Minor Updates

I have just released a few minor updates to nme + hxcpp, which you can find on haxelib. These are relatively small \- just pushing out a few fixes for some bugs that have been reported. In most cases the bug reports we accompanied by a fix \- you’ve gotta love open source. The iPhone/Xcode template has also been updated, you may need to follow the instructions in the post below.

There is one significant change though – the “nekoapi.dll” file that is used for compatibility between hxcpp binaries (ie, NME) and neko has changed its extension to “ndll” so that neko can communicate directly with it. This allows the String instances created externally to be “blessed” as haxe strings without having to call nekoToHaxe on them, and therefore methods such as substr will work.

The other change of note is that I removed the libfreetype code from the iPhone target, and used native font rendering instead. Let me know if this breaks anything. One side effect is that the default font will now be system dependent, with the iPhone getting its usual font. I will also have to have a good look at the font render quality – freetype may have a little bit better sub-pixel sharpness.

There was a bug in the 2.06 haxe distribution when writing files. I have fixed this by putting an override in hxcpp, which you can access with the command line options: “-lib hxcpp”. I have also folded this change into haxe svn, so you will not need to do this in 2.07.

New Releases!

Finally, I’ve managed to make a few more releases. Namely, HXCPP 2.06 and NME 2.0.
HXCPP can be downloaded via “haxelib”, and works with the new 2.06 version of haxe. This release contains many bug fixes and optimizations. Also, when you compile with the -debug flag, you can get additional null checks and stack dumps.
NME 2 is a complete rewrite from the ground up. Most of the logic has been moved from neash to the c++ code for optimization reasons.
For NME developers this only means a couple of things:

  • You use –remap flash=nme instead of –remap flash=neash
  • The “boot” code has changed, so you will need to follow the main line from one of the samples.
  • Improved performance!

I updated my Xcode SDK, which caused a bunch of link errors linking for the simulator with the NME library. It seems Apple have changed the “ABI” for objc (basically, broke binary compatibility). So I must choose pre 4.0, post 4.0 or both. I think I am going to require NME iphone simulator users to have the latest SDK – unless there are any objections?

iPhone Xcode Template

I finally got around to making an Xcode template for haxe compiling. Try it out and let me know if it works. It’s my first one, so I’m open to ideas for improving it.

To use the template, first extract it to your developer template area, eg: /Developer/Platforms/iPhoneOS.platform/Developer/Library/Xcode/Project Templates/Application.
Then when you create an new Xcode project, this template should show up. You should be able to build for the simulator.

To build for a real device, you will need to go though the official Apple developer program, and get yourself signed up. Then you need to get your certificates in order, and finally edit the “plist” file in the Resources folder and change the company URL to match the one you used in your certificates.

You can edit Main.hx code in the “haxe/src” directory, but you will probably want to locate your haxe source tree outside your project area, since we are multi-platform developers an do not want to tie ourselves to Xcode. To do this, you can edit the class path in the Build.xml file, and change the boot code in IPhoneMain.hx. It is done this way so the haxe-generated library always has the same name. If all else fails, you can have a look in the makefile, which is set up to allow building debug and release versions for iphoneos and simulator without having to change other project settings.

Let me know if you have any luck.

Bravo, Apple

Finally, Apple is doing away with those arrogant upstarts who think then can write a few lines in a high level language and call it a program. Their new developer agreement requires:

3.3.1 – Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

This has a couple of good points – firstly banning stupid languages (used by those people who are not smart enough to learn c++), and secondly getting rid of translation layers. Apple has clearly put a lot of thought into their APIs, so why would anyone want to put a layer on top of them – it’s just going to make things harder to use.


There has been a lot of talk recently about compiling “foreign” languages, such as haxe, as3, javascript, java, .net based languages, into binaries that will run extremely well on the iPhone. But like all foreigners (who are responsible for all the terrorism in the world) these languages should be cleansed from all iPhones to maintain the iPhones mono-lingual purity. Putting such insidious diversity into a beautifully designed device can be shown to confuse consumers, most of whom don’t even know their device and been compromised by these so call “high level” languages.

