Home' LAPTOP Magazine : October 2010 Contents When in the course of human events it becomes
necessary for people to dissolve the wireless bands
which have connected them with their cell carrier
and to assume among the powers of the root, the
admin rights over their phones to which the laws of
the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and their tech
skills entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of
mankind requires that they should declare the causes
which impel them to hack their phones.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that
all smart phones are created equal, that they are
endowed by their creators with certain unlockable
capabilities, that among these are Life on the network
of one's choice, Liberty to install custom ROMS or
apps, and the Pursuit of Happiness through Flash
support and Wi-Fi tethering. Whenever any vendor
becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of
the People to alter or abolish their phone's software
and to institute a rooted or jailbroken OS.
Unfortunately, the founding fathers didn't
have cell phones. But if they did, does
anyone doubt that they'd have declared
independence from King Steve, rather than King
George? As anyone who has an iPhone knows,
Apple's device will allow you to install only censor-
approved apps from its app store, and, even
though the phone's hardware allows the device
to work on T-Mobile's GSM network, its software
forces you to use AT&T.
So Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock must
temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety"?
We don't need protection from ourselves.
If I decide to install unsupported software on my
phone, you don't have to support me. By all means,
void my warranty. But how dare you try to stop me?
I paid for that phone.
Imagine how different the world would be if
computer manufacturers locked down PCs as
handset makers lock down their phones. Just
picture yourself buying a laptop that comes with
Windows XP preloaded and Windows 7 comes out
in beta, but your computer is BIOS locked. You'd
have to hope and pray that the manufacturer
allows you to install the new OS. And forget about
As phone users, we need to demand the same
freedoms on our handsets that we have on our
PCs. Unfortunately, the government isn't going
to step in and help us out. There's nothing in the
Library of Congress' new interpretation of the law
that forces the Apples or Motorolas of the world
to stop trying to block you with technology.
We have to vote with our wallets, by select-
ing phones that provide maximum flexibility.
Processor and motherboard makers used to
make it difficult for PC enthusiasts to overclock
their chips. However, as more and more geeks
started overclocking, manufacturers started to
build overclock-friendly components to satisfy
this demand. The same thing can happen with
phones. It's up to you.
have smiled a little from the great beyond back
in July when they read the Library of Congress
announcement that jailbreaking or modifying your
phone is not prohibited by the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act. Unfortunately, the new interpretation
is no shot heard 'round the world, as users have
been able to jailbreak their phones for years. And
because the software involved inevitably contains
some copyrighted code, it's unlikely you'll see
commercialized jailbreaking solutions.
Rather than embrace the new rules, Apple
coldly reiterated to its users that jailbreaking voids
your warranty. Even worse, Apple's not alone in its
paternalistic attempts to control and limit the user
experience. Google Android handsets have their
own childproof locks. Even though the OS is based
on Linux and it offers administrative controls, all
Android phones come with root (a.k.a. admin)
access turned off.
Why would you want to root your Android
phone? With a rooted phone, you could install a
custom operating system update based on a newer
version of Android than you currently have. You'd
also have new features such as Flash support,
and a custom ROM would allow you to overclock
your phone for better performance, access Wi-Fi
to tether your phone to your laptop, or remove
built-in apps you don't want.
Oh, handset makers, why can't you listen to
founding father Benjamin Franklin, who wrote, "They
who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little
A SMART PHONE DECLARATION
Fight for the right to root your phone.
LAPTOP | October 2010
NEWS & TRENDS
by Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director Avram Piltch guides LAPTOP's web coverage. He devised several of our real-world benchmarks. Read his bimonthly column
at www.laptopmag.com/geeksgeek, and follow @geekinchief on Twitter.
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