Monday, September 28th, 2009

Palm Pre Easily Jailbroken?

June 14, 2009 by Rico Mossesgeld  
Filed under Cellphones

The claim that it’s easy to open up the Palm Pre to third-party software should attract some interest—or raise complaints about its lack of security.

Courtesy High Caffeine Content

Courtesy High Caffeine Content

Ah, but given how iPhones continue to chug along smoothly despite the breadth of its undeground software ecosystem, such complaints would be dubious at best. In any case, here’s what led Steven Troughton-Smith to claim ownership of “the first jailbroken Pre in existence.”:

On Tuesday, I decided to be adventurous. I was able to buy a Palm Pre from a local Sprint Wireless store without activation or a contract (apparently I hear it’s very hard to do? $602 including tax), so I instantly ran off back to my hotel room to see if I could A) hack the activation out of the OS, and B) get it working so I can develop apps for it and run them on device.

Well, success :-) I gave up Tuesday eve because I couldn’t get the device into restore mode no matter what I did, but on Wednesday morning I figured it out: you have to hold the volume-up button while the device is off before plugging it into USB, and from there you can use Palm’s firmware flashers to do whatever you like with it. As the device can run unsigned firmware (!!!) I was easily able to hack out the activation check, and get up and running and enable the root shell.

He continues.

But man, for a hacker, the Pre is incredible. As mentioned, it runs unsigned firmware and has a root shell over USB when in developer mode (you can use the Konami cheat code to enable dev mode, too); you can do whatever the hell you like to the OS! The entire UI and all the apps are written in javascript, which in essence means the source code is available for you to modify at will, without recompiling anything. Even better, you can write C/C++ native Linux apps for it that draw directly to the framebuffer, as the recent Doom port shows. The specs are impressive, it’s a ~600MHz ARM Cortex A8 with 256MB RAM with accelerometer, GPS, WiFi & Bluetooth, or, put another way, almost the exact same specs as the iPhone 3G S (bar the compass, afaik).

After revealing my exploit of the device, I was invited to a small Palm meetup nearby where I got to chat with the actual WebOS engineers, thoroughly validating my efforts :-D

Aw man, I hope Smith’s little chat with the WebOS people won’t push Palm to close the “holes”. Palm should want anyone running their own software on the phone, damn it! Especially since it’s taking a while for the App Catalog to get off the ground.

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One Response to “Palm Pre Easily Jailbroken?”

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    1. [...] I can see why: the (hopefully) inevitable debut of the Palm Pre on GSM networks will vastly increase the potential market, allowing use of the smartphone in many more countries throughout the world, in the hands so much more people. Especially since the Pre is easily jailbroken. [...]



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