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Hackers boot Linux on iPhone

Hackers boot Linux on iPhone

The openiboot bootloader allows an ARM-compatible Linux kernel with copies of the Busybox toolkit to be loaded on an iPhone.

Enterprising hackers have succeeded in booting a copy of Linux on Apple's iPhone – although it's a long way from being a usable alternative to OS X.

According to Hack a Day, the iPhone-Dev team have created a bootloader – dubbed openiboot – which has successfully loaded a copy of the Linux kernel alongside the Busybox toolkit on a jailbroken iPhone. By running the bootloader code and supplying it with a copy Linux compiled specifically for the ARM processor used within the iPhone, the software was able to communicate with a USB-to-serial device and be used as a very limited Linux console.

You may wonder why there's mention of a USB-to-serial adaptor in the above paragraph: as the iPhone-Dev team themselves point out, the software is very much a proof of concept with no higher functions of the handset currently enabled. By 'higher functions', I mean that the touchscreen doesn't work; nor for that matter does the wireless; or the sound; or the 3G connectivity; or the accelerometer; and currently the system is unable to write to the flash memory built in to the handset.

Despite these – rather serious – drawbacks, the hack is something that has caught a lot of eyes: many are seeing it as a way to bypass some of the more serious restrictions that the iPhone's default OS forces on its users. The Dev team are even hoping that it could lead to a bizarre Frankenphone hybrid running Android on unmodified iPhone or iPod Touch hardware – although such a goal is, clearly, some way off.

If you fancy checking the process out, the team has provided full instructions. If you'd rather just see the hack in action without risking your precious iPhone, there's the mandatory video.

Would Linux support make you rush out and buy an iPhone handset, or is the very thought of removing Mac OS X from the device bringing you out in a cold sweat? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

3 Comments

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mclean007 1st December 2008, 11:34 Quote
But why would you WANT to run Android on an iPhone? Surely the slick OS X UI is the iPhone's killer feature? If you want a less restricted system, erm... don't get an iPhone!
airchie 1st December 2008, 11:49 Quote
I'd buy an iphone tomorrow if I could put Android on it.
I love the handset but hate restrictions put on it by apple.
Most of all, I hate itunes sooo much it makes me want to explode. :D
n3mo 1st December 2008, 13:33 Quote
Well, with Linux it might actually become somewhat useful. But for now Symbian smartphones are way ahead (in terms of being actually useful they are lightyears ahead).
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