TMI Tim: Standards & Double-Standards

For those of you who managed to get Animoog's latest update running, you will have discovered a new In-App Purchase which will add MIDI Out for $4. I love Animoog's ribbon controller, and find it to be a great way to play with Polyphonic Aftertouch. This seems like a great deal, especially for the fortunate people who bought Animoog when it was $0.99, but Synthtopia makes some very good arguments that standards, like the MIDI Standard, need to come standard.

Artist Rendering
Self-portrait

Synthesists don’t want to have to think about whether a synth supports MIDI... In the long run, making MIDI work consistently on the iPad music platform should be beneficial to Moog and to all companies making serious music apps.

A wise sentiment, and one that Apple agrees with! Or at least they have in the past. Last March Audanika had tried to make MIDI Out an In-App Purchase for Sound Prism. It was rejected then on the grounds that it was charging to "access built-in capabilities provided by iOS", i.e. CoreMIDI. I checked this morning and that is still in the App Store Guidelines:

11.8: Apps that charge users to access built-in capabilities provided by iOS, such as the camera or the gyroscope, will be rejected.

Animoog isn't the first one to pull a fast one on this score. The app, formerly known as Fairlight CMI, did a similar IAP for MIDI functionality. Just a few weeks after SoundPrism was rejected! Instead of calling it a MIDI Tax they nested it in with a bunch of "Pro" features and charged $40 for a Pro upgrade IAP!

Moog has somehow managed to get past a hard prohibition in the documented review guidelines. At best this is just an example of the App Review team being over-worked and sloppy. At worst this demonstrates favoritism in the review process, when big companies like Fairlight and Moog are allowed to break the rules and charge for things smaller companies cannot.

Don't bother writing to Moog in protest, tell Apple to stick to their own guidelines.

CASSINI Synth for iPad Wallpaper for iPad

There are a few apps I should probably be reviewing, but I am feeling worn out after cramming in that Cassini review yesterday.

I procrastinate in Photoshop, so instead of being productive I have made an iPad-sized wallpaper for Cassini. This is based on a quote and image from the review. I've gotten a few comments on the image, both here and on YouTube, so I thought some of you might like it.

Click on the embedded image for the full-resolution version. The little buttons on the bottom actually look really good on the iPad, under the tray. Enjoy!

Legal Threats & Bribery Have Unintended Consequences

Today former iOS developer, Michael of iControlMIDIDesign, discovered that making legal threats and attempting to bribe a blogger have unintended consequences. Following a post yesterday, which included an email excerpt, iControlMIDIDesign continued to email blogger Tim Webb with apoplectic rage.

Michael made assertions that his conversation with me was private, despite all of the emails including the words "Press Inquiry" in the subject line. The very first line of the very first email also identified myself as a blogger at discchord.com.

Having had a good cry and a lie down, Michael thought better of his tactics. Though not much better it would seem.

This afternoon I received a new email from Michael requesting information on advertising here on the site. He was hoping to get me to yank the earlier article, and included a veiled legal threat.

Despite any delusions he may have harbored about an expectation to privacy in the original email, there is no way in hell he has any kind of expectation for privacy now after the previous post... so I'm pretty sure I can post this in its entirety!

Hi Tim,
We would be interested in the Menu Badge.
There is a post on your website that is impairing our business due to the release of un-authorized content. I have been contacting my lawyer and he is recommending to friendly settle if you accept to remove it. In return we would be happy to purchase that Menu Badge for the next 5-6 months as proof of good partnership.
Let us know.
Best regards,
Michael

For future reference to anyone that wants to buy out content on this site, it is going to cost a bit more than $300. I'll sell you the site for $300,000 and you can pull any article you like. Any other offer to sell out, or threats to my first amendment rights, will be posted here.

By the way, any Lawyers out there? This is the second time someone has made legal threats in the last 3 months. I've been busy!

TMI Tim: The Delicious Hand That Feeds

I've lost track of how many developers I've talked to that have some major grievance with the way Apple runs the App Store. From rejecting Apps that include some SDK, to using the rejection process as a means to set new policy, Apple has made a lot of developers very nervous. Some of these guys are trying to make a living selling their apps. They have a deep fear of the often mysterious and cryptic rejections. No one dares speak out though! There has already been one developer who had his app removed for criticizing the App Store. Most sites won't go after Apple either because they want early access, or simply to avoid a life-time ban like Leo Laporte. I'm even a bit hesitant. They could revoke my Linkshare referral account, and the 60% of you that come here on Mac's could label me a "hater", but fuck it... This week's Too Much Information Tim is going to look at a real problem for one dev.


Om nom nom nom!

I've been talking with a guy who, for several reasons, needs to stay anonymous. He's a somewhat-high-profile guy in the tech industry and he had an idea for an app. This app is processor intensive though and he wanted to make sure people wouldn't accidentally buy it on older devices. Being the conscientious geek that he is, he spent a lot of time thinking about how to make sure he didn't screw over customers. Developers can't say, "Don't install on iPhone 3G and earlier, just iPhone 3GS and later."

