2018 twenty-four merry days of Perl Feed


iSH - 2018-12-20

A lightning strike! A lightning strike on the sleigh!

In all the years that Santa had been delivering presents to Children around the world he'd never been struck by lightning. Until today.

Santa patted out his slightly smoldering beard and looked around to assess the damage. Every single bit of electronics built into the sleigh had been fried. The only bit of technology on the sleigh that still worked was the trusty iPhone that he kept in his pocket.

"Siri! Call The Wise Old Elf"

Santa explained his situation - without the systems built into the sleigh how was he going to run the Perl script the elves had developed to match up presents from the sack with the address he was currently at? With the spotty cell reception throughout the world it's not something that the Wise Old Elf could run in the cloud for him.

"Well your jolliness, there's nothing for it", the Wise Old Elf explained, "We're going to have to run Perl on your iPhone."


The iPhone isn't exactly well known for being an open platform. Unlike a Linux based Android phone you're not able to ssh into it and just install perl unless you jailbreak the device. A security conscious organization like the North Pole just wasn't willing to go off-book with their devices like that.

What the Wise Old Elf was going to instead do was have Santa install an app called iSH, the Linux shell on iOS.

iSH is an app that uses a usermode x86 emulator to run a Linux environment just as any other executable might run on the phone. This crazy app is still very much in beta - it's not available on the App Store like a normal app, and if you want to install it on your iPhone you're going to have to take some unusual steps.

As you might expect for such a project, the source code is available on Github, and you can compile it yourself, use a free developer account to sign it, and upload it to your own devices.

Another simpler approach is to join the TestFlight beta program for iSH directly from the link on the iSH homepage. This will allow you to download a beta releases of the application with Apple's TestFlight application "over the air" - no computer required. Which is pretty handy if you're currently in a slightly charred sleigh on Christmas Eve.

Once you launch the iSH app you get terminal access to a bare-bones Alpine Linux environment. From here you can use the package manager to install perl, and then you can run Perl code on your phone from the command line!

An iPhone running iSH

You can also install all that you need to build Perl modules (make, gcc, wget, etc) and tools to access files over the network (Santa can install scp and download the scripts from the North Pole server with it.)

It might be a little rough around the edges currently, but iSH should allow Santa to complete his deliveries this year - and who knows, with the rapid pace of development it might be on the App Store by next year, just in case lightning does strike twice in the same place!

Gravatar Image This article contributed by: Mark Fowler <mark@twoshortplanks.com>