Hackers have once again wrested a measure of control from Apple's iron-fisted grasp of iPads and newer iPhones with the release of jailbreaking software that allows hundreds of unapproved apps to be installed on the devices.
The package, called Spirit, was released over the weekend for devices running firmware versions 3.1.2, 3.1.3, and 3.2, which until now weren't easily freed from Steve Jobs' Howard-Hughesian control. The software allows users to customize homescreen images, tether the devices to a PC so they can be used as a modem and do other things that Apple considers verboten. It also allows users to install third-party apps from unapproved repositories such as Cydia and RockYourPhone.
Spirit works only on iPhones that have been activated and are already running an unmodified version of recent firmware. Devices that have been jailbroken by another program should be restored to 3.1.2, but users should ensure SHSH blobs have been backed up, the authors stress. It provides no support for unlocking carriers, so users will still be stuck with current mobile provider after running the software.
The untethered jailbreak allows devices to remain unlocked even after they are rebooted or plugged in to a computer. It exploits a vulnerability in the heavily locked-down "userland" section of a device, something the authors said hasn't been achieved since the early days of the iPhone. Spirit is available on both Mac OS X and Windows.
By most all accounts, installation is seamless, although the software authors report some errors for Windows users and say they can be overcome by setting the compatibility mode in Spirit to Windows 98 or 95.
They also warn that some of the apps offered by Cydia are "not designed for iPad, [and] might screw up your system and require you to restore." Step-by-step installation instructions from ReadWriteWeb are available here. ®