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A few years ago, I wanted to build an oscilloscope in my pocket, so I went ahead and did it. Then I wanted a spectrum analyzer, and then an equalizer.

1) oScope — an oscilloscope in your pocket. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/oscope/id344345859?mt=8

2) Octave — a real-time audio analyzer. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/octave-an-rta-for-the-iphone...

3) Fourier — a spectrum analyzer. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fourier/id386084557?mt=8

I built all of these for fun in college, and I've occasionally updated them afterwards. The only thing I do now is answer a few emails a week. I've since gone back to grad school, but the yearly income has not changed, and approaches my stipend (low 5-digit).

What's been really neat is how people have found unexpected ways to use the apps. Sound engineers for halls and communities use Octave to set up the sound for concerts. Teachers use oScope to help kids understand how sound is composed of moving pressure waves of air, and how pitch is the frequency of these waves. Also, oScope had a tiny cameo in the show Homeland, as a "fancy science-looking analyzer tool for spying on people" (uncredited, unfortunately).




Here's a perspective from the other side: I purchased Octave and having used it, and asked for a small feature (single-tap to pause). You told me that you don't have much time and will work on this feature when you have time. I understand that, but it's disappointing from the consumer point of view. I wish I knew that before I dropped $5.

Basically, it sucks to be stuck on the "passive" receiving end of a passive income project. Though actually, it's Apple's fault for not letting me trial software.

But I'm glad to hear these projects are working out and wish you continued luck!


Come on, you spent $5 for an app. For a working app! This is a pretty low price. Actually, it's basically nothing. Of course you can't get support and are not entitled to feature requests at such a low price tag!


$5 is not cheap by app store standards. It's a fair price for an app in that class.

As to whether you're entitled to support or feature requests, you can make an argument both ways. One could generate some word of mouth by following up on (simple) feature requests.

In one of the apps, Fourier, the reviewers say that the horizontal frequency scale is off by a factor of 2 (but the frequency display elsewhere is accurate). That's a small thing to fix that hasn't been fixed since Apr 2012. I think that at a $5 price point, my expectation is that the app is updated with at least bug fixes of that variety.


First, wow, I didn't expect any HN readers to actually know about, much less have bought, my work! Thanks.

Second, I understand your frustration. I love building things, and sometimes I wish I could do that full time, but grad school is a 70 hr/wk commitment for me.

If the app is not useful for you without the missing feature, Apple does allow returns. I'm not quite sure how it works, but I see a few returns a year on my reports.

Also, I've open-sourced the hardest part of the app, the audio managing aspect, as Novocaine (GitHub.com/alexbw/novocaine), and along with the great package NVDSP, anybody could replicate the basic functionality of my apps with a few weeks of learning and effort. It'd be great for the audio app ecosystem, too!

I'm also interested in hiring a part-time developer to help flesh out the top-requested features, if anybody has ObjC coding experience. That'd make many more updates possible.


I've used novocaine on a hackathon project. Very fun little library, thanks! It was 10,000 times easier than setting up the audio unit chain, etc. I had done it the old fashioned way for my first app but there was an incredible amount of error-prone boilerplate code when all I really wanted was a callback function to populate output buffers.

This thing also looks pretty cool: http://theamazingaudioengine.com/


That open source library is awesome. Wow, thank you.


Novocaine is wonderful, thank you.


"App Store standards" don't really work for valuable niche software. They can work for games that end up selling 10 million copies, but there's a reason why professional software with few users is usually priced between $500 and $100 000.

$5 is worth 3 minutes of developer time at common hourly contracting prices. If a developer receives and reads an email from a customer, they will probably end up with no profit. If they respond to it, let alone are adding new custom features, they are certainly losing money compared to working for someone else.


Nothing against you specifically astral303, but this is exactly why I will probably never build a stand-alone mobile app.


I re-read my post and I realize I do sound like a whiny asshole for not getting feature requests for a $5 app.

Good perspective.


This is like two days late, but its incredibly refreshing to people acknowledge that they had a wrong/flawed perspective, especially on HN.


You bought a product. You did NOT contract a developer. Your expectations do not reflect this.


$5 is cheap. By any standard. You proved it yourself, by purchasing the app BEFORE emailing him. If you think it's expensive, I trust you can outsource building a replica of the app for less than $5.


$5 barely affords you service, let alone the right to be dissapointed that your feature request was not immediately implemented. Are you really expecting enterprise level customization for a $5 app?


Look at this guy. He paid a WHOLE 5$ and now he is entitled to hours of programmer work from the developer.


I guess you can still like someone as a person while you dislike them as a developer.

It's nice to hear both sides of the story.


I've been a loyal oScope users for ages; I once used it as my front panel in a Halloween robot costume, and it blew people's minds that they could talk to me and have it show up on my 'belly screen'. A very useful tool indeed.

One thing that I've always wanted it to do is to be able to horizontally move/scale the frequency domain plot. Most of the time I'm using it, I only really care about the low frequency (vocal range) component.


That's a great idea! People are always really pleased to see their sound turned into something they can look at. It never gets old to me...


I built a dozen or so educational apps. I started each on iOS then have ported a few to Android and Windows Phone. It hasn't yet been a great financial success, but it is almost entirely passive income now. Updating apps for UI changes like iOS 7, the iPhone 5 screen size, Holo, etc. are kind of a pain but not bad at all compared to constantly selling myself on new consulting gigs or chasing down non-paying customers.


Yeah, the breaking changes that accumulate over the years is the main nagging thing I have to keep up with. Since I use my apps myself, and tend to use beta iOS releases, I can usually catch these pretty early, but not always.

As an aside, I find it a lot easier to bring in consulting gigs if I aggressively open source tools that I make, and then promote those OSS projects. I find it more pleasant to tell people about free tools than to just promote myself alone, but they end up feeding into each other. Just my two cents.




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