Friday, July 23, 2021

iDOS Emulator to Be Removed From the App Store

Juli Clover (Hacker News):

iDOS 2 has been available in the App Store since 2014, and its predecessor, iDOS, was first released in 2010. iDOS has had issues with Apple before, and in 2010, Apple pulled the original emulator app from the App Store. Changes were made, and the app was allowed back in the App Store in 2011, but there have still been ongoing troubles with Apple.

iDOS 2 went four years without an update because of Apple’s restrictions on iTunes file sharing and bundling game files without ownership, but in 2020, Li implemented document storage and was able to once again update the app.

Since 2020, iDOS has been able to run games and programs accessed through file sharing, which Apple now says is not allowed.

This is frustrating for several reasons:

Chaoji Li (Hacker News):

Long time iDOS users are aware that we have been able to update iDOS meaningfully since last year, because we have enabled file sharing access which gives iDOS the ability to run custom games or programs.

We didn’t play any trick to fool the reviewers, on the contrary, for any submission, we always provide the following note up front to them:

This version enables Document Browser mode, but it

  • doesn’t download code from internet,
  • doesn’t provide store front,
  • only runs emulation in a small portion of screen.

We are perfectly aware of AppStore policy on interpreted code. The reason of this submission is that there are similar apps on AppStore, running js or python code. In principle, iDOS is no different. No security risk since the user code is running inside emulator within the app sandbox.

App Review:

During review, your app installed or launched executable code, which is not permitted on the App Store.

Specifically, your app executes iDOS package and image files and allows iTunes File Sharing and Files support for importing games. Executing code can introduce or changes features or functionality of the app and allows for downloading of content without licensing.

Please note that while educational apps designed to teach, develop, or allow students to test executable code may, in limited circumstances, download code, such code may not be used for other purposes and such apps must make the source code completely viewable and editable by the user.

Well, there’s no reason the x86 assembly code couldn’t be made viewable and editable…

Dan Moren:

Over the last few years, Apple has been advancing the narrative that the iPad is just as good as a traditional computer, but if Apple is going to continue to dictate the boundaries of its capabilities by arbitrarily deciding what software can and can’t do on the platform, the truth is simple: this platform, good as it is, will never be as good as a computer. And Apple will have no one to blame but itself.

Craig Grannell:

It’s been back on the store with this exact same functionality for a while now, and received several updates. I’d hoped this was a sign Apple was changing its tone on retro gaming and emulation, but feared it was not. And Apple’s seeming distaste for emulated classic games feels further cemented by it not approving entirely legal retro-gaming streaming service Antstream Arcade for the App Store.


Update (2021-07-26): Drew Crawford:

Policies against Real Apps are implicitly a vote for Facebook. So developers make Facebook.

Update (2021-07-30): Harry McCracken:

I’m not sure if Apple let this App Store review of IDOS 2 go up on purpose or not, but I’m glad it’s there.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

I don’t get how this ever passed review. I mean "no emulators" has been a well-known restriction of the AppStore since day one. There must have been an incredible amount of toeing the line by the developers.

@Peter I don’t think that it goes back to day one, and my recollection is that the guidelines have been focused on prohibiting downloading code (they don’t mention emulation), which this app doesn’t do.

"Well, there’s no reason the x86 assembly code couldn’t be made viewable and editable…"

You can run an automatic disassembler on the object code, but even if the software was originally written in x86 assembly language, I still wouldn't call that "source code".

The GPL, for example, defines it as "the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it", and I think that's a good definition.

Or if you mean that these MS-DOS programs are all so old that their publishers won't mind digging up the original .S files and distributing them, then that could work (and be a terrific educational project!), but I don't think that's what iDOS is proposing, and I don't think the publishers (if they even still exist) are interested in doing that.

Such ridiculous puritanism, and it's obviously motivated by the great and the good's need to be in control. I mean, what next--remove Frotz from the App Store, because it executes bytecode for the Z-machine and you can transfer story files to it? IIRC at one time, maybe still the case, they were required to bundle all story files on IFDB in there, the result of which is that there are now many outdated game files in the library that nobody will actually play.

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