Openiboot, as the release is called, has support for the Linux shell on the first and second generation iPhones and the first generation iPod Touch (no mention of the 2nd generation iPod Touch). The developers have made it clear that this is a “first draft of the port” but they have included such features as, “framebuffer driver, serial driver, serial over USB driver , interrupts, MMU, clock, etc.”
This is far from a functional build of the Linux OS on the iPhone (as touchscreen support is absent) but it is a step towards having an alternative OS running on the closed iPhone platform. The iPhone OS is a derivative of OS X, which is built on the Darwin foundation. Darwin is an open sourced platform that is compliant with the Single UNIX specification, of which Linux is also compatible with. This does not mean the iPhone hardware is automatically compatible with the Linux kernel, but rather that reverse engineering device drivers are. The iPhone Dev Team plans on implementing features such as “write support to the NAND, Wi-Fi, touchscreen, sound, accelerometer, and baseband support in future releases.”
The possibilities of an open sourced OS running on an iPhone is exciting, especially after the controversy over Apple’s application approval processes for the iPhone Apps Store. It would be a welcomed change for developers and users alike to have options and open access similar to Google’s open-sourced platform, Android. Further justification for the development of the openiboot package can be read here.
A video of openiboot is available on the project’s blog along with instructions for installation and a download link to obtain the release package. The iPhone Dev Team is not affiliated with Apple and are the same developers responsible for the PwnageTool used for the jailbreaking of the iPhone and iPod Touch.
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Marcus Yam is a technology evangelist for Intel Corporation, the latest in a long line of tech-focused roles spanning a more than 20-year career in the industry. As Executive Editor, News on Tom's Guide and Tom's Hardware, Marcus was responsible for shaping the sites' news output, and he also spent a period as Editor of Outdoors & Sports at Digital Trends.