VLC for the iPhone could fall thanks to the GPL

VLC, the popular open source media plater, has been ported to the iPhone by Applidium.  The media player is available via the App Store for free.

VLC is licensed under the open source license called the GNU General Public License, this license has very extreme views on how the code can be used in an open way.  For example it can’t be used with closed code unless code under another specific license is used between the GPL and closed code, you can’t relicense code that is under the GPL, you can’t restrict people using it for anything. Which this all sounds good, it’s not always great for the consumer.

Apple operates a pretty much closed shop (OK, they do do a lot of open source work, but a lot of what they do is closed).  This works for them, they sell a you single copy of OS X for each machine  you own (there is, of course, volume and family packs), they make more money this way. The GPL doesn’t work with Apple’s way of doing things.  Apple say “You shall be authorized to use Products on five Apple-authorized devices at any time” (from here), the GPL doesn’t like things like that.

A man called Rémi Denis-Courmont who contributed some of the original source code to the VLC project has called for the VLC app to be pulled from the App Store.  Over on Planet VLC Rémi’s blog post is mirrored (published 26th October).  He states “users of iOS-based devices would be deprived of VLC media player, as a consequence of the intransigently tight control Apple maintains over its mobile applications platform”.  Some might argue that the GPL forces similarly tight control over code that is licensed under it.

So, for the time being VLC is available.  But we’ll see how long it stays there for.  If everyone who wants it buys a developers license, we can all download the source code and install it on our own devices, of course.


I’d like to quote something Gavin, the author of TechBeast, said on the x404 forums about the GPL: > As this VLC debacle is showing, the GPL is just as much a barrier to free software reaching critical mass. How many new desktop VLC users would have been gained by the app store presence? It’ll presumably prevent VLC from entering the Mac app store too. How many more free software gems will be hamstrung by the GPL, doomed to languish in obscurity?

Alarm Clock Bug in iOS 4.1

This week I am working the early shift at work.  I must be in Machynlleth by 5am meaning that I’ve got to get up at 3:30am and leave by 4:30am.  However, today when my 3:30 alarm went off, it was actually 4:30…

This bug has already been seen in Australia and revolves around moving out of, or into, Summer Time.  Strangely, one off alarms seem to be OK, it’s those recurring alarms - you know, the ones you might set to repeat every weekday to get you up for work - that will trigger this bug.

Here’s some screen shots, I set this alarm at about 4:50 this morning and wanted it to go off every weekday at 5am, needless to say it went off at 6am:

So, tomorrow my alarm will be set for 2:30am, and will be set for an hour early until an update appears!

Mac OS 10.7

Once again, late to the blogsphere as usual.

Yesterday Apple announced it’s plans for the next iteration of OS X - 10.7 “Lion”. Lion will concentrate  on bringing technologies “back to the Mac”, indeed this phrase was the tagline to the event on Wednesday.

In 2007 Apple released the first iPhone with what it called “iPhone OS”, this was a stripped down, mobile OS modeled on OS X.  iPhone OS has jumped from iPhone to iPod Touch to the next generation of these devices - bringing the App Store, better email support, a more optimised Safari - and then found it’s way onto the iPad where it was renamed “iOS”. Through all of this Apple has brought little of it’s knowledge back to the Mac platform where it all began.  Lion will put this right.

Mac OS 10.7 will have some iOS like features like an App Store for finding, buying, installing, and updating apps; Launchpad which gives an iOS-like interface for organising and launching Apps; Edge-to-Edge full screen apps; and more.

The Mac App Store raises some interesting questions, notably those mentioned by Greg over on his Managing OS X blog.  It’s a great way to simply manage a whole range of applications. I’m in two minds about Launchpad, it doesn’t sound necessary on a Mac, but then again with many Macs having a trackpad (and a multi-touch trackpad at that) it could feel natural. Edge-to-Edge full screening gives you the same experience iOS apps do, you only do one thing at once; you concentrate on organising your photos, or creating that presentation, or whatever.  I’m not sure this works on the desktop, I have two 22” monitors  to spread many windows around, but then again I’m not an average user…

I’m interested to see more of Mac OS 10.7 “Lion”, and I don’t have too long to wait, Apple are scheduled to release it in Summer 2011.  See here for the Apple page about Lion.

