MorphOS Nordic presents a new interview. This time it's Guido "Geit" Mersmann that's being interviewed. For additional information about his software projects and Geit@Home
events, please visit his website: www.geit.de
Can you write a short presentation of yourself for people that don't know you?
Well, I am Guido Mersmann, aka Geit, 43 years old and I live in Hörstel, Germany. I started developing as a boy in 1983 (AFAIR).
Can you tell us a bit about your computer history?
I got my first computer for Christmas. It was a Busch2090, which probably no one will actually know. It is a 4 Bit Computer with a Texas Instruments processor. Quite limited with a system memory capable of keeping 256 CPU commands. Each command has 3 nibbles, so it had the astonishing capacity of 384 bytes of system memory. A few years later I got a C64, where my projects got a little bigger.
I wrote a few applications and games which got released via C64 Magazins. There also were a few demos and games I never released or left unfinished. On C64 I first got in touch with BoulderDash and I wrote my first BoulderDash game engine on this little system, too.
Next step was an A500, which I had for many years. I enhanced it with a 2.8MB Fastmem card. Later I swapped to an A2000, which was my last real Amiga.
Together with a friend I invented a Kickstart switch hardware named "Kickstart Boot System", which worked like the A1000. Beside 2 real ROM banks, you were able to load ROMs using Kickstart Disks into the 512KB onboard memory. Unlike the A1000 our solution was battery buffered, so once you loaded a ROM file it stayed there even after powering down the maschine, until you decided to replace it again. I wrote the boot rom software, which was stored in EPROMs. It basically showed a demo like selection menu, where you were able to select the ROM banks, the memory based ROM or load a ROM from kickstart disk into the cards buffered memory. A small reset like button (KBS Reset) was all needed to reboot into that menu. It worked quite well for an 100% home made card, which could be plugged onto the Kickstart socket of any single ROM Amiga.
Later I build a much simpler version without the need of software on card on my own. A simple shell tool stored the kickstart in memory and switched banks.
Beside this home made card I later enhanced my A2000 with the MMKeyboard hardware/software I invented, a PS2 Mouse interface, a Trackdisplay (which was mostly used to show the time) and other cards like an A2300 flicker fixer, an Apollo2030, an A2090 and some io cards.
Hopefully the card numbers are right. Pictures of this system can be found on http://www.Geit.de.
I got an Amiga1200 for free at the end of that period, too, but I never really used it. When Amithlon got available I slowly dropped the A2000, as having a graphics card and a 1000++ Mhz Pentium3 system was quite attractive. In 2002 (I guess) I got a spare Pegasos 1 from Axel Knabe, which gave me the opportunity to actually use MorphOS for the first time with a personal set-up. One year later I got an offer from a MorphOS user who, sold me his spare Pegasos2 system for 100 Euro. Later I got the Efika, a Mac mini, an iBook, a PowerMac G4 933 (which is beside the Pegasos2 still my main system) and a PowerMac G5 1800Mhz, which I only got for testing and presentation during Geit@Home
meetings. Recently I got some Raspberry Pi's, too.
In fact the only real computers I bought myself as new hardware where the A500, A2000 and over 20 years later the ipad 1. All the other systems I own were bought second hand, found on the trash or were a freebee for development.
When did you first get in contact with the Amiga platform?
I knew about Amiga for quite some time, due the C64 magazins reporting about its successor. Later I had personal contact to people owning an Amiga1000 system, where I personally had the chance to see and use those systems first hand. But it took a while until I got the money to afford an A500 on my own, which was - as mentioned - my first real Amiga.
How did you get into coding and decided that "this is what I want to do"?
Apart from the Busch2090, which had only a numeric input, the first real language I used was Basic on the C64. Ever tried to develop a single line soft scroller in plain C64 basic? It is possible, if you know how! But it was far too slow for what I really wanted to do and all those games available at that time showed what the hardware is really capable off.
A friend and I investigated and found out how to develop such software on our own. We started using a simple monitor and typed the CPU commands as hex values into the system memory, until we got our hands onto a real Assembler, which increased development speed. I remember writing a sample player for another friend, so he was able to enhance his music with a fourth digital voice. We cracked some games we owned as originals. Not for selling them, but just to add a cracker intro to it.
Basically coding was and is just about the fun.
Can you tell us about your first meeting with MorphOS.
