Put your owner info on your iPhone / Touch home screen

10 Mar

One of the useful features of my old Palm PDA was the Owner Info icon. The idea was that if someone picked up your mislaid PDA and turned it on, she might see and tap on the Owner icon and then know:

– who the owner was and how to reach him
– what reward, if any, was being offered

Sure, you can just paste a sticker on the back of your device with your info on it, but after a few weeks it’ll be illegible. Having the information on the device itself, on the main screen, is a more reliable way of ensuring that it’s there when it’s needed.

Since moving to an iPod Touch as my new PDA, I’ve missed this simple feature, but found a workaround for it. Here’s how to do it:

  1. First off, jailbreak your iPhone or Touch (or wait for software update 2.0 in June). If you want to jailbreak, just visit ziphone.org and download the handy utility. The Windows version crashed on me, but the Mac version succeeded in about 3 minutes. This process will put Installer.app on your device.
  2. Open Installer.app and look for the 1.1.4 Safari Patch. This will allow Safari to open files on your device using a file:// type of URL.
  3. While you’re at it, install the OpenSSH server, which will allow you secure access to your device. Note that you may need to apply a fix (via the method below) to your /etc/termcap file in order to be able to log in via SSH (at least, this fix is required for opening a local Terminal window).
  4. Next, connect your device to your local wireless network, and note the IP address it is assigned (e.g. On your Mac, you can then connect to your device using “afp://” for direct Finder access, or use Fugu. On a Windows PC, grab a copy of WinSCP and connect to that same IP address.
  5. Now open a text editor on your PC and copy the file below, editing as required to meet your needs. I included a picture of me sized around 150×150 pixels: seeing the owner’s picture may encourage the finder to return the device, I figure. Save this file as owner.html.
  6. Now copy the owner.html and the picture file, if any, to your device. I put them in /User/Media/Documents.
  7. Open Safari and browse to “file:///User/Media/Documents/owner.html”. Adjust the page zoom until your message fills the screen. You may need to edit your source document several times to get it right, copying the latest version each time over to your device and then hitting Reload in Safari to see your changes.
  8. When it all looks nice, hit the + icon at the bottom of the screen and select “Add to Home Screen”; an icon of the owner.html page will be placed on the home screen with the caption “Owner Info” underneath it.

I’m leaving as an exercise for the reader to create a little application that will do all of this for you right on your device!

Contents of owner.html (edit to suit your taste):

<html><head><title>Owner Info</title></head><body><h1>Hello!</h1><p><table width="100%" border="0"><tr><td width="150"><img src="./Avatar147x160.jpg" width="140" height="160"></td><td>Please return to:<br>Owner name<br>Owner email address<br>Owner phone number<br>City, Country</td></tr></table><p><span><font size="+1">Thank you for finding my _device-model_.<br>I've spent a lot of time setting it up<br>to my liking, and will gladly offer a<br>reward for its safe return.<br>Thank you!</font></span></p></body></html>

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