Opinion: Apple Takes The Hacked and Makes It Available to All

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Earlier this week I posted about an ingenious person getting Rhapsody OS to run on a jailbroken Microsoft Surface Tablet (Surface RT, it should be noted). I also mentioned how Microsoft appeared to be generally okay with the hack (only for the time being it turns out), commenter Kraken followed up on this idea and I thought I’d dig into the topic a little more.

First off, regarding the hack, TNW quotes Microsoft’s initial response as:

“We are actively investigating this and will take appropriate action as necessary,”

and later (same link as above) a longer statement:

We are aware of a social engineering technique that could use a tool to bypass an app restriction in Windows RT devices. This issue is not a security vulnerability, and we have not seen attempts to take advantage of this social engineering technique. In order for this social engineering technique to be successful, a user would need to be lured to click on a malicious link, and also click through an additional security alert. As always, we encourage all customers to avoid opening suspicious links and emails. We continue to appreciate the work of researchers, and we will take appropriate action to help protect customers.

Backing up a bit, the jailbreak for Surface RT is essentially a clever way to flip on a software switch to allow unsigned ARM desktop apps to run on the Surface RT. When the jailbreak was first announced, and Microsoft responded, the process for letting you install and run these apps was a little beyond most folks’ comfort levels, later the same week and easier tool was released and I think that’s when Microsoft really started to pay attention.

But, unlike Apple, paying attention in a good way. When was the last time we read Apple “appreciating” or applauding the work of hackers who are doing something with their stuff they didn’t explicitly allow for?

I’d say never.

Heck, when the Kinect was hacked to do a lot more than Microsoft originally intended, they (eventually) embraced the whole effort. We even saw Kinect-iPad Hacks for Augmented Reality surface. Last I heard the Kinect hacking scene was still going strong, and even with Microsoft’s blessing.

Apple? They don’t embrace the hacking culture. I don’t know if they ever really did in the first place. I remember back in my lab days one of the grad students asking me how to get to the command line on one of the Macs in the lab (this was pre-OS X). I responded “There isn’t one, it’s all through the GUI.” The grad student who was very much tied to the Windows world was aghast. She knew all the commands for mass copying, making directories, deleting, finding… I even back then the idea of “hacking a Mac” was a little oxymoronish. Sure there were tricks you could do with Resedit, but they were limited.

If you wanted to hack, you used a PC or a UNIX terminal (I don’t think Linux had quite been invented yet…nearly though).

These decades later, nothing has changed. Sure OS X is easier to hack than earlier versions. And you can certainly do things like figure out how to use BootCamp to post into an Ubuntu install (that’s on my list to try some weekend), but, meh, that’s it. Microsoft, Linux, they both remain abundantly hackable. I think Apple likes it this way though. Although lots of folks I know, heck most folks I know, use Macs (and well beyond the “creative set” it used to be), the people who are trying to do stuff at the edges of computing aren’t.

Will this hurt Apple in the long run?

I don’t think so. I think Apple works off the idea that let other folks break a lot of new computing ground, then come in, and take it to the next level. I see Apple’s place in the world as making the hacked into beautiful things we can all appreciate and use.

Frankly, I’m good with that.

Just as I’m good with people hacking the Surface RT. Eventually that work will filter down to the rest of us.

Through Apple, of course.

Hackintosh photo from Flickr by InfoMofo.

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  • jermg77

    “But, unlike Apple, paying attention in a good way. When was the last time we read Apple “appreciating” or applauding the work of hackers who are doing something with their stuff they didn’t explicitly allow for?

    I’d say never.

    Heck, when the Kinect was hacked to do a lot more than Microsoft originally intended, they (eventually) embraced the whole effort. We even saw Kinect-iPad Hacks for Augmented Reality surface. Last I heard the Kinect hacking scene was still going strong, and even with Microsoft’s blessing.”

    I beg to differ. If you recall when the iPhone was released, Apple said that only stock apps would exist, and all others would be web apps. It was the jailbreakng community and its app developers that surely opened Apple’s eyes to the potential of third party software on the iPhone, and look at it now.

    • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

      Very good point. Though, did Apple ever publicly acknowledge that?

      • http://rounak.me/ Rounak Jain

        don’t think they ever publicly acknowledged. But they’ve taken a lot of inspirations (read: copied) jailbreak tweaks/addons.

        http://www.iphonehacks.com/2011/06/apple-accused-of-copying-ios-5-wi-fi-sync-feature-from-rejected-jailbreak-app.html

        • JCT

          his point exactly apple just takes other people Tweaks and ideas and sells it as theres and people eat it up. why? because the majority dont know better its that simple. although i will say apple has said some thanks to the jailbreakers, if you all remember when apple made the list with all the exploits they fix with each upgrade they give credit to most of them to the jailbreak teams and some too google which is funny if you ask me

          • Alan

            Apple has only given credit to hackers for the security flaws that were used in the jailbreaks. They have never acknowledged or given the iOS jailbreak developers credit for features that were inspired by their tweaks.