The first time I got in touch at a Amiga Meeting in Hörstel, where the ComputerClub Osnabrück and Steinfurt joined for the first time. Axel Knabe was there with his Pegasos and we did some speed compares with the Amithlon systems around.
Your program Grunch is used and loved by many MorphOS users, can you tell us "the story behind" Grunch?
Well, I am a lazy person. Why doing something by hand, which a computer can do without any user interaction? I liked the OSX software updater, which works in background and just asks for all updates available. On the other side I hated the way Windows software handles updates. After each reboot another application was whining about being outdated. That is basically it. As for most of the applications I wrote: I needed something which was not available, so I did it on my own.
How did you come up with the idea to do Grunch?
I had the idea a few years before the first Grunch version got released, but basically it was the fault of YouTube. Changing their website all the time, forced me to download and install new grease monkey scripts for OWB over and over. To stop that I developed Grunch.
Can you tell us a bit about the technology behind managing and running Grunch?
Well, I did not want a server/client solution. This requires a specific server setup, maintenance and security. So I used the simple HTTP protocol. I also knew that, software is not available on a single depot. Software resides on MorphOSFiles, Aminet and also on private pages of various developers. The third point I wanted to cover was that everyone can use it for anything. So the goal was a simple file format, without the need of additional tools and software to maintain the database. A text editor and knowing AmigaDOS is enough.
So at the end Grunch is exactly doing what a user would do. It visits all websites, checks the version of an archive, downloads and installs it, if needed. Just faster and more accurate than a human being can do. Beside the normal installation process Grunch supports proper deinstallation of any packet, ensures missing icons get created and it even creates ready to use icons for WBStartup usage.
Any plans on expanding the software database in grunch?
Yes. Actually I hoped more developers would jump in and ask for adding their own database like HAK, Krashan, Yomgui and others did. They can add their software without my knowledge.
In a perfect world I would just need to maintain my applications. When I add foreign stuff I always have to hex dump them to find out about dependencies and test more than I would with my own stuff.
Quite time consuming. Especially if they break version strings all over the time.
Will MagicBeacon and Grunch become part of MorphOS in the future?
Grunch may be at some point in the future. I first want to enhance some internals first. Like multiple and asynchronous version checking and downloading, which would increase the speed of Grunch as well as improve the user experience.
You have been working on a MUI-GUI for the EBook management tool Calibre. Are you planning to release this in the future, or is it for your own work only?
There were some tests made to get calibre up and running. As mentioned above, I prefer writing software I personally use. Calibre is for sure matching that criteria, which makes me use a non MorphOS system once in a while to feed my ipad with new texts. The screen shots your question is build on, are based on an application I wrote on a single weekend to browse my Calibre database located on a PC and shared via Samba to MorphOS.
As I hate to port software, so it is up to Nicholai Benalal, who worked on the backend before. If he has the time - apart from his more important projects - and of course the interest to work on porting the backend converting tools, I am for sure more than just interested in continuing the GUI work. For now how ever the project is nothing more than a little tech demo.
We are also interested in the status of ValiantVision, any news regarding this software?
Due the deactivation of analog television in Germany it got obsolete for me, so I stopped development years ago. MPlayer now streams digital video, here. With the multimedia layer "Reggae" getting able to handle video streams, I consider creating a small application for supporting such cards, but I have no clue when and and if I do so. Supporting digital TV directly is completely out of scope. External streaming sources are far more flexible and resource friendly on MorphOS system side.
Do you have any new projects going on that you can give us some hints of?
Well, during the last year I spent a lot of spare time working on the multi platform IRC client WookieChat. What started as an enhancement, at the end turned out to be a complete rewrite. It still lacks several of the old Wookie features, but also provides many new like multi window support, a set-up wizard and it is now a proper class based mui application. It of course needs more work, but since IRC is one of my 24/7 used applications too, WookieChat V3 has priority to be finished in 2014.
Beside working on the mentioned enhancements of Grunch and the Bookshelf application, I planed to release BoulderDäsh NG in 2013, but it got massively delayed. It even needs a few enhancements in MorphOS first, as I intent to use only modern interfaces and some of them are not yet fully implemented.
BoulderDäsh NG will provide enhanced graphics and a fully featured MUI-GUI.
Once done, I plan to distribute the basic game with MorphOS and provide optional game data via in game DLC.