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Crowdfunded Prize For Open Source Jailbreaking iOS7 To Improve Accessibility

from the awesome-on-multiple-levels dept

Here's a story which hits on so many different points that we're interested in. There's a new effort to crowdsource a "prize" for whoever can release an open source jailbreak for iOS7. First off, we've been big fans of "innovation prizes" like the X Prize. We're also big fans of crowdfunding -- so here's an example of combining both of those: crowdfunding an innovation prize -- which has already reached about $6,500 despite no publicity (yet). Next, the prize is for another thing that we think is of utmost importance: the freedom to tinker with products you bought. The locked down nature of the iPhone remains one of the shames of modern technology. Encouraging a true, open source jailbreak is important in opening up the technology -- for a variety of important reasons (including a huge one that inspired this project, as will be explained below). The project also has a four person team to judge which solution will qualify for the prize, including some folks you might recognize: Cory Doctorow, Kyle Wiens (of iFixit) and Gabreilla Coleman (professor who studies hacktivism, Anonymous and has posted here).

But perhaps the most interesting (if unfortunate) point in this story is the reason for the project in the first place. The fourth judge is Chris Maury, who inspired the creation of this project in the first place. Maury has Stargardt's Macular Degeneration, a genetic condition that has taken him from having 20/20 vision just a few years ago to rapidly losing his vision, to the point that he will eventually be legally blind (already he can no longer drive). He would like to be able to actually use his iPhone but much of the software that makes the phone usable with his vision isn't available in the iTunes App Store. Thus, he needs to jailbreak the phone in order to use it.

This is really the most shameful part of locked down systems. In the past, we've talked about how the short-sighted view of people who want to lock out certain types of applications almost resulted in a young girl being unable to communicate, and here we have a situation where someone with a severe visual impairment can't get everything possible out of the devices he's purchased. What kind of world are we living in that we think it's okay to have this as "standard operating procedures" for the electronics we use every day?

Thankfully, what giant companies try to lock up, creativity can hopefully unlock. And, in this case, we've got layer upon layer of creative innovations to try to get around a bad situation. While it's unfortunate that such a project is even necessary in the first place, it's inspiring to see this kind of creativity pop up to try to solve the problem. Go check out the project. If you want to contribute to the prize, you can do so there (and, yes, they accept Bitcoin, too), or if you feel like creating an open source jailbreak for iOS7 and collecting the prize (or just basking in the wonders of doing something good), check it out as well.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2013 @ 4:12pm

    I don't see how contributing to this project helps anyone in the long term. It encourages people to give money to companies that are anti-device freedom and open sourcing the exploit only makes it that much easier for Apple to fix.

    Wouldn't a better option be to buy a more open device?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2013 @ 4:48pm

    Isnt there some lawyer that could sue them for non ada compliance? /sarc

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2013 @ 4:59pm

    Choose with your wallet

    Why do people like this insist on supporting the very companies that seek to impair their lives?

    Support Android, get a rooted device, and be happy. If you support the ecosystem that supports you, it will be better for everyone in the end - and hopefully demonstrate to companies like Apple that there are other choices out there, and they better shape up or ship out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    out_of_the_blue, Dec 10th, 2013 @ 6:13pm

    Apparently corporatist Mike wants to help Apple despite Apple.

    And going at it ass backwards because surely Apple could be pressured to okay such existing tools with so worthy a purpose. My opinion is that Mike just can't bring himself to actually directly criticize Apple (or any corporation unless opposed to one of his favorites such as Google), so he endorses this method that would result in helping Apple.

    Mike manifestly doesn't understand the WHY of locked-down systems: CONTROL. Apple is one of the worst for control and spying. The increasing number of dolts going along with its Orwellian systems because dazzled with shiny gadgets is one of the most alarming trends of the decade. But Mike appears to think Apple is just "short-sighted", NOT far-sighted to the immanent surveillance society where Apple will be a key player. (Turns out as usual that Apple's "1984" commercial was the opposite of its actual goals.)

    Then there's the juxtaposition of using "short-sighted" after a paragraph about macular degeneration. That's just lousy, oblivious, hasty writing to NOT notice.

    Mike often tells us that he knows how teh internets work, but never really shows a grasp of human nature in practice, the fraud and control to gain money any way can.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2013 @ 7:07pm

    Re: Choose with your wallet

    Agreed. Why jailbreak IoS where there is a much better, much friendlier competitor already out there, on phones that are as good or better, and can be implemented on much larger portable screens without issue?

    The guy is facing a problem and I can understand his need, but you have to think that a Samsung pad with 4g wireless and headset would be a much better way to do things that trying to make the tiny print on a small Apple screen work for a legally blind person.