    • OS

      How about think of Bootcamp? That was hackers work when Apple announced the Intel chip in their computer… at end, Bootcamp integrated OSX.

  • BCSC

    “I think Apple works off the idea that let other folks break a lot of new
    computing ground, then come in, and take it to the next level.”

    This is a funny statement. It basically supports letting someone do the groundwork and then swooping in and making it better. Isn’t this exactly what Apple is suing the sh=t out of Samsung for? It’s very convenient when it works for Apple, isn’t it?

    • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

      Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, but made the iPod.

      • BCSC

        That’s right and minus a couple nagging limitations, the iPod wast the best and easiest to use device of it’s type. If it were not for the iPod Apple would no way be in the position they are today. It opened the door for the iPhone and the popularity that followed. But had it not have been for the work of the companies before them, they would have never been led towards the iPod. I find it quite hypocritical that they attack the companies that attempt to develop and further their(Apple’s) ideas when they themselves are borne of this method. I don’t mean to specifically Apple bash here, All companies are guilty of it. Apple seems to take the approach that they can freely take an idea and build on it, but how dare anyone build on Apple’s. Hence this current suit war.

        • bcsc

          To put it another way, if not for the work of Ford to create the assembly line, Chevy and Dodge may not exist. This does not mean that Ford needs to go ‘thermonuclear’ and try to destroy them…..

          • http://www.facebook.com/THExREALxTACO Jeremy Taco Patterson

            Apple and Steve Jobs have never denied or even “softened” the fact that they steal ideas and make them better. If you would read the book, its all in there, good and bad.

          • bcsc

            Solid logic. So if you don’t lock your front door, I’m legit to come in and steal all your stuff. Because someone didn’t apply for a patent, that makes it ok to go after, but that magical little number protects everything. Not much in the way of business ethics there. Do unto others and all that. Every tech company needs to stop crying so loudly when their ideas get borrowed, problem is that Apple’s voice is the one that sticks out amongst the crowd.

          • http://www.facebook.com/THExREALxTACO Jeremy Taco Patterson

            Your logic is slightly flawed. Using your analogy, filing for patent protection is “locking the door”. The litigation that follows is the 12 gauge shotgun waiting should you choose to kick the door in.

            I’ve said before that patents (and litigation to back them up if they are breached) fosters innovation, an I still stand by that argument.

            I look at it this way: Patents give companies incentive to innovate knowing they will be the ones to reap the benefits of that innovation without fear of other companies simply copying it and selling it cheaper, since they don’t have the time and money invested in the actual forward progress of the technology.

            Think about it objectively, it really does make sense.

          • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

            Exactly. Apple sees a “something” and takes the idea, makes something unique and their own. Apple is only suing people for directly copying their designs, not the general ideas. The don’t sue because the OS is touch-based, they sue when what is released is judged by the average person as blatent copying.

          • BCSC

            WIFI Sync, Notification center, iOS 6 Clock, OTA updates, split keyboard,
            tabbed browsing, voice type, lock screen apps, widgets……Not one of
            these did Apple bring to the table first. They took these from other
            devices and implemented them into iOS. They take all these things from
            others and then want to sue to protect rubberband, slide to unlock and
            pinch to zoom??? It’s comical the way fans of Apple slam manufacturers
            like Samsung and Motorola and call them thieves, but so strongly defend
            Apple’s stealing ways. Yes Samsung blatantly copied the trade dress of the physical phone, and deserved a suit there. But, Apple is no innovator of software and needs to drop these frivilous battles. Seriously, what is the biggest upgrade to your home screen since iOS 1? Folders. That’s some ground breaking stuff. And the biggest and most pronounced feature to iOS ? Siri, a failure in itself. I guess I do have to give you credit for those 2 widgets you have available to you in your stolen notification center

          • http://www.facebook.com/THExREALxTACO Jeremy Taco Patterson

            It has nothing to do with Apples fans defending them for doing one thing while vilifying Samsung and other for doing the same thing. It comes down to Apple walking through the open doors (stealing non patented ideas and fostering them to their full potential) vs Samsung & Co blatantly taking that finished product and copying, AFTER Apple has patented it.

    • http://profiles.google.com/sebastian.rasch Sebastian Rasch

      Samsung is not making it better though, not really. You could say therefore Apple is suing them not for stealing their ideas but for making them worse. ;)

  • razielpr

    95% of apple is based on stolen ideas.

  • Adam Patterson

    I can see a lot of people here are starting to realize just how selfish and greedy apple is and will always be. Personally i think in 5 years time theyll be struggling with reasons why we should buy their products. I look forward to that day and their demise

  • Lick my left nut

    People always pillage ideas from others, how many times has this happened at work? You have an idea talk about it to a work college and guess what they pillage your idea and get all the praise for it! Yes the world is unfair, but that’s life.

  • Bob

    I really like Ubuntu! Rather then POST from bootcamp, it’s much more simple to run Ubuntu in VirtualBox. Ubuntu doesn’t need much in resources, so the hit running in a VM is not bad.

    • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

      I have the VM too, just always wondered what it would be like if Ubuntu had all the resources that the machine has to offer.