Category Archives: apple

Swift, Obj-C, AppleScript and AppStore fun.

Secret Mac App Store Rule – Minimum Trial Length

I recently started experimenting with free trials in the Mac App Store.

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

The first App I changed is Icon Tool. This is an incredibly simple app that lets developers generate icon assets for iOS or Mac OS apps.

Because the app is so simple, I only wanted to give a short trial. Just long enough for you to see how it works. The relevant app store rule is:

3.1.1  In-App Purchase:

Non-subscription apps may offer a free time-based trial period before presenting a full unlock option by setting up a Non-Consumable IAP item at Price Tier 0 that follows the naming convention: “XX-day Trial.”

So, I created a 1-day Trial IAP item and submitted my app. It was rejected with the reason:

‘We found that your app includes an in-app purchase free trial period, but the free trial period is shorter than the minimum 3 days.’

I have asked for clarification on where/if the 3 day rule is documented and got the response:

‘We understand that you may not agree with the feedback we have provided. However, to ensure App Store customers a safe and enjoyable experience, all apps must comply with the App Store Review Guidelines.’

I have no argument with this statement. My issue is that the 3 day rule doesn’t exist in the published guidelines

I submitted an appeal essentially asking for clarification on whether this was really a rule, and if so – where/whether it was published.

The appeal responded with a section of text which did indeed describe the 3-day minimum. That text isn’t in the published guidelines though (and frustratingly, I didn’t save it).

So – It’s a rule. A secret rule, but one I have to follow.

Boofing Supreme – Rejected!

Coming Soon

Boofing Supreme

Sound Credits: Mike Koenig, http://soundbible.com/

Update: Apple was not amused. Boofing Supreme was rejected…

Supreme court judge Brett Kavanaugh testified that that the ‘boofing’ referred to in his yearbook referred to flatulence – so I’d hoped this might get through on the basis of sworn testimony, or satire…

Mac OS Developers – Easily add Right-Click actions.

Right Click Booster makes it really easy for developers to add their own Right-Click actions.

OSX 10.10 allows developers to build FinderSync extensions.
These allow you to add right.click (or cmd+click) actions within the finder.

However – you can only do this with App-Store apps, and building finder-sync extensions is a massive pita.

Right Click Booster now makes it super-easy for developers to add right-click actions for their own apps.

The full code within VLC Streamer Helper is:


[RCBRightClick registerExtensionWithName:@"Add to VLC Streamer"
scheme:@"vlcsaddfile"
filetypes:@[@"mp4",@"avi",...]
image:[NSImage imageNamed:@"menuIcon"]
callbackScheme:nil];

So – if you’re a developer, find out all about it here

If you use software that would benefit from right-click integration – then please email the developer and let them know about Right Click Booster.

Dolby codecs, software patents, legal threats

Short version:

If you copy movies to VLC Streamer using iTunes, then as from version 4.12, you’ll get a warning message and no sound for movies using these Dolby codecs.

  • Dolby Digital (AC3)
  • Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC3)
  • Dolby TrueHD (MLP)

The reason for this is that Dolby claim that playing sound encoded in those codecs would breach their patents. Although this is arguable – it isn’t in practice something I can fight.

The workaround is fairly simple; Instead of copying your movies via iTunes, you should stream them from the helper app (the helper app uses the desktop version of VLC to do the conversion).

In the paid version, you can also copy movies using the helper app so that you can watch them when you are away from home.

Long version:

Before I get into the details, I want to be very clear that Dolby’s representative was a pleasure to work with. He was perfectly reasonable and courteous. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer legal shakedown. I don’t believe that Dolby’s demands were valid – but he was doing his job in a perfectly professional manner.

On the 22nd November, I got a notice from Apple via the AppStore.

On 10/14/2014, we received a notice from Dolby Laboratories that Dolby Laboratories believes your apps listed below infringe their intellectual property rights. In particular, Dolby Laboratories believes you are infringing their copyright. Please see their comments below.

You can reach Dolby Laboratories through [redacted], copied on this email.

We look forward to receiving written assurance that your applications do not infringe Dolby Laboratories’s rights, or that the parties are taking steps to promptly resolve the matter.  Please keep us apprised of your progress.

[snip]

Comments from Complainant: The App(s) indicated contain and/or practice Dolby’s intellectual property, including patents and copyrighted source code and/or pseudocode, namely Dolby Digital (AC3), Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC3), and/or Dolby TrueHD (MLP) without authorization.

The ability to play this kind of movie was a fairly recent addition. In version 4.0 (released at the start of October), I added MobileVLCKit to VLC Streamer to handle movies copied through iTunes that don’t play in the system player.

MobileVLCKit is the engine that powers the VLC app on iOS, so it is capable and powerful. You can tell that VLC Streamer is playing something with MobileVLCKit if you see an orange screen at the start of playback. It is MobileVLCKit which plays these movies, and MobileVLCKit which I eventually had to hobble to stop VLC Streamer from being removed from the AppStore.

I asked how much it would cost to licence the patents. Playing these movies was a new and smallish feature – but clearly valuable to some people, so I’d have been willing to pay something.

…I’m glad you’re interested in becoming properly licensed.  We have a standard process for that which begins by filling out this online form (it just captures generic info like contact data, etc):

http://www.dolby.com/us/en/professional/licensing/apply-license-consumer.aspx

You should also know that there are fees associated with becoming licensed.  Specifically, there is a $25,000 one-time initial fee and a recurring $5,000 annual maintenance fee.  There is also a per-unit royalty that has a tiered structure, due quarterly, based on annual total usage, as follows:

0-100,000 downloads at $0.99 per download

100,001-1,000,000 downloads at $0.67 per download

1,000,001+ downloads at $0.45 per download

Remember that this would apply to the free version of VLC Streamer as well as the paid version. Clearly this is not an option.

I contacted a senior Developer involved with VLC and asked for an opinion. His opinion was that the patent claims were bogus.

I didn’t write the code for VLC, and I’m not an expert on patent law, but I know that software patents are at the very least controversial in Europe.

The VLC legal page shows their interpretation.

‘Neither French law nor European conventions recognize software as patentable […]. Therefore, software patents licenses do not apply on VideoLAN software.’

Incidentally, this is presumably why Dolby haven’t stopped VLC from distributing the desktop player which plays the exact same codecs. The VLC desktop version is what does the conversion of your videos in the helper so that they can be streamer to VLC Streamer.

The full list of Dolby’s patent claims is given at the bottom of the list.

Nonetheless, it is clear that unless I was willing to spend ridiculous sums on lawyers, Dolby’s claims to Apple would be sufficient to get VLC Streamer closed down.

Personally, I believe software patents are a terrible idea. I’m not alone in that. Other than donating to the Pirate Party and organisations like the EFF and the Open Rights Group, there isn’t much I can do.

To round up, here is the list of patents which Dolby claims I was infringing. I did ask for a list split by patent – but my contact at Dolby was unable to provide that.

  • ARGENTINA AR 023444 B1
  • ARGENTINA 023424
  • AUSTRALIA 2002307533
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  • CHINA ZL200480011250.X
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Note for media – I haven’t published the details of the Dolby representative as I don’t want him being spammed. If you need to contact him to confirm details, or seek comment, then contact me via rob at hobbyistsoftware.com