You have to get tricky!

Many iPad 1 owners will know that the way a lot of people have been blocking iPad 1 installs is to require the front facing camera, available only on iPad 2s and 3s. This gets really complicated on iPhones and even more so with Universal apps. Don't get too fancy with your hardware requirements; you probably won't be able to change them after the app is released!


Artist Rendering of Anonymous Developer.
Shamed and photographed by Apple.

This is a serious challenge for many developers. They want to make great apps that take advantage of the new hardware that Apple is selling, but Apple won't allow devs to prohibit the obsolete devices. In this specific case the dev knows that iPod Touches simply don't have the horsepower. Just to be safe, he wants to keep the iPhone 3GS out as well so that those users won't give him 1 Star reviews on iTunes, if they encounter any performance issues.

This should be as simple as sending Apple a list of hardware saying:

Disallow

• iPhone 1
• iPhone 2
• iPhone 3
• iPhone 3GS
• iPod Touch (all iterations)

Instead, Apple gives developers a compatiblity matrix of features. It's up to the developer to find some combination of features that only exist on the targeted devices. For this example, all of following are not available on iPod Touches, so let's see if we can use any of these on a Universal app to exclude iPhones prior to iPhone 4:

• Telephony: Would also exclude non-3G iPads.
• SMS: Would also exclude non-3G iPads.
• GPS: Would also exclude non-3G iPads.
• Magnetometer: Works, but you would need something else to exclude iPhone 3GS.
• Gyroscope: Requirement to exclude iPhone 3GS, although this also excludes iPad 1.
• Auto-focus-camera: iPhone 3GS has this, it would also exclude iPad 2.
• Camera-flash: This would exclude 3GS, but would exclude all iPads.
• Bluetooth-le: Would also exclude iPhone 4.

This is crazy, and it will only get worse as more and more iDevices come out. For this case you could go with requiring Magnetometer and Gyroscope. Unfortunately for this developer, he chose the GPS requirement, which completely eliminates iPads that don't have 3G! A fact he didn't realize until after the app went live.

What hoops are developers going to be jumping through, in just a couple of years, when they want to block iPad 3s? I praise apps that can maintain backward compatibility with older devices, but damn it Apple, you're the one that has made a business model out of annual obsolesce! Stop making developers the ones to deal with it.

TMI Tim: An Analogue Analogy

I'm a lefty and often feel I must look at the world upside-down and backwards from the majority. Too Much Information (TMI) Tim will examine issues in music making that deserve a closer look from a different perspective. I've got a great one to start this off!

One of the most common questions I've been getting since I started Everyone Can Play Music, is from people who feel they are ready to stretch their wings and challenge themselves with hardware synths. These guys have read somewhere that hardware is going to sound so much better than software iPad apps, and they ask me if this is true.

Rather than retreading the old Hardware Vs. Software arguments, I want to give you an analogue analogy.

In the world of competitive video games there is a similar lust over keyboards. There are those who will tell you that you simply must own a "mechanical keyboard", with Cherry MX switches. These have a physical component to detect key presses, as apposed to the membranes common to most keyboards. In fact the holy grail for these guys is an ancient bit of IBM technology.

These "vintage keyboards" aren't even compatible with modern computers, but enthusiasts will use adapters to get them working. Musicians lust for a unique sound advantage in old gear, and gamers are looking at these archaic devices for a competitive advantage. Both are just marketing and hipster hype.

Hardware manufacturers play on the idea of mechanical (analog) keyboards being so much better than the convenient conventional keyboard that came with your computer. These mechanical keyboards are a premium, priced 5-10 times the amount of regular keyboard! The manufacturers want you to feel like the keyboard you have in front of you is shameful, but if you pony up for the premium you're going to be so much better in competitive games. Hipsters perpetuate this by bragging about their status symbols. They've bought and paid for the right to snobbishly say, "Oh you have a Dell, well... I guess that's fine for playing Farmville."

The truth is that the real Professionals in competitive gaming use cheap $30 keyboards! No shit, watch a game of the Global Star League in Korea. The guys making serious cash, playing for $100,000+ prize pools, are using $30 keyboards that are like any other (digital) membrane keyboard.

Pictured here, to the right, is the keyboard used by the guy who has made the most money from professional gaming. It's a $35 Qsenn DT-35. His team is sponsored by SteelSeries, makers of a keyboard that has "18K gold-plated mechanical switches" and retails for $150! SteelSeries would gladly give him one for free, just so it shows up on TV when he's playing, but none of these guys give a damn about mechanical switches.

This whole notion of some advantage to analog switches is complete bullshit. We have the same competitive advantage silliness in the music realm, from manufactures that release new synth models annually. Members of the community who fall for the marketing will then try to justify their investment on forums. This is a never ending cycle of nonsense, as more people buy into the hype and perpetuate it themselves to brag about their gear.

Ignore the hype. It doesn't matter which is better. It doesn't matter which is cheaper. Just learn to use what you have in front of you.

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