IPhone hack

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iPhone Notes

Mount iPhone under Linux using FUSE.

Install the ifuse package under Ubuntu to access the iPhone media files via USB. This FUSE driver allows your OS to speak the proprietary Apple AFC protocol.

iPhone Original

Not Dead

The Frankenphone is still alive.

I'm having a little trouble booting it. I had to clip a battery lead at one point to shut it down. Afterwards I reconnected the battery using a long jumper with alligator leads. The phone will start about 20% of the time now. Most of the time it was start with the Apple logo and get all the way to the Springboard and then proceed to turn itself off. I checked this error log. I suspect that I have somehow interfered with the phone's low battery sense and now the machine automatically shuts down despite having a full battery. During the times the machine does start OK it will show the battery at full charge.

cat /var/logs/log-bb-live-stats.txt 
20:49:47 -0800 ST [rm] crash: state=Initialized
20:49:47 -0800 ST [rm] reset: reason=modem reset;uptime=238;count=1;callactive=false;pdpactive=false;rat=0
21:01:27 -0800 ST [clm] disconnect: duration=594;cause=kNoError;ceer=16;rat=0;cgi=310:410:6038:7246
21:02:05 -0800 ST [rm] crash: state=Initialized
21:02:06 -0800 ST [rm] reset: reason=modem reset;uptime=704;count=1;callactive=false;pdpactive=false;rat=3

--root 21:41, 27 February 2009 (PST)

Dead iPhone

This has been a long, slow death -- and in fact, it isn't even really dead yet. I have removed every structural part and yet I can still get the iPhone to boot and I can login via SSH.

The capacitive touch screen sensor cable is marked "821-0439A". It is the smaller of the two connectors on the screen. The contacts separate easily from the sensor glass. I suspect this is the root cause of the "dead band" problem common to the iPhone.

The LCD cable is marked "MDD50 36". the very back of the screen is a matalic film reflector. This peels off easily. It is held on only be pressure. The LCD back-light is from a bank of 6 white LEDs located at the top of the screen. They project light parallel to the glass. There is a lenticular or prismatic film that disburses the light perpendicular to the plane of the glass.

The iPhone is Mankind's Greatest Achievement

I bought an 8GB iPhone on 20070811. I had 14 days to return it if I couldn't figure out how to use it. I had no intention of getting AT&T because #1, I don't sign service contracts -- the AT&T iPhone contract is 2 years long! And #2, I had a previous ugly dispute with AT&T (which is part of the reason behind #1). Finally, #3, I got to test a friend's iPhone for quite a while over a period of weeks in many different locations in San Francisco and our conclusion is that Edge is almost completely worthless. The iPhone is fine on WiFi, but Edge turns out to be an annoyance. I would rather it not even try to connect to Edge and do nothing when it can't find WiFi.

(2007-09-04) OK, so Edge isn't that bad, but I still do yell at it. It makes me angry. It's OK for email. It takes forever to send little notes, but it works in the background, so mail eventually makes it out. Sometimes it's tolerable if I want to look up something on Google or Wikipedia. So it works, but it's not fun for Web browsing.

(2007-09-17) I still love my iPhone. It's almost become my primary means of reading email (I still use my beloved Mutt for serious mail writing and management). ... I still get a lot of people that knock the iPhone. Nerd friends want it to be a mini-laptop. Even I wish I could use it for SSH, but when I really think about it I know that's going to come in handy almost never. The buzz around the iPhone from people that have one and like it reminds me of the buzz around the Blackberry in the early days. Sure, it was just a pager and not a real PDA, but what little it did do was awesome.

(2008-05-06) I don't love my iPhone as much ever since a firmware update from Apple crippled the phone and prevented all the cool BSD UNIX fun that I could have with the phone. After I realized it was going to be a giant pain in the ass to undo the mess I realized I didn't need iTunes anymore, so I reformatted my Mac OSX and installed Linux instead. I still use the iPhone. It has a nicer browser. It's got a decent user interface. But without the flexibility of third-party apps the phone isn't worth $400 to me. It's just a nice phone. OK. That said, there are not many alternatives except for the Symbian phones. The Motorola Q phones are the worst pieces of crap I have ever had to deal with. Some people used them where I work and as the office phone nerd I get people coming by with their laothsome Q-phones asking me to configure them. Really, Windows Mobile is astonishingly bad and hard to use. Symbian phones may be a bit clunky, but they make up for it in power. These Windows Mobile phones just plain suck -- there are no upsides.

