Category Archives: vlc-streamer-iphone

Translations please…

VLC Remote and VLC Streamer rely on you to translate them into your native language.

If you’d like to help – please click through to http://translate.hobbyistsoftware.com and translate some strings.

The site isn’t really mobile-friendly, so you probably want to do this on your laptop.

I’m always happy to provide free copies if you help with translations – email me at rob @ hobbyistsoftware.com if that would help.

Thank you!

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.

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  • ARGENTINA 023424
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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

Dropbox Support (plus opening videos from other apps)

VLC Streamer 4.10 adds full Dropbox support.

Dropbox is awesome – it creates a magical folder on your computer which is backed up to the internet, and available on all your devices.

If you don’t have Dropbox, then click on http://HobbyistSoftware.com/GetDropbox to get Dropbox. It is Awesome!

VLC Streamer lets you download movies from Dropbox, or if you have already downloaded them in the Dropbox app – you can open them in VLC Streamer instantly.

Click here to read all about it (and how to open files from your email, safari, and other apps).

 

Beta testers wanted!

Apple’s new Beta Testing service is now live.

If you have an iOS8 device, then I can now add you to my list of beta testers and get your input on new features (and possible new bugs!)

If you’re interested in getting involved in testing and developing VLC Streamer, VLC Remote and Off Remote, then I’d love to have you in the group.

To sign up – please just apply to join this google group.

Or go to http://HobbyistSoftware.com/beta on your desktop.

Make sure to sign up with the email address you use for your apple id.

I’ll add you to the group and look forward to your input!

Thank you!

Why we’re not supporting Chromecast

I get asked about Chromecast a handful of times a month.

I have a Chromecast to test on, and I love the concept. I’d love to be able to support it with VLC Streamer.

Unfortunately, Chromecast just doesn’t work very well.

In my testing – it fails to play most streams (streams that play fine on Android, iOS and VLC).

I wrote in the forum a couple of months ago with more details for the technically minded.

I assume that Chromecast will get better over time, and I’ll give it a try again in a few months.

Unfortunately, my expectation of Chromecast is not necessarily one that the Chromecast team share. I expect Chromecast to ‘just work’.

If streams play on iOS and Android, then I don’t expect to have to battle to format them specially for Chromecast. Equally, I expect integration to be simple rather – whereas the Chromecast team expect me to implement a whole complex system of searching and communication.

For the most part – the Chromecast team response has been to refer to state that vlc streamer steams don’t meet the required specification and that any crashes are therefore not Chromecast’s problem.

You can see the lively discussion here. It’s one of the most +1’d posts on the ChromeCasst developer forum.  I think that means I’m not the only frustrated developer.

As a Chromecast owner, I’m not sure what you can do. The fact is that Chromecast is hard to integrate – and doesn’t do a good job with HLS streams. Until the Chromecast developers fix that – VLC Streamer won’t be supporting Chromecast.

 

VLC Streamer – with added VLC

VLC Streamer now has a full VLC playback engine.

We use it to play back various ‘difficult’ files. You’ll know that we’re using VLC if the movie starts with the distinctive orange screen.

You can choose to use VLC for playback by tapping on the info box next to the movie and selecting ‘play in VLC’.

One major advantage of adding VLC is that we can now play most movies copied through iTunes without the need for conversion. If you’re going away from home – this may be a great option.

More details on how to copy movies available here

The playback is powered by VLCKit which is licenced under the LGPL version 2.1

VLC Streamer – brand new design

Apple just approved the free version of VLC Streamers new design (together with some fixes for the paid version).

This has been a huge project, but should now work beautifully with the new iPhone 6 and 6+ as well as iPads, iPhones and iPod touches.

We have tried to give more information,  and also to make it easier to do things like deleting or copying multiple movies.

People have been asking for the ability to organise movies in folders for a long time – and we now have something (even better) in that you can tag movies, and even give movies multiple tags.

This new build actually has VLC built into it for playback in some circumstances, but I’ll post more on that later!

I hope you like it.

There will inevitably be some rough edges -so please send your feedback. You can send email from the settings page, or head over to the forum.

Thank you!

VLC Streamer 4 – password issue (now fixed)

Update: As of 6th October, Apple have approved the update which should sort this issue and a handful of other minor problems. Please make sure you update to 4.01.


 

Apple just approved VLC Streamer 4, which is a massive redesign, and which fully supports iOS8 and the new devices.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of bugs.

The main one is that if you’re using a password on your helper, then if you can’t enter a new password. (If your old password is saved, that should continue working).

I’ll submit a fix today (4 Oct) and request an expedited review. Apple are swamped at the moment though, so this may take a while.

In the meantime, the only workaround is to turn off the password on your helper, though I understand that isn’t appropriate for everyone.

The other bug is the thoroughly ugly green background on the title in the main movie list (on iPhones only). I just want to assure you that this is an error rather than terrible taste…

my apologies for the inconvenience – I’ll get a fix out asap.

–update: 5th Oct

I submitted the fix on the 4th, and Apple have approved the expedited review request, so that should reduce the waiting time.

VLC Streamer iOS8 update

Things always break when there is a new version of iOS8, and this version has more changes than most.

I have been working on a huge rebuild of VLC Streamer which adds a bundle of new features and completely revamps the UI. Amongst other things, this makes it much easier to transfer movies through iTunes, and lets you tag movies to arrange them into groups/folders.

I had hoped to release this as a beta using Apple’s new TestFlight system. This is an excellent new system which promises to allow up to 1000 beta testers to try new apps before they are fully released. I had hoped this would mean that the new version got a thorough test, and I could fix anything I missed before pushing the update to everyone.

Unfortunately, my plans have been halted by the fact that Apple haven’t enabled this functionality yet.

This means that I need to wait for an Apple review before the new version goes live. That’s likely to take 5-10 days.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in signing up to be a beta tester when Apple does release the new system, please join the mailing list here:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/hobbyist-software-beta-testing

thanks for your patience!

Do you want to be a beta tester on iOS8?

iOS8 promises a new way for people to beta test apps where you can easily test beta versions of apps.

The TestFlight app which enables this is already available in the US Appstore.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/testflight/id899247664?mt=8

We have been working hard on new versions for iOS8 and plan to release these as betas as soon as Apple allows it.

If you’d like to take part in testing, then please join our new beta-testing google group.

http://hobbyistsoftware.com/beta

We’ll pull your email address from the group and add you to the testing list.

thank you!

Update: iOS8 is live, but Apple hasn’t started the public beta testing system yet. They are labelling it as ‘coming soon’. Please sign up using the link above and we’ll let you know when it goes live.