Break time at work; figure I may as well work on the ol' blog and some of the backlog of entries I've been meaning to write.
As previously chronicled, I picked up a Mac Mini for cheap at my old job and have been setting it up as an emulation box.
The first thing that struck me about Mac emulation is the prevalence of nagware and crippleware in the Mac software scene.
I mean, as a Linux boy I don't see a hell of a lot of shareware in the first place, but it seems to me that obnoxious, crippled software is much more common on Macs than even under Windows. Perhaps it's a simple Apple culture thing -- after all, the damn OS comes bundled with a nagware, crippleware version of Quicktime.
And in the Apple emulation community, one name keeps appearing, one name synonymous with obnoxious Mac emulators: Richard Bannister.
Bannister has a near-monopoly on the Mac emulation scene. Via zophar.net's Mac section, he has 2 out of the 3 Atari 800/5200 emulators, 2 of the 4 NES emulators, 1 of the 2 GBA emulators, both Genesis emulators, and the only SMS/GameGear, Game Boy (original/Color), TurboGrafx, NeoGeo Pocket, WonderSwan, Virtual Boy, Odyssey, and ColecoVision emulators listed for OSX to his name, and this isn't even a complete list of his catalog (which also includes an SNES emulator which you need a G5 to run for Christ only knows what reason).
How is he so prolific? Well, for starters, all these different emulators have a common library for support of such basic functionality as fullscreen and gamepad support, as well as video and sound filters and, if you're lucky, netplay.
The fun part is that this library is nagware and requires $25 to register.
Bannister defends this price with the absurd rationalization that video games usually cost around $50. Of course, those of us whose ability to come up with analogies is not completely broken have probably noticed that if they're NES or Genesis games they goddamnwell don't. (Maybe Bubble Bobble and Dragon Warrior 4.) He also points out that "basic functionality" is a subjective term, though the mere fact that it's in his FAQ sort of indicates a significant number of people consider it to include fullscreen and gamepad support.
He also planned, at one point, to copy-protect the library using stealth spyware; the fact that he never got around to implementing this measure doesn't make up for the fact that he is totally unapologetic about it. (Well, all right, he apologizes for the confusion, and says that in the future he'll consider the possibility that maybe his users don't want to be spied on and treated like criminals. But he still stops short of a real apology.)
In the same thread, Bannister revives his "gamepads and fullscreen aren't basic functionality" argument, and when a poster suggests that a reasonable rubric for basic functionality is anything enabled in the console itself, Bannister shoots back that then his Game Boy emulators should only display in a tiny space. Which I suppose might make some sort of vague sense if not for the existence of the Game Boy Player.
Bannister's defenders deride his critics as "a few malcontents [who] demand everything for free". Now, why would people expect free emulators? Because on every single other OS, that's exactly what we get. Windows hasn't had a prominent shareware emulator since Bleem, and no prominent shareware emulator for a legacy console since iNES, which, if you'll recall, got its ass handed to it by the superior-in-every-way-and-also-free Nesticle, which many people consider the gold standard in emulation even today. And try releasing a shareware emulator for Linux or one of the non-Mac BSD's -- you'll be laughed out of town. Bannister is holding the Mac emulation scene for ransom -- something he would never get away with on any other OS.
Which brings us to the other reason he's so prolific: the vast majority of these projects aren't originally his. They're GPL'ed. For those who don't know, the GPL is a free/open-source license which requires any derivative works of code covered under it to themselves be released under it. But Bannister doesn't release his code under the GPL; instead, he gets permission from the copyright holders to release it under his own closed license. As he is quick to point out, since he's getting a specific exemption from the copyright holders and circumventing the GPL, this is not a violation of the license and is perfectly legal -- it's just unethical and generally slimy. Again, try pulling that in the Linux world and see how far it gets you. The only reason he gets away with it in the Mac community is that he's the only game in town. He's building his work on source which other people have released for free, but heaven forfend he himself do the same. I'm sorry, what was that about malcontents who demand everything for free? If Bannister's not going to pay his dues for reaping the benefits of GPL'ed code, he should quit whining about people who don't compensate him for his work.
I haven't tried to talk to Bannister. I haven't discussed any of this with him. Why bother? I've seen his forum posts. I know how he'd respond. Poor logic, absurd analogies, and a self-righteous sense of entitlement -- coincidentally all the same things he accuses his detractors of. I can't change his mind. But I can choose not to download any emulator with his name on it, let alone give him $25 for the privilege of playing Sonic and Knuckles. I already paid for that game.