Jail Break

Installed cydia. This is key.

The "root" user password is "alpine". The "mobile" user password is "dottie".

Install "Suid Lib Fix".

Sources for Cydia and more

In the Installer go to sources. Hit 'edit' the 'add'. Enter "ride4.org/shai.xml". After that go into sources under "Categories" and install "All Sources".

Control Characters in terminal

You can send a control-C by pressing the "bullet" key (First press ".?123", then "#+=", then the circle on the middle right), then press the C key.

Escape is control-[. Tab is control-I.

There are also gesture shortcuts for these keys. Unfortunately there is very little documentation. Swipe up with TWO fingers on the screen to get a configuration screen. That should give you hints about the shortcuts.

See also mobileterminal FAQ.


So I have mixed feelings about the iPhone. For $600 it is a very expensive music player and WiFi surfer if you don't use it as a phone. Having to go through the nuisance of hacking it is a bit annoying considering the high price. The excuse, of course, is that Apple has to subsidize the high cost of the device with subscription fee, but $600 doesn't seem like much of a subsidy to me. Be that as it may, I still went out and bought one!

So far (20070815) I'm very happy with the iPhone. The loud speaker audio quality is very good for something this tiny. This makes it easy to watch videos with other people. The touch screen takes a little getting used to, but I really like it. I will never be as fast with the on-screen keyboard as with a physical keyboard, but that's OK. It's fine for filling out Web forms or sending a short email. If you need to do a lot of typing on something this tiny then get a Blackberry. While the iPhone keyboard isn't perfect, at least it doesn't make me angry! I had a Motorola Q for a short while and I felt like yelling at someone -- it had a mechanical keyboard so they have no excuse for making it impossible to type. The iPhone keyboard is a good compromise. Scrolling pages and images with the iPhone is awesome. It's just the perfect human interface.

Safari Web Browser

The web browser is excellent. It works with almost everything. I renders fast. This is the very best web browser I have seen on a portable device. The iPhone Javascript engine has a little bit of a problem with pages that need you to hover a cursor over something. You don't have a cursor with the iPhone and when you touch an object on the screen it often thinks that you are trying to click it. Also I found that a few AJAX sites have some quirks. I use RoundCube for email and it will not display messages. It will show the mail folder index, but I can't get messages to display. Also, it needs Flash. Flash isn't just for fun anymore. It's used for navigation on some sites even. It's everywhere. Speaking of which, I absolutely do not care that the iPhone browser does not support Java. Java lost. Flash won. I can't think of a single web site that I can't visit because of Java. I don't even have Java installed on my desktop Firefox browser.

Annoyances that will hopefully get fixed in later versions

The iPhone needs to have a way to select text and cut and paste. Horizontal mode needs to be available in more applications. Email, in particular, would be far nicer in horizontal mode. The cursor Zoom tool is neat, but it breaks in certain situations. If I try to move the cursor on a line near the top of the screen the little magnifying glass gets printed off the top of the screen. It's clipped so you can't see it. That's a genuine bug.

Completely stupid things about the iPhone

The iPhone does not show up as a USB drive. This is very stupid. They did this on purpose and it's wrong. I should be able to copy files to my iPhone so I can use it as a USB drive. I should be able to copy media files and have the iPod app find them to play them back. iTunes is OK, but forcing me to use it all the time just to load media onto the iPhone borders on making me angry. This is broken by design. This makes it impossible to use the iPhone with Linux or with someone else's machine that does not have iTunes installed.

Video conversion with mplayer

No luck so far, but here are the notes that I have.

  • fourcc should be M4VP.
  • H.264 video, up to 1.5 Mbps, 640 x 480, 30 frames per sec., Baseline Low-Complexity Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
  • H.264 video, up to 768 kbps, 320 x 240, 30 frames per sec., Baseline Profile up to Level 1.3 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
  • MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 x 480, 30 frames per sec., Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 kbps, 48 Khz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
  • Link to Apple's Tech Notes: http://developer.apple.com/technotes/tn2007/tn2188.html