Much as I think of myself as an honorable person, I admit that I occasionally break the rules when I believe that doing so harms no one and enhances my life. Take jailbreaking--the process of getting complete access to an intentionally hampered device--for example.
Earlier this week, evasi0n, an untethered jailbreak for iOS 6 and 6.1, was released. (This is the first iOS 6 jailbreak that "sticks" after you restart your device. Previous jailbreaks required that you cable your device to your computer to rebreak it each time you restarted the device--thus the "tethered" versus "untethered" designation.) And, once again, I weighed the benefits and risks of jailbreaking my current devices.
A necessary evil
I'm a veteran jailbreaker--stretching back to the days when the term had yet to be coined and you hacked into the original iPhone via the Mac's Terminal application. My friend Ben Long and I broke into the phone for one simple reason: to capture screenshots of the iPhone's interface for a book I was writing. Years later, Ben and I used available tools to jailbreak an iPad so that we could project its entire interface for a Macworld Expo session we were conducting. In each case, a jailbreak was necessary because Apple didn't provide the features required to accomplish these perfectly reasonable tasks."
That said, it would be inaccurate to claim that I stopped at these purely necessary uses. In those earlier days, people developing apps for jailbroken iOS devices had some terrific ideas--enabling you to do things such as tether other devices to the phone for free, block unwanted SMS messages, remotely browse the contents of your device, and perform tasks over a 3G network that were normally restricted to Wi-Fi. Jailbreak apps also provided features such as an endless supply of themes, a single drop-down menu for configuring common settings, and notifications. And although jailbreaking is not the same thing as unlocking, a jailbreak was necessary if you wished to unlock your iPhone (a process that the Librarian of Congress recently determined to be illegal). When I found a feature helpful, I adopted it.
But as iOS has evolved, users have had fewer reasons to jailbreak. Screenshots are now as simple as briefly holding down the on/off and home buttons. You can project an iOS device's interface pretty simply. Apple has provided more ways to customize the interface. Tethering is now available (but not freely so with some carriers). Apps such as PhoneView make it possible to pull important files off your device. And the carriers and Apple have loosened up on what you can and can't do over a cellular network.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.