Weeknote: 13 July 2024 – iPhone video cameras, AirPods, auto-translate earbuds, and Apple vs emulation

Published stuff

For TapSmart, I explore the best video camera appswhich AirPods to buy, and classic iPhone game Orbital.

My Stuff column this week is: Why I think auto-translate earbuds might be a bad thing. In short, people think they’re a Babel Fish. They are not a Babel Fish. 

I also wrote about the best emulators for iPhones and Android devices, which sparked a standalone piece for this blog: Apple vs emulation – three months of incoherence and idiocy.

July 14, 2024. Read more in: News

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Apple vs emulation – three months of incoherence and idiocy

UTM on the iPad

As a fan of emulation and safeguarding gaming’s history, I find myself increasingly frustrated with Apple in this space. It has – either by intent or incompetence – created the circumstances in which iOS has a confused, messy, inconsistent emulator ecosystem.

There are some stars, such as Delta and PPSSPP. We have a cut-down RetroArch, because the creator is walking on eggshells. There’s the odd really interesting curio, like ZX81, but an awful lot of churn junk, such as terrible NES and C64 emulators.

The last of those things is in part down to Apple not providing clear direction and constantly changing the rules. It would be simple to clarify what’s allowed, but Apple never wanted emulators on the store in the first place, and only appeared to approve any to blunt AltStore’s chances and perhaps to avoid getting walloped by the EU.

App Store review is inconsistent at the best of times, but the situation with emulation is now beyond absurd. The MAME4iOS dev says their app has been rejected multiple times for ‘spam’. Apple might point to the iDOS rejection (‘iDOS is not a retro game console’) and argue MAME does not make the cut for the same reason. Yet there is a (fairly awful) Final Burn Neo arcade emulator available to download. Another error? Who knows? Either way, this doesn’t say good things about app review.

As for iDOS, that situation is now… fluid, given that Apple has approved PC emulator UTM SE. But who’s to say Apple won’t change its mind next week, depending on what it thinks it can get away with? And I do wonder what will happen if someone dares to submit an Apple II or Mac emulator for review. Perhaps they should submit it to AltStore first – that at least appears to make Apple rethink.

So three months in and, as predicted by me and others, emulation on iOS is an incoherent mess. Which probably suits Apple but further dents the platform’s credibility with a noisy contingent of gamers and makes it look inferior to Android. And Apple’s ridiculous review stance means great devs won’t bother making emulators for iPhone and iPad. Why would they? Why spend months polishing an emulator only for Apple to arbitrarily decide to reject it? (And, yes, this is the wider App Store in microcosm. Creators of other apps and games increasingly feel the same way.)

July 14, 2024. Read more in: Apple, Gaming, Opinions

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Weeknote: 6 July 2024 – election special edition

Published stuff

My deep dive series at TapSmart continued with how to get started with Procreate. I also explored what I want to see from the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro

Over at Stuff, my daughter’s infatuation with Gold by Spandau Ballet inspired my column, Streaming opened up music’s past like never before – but will artists of the future be able to survive? I also (dun dun) took a look at (dun dun) the new Lego Jaws set (dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun).

Other stuff

The election sucked all of the oxygen out of the room in the UK last week. Astonishingly, I now have a Liberal Democrat MP. I never thought I’d see the day. It was a very weird night.

However, while I was happy to see the Tories get a kicking, I’m not thrilled at how unrepresentative the Commons is. I’ve written about the unrepresentative UKsystem before, but this week’s election takes the biscuit.

A narrative rattling around is that the Lib Dems ‘gamed’ the system in their favour. Yet what really happened is that, for the first time, the party almost got a representative seat share (11% from 12% of the vote). The Greens and Reform weren’t so fortunate. Entertainingly – given that they wrote a love letter to FPTP in their manifesto – the Tories fell short too, winning 18.6% of the seats from 23.7% of the vote.

Labour? 63.4% of the seats, from just 33.7% of the vote. So the party is over-represented almost to the point it has twice as many MPs as it should have. Naturally, some people are OK with this and argue it’s the price we pay to keep out the hard right. But it has historically kept out progressives (the Greens should have about 40 MPs today), and also resulted in fewer progressive governments in the UK, the nadir perhaps being in 1983. Then, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives won 61% of the seats on 42% of the vote. Labour got 32% of the seats on 27.6% of the vote. And the Alliance (which later morphed into the Lib Dems)? 3.5% of the seats on 25.4% of the vote. You do the maths. And watch your brain dribble out of your ears.

