From the iPad Files

So, I’ve been trying to ramp up on any number of things with the close of the spring term here, including trying to get a little more active here on the blog. While there’s a large backlog of things to discuss, I thought that this post from the MacOSX-TeX mailing list would be a place to start.

With the release of the iPad, users continue to seek to find ways to make it a more effective working tool; not that it isn’t already useful for some basic connectivity-based things like email and browsing. But, everyone seems to want to push the envelope — even I’ve taken a look at the development documentation to learn what I can about what might be doable.

But one hope has been that the writing and typesetting environment that many of us in academia rely upon might be ported to the iPad. The current developers of much of the Mac OS X LaTeX environment have expressed disinterest in even undertaking the project, for any number of reasons. But, this posting from yesterday’s digest really puts the nail in the coffin:

Apropos to this discussion is the following message that was posted to
the R mailing list. Since pdfTeX et al. are GPL licensed, they are
incompatible with Apple’s TOS agreement. -Alan

From: Marc Schwartz
Date: May 29, 2010 11:12:15 AM GMT-04:00
Subject: [R] R on the iPhone/iPad? Not so much….a GPL violation

Hi all,

There have been posts in the past about R being made available for the iPhone and perhaps more logically now, on the iPad. My recollection is that the hurdle discussed in the past was primarily a lack of access to a CLI on the iPhone’s variant of OSX, compelling the development of a GUI interface for R specifically for these devices. R itself, can be successfully compiled with the iPhone development tools.

Well, now there is another, clearly more profound reason.

The FSF has recently communicated with Apple on the presence of a GPL application (GNU Go) in the iTunes store because the iTunes TOS infringes upon the GPL. Apple, given a choice, elected to remove the application, rather than amending their TOS.

The FSF also informed the developers of the iPhone port of GNU Go that their distribution is in violation of the GPL. R Core and any others considering an iPhone/iPad port of R, if you are not already aware, take note…

More information is here:

with an update here:

So, until Apple amends their TOS agreement, it looks like there will be no GPL apps available for the iPhone/iPad, since the only way to make applications available for these platforms is via the iTunes
store (unless you unlock the device). Hence, no R for these devices in the foreseeable future.

BTW, I am posting this as an FYI, not as a catalyst for a discussion on the political aspects of this situation. So please, let’s not go there… 🙂


Marc Schwartz