A few months ago I wrote a post about how I thought Apple could see a time when the humble desktop was less important than mobile computing.  I think Apple have perhaps stated with Lion that they are still working on the Mac, but that they are going to shake it up and make it easier to use. I have commented to many people that the iPad is a great standalone computer for people who aren’t computer literate or are afraid of using a computer.  They can’t easily delete things that they shouldn’t, they can’t download viruses easily, etc.  The iPad offers a safe  environment for users to install, uninstall, and update applications, and it gives a simple, consistent interface to use applications.  Lion is doing the same for the desktop.

Imagine a time when the consumer desktop is easy to use, with one click you’ve bought and installed an application - it appears on your Dock or on the Launchpad - you just have one or two clicks and you’re using it. There is no need to understand that applications should live in the Applications folder (I’ve seen all too many people using applications out of Disk Images stored on their Desktops ), no need to know that your settings are stored under ~/Library/Application Support/AppX, you just have an application that is completely contained - If it goes wrong, uninstall with one click and reinstall with another. I feel that the future will see the consumer being less concerned with where their data is and more concerned with how they use it - No need for jpeg files, mp3 files, or mpeg files, one will simply have images, music, and movies - just like on the iPad.

All of this means that Apple could lose Power Users, users who half live (or completely live) on the command line, routing through Library files, and the such.  These users may migrate away - But then again they may appreciate some of the simplicity too… Apple will gain market from the masses if they create a simple system that is extra intuitive, but they must remember that developers and power users will want more than some images, music, and movies.

iPhone Games

Even back on my iPod Touch I liked playing games, and now with my faster, more responsive iPhone I love playing games.  I thought I might share a few of my favourites.  So here we go, in no particular order (other than in the rough order I last played them).

Game Dev Story

This game allows you to control a game dev company.  You start out with two members of staff and a small startup capital.  You must develop games and negotiate contracts to earn more money.

Games are built by selecting a platform to develop for (e.g. PC), a genre (e.g. racing), and a type (e.g. monster) and then working design of various aspects - first comes initial planning, then graphics design, and finally sound tracks - this is done either by members of your own team for free (well, included in their salary), or by outsourcing the work at an extra cost. Your developers work on the game over a period of time adding fun, creative, graphical, and sound ‘points’ to the game - the more points the better the game.  You can use object to boost certain points by using Research Points, these are acquired by your staff while they are working.

Contracts are an easy way to get money.  Contracts are made up of two things: a time frame (number of weeks), and points (e.g. fun points).  Set your developers to work and watch them bash out the points in the allotted time, if you miss the deadline the contractor will not use you again!  Different jobs pay a different amount of money, and it’s not always proportional to the amount of work or time constraints!

You get to control most aspects if your company, the hiring, firing, and training of staff members.  What advertising happens, and whether you go to game shows.

All in all I think this is a great game, it must be seeing as I spent over four hours playing it last night!

Virtual City

Another simulation type game here.  In Virtual City you move into different towns and correct what is wrong with them.  Some towns require you to build roads to neighbouring towns, others require you to set up manufacturing plants, while others need a population boost and more cash.

The challenges are simple to achieve, yet the game isn’t boring, you quickly move from town to town solving problems.

In the screenshot you can see three icons near the top, these are indicators of the current environmental rating, population happiness, and population size.  Getting a good environment rating boosts the population happiness and size.  The more people you have in your town, the better use you can make of busses to transport them to the local mall or theatre - The ride gains you money as does dropping them off at their destination.

