Blog

RFC: Future of SidPlayer, ModPlayer, PokeyPlayer for iOS

This is a post about the state of Sid-, Mod, or PokeyPlayer on iOS.

Coming from the background of the C64 and AMIGA demo scenes, I always thought that every platform needs a way to play back the musical artwork created by those great musicians in the 80s and 90s on machines like the Commodore C64, the AMIGA, and the ATARI XL.

Fast forward to the iPhone: Being excited about the new platform, me and another guy from the good ole‘ AMIGA days started working on SidPlayer in 2008, shortly after Apple opened the developer program for european developers. After some months of work, we had the first version ready for the Apple review, standing on the shoulder of the great libsidplay and the HVSC. Due to libsidplay being GPL, we had to open source the whole iOS app. To our surprise, _this_ hasn’t been a problem with the Apple review.

SidPlayer for iOS was available for some months, then we developed adaptations for AMIGA .mod files (ModPlayer) and Atari XL pokey sound files (PokeyPlayer). In the meantime, iOS development went from being a hobby to our profession (we formed the LaTe App-Developers GbR), which unfortunately had great impact on our pet projects. Being busy with paid projects, we could not find enough time to do serious updates to the players.

The original plan in 2008 was to create an app that has additional value around the core asset of a high quality retro computing player, such as a retro-museum-in-a-box (giving background information about those classic computing machines) and a community that shares playlists (important given the amount of songs), comments, statistics, and ratings. Alas, due to our time constraints during the lifetime of the apps, we could only do small updates in order to fix bugs with newer operating system versions. There was not enough time to add features, do an iPad adaptation, nor to unify the three distinct player apps. In the meantime, other apps came along that also could play some of those tunes, although we weren’t (and still aren’t) very excited about their user interfaces and sound quality.

The final nail for the coffin came in 2013, when – much to our surprise – out of the blue (not even due to reviewing an update), we received a letter from Apple where they claimed that our player apps would violate the review guidelines, in particular the dreaded sections 2.7 / 2.8, which read „2.7: Apps that download code in any way or form will be rejected.“ and „2.8: Apps that install or launch other executable code will be rejected“. Although we went past this guideline for several years, this turned into a showstopper – some weeks later, Apple removed our apps from the store.

Unfortunately, those sections really apply – at least for the Sid- and PokeyPlayer. Both players rely on emulating parts of the CPU and custom chip infrastructure of the C64 / Atari XL (hence run „executable“ code, albeit for a foreign processor architecture) and said code gets downloaded from the internet (we didn’t want to ship the actual music files with the app for licensing reasons). ModPlayer actually was an exception, since the .mod format does not contain code, but is a descriptive format, however back then I did not have the energy to argue with Apple on that, hence ModPlayer has been removed without a valid reason.

In the meantime, my priorities have shifted a bit and we had to shutdown our iOS company LaTe AppDevelopers for a number of reasons. Still I have great motivation to work on the original goal for those players. Due to the improved hard- and software of the iOS platform, these days we could add some major improvements to the playing routines, such as using recent filter distortion improvements in libsidplay2, audio post-processing with reverb and chorus, etc.

The chance of the existing apps coming back into the store is – thanks to Apple – zero. It wouldn’t be a pleasant experience anyways, since the code base is very old and rather unmaintainable (remember, it was our first app for a new platform, and neither one of us had any Mac OS X experience to rely on).

Basically, three question come to my mind now:

1. Would there be enough interest in a player that fulfills the original goal or is the competition on the store „good enough“?
2. Will it be possible to get past Apple’s review, if we ship the App with all the sound (code) files, thus not downloading any code?
3. How can I fund working on this app? To honor all the countless hours the original authors put into creating the music and the big community working on preserving the files, I want this app to be free for everyone.

As you may have guessed, I do not have any concrete answers (let alone a timeframe), but just some ideas and the track record of having created one of the most popular set of C64/AMIGA/Atari XL music player apps. So I wanted to use this opportunity to gather some feedback. If you have any comments, feel free to send them to me. If you even want to collaborate on such a project, I’m all ears. If there’s sufficient interest, we can create some project infrastructure, i.e. mailing list.

18 Comments

  1. Gabor Szaraz
    27. April 2015 - Antworten

    I would be glad to have proper SID player on iOS. I have your SID Player Pro on my iPhone, from years ago, it is treasure for me (By the way, AppStore says it is available in US store, but not in Hungary here, why?).

  2. Phil
    19. Juni 2015 - Antworten

    How about setting up a kickstarter to fund it. I’m sure there would be enough interest in it to resurrect Sid Player to iOS.
    I no longer have the pro player though I bought it and I just saw the free version in the UK store?

    • mickey
      19. Juni 2015

      Yes, I will probably do that, because one of the problems I have mentioned just disappeared: Apple has announced that – starting with iOS9 – they will allow everyone to deploy software on their personal phone, without any needs to buy a membership and fiddle with certificates and profiles around.

      This would enable me to release the software and everyone interested could compile it on their device – no matter what the Apple Review thinks about it, since it would not need to be in the Store.

  3. Raj gill
    9. November 2015 - Antworten

    I would contribute for a new one

  4. Andy
    3. Dezember 2015 - Antworten

    Sid Player Pro was quite simply the best an amazing piece of software.

    Unfortunately i had a PC meltdown and lost my backup of the app.

    Can you please email me the iPa file over so I can re add it to my app folder on my pic so I can transfer it back on to my phone. I have already paid you money for the app so I am just requesting what I have purchased and see my email for validation on the purchase of Sid Player Pro.

