Thursday, 14 June 2012

Jailbreaking iPad 1 - Useful Apps and Tweaks

This is my third and final post (for now) about my experience in jailbreaking my 1st generation iPad. If you've not caught on yet, I decided to jailbreak so that I could get some of the features I really wanted that will be part of iOS6 but are being denied to the original iPad owners as part of Apple's 'strategy'.

In this post I'll give you some information about the Cydia apps that I've aquired since successfully performing the jailbreak, as well as my first thoughts after using the modified iPad for a couple of days.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the jailbreaking process leaves you in limbo a little bit. All you have to show for your efforts is the new Cydia icon. I'd suggest that if you want to do this yourself, you do a bit of reading on the sorts of apps that you can download from Cydia to make the jailbroken iPad experience what you hoped for, although of course reading this will help! I'm not providing links to the apps mentioned in the post. They are all available from within Cydia and can be found through its search function.

For me the top downloads so far have been - Intelliscreen X, NCColors, BannerDisable, Infinifolders, SBSettings, Activator, Fusion, and PkgBackup.

Notification Centre (NC) Tweaks

Intelliscreen X, NCColors and BannerDisable all change the behaviour of the Notification Centre (for the better!). Intelliscreen X allows you to view separate pages for normal notifications, Twitter feed, Facebook, Mail and RSS feeds without having to go into the applications themselves (even from the lock screen). Simply swipe to view the different pages. It's also possible to take certain actions directly within NC - so you can Like or Comment on a Facebook post, mark mail as unread or delete it, or RT/Repy or open a Tweet link. Being able to access mail, Facebook and Twitter on demand without having to load each app is a killer feature for me, and has been on my wish list for months. If you use NCColors alongside Intelliscreen you can change the background colour of NC and optionally blur the iPad background making the text much easier to read. Finally, BannerDisable enables you to temporarily turn off all notifications; ideal for bed time or during meetings.

UI Tweaks 

SBSettings, Activator and Infinfolder modify the way you interact with the iPad. SBSettings allows you to open up a window with Toggle buttons for things like Bluetooth, Wireless, and Airplane mode without having to go into the Settings app. It also acts as a jailbreak Settings app for developers should they wish to interface to it. Activator enables you to assign specific activites to different gestures - for example you can double tap the Clock to kill the current (or all) running app(s). A whole range of options are included with both these tools. Finally, in this group, Infinifolders blows the 12 apps/folder constraint enabling you to reduce the number of folders and the need to set up multiple folders for similar groups of apps. I can now put all my instruments in a single folder whereas before I needed to split them across 3 folders.


Last, but not least are the PkgBackup and Fusion apps. Since iTunes backups and Syncs will not recognise the jailbreak apps and their settings it falls on you to take care of it yourself. PkgBackup is a simple backup and restore app that can save your jailbreak data to a Dropbox account. Given that jailbreaking may destabilize the iPad, this is a must have app unless you want to lose your precious new settings and tweaks. Fusion is a small app that allows you to post to different networks. I've set mine up for Facebook and Twitter but other options are available. Posts can be made from a small window to any or all of the enabled accounts - again without having to go into the underlying apps themselves.

I'm really pleased that I made the decision to go ahead and jailbreak. For me, it was worth it for the Intelliscreen X features alone. I'm not aware that the system is any less stable - if anything it may be better now! It is worth noting that during the first 24 hours, as I was loading new "widgets", I did have to reboot numerous times. Many of the tweaks need to be interlaced into the OS so this is to be expected. Apps themselves don't require reboots, just like their App Store counterparts. Many of the packages on the Cydia store are free - some of those mentioned in this post do attract a fee of between 60p to £7.00 depending on the FX rate, but I consider them serious value for money.

As I aquire more jailbreak specific software I'll write about it in these pages as I would for any other apps for iOS or Mac OS X. I've already made the decision not to jailbreak my iPhone 4 as most of the iOS6 features I'm likely to use will be available to it. As for you dear reader - only you can decide whether jailbreaking is for you. Hopefully this and the previous posts will help you make an informed decision!

Good luck!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Jailbreaking - The Only Way Forward for a 1st Generation iPad

In my post yesterday, I wrote about my dismay that the original iPad would not be able to run iOS6 when it is released later in the year. I also decided to look into the possibility of jailbreaking the device to see if it was an option to get around this bad decision on Apple's part.

Those of you who read my posts regarding my experiment with the Hackintosh will know that I'm generally a little cautious when performing tasks like this - I do my homework first, weight up the pros and cons before deciding to proceed, and then spend plenty of time making sure that I know what I'm doing before I get started, and make sure that all the instructions are in front of me.

I fully intended to take the same approach with the iPad jailbreak, but I guess my disappointment that had been brewing over the previous 24 hours got the better of me as I started the research.

All it took was one video and a quick read of the instructions and I was sold. I think that in the back of my mind there was the thought that if there are not going to be any future significant updates for iOS5.1 then I had little to lose. Once the iPad was jailbroken it was going to stay in that state. I used Absinthe 2.0.4 to achieve an untethered jailbreak for the iPad 1 running iOS5.1.1. Untethered means that once the modification has been completed it is semi-permanent - it doesn't have to be re-jailbroken unless there is a problem. This compares to a tethered jailbreak where the modification needs to be done each time the device is unpowered. Clearly the untethered option is preferrable, especially on the iPad 1.

Compared to the Hackintosh project jailbreaking the iPad was a piece of cake. Yes, there were a couple of anxious moments, but these were on a par with a normal iOS update. The whole process took a little over an hour on a 64Gb iPad with about 15Gb of free space.

Once the process was complete, the only difference you'll notice is the addition of a new App icon - Cydia - which is a jailbreak management app for jailbroken iOS devices.

At this point a bit of additional research would not have gone amiss. Jailbreaking appears to have a language of its own, and it's actually difficult to know where to start when confronted with what is effectively a blank canvas. So most of what I've been doing has been trial and error, but I'm beginning to get the picture now. Luckily there are a wealth of videos on YouTube, not to mention oodles of websites.

A significant number of the "goodies" available for a jailbroken device serve to tweak the appearance of the device and improve on the accessibility of UI elements, particularly with reference to the notification centre.

As for the two things I mentioned in yesterday's post that I thought of as oversights on Apple's part, namely, the Do Not Disturb modification to Notification Centre and better Facebook integration - well, I've now got them addressed on my iPad. More about these "fixes" and some other great improvements next time.

The good news (for those around me at least) is that I'm back to being a happy bunny, and for now my 1st gen iPad has got a new lease of life. I will still be writing to the Apple Execs however. They don't get off the hook that easily!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Dismayed By Lack of iOS6 Support for the Original iPad

Well, so much for the good intentions of writing more regular but maybe shorter posts for the Apple Harvest. I've been spending most of my time focusing on my mainstream business writing about Business and Software Process Management and actually using Macs and iOS devices rather than writing about them!

After yesterday's WWDC keynote I felt compelled to jot down some thoughts. Like many other users I was looking forward to seeing what Apple were going to offer us, as well as seeing the egg on other commentators' faces when their predictions fell widely short of the mark. Having been passively following the rumour mill for the past few weeks I was pretty much expecting what was announced - and generally I was quite excited.

The new range of MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros look really cool, and by the time I upgrade my MBA (not for a few years I hope!) I think I can be assured that I'm going to get an even better machine. I'm really excited about Mountain Lion and I've already ordered my Thunderbolt to Ethernet connector for my MBA which I'm hoping will have a significant effect on the network spped at the Apple Harvest.

But I'm livid at the discovery that iOS6 will not be available on the original iPad, and only partially effective on the iPhone 4. Apple Harvest readers may remember that I only purchased my iPad 20 months ago so it isn't even two years old yet. But by the iOS6 release date in the autumn, it'll already be obsolete. It's less of an issue for me with the iPhone 4 because I'm already at the end of my contract, and I'll just hang on until the iPhone 5 is available - I would guess to coincide with the iOS6 release later this year.

What I'm most annoyed about is that some of the features should be easily integrated into the 1st generation iPad - specifically the improvements to the Notification System and the Facebook integration. The Do Not Disturb element of iOS6 notifications should be considered an critical omission from the initial implementation and should therefore be available across the board as an iOS5 update release. I am sick and tired of being woken up in the middle of the night by messages flashing up. OK, I could just switch into Airport mode overnight, but I need to remember to do it, and Apple don't exactly make it a one switch operation.

Over the next week I'll research how to jailbreak the iPad and weight up the pros and cons of doing so. I know that some of the annoyances I have generally with the original iPad can be alleviated by jailbreaking so it may be an option. I'll keep you posted on how this progresses in future blog entries.

But for now I'm bitterly disappointed with Apple's decision not to support the iPad 1. I can't see any technical reasons (in the same way that I don't understand why iPhoto for iOS can't run on the 1st generation iPad - actually it can and it does on mine!) because if the 3GS iPhone is supported, the technically superior iPad 1 should certainly be capable.

Maybe, if enough people complain, Apple will have a change of heart, but don't hold your breath. I do intend to write to Tim Cook and Scott Forstall about this, even if it's only to feel as though I've done something positive rather than just whinge - but I think it's a very justifiable whinge!