By raising the barrier of entry, and only permitting “real” programming languages (ie, “C” based ones), Apple ensures that the quality of apps will remain at its current lofty levels. “Natural Selection” will then weed out those people who are too lazy or too stupid to learn a proper language. In fact, I think Apple has not gone far enough here and should dabble in a bit of “Intelligent Design” by requiring that all developers who wish to submit apps hold at least a 4 year degree in computer science. Just imagine a world where any kid can work out of his garage and build an application with an original language, or bit of hardware, that snubs its nose at the establishment – anarchy would ensue. Therefore, it is important that the responsible companies out there vet such potentially disruptive ideas before they can cause too much damage.

It can’t be said that Apple don’t like new langauges, after all, they championed the greatest NeXT Step in programming ever, Objective-C, it’s just that all the other languages are utter crap. Some of then do away with the beautiful square bracket, some use commas to separate function arguments and nearly all the modern ones perform “Garbage Collection”. What a joke! Apple solved this problem years ago be simply not creating garbage in the first place. Again, it is only those too lazy to learn about how to use allocation pools and correct reference counting that need anything as dirty as Garbage Collection.

The new langages, such as haxe, are so terse that you do not even know when you are using a delegate. How can anyone possibly understand that code like:
addEventListener(KeyboardEvent.KEY_DOWN, function(event) { trace(event); });
Is supposed to do? I mean where is the delegate? Where is the class that implements the UITextFieldDelegate protocol? (And why must these languages continue to call things “Interfaces” when they are clearly “Protocols” ?)

I think Apple are right to ban code generators, such as the haxe c++ backend. While these produce code that could in theory be produced by hand, the code it robotic and lacks the “soul” of hand written code. To err is human, and without the quirks introduced bu a human coding c++ we may as well hand the future over to SkyNet and let the machines run everything.

Layers and Tools

Thankfully, Apple has also done its research into programming techniques as well as programming languages. The problem with programming these days is that where are too many layers and tools to learn, and they are taking us back to a simpler times where you are “close to the metal”. Apple rightfully shuns these extra layers, and focuses only on code. Once you understand Objective-C, Interface Builder, NIB, XIB, Frameworks, .app layouts, provisioning, xml, plist, controllers, delegates, owners and outlets, then you can create pure lovely code, without any of that layering crap getting in your way.

Programmers must beware of code that essentially “lies” by pretending that the beautiful, native API actually looks like one of the ill-conceived APIs from another language. For example, why would anyone want to view a native UIView image as the practically unsable as3 “equivalent” (I use the term loosly) of BitmapData? I don’t think there is a single successful application ever written that uses this BitmapData class.

Isolating your code from the native API will cause your code to lose its identity. If you can compile it for another (obviously inferior) device then your code will become tainted by the lower class device, even it it performs identically on the Apple device. How quickly people forget that the upper class should not mingle with the lower class.

I hope Apple’s ban extends to the gzip “translation layer”. Programmers should not be using this library because it has security implications, and they should simply use the streaming classes and do the decompression in their own code. If more programmers thought like Apple, then there would be a lot fewer security holes in software.

Don’t get me started on Game Making programs. Thank god these are banned – imagine letting a non-programmer create an App. What next, Artist creating games? Don’t make me laugh.


Apple has made a huge stride forwards by tightening the definition of what a real developer is, and I’m looking forward to what’s next. I think they have a little way to go – for example, what about all those people using foreign editors, rather than XCode? Surely if XCode is not good enough for a developer, then that developer is not good enough for Apple. The best way I can see for them enforcing this is for them to install a “watchdog” application the the developer’s machine, and send screenshots back to Apple periodically. That way, if the developer does not conform to the coding purity required by Apple, they could be identified and sent to a camp to help them concentrate on being better programmers. Win-win, what a great idea.

3 Years On

Wow, has it really been 3 years? 2009 was an interesting year – I guess the big ticket items were haxe for the iPhone and getting hxcpp into the standard distribution for haxe. I am very satisfied with these achievements, however there is still quite a bit of polish to add – especially in terms of ease-of-use.
I also started some other projects – fastcgi for haxe, and “waxe“, the wx/haxe interface, as well as continuing with neash and nme development. One of the big changes for hxcpp, although not visible, was using an internal garbage collector which has improved performance and reduced the compile dependence on a library that is hard to debug on other peoples machines.