    For my take, this guy isn't just legally blind, his vision appears to be obscured by the brick wall he is hitting his head against.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Graham J (profile), Dec 10th, 2013 @ 7:09pm

    Mike, it's pretty sad that you're letting your personal views of Apple get in the way of your job once again. You're advocating for malware to be developed that could expose hundreds of millions of devices to attack. It's bad enough that Android has so many attack vectors, you do no service to your readers trying to add one to the more secure iOS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2013 @ 7:14pm


    You act as if this malware wouldn't be created without crowdsourcing.

    The truth is, this malware probably already exists in private circles, and by publicly exposing security holes, there's a higher chance that the privately-created malware may have to be enhanced further at the expense of the "bad guys".

    So, your premise that jailbreaking will somehow expose a security hole that wasn't already known is probably false. It's the same old "security by obscurity" excuse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Mike Brown (profile), Dec 10th, 2013 @ 7:49pm


    If I want to use a pair of scissors to trim my fingernails, that's my business. The manufacturer of those scissors can't do anything about it, and I won't shed a tear for their lost nail-clipper revenues.

    Likewise, if put down my hard earned money on an iPhone (not that I personally ever would, but that's beside the point), that iPhone is MINE. I'll do as I please with it, and Apple can suck it if they don't like it.

    "Malware?" Really? "Freedomware," more like. The tool being sought in this case has to be open source; thus the code is subject to public scrutiny, and smarter guys than you and me will make sure it's not a trap before they give out the cash.

    How is anyone being exposed to attack? Because they'd be able to install 3rd party apps not approved by Apple? Look, if you think Apple's walled garden is designed to keep the bad guys out, you've got another thing coming. You can still give out your credit card numbers to thieves if you visit sketchy sites, or use an unsecured wifi. I'm sorry to be the one to burst your bubble, but the walls are there to keep you in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 10th, 2013 @ 7:51pm



    It is pretty sad that you are letting you personal views get in the way of someone who purchased a device who has a medical condition from being able to use his device.

    What should he do? carry a giant magnifying glass every where he goes so that he can use his phone?

    It is also sad, that your fanboyism causes you to attack a better operating system than your beloved apple OS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Mike Brown (profile), Dec 10th, 2013 @ 7:54pm

    Re: Apparently corporatist Mike wants to help Apple despite Apple.

    +1 chuckle goes to OOTB for spotting Mike's clearly unintended pun. Unfortunately, the rest of his screed is just his usual nonsense.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Atkray (profile), Dec 10th, 2013 @ 8:04pm


    However it would be awesome and flip my opinion of Apple on it's head if it was announced ... And the WINNAR is Apple for releasing their own jailbreak.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    G Thompson (profile), Dec 10th, 2013 @ 9:28pm

    Re: Choose with your wallet


    What is this very much American infatuation and worshipping of Apple. And yes it's still a form of worshipping to even create a project that's only raison d'Ítre is to break a product that is the reason for the whole problem in the first place!

    Do what the rest of the world does and work with anything except Apple and maybe Apple might lose the market hold they currently have with the US market (they have lost it with the rest of the world thank gawd) and lo & behold get that so needed kick in their proverbial whatsits and actually create a product that is WHAT PEOPLE NEED instead of What people are TOLD they WANT.

    Ah but that would be logical and consumer friendly, and no one ever accused the American markets of that ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 12:13am


    Why the sarcasm? An enterprising attorney could argue that this is an intentional move on Apple's part...and win.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Suzi, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 12:21am


    iPhone unlock service providers will suffer losses and the people going to enjoy it as they don't have to pay for get the phone unlocked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 1:00am

    Re: re

    You jest but I remember exactly that when we iopen sourced the DCT4 unlock code generator for Nokias (and then again when we open sourced the DCT3 code).

    Fuck the 'professional' unlockers, they are part of the problem not the solution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 2:43am

    Re: Re:

    yeah, like Paul Hansmeier :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Jasmine Charter, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 7:10am

    Open Source... BAD...

    In this case... open source is bad... it will be easier for Apple to find the hole and plug it.

    But I applaud the effort!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    btrussell (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 8:20am

    Re: Open Source... BAD...

    You're a psychic, why not just tell them where it is?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Crashoverride (profile), Dec 11th, 2013 @ 1:39pm

    It's ironic that they're trying to use a disability to justify their work. Kind of like using Child Porn to justify censoring etc... I don't see why an app cannot be created nor would be denied approval, to do many of the very things they're attempting to do in the name of "disablement"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    carladanwright, Dec 13th, 2013 @ 3:18am

    Don't do the Jailbreak. If you can do this you lost your iPhone warranty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    tony, Dec 16th, 2013 @ 9:18pm

    Crowdfunded prizes already exist

    And you can start your own using .

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    Graham J (profile), Dec 31st, 2013 @ 9:34am


    iOS7 has been jailbroken. So Mike, are you going to code up a nice accessibility app for your poor friend now?

    Be sure to let us know when it's done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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