Many people seem confused and feel more than just a bit nervous about the prospect of jailbreaking an Apple iOS based device. To the uninitiated, jailbreaking seems to be a dark and mysterious art best left to practitioners of witchcraft and garden gnomes. Nothing can be further from the truth, however.

The Fear Factor

Despite the abundance of jailbreaking information on the web which may be found by Googling, much of it is not particularly well written or well organized. And most of it seems to be written for engineering majors, instead of the average layperson. Most importantly, however, the sites quickly jump to the jailbreaking portion without offering the necessary advice on preparations or precautions to uninformed users, which sometimes leads to disasters both big and small.

MegaTechNews will address these issues by creating a continuing series of guides and articles which will cover jailbreaking and the benefits to you, the user. We will attempt to keep you up-to-date on all the happenings in the jailbreaking scene as well as highlight useful tweaks and mods to make your iDevice all it can be.

What Exactly Is Jailbreaking… and Is It Legal?

In North America, courts have sided with consumers against Apple in rendering the decision that jailbreaking of Apple devices is not illegal – of course Apple continues to appeal. So far as we know, there has not been a single instance anywhere in the world of a user getting into legal problems from jailbreaking any Apple device they personally own.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, jailbreaking is simply a software hack that exploits security weaknesses in iOS and allows unsigned code to run from a special device boot mode (DFU Mode). This unsigned code circumvents and shuts down the DRM (Digital Rights Management) in iOS devices.

Jailbreaking does not alter anything else within your iDevice. It doesn’t compromise any of the secure data or databases stored on your device (these are encrypted), nor does it change any other aspect of its operation. A jailbreak simply allows unsigned apps – those not downloaded from iTunes – to run on your iDevice. A jailbroken device can continue to be used normally with iTunes and access anything and everything you had access to before jailbreaking.

While the act of jailbreaking is not illegal, the way in which a jailbroken device is being used may be. Jailbroken devices, due to circumvention of DRM, are capable of running pirated apps which is most definitely illegal. We here at MegaTechNews do not support piracy. We believe that developers who work hard to provide good software should be fairly compensated for their efforts.

Why Would I Want to Jailbreak?

People redecorate their homes, mod their cars and PCs, so why not Apple’s iDevices? It’s simply an expression of individuality. From a more practical standpoint, a jailbroken iDevice can be fully customized and themed. You can add a lot of small system tweaks, many of which are free, to improve the iDevice’s operation and usefulness.

Also many well written apps created by professional developers, that for one reason or another were rejected by Apple for inclusion in the App Store, will generally show up in the Cydia market. Many developers complain about Apple’s inconsistent review process which allows certain apps to get approved while other similar ones get rejected. Cydia gives an alternative venue for these software authors – and makes available software which might not otherwise have seen the light of day.

A jailbroken iDevice and Cydia gives you an open and free system – think of it as App Store+. It gives you the freedom of choice to use and to improve your iDevice as you see fit, instead of being locked into Apple’s view of how you can or cannot use it.

What If I Want to Get Rid of My Jailbreak?

Jailbreaking is easily reversible. Every time you update to a newer iOS revision or restore your iDevice from a backup using iTunes, the onboard firmware is re-flashed back to its original, non-jailbroken state. You would have to jailbreak it again if you wanted to continue using a jailbroken device.

I suspect most users, after experiencing the incredible diversity of tweaks and customization options available, would want to stick with a jailbroken device, even to the exclusion of updating to newer iOS revisions if no jailbreak is available for it yet.

However, there will always be a few among us that will feel uncomfortable with the idea of a jailbroken device and may wish to reverse the process. And of course, if you ever need to take your iDevice back to Apple for service, you’d want to restore it to a non-jailbroken state for warranty purposes.

So, What’s Next?

In Part II of this series, we will get our hands dirty. We will show you the tools available for jailbreaking your iDevice and we will also provide simple step by step instructions. Along the way we will also provide helpful hints, tips and information to avoid some common mistakes made by people new to the jailbreaking scene.

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