Sunday, September 30, 2007

Apple guilty of second degree iPhone murder?

We know there's a civil war brewing between Apple and an arguably critical part of their customer base -- the OS X geek community. If it turns out that Apple deliberately configured the latest OS X update to destroy hacked iPhones, the conflict will move up a notch. Glenn Fleishman of the venerable and respected Tidbits organization says Apple is not guilty of iphoneslaughter, but rather of murder in the second degree ...
TidBITS iPod & iPhone: Staff Roundtable: Apple Should Do No Harm to iPhones

... Apple has changed that equation with the iPhone's latest firmware and operating system upgrade. The iPhone is a powerful little computer controlled by powerful interests. Like almost all electronics sold today, includes a variety of kinds of firmware, or the software that controls the hardware. The firmware may be stored in different places, too, with radio cards and separate modules have their own internal firmware. Part of the firmware handles the boot procedure that allows the device to load the operating system; other parts handle upgrading and installing new firmware. Because the iPhone uses non-volatile, electrically erasable memory, there should be no problem with restoring a phone that has had every manner of change applied to it, as long as the boot routines aren't affected.

The hacks that unlock an iPhone to work with other carriers write special instructions to the firmware that controls the cellular network association to allow the use of any SIM - the authentication module used on worldwide GSM cellular networks - and not just AT&T's. This shouldn't affect the bootstrapping or firmware and operating system restore process one bit.

Gizmodo posted an interview with the iPhone Dev Team, a community effort that resulted in unlocking software. In the interview, the Dev Team makes it clear that Apple could very simply have included in the update a way to check whether the code related to the lock has been modified, and rewrite it. The team says that Apple could also fairly easily restore a default state and then more securely lock the phone down. (The team is also positive they can restore iPhones to a factory default state that have been "bricked," or turned into an unusable hunk of electronics.)
Has Apple lost its collective mind?

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