Struggle with technology continued: Bluetooth & iPhone


Continuing on the 'battle with technology':

First of all: I've stumbled over a recent much-commented blog post from Jason Kasper titled "I think I'm tired of Desktop Linux". Which airs the same sentiments I uttered in my last post here. He also knows he won't ditch Linux - but is really tired of stuff breaking all the time.

I will be watching his (and others'?) posts about switching to a MacBook closely. Especially when it runs Linux nicely (and I can learn from other people's fixes), chances are big I'll buy one, and alternate between MacOS (with an excellent VMWare program for windows apps) and Linux. But not just yet, since my Dell really doesn't need replacement yet.

Secondly: the PulseAudio problems with my bluetooth headset are gone; I can use pavucontrol (the graphical app to change output device, volume & settings for audio streams) again. And it has had 'profile settings' added. (The horrible noise from my headset wasn't becauce of wrong internal volume settings, but because the 'Telephony (HSP/HFP)' profile was activated. I put it back to 'High Fidelity Playback (A2DP)' again, and stuff works flawlessly.

And I have a 'new feature' now, that I didn't know existed... I can select the 'headphones' profile for my normal soundcard. And then when I unplug my headphones, the sound does not switch to speaker (irritating or embarassing myself), but just goes mute. Wow! Probably a normal thing for Windows users, but new for me on Linux, for the first time in years Wink

So that struggle is over (for now?); all my applications work flawlessly with sound. Now if I can just get stupid hibernation working again, there will be no more Linux problems for me Smile

Thirdly, another hopeful development, on something I hadn't mentioned yet:

The iPhone.

I bought one in August 2008 and have been pleased with it. Not as a gadget freak. (I have hardly installed any extra applications, even.) Just as "the first phone that I'd ever seen, that I wanted to use the Internet on", plus agenda, plus MP3 player. It's just a really handy device, and it works well. (Except for that one UI bug I encountered a few times on the train.)

Still, some things were really irritating :

  • lack of 'select all text' on notes. If I wanted to delete a few lines of text, I was forced to press backspace a hundred times.
  • absolute lack of support for Bluetooth headsets, for listening to music. WTH? A phone evolved from the iPod, with Bluetooth, that can't play music over Bluetooth!? Maybe it's a battery drain, but at least let me decide myself!
  • spelling 'auto-correct' that could not be turned off, and was only available in one language. That was really really irritating; I took twice as long typing Dutch messages because every word I typed and 'inadvertantly' pressed space without waiting, was replaced by an English word from the internal dictionary. Argh!
  • the inability to connect to most (2) of the Wifi-enabled routers that I have encountered in homes where I've lived in the past year.

Also... the lack of a decent music program sucks for me, since I work on Linux (so I don't have iTunes available). I just uploaded 14GB of songs in Windows once, and haven't spent any time on it since. (Nor have I spent a dime on buying new music, which I definately would have done if I had an easy way of buying music and uploading it to my iPhone. Now I just listen to my old music, and internet radio when at home.)

I haven't spent a lot of time customising my phone. At all. I just have other things to do.

But this summer I finally got round to 'reading up on developments', and things are looking up Smile

First of all, the new iPhone OS version 3.0 that I finally installed last august, solved most of my gripes. It has select/cut/paste, good connection with my bluetooth headset1... and a normal setting to turn off spelling auto-correct2.

What it doesn't do yet, is connect well to cheap WiFi-enabled home routers. But I've been able to solve that (for places where I have my laptop connected through ethernet) with a little time investment. It just takes

  • wicd (or any other program) which can set up a 'ad-hoc WiFi network',
  • dhcpd installed on my laptop and configured to answer to requests on the wlan interface
  • an iptables script that sets up IP masquerading, with the wlan as 'internal' and the ethernet connection (to the home router) as 'external' interface.

I haven't fully automated this, but with this script around, it works well enough. At least I can update my apps (or anything else) at home, without having to use the slow & pay-per-data phone network.

Now it really feels like a handy tool.

But it gets even handier. Last months, I've also started to go beyond the artificial Apple-imposed limitations on the phone... by 'jailbreaking' my iPhone.

jailbreaking really is easy!

(Or at least, it was when I did it... and we just need to see whether it stays that way for future iPhone OS versions...)

