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Over the last several years I've been dealing with various stages of disability thanks to ALS. My goal is to share solutions and review various products/tools/devices that I have found particularly helpful.

Monday, 18 March 2013

IPhone Jailbreak Fun

follow my attempts on twitter
#setmyiPhonefree
If you've been following my Twitter feed, you are no doubt aware that I've been playing with jail breaking my iPhone to see if I can find some additional functionality to make my life a little bit easier. I have found a few very good apps… And a lot of other things to sift through.

Here I will give a quick tour of some of the apps I've tried out. Specifically, I'm looking to find ways to improve my access to the phone and any improvements that can be made to Siri was an eye to trying to make it work with my home automation system. But first, for those of you who may not know… What does it mean to jailbreak your iPhone/iPad?

iOS jailbreaking is the process of removing the limitations on Apple devices running the iOS operating system through the use of software and hardware exploits – such devices include the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and second generation Apple TV. Jailbreaking allowing the download of additional applications, extensions, and themes that are unavailable through the official Apple App Store. (Source: Wikipedia)

If you would like to give it a try, the process of jail breaking is actually quite simple. Here's the information you'll need:
Great! Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about some of the cool stuff we found.

Now if this is the beginning, there's an awful lot of stuff to sift through on the Cydia store. Most of it I don't find particularly useful, and a lot of it is out of date (particularly for the new iPhone 5). There is tons of fun stuff like applying seems to your iPhone. Not useful, but entertaining. For example, using the Winterboard app I now have an animated space invaders lock screen. Here's a list of apps I've tried and how useful I found them in coping with the disabilities provided by ALS.


Octopus Keyboard

This is a keyboard replacement for the standard iPhone keyboard. Essentially it's a straight up ripoff of the keyboard you'll find on blackberries Z-10. Essentially it is an auto complete function built into it, popping up the words over particular keys. To complete the word, simply swipe upwards towards you typing area.

I like this keyboard very much. A substantial improvement over Apple's auto complete function and perhaps the primary reason why I chose to jailbreak my iPhone. That said, with my dexterity limitations the swiping action can be a little bit tricky for me at times. Also I found it seems to work better on the iPhone if I turn off apples AutoCorrect.

Also, I'm not sure that I can attribute this to the octopus keyboard. But I have noticed when I'm creating a little bit of a larger e-mail on my iPhone (usually through a combination of typing and Siri dictation) there is does seem to be a slowdown in responsiveness. I have no problems running it with IOS6. There are also a whole bunch of dictionaries that you can add to the keyboard for free.

Hands Free Control

Does exactly what the title implies. Give you hands-free control to activate Siri. When enabled, you simply have to say the keyword (default is Siri) and if hands-free control is enabled Siri wakes up and waits for your commands.

You can change the activation keyword features a comes preinstalled with five options and a number of customized sounds which are played when it activates or receives a command. You can also add your own custom keyword.

So far I found this works very well and quieter environments. If there is a bunch of background noise, Siri is of course going to have issues recognizing your command (this is also a problem if you're using hands free to play music from your iPhone). It operates in low power mode to minimize strain on your battery. Nonetheless it is no additional cost and you can expect to see a shortened battery life. He does however have an option to only enable when it's on AC power. This is how I use mine, when pluged-in beside the bed at night hands-free is activated.

This is quite useful, but not as much as I'd hoped. I'm looking to be able to tie it into my home automation system. Unfortunately Siri cannot open bookmarks or web links so I cannot fire the command to my vera home automation system at this point in time. I am however looking at running a Siri proxy in my home. If I can figure out how to get this rolling, that will make hands-free jailbreak several levels of pure awesome. I would literally be able to say "Siri, turn on the basement light"…

Assistant Extensions


Unfortunately this is not yet compatible with IOS6. I have installed it and it doesn't run and a few things work. For example it will search YouTube just fine through Siri. However using assistant extensions to activate any of the system settings (such as toggle Bluetooth) it crashes the iPhone and reboots in safe mode.

It promises additional chat bots, translator, YouTube integration and a few other features. It is also the building block for a number of other Siri plug-ins. Unfortunately none of those will work either until this is patched. But like I said other than YouTube nothing seems to work at this point in time. Here's hoping that when is compatible with IOS6 they will have a whole bunch more features to it. It looks promising…


Assistant Love

This is another Siri extension which looked extremely promising and unfortunately didn't turn out to be quite as useful as I had hoped. Assistant love adds music integration to spotify and grooveshark allowing you to play from any of these sources as though you would a regular music. Unfortunately, living in Canada these services are not available :-(

However, it also allows you to override the default navigation service. You could replace the Apple maps searched and directions with a number of other services providing you have them installed on your iPhone. For example I've replaced by default navigation voice search with that of Google maps. This is actually pretty cool.

can't use an alias for
a bookmark
But the real promise behind assistant love, and why I bought it was that it also offered an "alias" functionality to start an app. In other words you could specify your own custom keyword to open a specific App. For example you could say "open my drive" as a command to open your Google drive or dropbox account. I thought this was great criminal exactly what I needed, unfortunately it will not accept home screen bookmarks nor a URL. Only an app. Had it done so, this would've been exactly what I need to interface with my vera home automation system.

Other than that it does provide a few additional commands to toggle some settings. For example you can use assistant love to toggle Bluetooth/flashlight/Wi-Fi and your audio mode. I have found that being able to toggle the flashlight using hands-free control kind useful in the middle of the night. No messing with the light the bedside table ;-)

All in all, there are some useful functionality within assistant love even without groove shark and spotify and worth the price.

So for me, the next step is to look at setting up a Siri proxy. This is far more complicated and if I can get it working it will answer my needs for tying it into my home automation system. I would very much have preferred to use the aliases in assistant love. But will give this a try instead. If I can get this working… Well, check out what can be done with it!

So all in all, there is some very good apps available if you jailbreak your iPhone to help make it more accessible to you. Communicate by phone Joe broken for the time being and continue to look for new apps/functionality. The is also a lot of fun apps to be had, for example check out barrel. A real fun way to turns pages on your home screen.

These also check out some other reviews and writeups on these links. If you're considering jailbreak in, this is a great place to start helping you decide if it's worthwhile or not.

5 comments:

  1. thanks for letting us know about iPhone jail break app. I have this app in my iphone 5. Can you recommend some of puzzle apps for my iPhone 5?

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