Currenly, I’m working on an NME rewrite to remove GPL code from the iPhone target, and to help integration. Now that hxcpp has reached a certain level of quality, the diverse projects are starting to coalesce and I’m pushing ahead with a complete hxcpp/nme/iphone solution which should be very useful.

Looks like 2010 may be the year it all comes together (hopefully!).

Haxe, iPhone & C++ At Last

Hxcpp 1.0, neash 1.0, NME 1.0

The release this week of haXe version 2.0.4 officially includes c++ as a build target, for Windows, Mac, Linux and iPhone. You can download and install from haxe.org. In addition to the standard includes, you will need the “hxcpp” library, which can be insatlled with the included haxelib management tool.

Coincident with the hxcpp release, I have updated the neash and NME libraries to versions 1.0. You can also download these via the haxelib tool too. There are several incrental improvements, and the iPhone target has been added!

Getting started with the iPhone

Getting started with the iPhone is quite tricky at the moment, mainly because of the pain of setting up an Xcode project. Also, getting the simplest program onto the device is hard due to the code signing requirements. So if you can already get one of the existing application templates to work, you are half way there.

Note that this solution uses the “SDL” library, and must statically link against this. SDL is covered by the LGPL license, and this has implications should you choose to release your software. I am hoping to remove the LGPL restiction at a later date.

The binaries used here are have been compiled for the “2.2.1” iPhone SDK. So choose this version when compiling for simulator or device.

  1. Download and install components
    • Get haxe & neko: Visit haxe.org
    • Get hxcpp: haxelib install hxcpp
    • Get nme: haxelib install nme
    • Get neash: haxelib install neash
    • Get the sdl-static libs for iphone: I have created a project with binary builds of these. You can get the latest builds directly from subversion svn code at:
      Or get the snapshot bundle from this site and install somewhere handy:
  2. Get Xcode with iphone sdk support – visit apple.com
  3. Get a Developer key (you can try simulator without it). You will need to pay to sign up as a developer on the apple site.
  4. Fire up Xcode and do File > New Project.

    Choose iPhone OS > Application. Here choose a “Windows-Based Application
    but infact we will use the delegate setup in the SDL code, so we will have
    to delete the one created by the wizard.

    Select a name & directory for the project. I’m calling it “Haxe Test”.

    Now as it stands, you should be able to build for the Simulator and
    get a lovely white screen and a program called “Haxe Test” in the simulator
    start screen.

    Next thing is to delete(to trash) the “…AppDelegate.h” “…AppDelegate.m”,
    the “Nib Files” group, Resources/MainWindow.xib and “main.m”.
    Finally, select the “Haxe Test” executable (in the Targets section) and from the “Get Info” –
    “Properties” tab, clear the reference to “MainWindow”.

    We will add replacements for these soon.

  5. Add “main.cpp” from the NME project.
    Select the top-level project folder and then use Action > Add > Existing Files.
    It is probably in /usr/lib/haxe/lib/nme/1,0/ndll/iPhone/ or
    similar depending on which version of NME you have installed. It can be
    very painful to get xcode to load from this location, unless you hit
    Command-Shift-G at the “Add” dialog and type (at least some) of this filename in.
    Choose to “Copy to destinations folder” so
    that you can mess with it if you wish. Note: you need to have a cpp mainline
    in order to automatically link in the correct runtime libraries.

  6. Add the libNME.iphoneos.a and libNME.iphonesim.a files from the haxelib NME project.
    You can add them both and the linker
    will select the correct on depending on your build. They are in the same place
    as main.cpp, you you should be able to use “iPhone” from the pull-down box
    in the add dialog. Probably best not to copy these files – in case you want
    to change them at some stage.
  7. Add the whole sdl-static/lib/iPhone directory.
    Again probably best not to copy.
    I used the “Recursively create groups” option. These will be where you stored them
    in step 1.