As I've mentioned previously, I'm turning more and more into a 'normal user', who cannot be bothered reading days and days worth of documentation just to get something hackish done. And all the web pages about jailbreaking seemed to be (at least half) 'shady'. All different programs made by different 'hacker groups' with different names... and no good overview information about which program did what. Or just websites full of adverts and links to other sites, that seemed like 'malware bait'.

But the second time I looked, somewhere in october... I stumbled across a web page that gave me enough information and trust to try it. (Even though it made me download an unverified image onto my phone...) a page at indicated that the process of jailbreaking the iPhone was actually really easy. And it was even possible on Linux! 'redsn0w', a piece of software that has a Linux version, could upload a jailbroken version of firmware onto my iPhone (as far as I understand it). I just followed the well documented steps, and... after a special reboot, was presented with a bootup screen of an ananas with a bite missing Laughing out loud

That's it.

Ofcourse then the fun starts. There are two 'package managers' (Cydia and Icy) which have access to a repository of software. So far I installed the following free software which is apparently unavailable from official iTunes:

  • A piece of software that can turn your iPhone into a modem. Now I can use the Internet from my laptop on the train! (Laptop connects to the iPhone over WiFi, which then forwards the connection over the phone network.) Now that is something useful.3
  • a terminal client and an ssh daemon, so I can make connections into my iPhone. (I thought I'd need to jump through extra hoops to get a shell prompt on my phone... but no, it just works Smile And I have a 'toggle app' to turn the daemon on & off, so it doesn't accept connections from everyone, when I'm in train stations etc.)
  • an app to record video! I didn't know the camera could do that... (OK, the image isn't perfect but 'decent enough for some fun quick snaps', which is better than 'not having the possibility')
  • An app that is supposed to be able to notify me when I've lost my iPhone (I haven't tried or configured it yet)
  • an iTunes (player) clone that might finally allow me to organise my music on my Linux system and upload (parts of) it to my iPhone, in a way I (not Apple) can control the process.4

(And for me it's also pretty cool seeing apt-get install progress messages running across my iPhone screen. Wink)

So I'm really, really almost there. Almost a 'fully functional' iPhone and almost a 'fully problem free' Linux laptop. Let's hope it stays that way.

Unfortunately now I can't update the iPhoneOS from 3.0.1 to 3.1.2... I think so, at least. Because that update will probably revert some 'jailbreak changes' on my iPhone5, and there is no jailbreaking software yet for iPhoneOS 3.1 for other platforms than MacOS. But hey, luckily the update isn't that urgent, because I can live without the fixes. I guess I'll just try to keep an eye on all those funny hacky websites, try to keep up with all the techspeak on them, and upgrade when it feels safe.

And I don't worry I won't have anything to tinker with... Nowadays I have at least one Drupal website, with lots of modules that still need to be discovered, debugged and worked on Wink

  • 1. though the volume is sometimes too loud for me when listening to music on my Jabra headset, even at the lowest volume setting. Also not all of the headset controls work, but that seems to be solved with the newer iPhone OS 3.1.
  • 2. Which was already there in a previous update; maybe I need to spend more time reading documentation...
  • 3. I understand why Apple does not want to distribute this software: if people use their iPhone 'unlimited data account' that they probably got from their cellular provider, as an Internet connection for their other devices... the phone operators cannot make money anymore. But I have paid the full price for my iPhone and I pay 'per-MB' on my current phone account. So I don't need to care, can feel 'entitled to' use my mobile-phone-modem-computery-device this way... and if people wanna sue me for breach of agreement, I will just not buy anything from them ever again.
  • 4. And maybe, if I can search and download music I like with ease, and play it without problems on both my Linux system and my iPhone... I'll start buying music again. Like I did a few years ago at AudioLunchbox, primarily.
  • 5. I'm not sure that it will, actually... the details are so sketchy when you don't know (/ people don't explain) exactly what they're talking about. Someone who has unlocked their iPhone (to use other telco carriers) will be 'locked' again. But I haven't 'unlocked' mine, which wasn't locked to begin with (because I paid full price for the phone), I just 'jailbroke' it. So now I don't know whether an update to iPhoneOS 3.1 is safe or not.