It sucks that your favourite gadgets have more functionality than their default software exposes, but it rules that several software applications are built to unlock that potential for free. Whether it’s your iPod, Xbox, router or iPhone, we’ve covered some incredibly ambitious free software projects that unlock features and enable unauthorised but oh-so-useful applications to run on them. Get our top 5 favourite pieces of software to unlock your hardware and chime in with your own in the comments.
Replace Apple’s firmware with iPodLinux or Rockbox to play more types of music on your ‘pod, break out of iTunes lockdown, and more. For example, here’s how to play games on your iPod for free using iPodLinux.
UnleashX/Xbox Media Center (Xbox)
You can do SO much more with your classic Xbox than play games it’s not even funny—like, say, stream video and music from any shared drive in the house. Install a Linux-based dashboard to run tons of neat applications on your Xbox, like the incredible Xbox Media Center (XBMC) application. Here’s how to softmod your classic Xbox into a hardcore media centre.
Your wireless router’s administrative interface is hiding a lot useful features from you. Flash your router’s firmware with the open source DD-WRT software and unlock tonnes of advanced configuration options. Turn it into a repeater, throttle bandwidth by application and extend your wireless signal further than Linksys ever intended with the DD-WRT upgrade. Here’s how to upgrade your router with the DD-WRT firmware.
Apple’s line is that all iPhone apps will run in a browser, but an unofficial application installer’s out there, ready to get third-party software—from IM clients to ringtone makers to voice note recorders—running on your iPhone. Here’s how to install third-party applications on your iPhone.
Linux Live CDs (unbootable PC)
While not quite in the same class as the others, a Linux Live CD is one of the best ways to boot up a dead PC and access its disks. Here’s how to rescue files from a dead PC’s hard drive with the Knoppix Live CD and here’s how to partition and image your hard drive with the System Recovery CD.
What are your favourite gadget-unlocking software apps? Let us know in the comments.