Ace programmer and tweak developer Maxwell Dausch talks about the jailbreak community, piracy, and Apple. Check out the full conversation below.
Q1. How and when did you get started with tweak development?
A. Back in 2013, right when iOS 7 was released and jailbroken by the Evasi0n Team only a month or two later, I wanted to try my hand at developing tweaks. I started off reading a tutorial by Jonathan Winger-Lang on how to start tweak development, something I always had an interest in ever since I started jailbreaking back on iOS 3.1.3.
From here, I was able to create my first tweak, BetrFoldr. It was a fairly simple tweak that enabled the creation of nested folders, removing the blur behind folders, as well as allowing pinch to close when in a folder view.
Sadly, shortly after releasing that tweak I had lost my jailbreak and was stuck on stock iOS. After waiting for what felt like an eternity of being on stock, a new jailbreak by Pangu came out and I was back to being able to customize my device.
I didn’t want to jeopardize my device again and be sent back to stock, so I stepped away from development until I knew more about the do’s and don’ts of messing with things that I didn’t fully understand.
It wasn’t until iOS 10 that I had started getting back into tweak development. I started working on personal projects that I enjoyed on my device, but most people wouldn’t have a use for. Once the jailbreak for iOS 11 dropped though, I started releasing tweaks as my way of giving back to the community that I’ve enjoyed for so long.
Q2. You only release free tweaks. Is there any specific reason behind that?
A. Absolutely, the reason I develop tweaks is that I want to use them on my own devices. I try my best to fix the spots where I see iOS lacking.
If I am already going to spend the time to develop these tweaks for myself, why not let other people enjoy them as well?
I’ve spent quite a while in the jailbreaking community, and it’s been a constant part of my life for almost ten years. I’ve enjoyed the constant tweaking of my phone and seeing what developers came up with when they were not held back by Apple’s “Walled Garden”.
More recently (and by recent, I mean within the past few years), there has been quite a decrease in the popularity of jailbreaking. For example, take my first tweak from iOS 7, BetrFoldr, it has 240,930 downloads (which is quite a lot for such a simple tweak).
Now, look at the number of devices running Electra on iOS 11.2 – 11.4b3. At the time of writing, this is at 190,981.
Seeing my super simple tweak from years ago that no one seemed that interested in being on more devices that are currently jailbroken on the most recent jailbreak saddens me a bit.
Jailbreaking just isn’t as popular as it once was. I was hoping that even if a few more people jailbreak their devices after seeing what my tweaks can do for them, maybe we can prolong the lifespan of jailbreaking.
I wanted as many people as possible to enjoy what I have made, and to allow those without a means of payment to customize their devices without having to turn to sketchy repositories.
If anyone does decide that they would like to compensate me for my free work, I’d rather they donate to a charity of their choosing (some of my personal favorites include Generosity.org as well the World Wildlife Fund, which aims to help with the water crisis in developing countries and protect endangered species respectively).
In the event that I do decide to make a paid tweak, or I am working with a designer who would like to be compensated for their work, the plan is that the tweak will be made open source within a few weeks of its release.
This allows others to still learn from the code, and the more technical users can compile it if they would like to. My current stance on releasing a paid tweak is that if a user were to send proof that they have donated the cost of the tweak to a reputable charity, they would then be gifted the tweak.
Q3. Are you currently working on any new project (may or may not be iOS-related) or a jailbreak tweak?
A. I’m always working on things, though right now I’m focusing on updating everything for the latest jailbreak and adding features to my already released tweaks.
With that said, keep an eye out for some updates that are coming very soon! I’m also always looking for feature requests on my already existing tweaks, so I can try my best to improve them even more. As for other projects, nothing is near release at the moment.
I am working on a sort of “Alternative Dock” tweak that adds some quick controls and a music player but who knows if that will get released as I may get bored of it or change its direction completely. Nothing is set in stone for the time being.
Q4. Have you ever felt that tweak developers deserve more money for developing tweaks?
A. I think that developers should be compensated for their work, should they feel that what they are releasing deserves it. They can price their tweaks at any value they feel they deserve to be paid for their hard work.
Whether other people see eye to eye on the price though is different. These users get to vote with their wallet in determining the value of these tweaks. I’ve seen a few tweaks that I’ve thought to myself, “That’s paid?
I definitely wouldn’t pay for that with its current features.” I’ve seen developers release paid packages with the promise of future updates and more features that never come.
The best way for a developer to increase their sales is to listen to the feedback on what to work on, or what should be changed. They need to make the tweak feel “worth it” by doing as much as possible to make the tweak the best it can be. On the other hand, I’ve definitely said, “Whoa, this is free? I can’t believe I don’t have to pay for this” for some tweaks that I find just amazing.
In the end, though it’s all up to the developer to determine what their product is worth to them.
Q5. How many Apple devices do you own and currently use?
A. I own three devices that I use daily –
- An iPhone X, which is my daily driver as well as my development device.
- An iPhone 5s (jailbroken on iOS 10) that functions as a remote for all of my HomeKit devices.
- An Apple TV 4th Gen.
Q7. What are your favorite Cydia tweaks and App Store apps?
A. For a blast in the past tweak, I’d have to say BiteSMS and Auxo were some of my most used tweaks that changed the whole feeling of my device to a more premium experience.
These were the tweaks that would make everyone say “How can I get that” after seeing what my phone can do.
I’ve noticed that I have transitioned from transforming my device completely to a simpler yet refined experience that builds off of Apple’s implementations and fixes some of the smaller issues I’ve had with my device.
Q8. What’s your stance on piracy in the jailbreak scene?
A. You can try and sugarcoat it however you’d like, but piracy is one of the largest reasons jailbreaking has as many users as it does.
Look at how Pangu and Taig brought jailbreaks to the scene that were sponsored by Chinese “Alternative” app stores. Users are always going to be “trying before buying”, or just outright pirating tweaks no matter what.
There isn’t a good way to fix this, as the whole idea behind jailbreaking is having the freedom to do whatever you want with your device. What I find crazy is how some users pirate free tweaks, but I blame this on the “Top 20 Jailbreak Tweaks to Install” videos that only feature the pirating repositories.
Users then have this repository where they can’t then distinguish legitimate tweaks from the pirated tweaks. No matter how we look at it, piracy in this community isn’t going anywhere.
Q9. What can the community expect from you in the future?
A. To be completely honest, who knows? I can hardly plan what I’m going to be having for dinner every night. I think the best way to do things in life is by letting the wind take you and then seeing where you end up.
Hope you enjoyed this interview! Don’t forget to follow Maxwell on Twitter for more updates on his tweaks and jailbreak projects.