The Electoral Reform Society explores what this week’s election might have looked like had we had a form of PR. This piece uses AMS as an example. In the UK, STV is a more likely system, which would drop the numbers for smaller parties somewhat. Regardless, FPTP should be consigned to the past. But I doubt it will ever be, when the Conservatives and Labour both know it’s the only viable route to absolute power (with rare exceptions). And Labour’s leaders are happier winning 100% of the power occasionally rather than leading a coalition more often than not.

Still, perhaps Starmer’s lot will surprise me on this. And given the fragility of his electoral coalition, he probably should. Otherwise in 2019, we could be starting down the barrel of a Tory or even Reform majority, elected on 35% of the vote, while Labour and Libs combined have a share over 50, and Labour blames Lib and Green voters for not backing Labour, despite PR being an option all along.

July 6, 2024. Read more in: Weeknotes

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Weeknote: 29 June 2024 – lights out edition

Published stuff

Over at Stuff this week, I plead with tech companies to stop adding obnoxious eye-searing lights to gadgets. And I totally forgot to include fans, mostly because ours have folded paper taped around them, blocking their own stupid eye-searing bright blue beams, which are the opposite of what you’d want in a bedroom. Or, indeed, any room.

Over at TapSmart, I explore apps that can give you iOS 18 features today – and take things much further than Apple. And I dig into iPhone mirroring – which I reckon looks equal parts fantastic, frustrating and distracting.

Other stuff

I turned on my RGB30 for the first time in a few weeks. It was fine. Clearly, ArkOS FTW, even though the UI is terrible compared to Rocknix. Bah.

I messed around with Beeper for a feature. It simultaneously made me want a unified social inbox all the more – and realise Beeper isn’t it. It’s OK, but too much spam leaks through. I’m hoping Project Tapestry scratches this itch. If not, it’ll be time to add a bunch more Threads, Bluesky, Mastodon and YouTube feeds to NetNewsWire – and more newsletters.

This Thursday there’s a general election in the UK. Amusingly, it’s on 4 July, which means Brits have something to celebrate on that day, for once. Although how happy I am on Friday will depend on how much of a kicking the Tories get and whether a small miracle happens where I live, turfing out a terrible Tory MP for a much better alternative. Fingers crossed…

June 29, 2024. Read more in: Weeknotes

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Weeknote: 22 June – iDOS for iPhone rejection and VMMMM! edition

Published stuff

Something a bit different for my Stuff column this week: EV sounds need to alert us, not entertain us. I don’t need every car having its own cinematic score parping out. I also added Kino to my best iPhone apps list.

Over at TapSmart, Apple might have forgotten about AR, but I haven’t, and I dig into the best AR apps for iPhone. And video editor LumaFusion becomes the latest entry in my classic apps series.

Other stuff: or iDOS think Apple hath a problem

Back in April, I wrote:

I want more: a world where iPads and Apple TVs are havens for emulators for everything from classic arcade titles to obscure home micros. But Apple’s rules explicitly talk of ‘retro console games’. What does that mean for DOSBox, FinalBurn Neo, Retroarch, or an Apple II emulator? We’ve no way to know. 

Well, we know now. iDOS 3 was rejected from the App Store, with Apple citing that iDOS is “not a retro game console”. The thing is, nor is the C64. But there are C64 emulators on the App Store. And nor is the ZX81. But Apple approved a ZX81 emulator. And nor is the MSX. Yet there’s an MSX emulator on the App Store. You get the idea.

Yet again, Apple rules are incoherent and inconsistently applied. Yet again, developers have no idea if they decide to work on a really great product in this space (or any space, given Apple’s “we’ll know it when we see it” approach) whether Apple will reject it. No wonder most of the initial slew of emulators have been churnware.

This also makes me increasingly think that the only reason Apple opened this space up on the App Store was the screw with AltStore, which still hasn’t had a single approved third-party app. But there, Delta was the headline act – the thing everyone wanted, as evidenced by it topping the App Store charts for days.

But now people on iPhone have some emulators, perhaps they’re satisfied. So job done for Apple, I suppose. But there are still questions. Not “will we ever get mini vMac or an Apple II emulator for iPhone?” because I think we all know the answer to that. But what about MAME for iOS, which is currently in limbo? MAME is not a “retro game console”. But then again, nor is FBA, and a version of that already exists on the App Store. And will Apple clamp down on RetroArch and demand it remove cores that clash with the rules and approvals it’s haphazardly applied elsewhere?

That said, all this assumes Apple is even remotely aware of what RetroArch actually is or does, what old hardware is or isn’t a games console (good luck anyone working on an iPhone 8-bit Atari emulator), and what each individual emulator emulates. Ultimately, Apple doesn’t really care about any of this stuff, and that’s the real problem.

June 22, 2024. Read more in: Weeknotes

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