    Thanks in advance. 🙂

  5. 3. Dezember 2015 - Antworten

    Hi Mickey! Just upgraded to iPhone 6s today and after restoring the iPhone I’ve discovered SidplayerPro was gone… Apple – such douchebags.

    I’d encourage you to run independent IPA distribution with UDIDs (as Mr Sid does with his C64 Scene app that actually downloads and runs C64 code from CSDB), and I am willing to pay a fair price to have that app back.

    Please consider 🙂 Thanks!
    Tomek

  6. Matty Seito
    4. Dezember 2015 - Antworten

    I support this.

  7. Andy
    9. Dezember 2015 - Antworten

    I would help in any way i could and i really need Sid Player back in my life i am lost without it. Apple have made it even harder to transfer old apps on iphone to pc, well in fact they have removed that feature to transfer purchases how pathetic is that of Apple.

    I was told its to keep up with current legislations and he politley told me that when i purchased Sid Player i don’t actually own it anyway…

    Wow just think if everything in life was like Apple, you would have Samsung coming back into your home to collect that smartphone you paid for but was only really licensed to use it up to a time they see fit!

    Michael can you respond to my email please i need your help.

    Thanks.

  8. Andy
    10. Dezember 2015 - Antworten

    Michael please can you reach out to the owners that have paid for your app. I sent you a couple of emails now and please respond thank you.

  9. Filip Gulløv
    20. Dezember 2015 - Antworten

    I’d paid for the app. Apply me please ??

    Regards
    Filip

  10. Perry
    6. Juni 2017 - Antworten

    Bought this years ago, but cannot find it in the store anymore
    Sid Player Pro

    Is it somewhere, or maybe the source, that I can compile in Xcode?

    • Perry
      6. Juni 2017

      Guess 32 bit will not show in the appstore anymore, so needs a re-compile..

    • mickey
      8. Juni 2017

      Hi Perry, please read the whole blog entry – it’s a much more of a problem than a simple recompile:

      1st) Apple does not want it in the AppStore (any longer), since – technically – it downloads and executes code from the internet.
      2nd) It has been written at the time of iOS3, so many assumptions no longer apply and it feels a bit like from the stoneages.

      That said, the full project is open source @ https://github.com/mickeyl/SidPlayerPro and can be downloaded – at least with an older set of Xcode.
      And more of that… I seriously plan to revive the project next year. I did some early work on integrating the latest play routines (see video @ https://www.facebook.com/Volkskomputer/videos/1778133609114745/)
      and am (slowly) working on conceptualizing. I will probably launch a crowdfunding campaign early next year or end of this year to „test the waters“ and check whether I can acquire enough funding
      to pay my bills while doing it.

  11. Peter
    1. November 2017 - Antworten

    Hey Mickey. Now I know why SidPlayer Pro disappeared. That was an awesome app. I would gladly buy an updated version with the same and better functionality! Here’s hoping that with the current environment you can realise that dream!

  12. Boctor
    23. März 2018 - Antworten

    I still have a full purchased copy of SidPlayer on my old iPod, but can no longer download/play any tunes. If I jailbreak this iPod, is there a certain subdirectory I can place a full HVSC in, to restore full functionality?

    • mickey
      23. Juni 2018

      Pretty sure there is. Let me check the source code and get back to you asap.

  13. 5. August 2018 - Antworten

    Hallo,

    gibt es inzwischen irgendwelchen Neuigkeiten, wie man wieder SID‘s auf dem iPhone/iPad abspielen kann?

    Es wäre toll, wenn da wieder was kommen würde.
    Ich würde das auch unterstützen, wenn das über Crowdfunding realisiert würde.

    • mickey
      5. August 2018

      Hi Dirk! Ja, es gibt was Neues. Erst mal die schlechte Nachricht: Es wird noch etwas dauern, denn ich habe bis Oberkante Hutkrempe zu tun. Die gute Nachricht: Ich werde etwas bauen, was der ursprünglichen Idee (Musik & Museum) näherkommt. Es wird ein Multiplayer (derzeit geplant ist Support für Atari XL, Atari ST, C64 und AMIGA) und er wird nur die _besten_ Playroutinen haben, die es gibt, z.B. für den C64 mit Antti Lankila’s Filter-Verzerrungs-Routinen.

      Ein paar Kollegen aus der Retroszene (der Digital Retro Park e.V.) bauen derzeit ein „echtes“ Museum in Offenbach am Main auf, die möchte ich als Kooperationspartner mit an den Start bringen, damit die App sozusagen eine Art digitaler Begleiter wird.

      Ich habe 2016 schonmal an den Abspielroutinen weitergearbeitet, da ist auch dieses Video entstanden – wahrscheinlich kommt die Qualität im Video nicht richtig durch, da Facebook ziemlich komprimiert. Werde bei Gelegenheit mal ein HQ-Audio-Snippet veröffentlichen.

      Ok, was soll es noch bringen… außer, dass man die Lieder von früher hören kann, soll es Infos über die Geräte von damals geben und ausgewählte News aus der Retro-Szene (z.B. Aktionen im „real live“). Schön wäre auch noch die Integration von SocialMedia-Features im Sinne von Song-Empfehlungen basierend auf der eigenen Playlist und so. Ob das allerdings überhaupt gewünscht ist, weiß‘ ich noch nicht.

      Falls Du bei Facebook bist, folge bitte der RetroPlayer-Seite, die werde ich zunächst mal als Koordinationsseite benutzen, bis die Crowdfunding-Initiative live geht. Ich werde auf jeden Fall erst in Richtung Crowdfunding gehen, wenn klar ist, dass die App auch kommt. Das Crowdfunding würde dann nur über den „Umfang“ der letztendlichen App entscheiden.

Drop a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *