Hackers boot Linux on iPhone

December 1, 2008 // 9:12 a.m.

Tags: #android #hack #iphone #iphone-dev #linux #mobile #openiboot

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.
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