Building the required manufacturing plants is easy, simply select the building from the build menu and plop it down on a free plot.  Ensure the plant gets everything it needs by transporting goods from other plants (e.g. a plastic plant needs oil from the oil derrick).  You can purchase and upgrade trucks to transport goods from one plant to the next, or to another town, or finished goods to the mall.

This is a great game for short and long periods of time, I’ve been playing it over the past couple of weeks on the way to and from work on the train.  It also has great iOS 4 multitasking support meaning that the game gets paused and you can resume right where you left off.

Angry Birds

Angry Birds has been all over the Internet for months.  As many people will know, the pigs have stolen the birds’ eggs and the birds are not happy. Using a slingshot, hurl the birds at the pigs and the structures protecting them to destroy them and to rack up the points.

Again, with great iOS 4 multitasking support, this is an excellent game to stop and start throughout the day, especially when you are doing testing which requires a ten minute gap!

Plants Vs. Zombies

Another great game.  This can also be played on PCs and Macs through Steam.

The story behind the game is that zombies are invading your garden, you must therefore plant a variety of flora to protect your house and fend off the unwanted visitors.

The game goes through different times of day and includes the back garden swimming pool, each scenario limits what plats you can seed.

This games takes a bit more planning than others and it’s best suited for longer periods of play - in my opinion.

And there we have it

Four of my current favourite iOS games shared with the world.

Blogging on MY iPhone!

Last Friday I recieved my iPhone 4. I have to say I’m impressed with the speed of the thing, much more responsive than my old first generation iPod touch.

I’m loving the freedom of mobile Internet too, though I’ve not had a huge Chavez chance to make the most of it here in mid-Wales…

With this new phone also come iOS 4 which I couldn’t get on my iPod touch, mult-tasking isn’t something I’ve needed to do just yet, but I’m sure I’ll appreciate it at some point.

Apart from mobile Internet, multi-tasking, and better response, it’s all fairly similar to my old iPod.

Blogged from my new iPhone ;)

Acquiring an iPhone 4

Last Saturday I called Tesco to try and order a 16GB iPhone 4 but they were out of stock :(

Yesterday they rang me back saying they had some in stock, I leaped at the chance of getting one and ordered it straight away. As mentioned above, I’ve gone for the 16GB version - My first generation iPod Touch in 16GB and I’m not using all of that space yet…

I paid £230 for it which I think is an excellent price considering I paid £200 for my second hand iPod Touch!

Another disk upgrade to beleg-ia

I’ve just ordered three Western Digital 2TB drives, my plan is to use ZFS’s RAID-Z to glue them together, I figure I’ll get around 4TB worth of space doing this.  Currently I have mirrored storage which is good, but I’m effectively wasting 1TB of my current 2TB.

The disks will be arriving on Saturday, I’m working Saturday evening so I’ll either install them Sunday or sometime next week.  I’ll post back here to post my method of RAIDing them…

Blogging on an iPad

I’m currently in the Cardiff Apple store playing on an iPad and I’ve got to say it’s pretty good! The keyboard is much better than I thought it would be, plus you get all the benefits of the auto-correcting spelling. Actually, I’m really impressed that the keyboard keeps up with normal typing speeds!

The device is nice and responsive which makes the whole experience really great, it’s much better than my little first generation iPod touch.

Goodbye OpenSolaris

Well, it looks like Oracle has pulled OpenSolaris.  Hopefully the Illumos project will continue and make some sort of replacement for the loss.

Over the past week or so I’ve been thinking about jumping to FreeBSD, the project has ZFS which is my main requirement for a home fileserver.  I’ll wait a little longer to see what Illumos is going to do, then see if the jump should be done.

New job!

After a while of searching, I’ve finally found a job!

I now work for a company called Eldin in the Welsh town of Machynlleth. My job is to switch on and off the new ERTMS system that is being installed on the Cambrian line.

After a few days on the job I can say that I’m really enjoying it and I hope that when my contract ends in December I’ll get to stay on for some more!