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MP3 Players

Hack the iPod Touch

When Apple gave birth to the iPod Touch, it should have been the killer fusion of MP3 player and PDA. It wasn't. Fear not though, the guys and gals of the Internet have unlocked the Touch's full potential -- we show you how.

When Apple gave birth to the iPod Touch, it should have been the killer fusion of MP3 player and PDA. It wasn't. Fear not though, the guys and gals of the Internet have unlocked the Touch's full potential -- we show you how.

Apple's iPod Touch desirability rating is stratospheric and it is arguably the coolest MP3 player of the year but, as we noted when we review it, it's not perfect -- far from it, in fact. Firstly, no matter how many sweet eye-candy doo-dads Apple throws at us, and irrespective of the warm glow we derive from caressing its glass and metal skin, AU$419 just isn't good value for an 8GB MP3 player. And you'll need a hip-pocket nerve bypass for the 16GB model's AU$549 asking price.

Even worse is that, despite the fact that it runs a cut-down version of Mac OS X, Steve Jobs has decided that we can only run the applications he wants us to run -- Safari, YouTube, Calendar, Address Book, Photos, Videos and Music. Apple and Jobs promise that support for third-party apps will be enabled for iPod Touches and iPhones in February 2008. But, if you can't wait that long, some dedicated souls on the Internet have developed methods for extracting the full potential of the Touch.

Apple won't be much help to you after you've hacked your Touch, so you'll have to rely on people in Internet-land

Caveats and disclaimers
The hack we will detail in this article is developed by a group who call themselves Conceited Software. We've tried it on a number of iPod Touches and have had no issues with it. Naturally, that's not to say there isn't any risk involved. And although the makers claim that it won't "brick" your Touch, there's no warranty expressed or implied -- that's from both them and us.

Speaking of which, once you hack your Touch don't expect Apple's support team to be very helpful. You'll have to rely instead on the forums, message boards and newsgroups for your tech support instead. Getting your iPod serviced under warranty, should some of its electronics go on the fritz, isn't an issue -- so long as your Touch is fit enough to be restored into a non-hacked state. If this all sounds like too much of risk, then maybe you should give this hacking caper a miss and wait until third-party apps are officially allowed by Apple.

Before you begin
You'll need two key things: an iPod Touch (obviously) and a wireless network with connectivity to the Internet.

Getting an iPod Touch onto a wireless network is, most instances, a snap. Just go to Settings > Wi-Fi, switch Wi-Fi on (if it's not already on) and click on the name of the network you're connecting to. If it's a secure network -- these are listed with a padlock icon -- the Touch will prompt you for a password. This will be one keys listed on your router's wireless configuration pages. If you're having problems connecting your Touch to your network, post on the forums. Once connected, verify that everything's working dandily by using Safari to surf the Web -- checking out is always a great start, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

The hack we're demonstrating here only works on Touches running the 1.1.1 firmware. You can check which firmware you're currently running by going to Settings > General > About. If you're using a later version, read the next section to see how you can restore your firmware.

You'll need to find the 1.1.1 firmware if you want to try this hack

Downgrade to 1.1.1/Restore to unhacked state
You'll only need to follow the steps in this section if you need to downgrade to the 1.1.1 firmware or wish to restore your Touch to a pristine and unhacked state. Keep in mind that by doing this you'll wipe all the existing data on your iPod -- photos, videos, music, bookmarks, contacts, etc.

Firstly, you'll need to find out whether you've got a copy of the 1.1.1 firmware. On Windows machines, iPod firmware is generally stored in the folder C:\Documents and Settings\USER_NAME\Application Data\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPod Software Updates. Substitute your Windows login name for USER_NAME. The actual firmware file will be named something like iPod1,1_1.1.1_3A110a_Restore.ipsw. If you can't find, you'll need to search for it on the Internet.

Once you've located your copy of the 1.1.1 firmware, connect the Touch to your computer via USB. When iTunes starts up, click on your iPod Touch under the Devices tab along the left-hand side, and then hold down the Shift key (or the Option key for Mac users) while clicking on the Restore button. Navigate to where your firmware is stored and click OK. Within about five minutes you'll have a clean iPod running the 1.1.1 firmware.

Once your Touch has been hacked you can download apps, games and utilities. You can even skin the interface to your liking

Hacking the Touch
Now this is the easy part. Fire up the Touch's Safari Web browser and head to Scroll down the page and click on the big button labelled "Install AppSnapp". You'll now be dropped back to the main screen while the hack is applied and the appropriate code is downloaded. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes, so just sit back and twiddle your thumbs. Once everything's done and dusted, the "slide to unlock" screen will appear.

On the Touch's main screen, you'll now notice a new application called Installer. Click this to download and install applications developed for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Some applications developed for the iPhone won't work on the Touch -- namely anything that requires the iPhone's camera or cellular capabilities. Nonetheless there's a good range of games, wallpapers, skins and productivity software, as well as Linux software, available. The quality of these application is variable, but that's also true of all software for PC and Mac.