where Ubuntu might go, as well as fairly obsessively lurking around the OMG comment boards. He thinks that everybody ought to stop complaining that OMG is trying to use ‘sex appeal,’ unless, miraculously, orange juice and sunburnt noses have somehow become sexy.