Surface RT Jailbreak Surfaces On The Web

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Allows jailbreakers to run old MacOS X on the Microsoft’s tablet

On Thursday, a software engineer posting under the name ‘netham45’ released a tool capable of computer software privilege escalation (‘jailbreaking’) in Microsoft’s Windows RT operating system.

Hours later, the Surface tablet was running everything from an ancient version of Mac OS X to Windows 95 and beyond.

The jailbreak is a simple, ‘one-click’ solution that allows to run unsigned software on an operating system powered by ARM-based processors.

Breaking bad

The first step to a fully-featured jailbreak was to run unsigned desktop applications, and this was achieved by someone signing off as ‘clrokr’ on 6 January.

Microsoft has long claimed that Windows RT is a simplified system, only allowing users to run applications downloaded from its app store. However, according to the Surfsec blog, limitations in Windows RT are artificial, and the OS is not in any way reduced in functionality.

“The decision to ban traditional desktop applications was not a technical one, but a bad marketing decision,” wrote clrokr.

Since the jailbreak appeared on the web, countless developers have been attempting to run exotic software on Microsoft’s tablet. One of them, Irish software creator Steve Troughton-Smith, has managed to boot Apple’s Rhapsody OS (A MacOS X server edition from 1998) on a Surface RT, a day after netham45 configured Windows 95 to run on a similar tablet.

Surprisingly, Microsoft has congratulated the people responsible for the jailbreak, but said that using it is not something an average user would do. Before attempting to run desktop applications, they would have to be recompiled for ARM processors, and that is outside the comfort zone of most people.

“We applaud the ingenuity of the folks who worked this out and the hard work they did to document it. We’ll not guarantee these approaches will be there in future releases,” said the company in a statement.

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