NES App: First Native iPhone Application for iPhone firmware 1.2 “Aspen” Released

BY Jason

Published 24 Mar 2008

Native iPhone Application - NES Emulator (thumbnail)

I had reported last week about how iPhone hacking genius Jonathan “NerveGas” Zdziarski had figured out a way to get the unofficial native iPhone applications to work with iPhone firmware 1.2 "Aspen" with minimal code changes and by modifying the headers.

As a proof of concept, Zdziarski had also got one of the unofficial native iPhone application Nintendo Entertainment System Emulator (NES app) running on the iPhone firmware 1.2 to demonstrate it. He has just made the NES app publicly available along with source code making it the first native iPhone application to be released for unreleased iPhone firmware 1.2.

Here is some background on the NES app courtesy Zdziarski. The NES app emulates the hardware in a Nintendo entertainment system thus allowing you to play many public domain, home-brew games that have been written for the Nintendo platform on your iPhone. However, what you essentially get with the NES app is just the emulator, you will still need the ROM images of games written for the Nintendo Entertainment System platform. The ROM images are files containing the dumped instruction code from a physical cartridge, or compiled code from a public domain / home-brew game.

iPhone firmware 1.2? When was that released?

There is some confusion regarding the firmware version (Is it iPhone firmware 1.2? or Is it iPhone firmware 2.0?). Let me make an attempt to solve the confusion. (I had posted this is in the comments a few days back).

If you navigate to the Settings pane in the iPhone emulator included with the iPhone SDK, you’ll notice that the OS version listed is 1.2. The iPhone emulator gives developers the ability to debug iPhone applications right on their computer.

Interestingly this unreleased iPhone firmware 1.2 is code-named “Aspen" which falls in line with previous, ski-resort-related code names for iPhone OS releases. iPhone 1.1.1 was called SnowBird; 1.1.2 was Oktoberfest; 1.1.3 was LittleBear, etc.

However, the iPhone firmware update which will allow end-users to run official iPhone applications and will include the enterprise features expected to be released in June for iPhone users will be iPhone firmware 2.0. It remains to be seen whether iPhone firmware 1.2 will be released to the general public as iPhone firmware 2.0 or constrained just to the emulator.

But in my opinion since there is still quite some time left for iPhone firmware 2.0 to be released, I believe there would be some changes between the unreleased iPhone firmware 1.2 and iPhone firmware 2.0.

So whats the significance of Zdziarski releasing the source code of NES app?

Zdziarski claims that even though Apple had announced that they are releasing tools which are being used internally to develop iPhone applications, they have only exposed a set of lightweight front-ends for lower-level APIs with the SDK and not the low-level APIs which are actually used most widely by Apple’s own preloaded software. The iPhone hacking community had released a open source tool chain which allows developers to make use of the low-level APIs and most of the unofficial native iPhone applications released so far have been developed using this open source tool chain.

Last week Zdziarski had announced that by making minimal changes to the code and modifying the headers it was possible to build the unofficial native iPhone applications using the Apple SDK and then install straight to your device from XCode. By publishing the source code (along with new Makefiles are now available in CVS) Zdziarski wants to show other developers how easy it is to port their unofficial native iPhone applications to iPhone SDK. He also claims that the NES app runs faster on iPhone firmware 1.2. So as an iPhone developer you can get more details from this link which also has the details of how to get the source code.

Once the unofficial native iPhone application is ported to XCode based
on instructions provided by Zdziarski, you should be able to install it
on unreleased iPhone firmware 1.2.

And what is in it for iPhone users?

As of now there is nothing in it for iPhone users; today’s news is more for iPhone developers; but as per Zdziarski what this means is that as an iPhone user, you will be able to install and run all your favorite native iPhone applications (assuming they have been ported by the developer or have been released officially) on your iPhone whenever iPhone firmware 2.0 is released without the need to jailbreak your iPhone.

However, I guess only time will tell if this is indeed going to be possible as there is still some part of the puzzle we don’t have much details about, that is the AppStore and how it will interact with the official native iPhone applications. As when iPhone firmware 2.0 is released in June you will be able to install native iPhone applications only via the AppStore (i.e. without the need to jailbreak your iPhone).

If you have more details on this do feel free to share it with us in the comments below or simply let us know your thoughts on this latest development.


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