Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

October 15, 2007

iPhones becoming iBricks shows why Open Source systems are better

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 5:24 PM

A little while ago the iPhone was released with a lot of fanfare for a very limited audience located in the US who would agree to be locked in an AT&T contract for two years. Almost as soon as it was released hackers everywhere starting taking it apart to get it to work with other carriers. After a lot of trial and error a method was found that didn’t require taking the phone apart and a lot of people installed it. If I had an iPhone I would have installed it, just so that I could use *MY* phone as and when I wanted to.

Then Apple went ahead and released a patch that turned the hacked iPhones (and a lot of unhacked ones) into bricks or very expensive paperwieghts. It may be legal for them to do this because of the User Agreement that people signed when they bought the phone but it sure isn’t ethical. They are now under a bunch of lawsuits because of this and if the courts agree it was wrong of them to brick the iPhones then and only then can the users expect to be reimbursed.

iPhoneSIMFree, the first company that offered an unlocking tool, has released a paid upgrade that resolves the issue and unlocks the iPhone once again but even this is a hack which uses a buffer overflow bug in Safari to run the fix. This lets the users use their iPhones but users of the fix should beware that at any time Apple might fix this issue and include the fix in the next mandatory patch that they push out, converting the phones into expensive paperweights once again…

Now, you might ask how does open source come into the picture? Well, if the iPhone OS was open source this would have never happened. Anyone and everyone would have the right to install whatever Apps they wanted and use it wherever they want.

This risk is there in any closed system. Whats stopping Microsoft from deciding that your data needs to be tracked and installing a patch on your system that lets them do just that? Infact a few weeks ago they installed an updated version of the Windows Update Service on computers that had the updates disabled. What is to stop them for doing it again and how many more of these backdoors are there?

In an Open OS like Linux or Open Solaris, a lot of people look at the code and at some time or other every line of the code has been looked at. This makes it a lot harder to hide backdoors in the OS itself (not impossible. Just very hard), which is not the case with Windows and iPhones. You have to do it the hard way and reverse engineer the system (which is against the law BTW)

Google is rumored to be working on an Open Source OS for the Phones, even Nokia and Samsung are working on an Open Mobile OS. So open systems are the way to go.

If you are looking for alternatives to the iPhone check out this article from Tech republic where they list out the top 10 alternatives to the iPhone. I am drooling over the Nokia N99 (16 GB of internal memory, a 3.2-inch screen, a 9-way joystick control, GPS, WLAN, and a 7.2-megapixel camera that lets you shoot DVD quality movies) right now. That will probably be my next phone. There are a couple of Linux phones out there too but most are still in the development stage… Lets see when they come out.

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

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