  8. Add the whole hxcpp/bin/iPhone directory like above.
    Again, this will
    be in a path like /usr/lib/haxe/lib/hxcpp/1,0,2/bin/iPhone/.
  9. Add the hxcpp include directory to the include path.
    Use the “Info” button
    to get the project properties, and on the build tab, under “Search Paths”
    add something like /usr/lib/haxe/lib/hxcpp/1,0,2/include/ to “Header Search Path”
  10. Now we are ready for the haxe code. If you have and existing project,
    then you can adapt the following instructions.

    Create a new file from Xcode (Other/Empty File] Here I have called it “HaxeTest.hx”, and unticked the “Targets” option. I’m prety sure there is a way to get “Haxe File” to appear as on option here – but I don’t know the details.

    In the haxe file, enter something like (Note the window size):

    import flash.display.Sprite;
    import flash.display.Shape;
    class HaxeTest extends Sprite
       public function new()
          var circle:Shape = new Shape( );
          circle.graphics.beginFill( 0xff9933 , 1 );
          circle.graphics.drawCircle( 0 , 0 , 40 );
          circle.x = 150;
          circle.y = 200;
          addChild( circle );
       static public function main()
          neash.Lib.mOpenGL = true;
          new HaxeTest();

    This is the “main” file for haxe, and the hxcpp compile will create a library matching
    this class name.

  11. Set up a build script to build changes you make to your haxe files into a library.
    Xcode has a few issues with a straight custom build script order due to incorrect
    dependency checking. This can be worked around by first adding a custom target.

    Highlight the “Targets” in the Groups & Files and use the “Action > Add > New Target..
    Choose “Other > Shell Script Target” and call it something like “Compile Haxe”.
    Close the pop-up and go back to the explorer. There should be a “Run Script”
    entry under the “Compile Haxe” target if you expand it out.

    Get info on “Run Scipt” and enter the following script

       if [ "$CURRENT_ARCH" = "i386" ]
          haxe -main HaxeTest -cpp cpp -lib neash -lib nme  --remap neko:cpp --remap flash:neash -D iphonesim
          haxe -main HaxeTest -cpp cpp -lib neash -lib nme  --remap neko:cpp --remap flash:neash -D iphoneos

    You can untick the “Show Environment” if you do not need to debug this.

    One last step – drag the “Compile Haxe” target into the “Haxe Test” target.
    It should now also show up as first item “under” the “Haxe Test” target.
    The build order should now be correct. (See image at end of post)

  12. Now you are ready to do the build. The first time you build, the build
    results will show “Running custom shell script…” for quite a while.
    Haxe compiles to cpp very quickly, but it take a while for the cpp files
    to compile to a library. You can see the progress if you expand out the
    middle tab bit.

    At this stage, you should get a bunch or errors when linking, but also haxe
    should have created a library for you. Add this library to the project –
    it should be in the local cpp/HaxeTest.iphonesim.a.

  13. Compiling now gets a bunch of unresolved functions from frameworks.
    Add the following frameworks to the project (Add > Existing Frameworks):

    • QuartzCore
    • OpenGLES
    • AudioToolbox

    These can be found in /Developer/Platforms/iPhoneOS.platform/Developer/SDKs/iPhoneOS2.2.1.sdk/System/Library/Frameworks/.

  14. Run!
    So you should be good to go. Open up the debug console so you can see
    any traces/printfs.

  15. Change the target to “Device – IPhone OS” from the pull-down and hit “Build and Go”.
    Again, this takes quite a while the first time.
    Now add the new cpp/HaxeTest.iphoneos.a library to the project.

  16. Now you need to sort out your code signing. If you have not done so already,
    setup you apple developer account & certificates on the apple web site.
    Go to the info of the “Haxe Test” executable and the “properties” tab.
    Change the “Identifier” to match one of your cerificates. Make sure to
    match your company URL. You may want to use “*” when creating your
    profile for easy changing.

    Under the “Build” tab, under the “Code Signing” bit
    in the “Any iPhone Device” pull down your profile. If you don’t have one then
    you will need to create one on the apple website.

  17. Connect up your iPhone(iPod touch) and build! W00t!


I have had all sorts of errors when trying to upload to the device.
So far, they have been solved by getting out of the car, walking around it and getting back in.
ie, Disconnect and power down ipod. Fully exit Xcode and the start it all up and try again. Also, uninstalling the app from the “Windows > Orgainiser” directory can help.

