iFans had an opportunity to sit down with jailbreak developer Filippo Bigarella, an Italian student that has released over a dozen tweaks, mods, and utilities on Cydia. Just last year, Bigarella was involved in Ryan Petrich’s TweakWeek event that required him to develop and release one brand new Cydia tweak per day for one week. Bigarella is perhaps best known for his release of Springtomize, a tweak that lets you customize nearly every aspect of your iOS device. Check out what Bigarella had to say ahead…
Give us a brief description of yourself. Familiarize yourself with the iFans members that don’t know you until reading this.
My name is Filippo Bigarella and I’m an Italian student who likes to develop applications for jailbroken iDevices in his spare time. I attend a scientific high school.
Which iOS devices do you own?
I currently own 5 iOS devices: the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPad 2, iPod touch 4G, and iPod touch 2G. The first Apple device I bought was an iPhone 3GS back in 2010.
What made you become interested in iOS development?
I started developing for iOS mainly because I wanted to make something on my own for my own device. I had a little bit of experience with scripting languages and C at the beginning, and it took me some time to learn and improve my coding skills.
Which programming languages do you know? Are you trying to learn others?
I currently know C, Objective C, C++, Python, Bash and a little bit of ARM Assembly and PHP. I’m always interested in learning new languages, but also in improving my knowledge on the ones I already know.
What are some of the jailbreak tweaks that you have developed?
The most famous tweak I’ve developed is Springtomize, which allows the user to customize every single aspect of their device. Then there is the latest tweak I have released, which is UnlockFX: it includes more than 30 animations for the unlock action from the lock screen. Between the other ones there are SMS+, PasswordPilot and many others. [Editor's Note: Don't forget his TweakWeek releases.]
Would you say that developing jailbreak tweaks is very easy, moderately easy, or rather difficult?
I think that really depends on the kind of project you’re working on. For example, there are tweaks that took me something like 20 minutes from the start to the end, while for instance, Springtomize 2 required around 3 months of work for the first version. Also, in my opinion, developing tweaks can be difficult in “different ways.” Most of the tweaks have a really simple implementation but required a lot of background work (reverse engineering components of iOS), while others can be easy to “insert” into the system and harder to actually implement their features.
Did you enjoy participating in Ryan Petrich’s TweakWeek last year?
Yes, I’ve enjoyed that because it was a really cool challenge. Even though most of the tweaks were really simple ones, thinking about a new idea every day was a lot of fun.
How much time do you devote towards the jailbreaking community?
If you consider both developing and answering support emails, it could be from a few hours to several every day. I always worked on my projects alone and I don’t have anyone who does anything on my behalf ;P
Are you friends with any of the prominent iOS hackers such as pod2g, chpwn, planetbeing, or MuscleNerd?
I’m not in strict contact with anyone you mentioned, but many of them are always around on IRC. The iOS jailbreak developers I’m most in contact with are qwertyoruiop and stm_dev.
Are there any other jailbreak developers that perhaps inspire you?
I think that no one inspired me in the actual sense of the words, but I learned a lot from many developers, both directly and indirectly.
Do you accept donations?
I don’t accept donations. If anyone wants to support me, I would like it better if he or she buys any of my apps from the Cydia Store.
Have you figured out what career you wish to pursue? Has working for Apple ever crossed your mind?
I would surely like to work as a programmer, but no one can predict how life will develop. After graduating from high school, I will go to University where I’ll probably take IT Science or engineering. After that, we’ll see how the iOS world will have evolved and if I’ll still be interested in developing for it. What I can say for sure, is that I wouldn’t refuse any offer from Apple anytime.
What do you think about the current state of the jailbreak community?
I think the jailbreak community is a very “various” community [Editor's Note: Bigarella's English is not perfect], where you can find a lot of different people and learn many things from them. Obviously there are both good and bad things about it, but I think everyone should be able to understand what is the right choice.
What is your stance on piracy, especially when it involves the App Store and Cydia Stores respectively?
As soon as someone starts selling software, he gets to know piracy. I don’t have any app on the App Store (yet ;P), so I can only speak for what regards the Cydia Store: unfortunately, there is a widespread ecosystem of “unofficial” repos, that are used to repackage products from the Cydia Store and putting them up for free. From some data collected by other developers and elaborating some stats, I think the average ratio between pirates and legit users is around 40 : 1.
That means that for every user who makes use of your app, other 40 people are using them without having paid for it, illegitimately. If you consider that most of them will require support anyway and how much work is “wasted” in this perspective, you can really imagine how much a developer is put down by piracy. In fact, in my opinion, piracy not only damages the developer who worked on the product, but also the legitimate users who bought the app: and honestly, I don’t think it’s really necessary to pirate $2-3 software.
What are some of your other hobbies?
I’ve recently took up photography, but I’m really at the fundamentals. I don’t have any other IT-unrelated hobby (except the ones an average teenager has), since school, friends and programming keep me busy enough.
What advice or recommendations can you give to aspiring iOS developers?
I can sum up my recommendations in one sentence: learn by doing, but don’t rush to get something done. What I mean is that in my opinion learning by doing is the best way to learn, but only if you aim to actually learn instead of having something finished. Anyway, I would suggest to start from Apple’s documentation for what regards iOS developers and try with some simple projects, before moving to making tweaks.
Thanks to Filippo Bigarella for taking this opportunity to speak with iFans. We definitely encourage promoting this developer, and wish him good luck with his future endeavors!