But now the easy bit. Change to HaxeTest.hx file, and hit Build & Go. It is that simple.
Errors should show up nicely in xcode.

You can add data files (eg, pngs, xml etc) to the project and they will be copied to device so you can open them with a relative path.

In the properties of the “Info.plist” you can set a Icon File – don’t forget to add the icon to the project too.

Not covered here (because I have not fully sorted it out myself):

  • Syntax highlighting in XCode
  • Debug build (hxcpp can do then – it’s a matter of setting up Xcode)
  • Code completion in Xcode
  • Automating this procedure!

Edit: Add framework path, SDL version, MainWindow clearing.

A Second Look (iPhone + Haxe)


Once the basics are in place, the rest comes pretty naturally.

Just a slight tweak to the MovieClip transformation gets Physaxe doing it’s thing.

Performace seems ok-ish in the simulator, not sure how it woud go on the real device.

Haxe on iPhone (Simulator) – First Look

iPhone Dev
iPhone Dev

The c++ backend for haxe generates standard c++, suitable for the gcc compiler. iPhone dev uses gcc, and can link against c++, which make you think that iPhone dev can use haxe. Simple? Well, actually it was pretty simple. The hardest bit for me was to grok the components of an Xcode project, moving from dynamic libraries to static ones and getting SDL working.

The iPhone SDK requires you statically link everything, and I wanted to make it easy as possible to change haxe code -> generate cpp -> link to Xcode -> test of iPhone (or simulator). The solution I am currently using is to generate a library from the haxe code using the standard command line make, and include this library in the Xcode project. I hope to add a “pre build” step to drive the make system automatically.

Hxcpp executables typically use the “NME” library for graphics, which is in turn based on libSDL. The good news is that the source version of libSDL compiles for the iPhone! I tried the svn download first, but this does not seem as nicely bundled as the Apirl 13 version, which worked very nicely indeed (besides a small problem with RenderRect args changing).

Getting the hxcpp backend to generate a library was almost trivial – you take the same obj files and put them in a lib instead of an exe. The only minor difference is you do not explicitly create a “main” (ie, program entry point) call, but instead create a function (currently called \_\_hxcpp\_lib\_init) that the user supplied main line must call. This may also be good for windows applicaions that want to use a “WinMain” instead of console based main function.

Compiling the hxcpp runtime as a static library was also pretty easy after the post 0.4 code reorganisation that assimilates thirdparty code rather than linking to it. Again, it was a matter of taking the same objs and putting them in a lib instead of an dso. Initally I got link error when linking with Xcode, but if you include 1 real, small c++ file in the project, these link error go away.

Compiling “plugin” modules as static libraries (eg, NME) was slightly more difficult. I could use c++ static initialisation to auto-register the exported functions, if I could get Xcode to link to the required obj. To force objs to be included, I needed to put a special symbol in each cpp file that exports functions, and make reference to these from the main code base. It is really only something that needs to be sorted out once, and it is done now, so it should not really be a problem any more.

I also have to cull out quite a bit of code (eg fonts, image loading, opengl & sound) from NME, but I can look at adding these bits in one by one.

The astute ones among you will notice that the colour of the above circle if RGB/BGR reversed. This is something that will obviously need to be fixed.

Not being used to Xcode, it took a bit of getting used to – things like frameworks etc. However, I think that ultimately, we could end up with a very nice solution. The idea would be to create frameworks for hxcpp and nme, and a project template to link it all together. You would then create a project from the template, modifiy the boiler-plate haxe code and hit build. This would also be good for standard mac apps (rather then iPhone apps). Still a way off this, but moving in that direction.

SDL, LGPL and you

Dynamically linking against SDL (or NME) normally discharges your obligations to the GPL, however in this case, we are statically linking to it so there are still some issues. However, all is not lost because my interpretation is that you must allow others to relink your application. (ie “so that the user can modify the Library and then relink to produce a modified executable containing the modified Library”, where Library is “SDL”). So you must forefiet your hxcpp compiled library file (rather than haxe or cpp source), as well as you project files (which should be boiler-plate anyhow). So this is actually borderline acceptable, although I will work towards a GPL free solution).