Hooka: When did you get your gp32?
Sixxie: Everything seems to point at it being about July last year (2003).
Hooka: What convinced you to get one?
Sixxie: A very hairy beast/man (YaK) posted a rave review to his blog earlier that year and made it sound fantastic just by listing all the emulators available even then.
Hooka: I'm guessing that you probably use the dev environment you have a guide for setting up on your site, is this right?
Sixxie: Yeah. I might take that down soon actually - it's now just duplicated work. At the time I wrote it, google couldn't find a damn thing. I was also using a particular verson of the SDK libraries that required all sorts of oddness to link against, and it took so long, I thought I'd stick up a HOWTO.
Hooka: Why did you decide to port your Dragon 32/64 emulator to gp32?
Sixxie: Ah, I actually started to write it fully intending to port it over. It made sense to get something vaguely running on Linux first though, hence it being written in a way that is (hopefully) easy to adapt to yet other platforms later on.
Hooka: Does the Dragon not have carts like the CoCo? Or did you decide that everything worth playing was on disk?
Sixxie: Yes it does have carts, though not many (most things were sold on tape or disk). I guess I haven't emulated them yet because it would just be too easy! (Load cart into appropriate ROM space, continually assert FIRQ line - that's how cartridges got themselves to auto-start!).
Sixxie: As for .PAK files, well they're a different kettle of fish. The format looks horrible. Maybe some day. If you run the UNIX version, you can generate snapshots (.SNA) which you can then load into the GP32 version. I really need to add support for saving snapshots on the GP32.
Hooka: The Dragon was a CoCo 2 clone, if I'm not mistaken but what are the major differences?
Sixxie: Yes, it was. I (and possible most Dragon users) grew up thinking it was just coincidence; after all, there's a schematic in the SAM (MC6333) datasheet entitled /Example of MC6809E, MC6883 and MC6847 computer/ that basically *is* both machines. But more recently someone quite heavily involved in development revealed it was indeed intended as a clone.
Sixxie: The main differences were a different keyboard matrix layout and that the original Dragon had a parallel port where CoCo had serial. That seemed to be a much more sensible decision, as most printers were centronics (parallel). Maybe that wasn't the case in the US? To be fair, those differences probably only existed to avoid a lawsuit.
Sixxie: Cosmetically, the Dragon was larger and had an external PSU. But the Dragon 64 had a much nicer keyboard than either the 32 or any CoCo I've seen.
Hooka: To horribly butcher a quote Homer Jay Simpson* once said, "GIME, what's the hell is a GIME... Oh a GIME!" You mentioned that if you could find some good GIME information you could implement CoCo3 support, is GIME the newer Graphics chip in the CoCo3 to replace the vdp (if I'm not mistaken, It's been awhile ;)) from the CoCo 1 & 2?
Sixxie: That's the badger. It replaces the VDG and the SAM (which handled memory access, refresh, etc.). As far as I can tell, it's backwards-compatible with both (hence being able to run CoCo 2 code on a CoCo 3), but adds a lot more (more memory, bigger/more colorful video modes). I haven't even thought about trying to emulate that yet, but I may add it in the future :)
Hooka: Do you plan on implementing disk and cart support for CoCo?
Sixxie: Carts, certainly - Dragon and CoCo carts were compatible (even more clone evidence that somehow didn't sink in ;)). Disks also certainly when I find out what disk controller was used in the CoCo and get hold of an appropriate ROM.
Hooka: What is your favorite Dragon 32/64 game?
Sixxie: Blimey. Um. I really used to like Tanglewood (graphical adventure) and Airball (yes, the Dragon version was the original - then got ported to Amiga/ST/PC). Oh! And Revenge Of The Alien Bongo Beast In The Criss-Crossy Lines Dimension was quite good too; even the level names were amusing :)
Hooka: What is your favorite CoCo game?
Sixxie: Well, so many were the same, of course. But I guess I've recently managed to play 'Pooyan' and 'Popeye the Sailor Man' (both unreleased here) and quite enjoyed them, so one of those :). I've no experience with the apparently-much-better CoCo 3 games, sadly.
Hooka: Do you have plans to add support for the chatboard into XRoar?
Sixxie: Yes, definitely. I have one in front of me. It would be done already, but I got sidetracked hacking down sound code (and managed to drop the required clock speed by 12MHz in the process. Yum, megahertz!).
Hooka: Did you write the CPU core in c/c++ or asm?
Sixxie: C. Every time I try to rewrite something in asm, it turns out that gcc can do a much better job of it. That's probably just because I'm a complete beginner at ARM, but for now, I think it's better to write C code bearing in mind what I do know about it (ie. stuff I know can compile to something fast).
Hooka: Do you think it could be used in some of the older arcade game emulators?
Sixxie: Absolutely. In fact, I've recently been made aware that most old William’s arcade machines (Defender, Joust, etc.) a) have 240 pixel wide screens and b) have those screens generally rotated 90 degrees anti-clockwise. Sound familiar? The GP32 also has a 4 bit-per-pixel mode, which should lead to *no video translation at all* (video translation is the slowest part of XRoar). I'll do it eventually if no-one beats me to it (though they are welcome to do so, of course ;) ).
Hooka: Ok, which mascot do you think was better the Dragon made of ribbons or CoCo Kat?
Sixxie: Come now, you're just playing to my bias now ;)
Sixxie: Actually, I've not heard of the CoCo Kat. I have a CoCo manual here, /Going Ahead with Extended COLOR BASIC/, that only seems to have that funny dancing computer/TV thing on it. That's what I associate with CoCo’s.
Hooka: Well, this is a redrawn picture of CoCo cat by somebody at http://www.fidalgo.net/~firebug/CoCo/CoCoshop/ I couldn't find one from the magazine.
Sixxie: Hmm, still never seen it. Probably didn't see any of those mags ;) But I still don't like it ;) Go, Dragon logo, go!
Hooka: Do you plan to implement the mouse as a controller also? (Like the keyboard and two joysticks, ect.)
Sixxie: Maybe. Nice idea. Do you mean have the mouse control where the floating joystick is positioned, or did the CoCo 3 have a proper mouse?
Hooka: Yes, the CoCo3 had an actual mouse, well it was almost a typical mouse except the mouse ball was solid metal ;) it had two buttons and I used it for a paint program and occasionally Quix.
Sixxie: That's a "maybe, if I get information and something to test it with" thing, then. That must've been nice to have, though. I think one of the planned next-gen Dragons was supposed to have a dedicated mouse port. Damn I really wanted them to develop those :/ Shame they went bust, really.
Hooka: What inspired you to make XRoar in the first place?
Sixxie: Reading the aforementioned beast's blog entry and list of emulators, I noticed one missing. I said "I could buy one of those and write a Dragon emulator for it" on IRC, and the reply was something like "Just because you can do something doesn't necessarily make it a good idea". So it's the fault of Mike Smith of #vorbis really ;)
Hooka: Do you feel that emulation helps reunite people with old favorites and introduces people to system's that were very good for there time but pretty much ignored?
Sixxie: For reuniting people with old stuff? Absolutely. Pretty much what they're *for*. As for introducing people, well, I don't know. I think it would only be a particular sort of person that played with an early '80s machine under emulation and then thought they just had to get one off ebay these days. Maybe I'm wrong.
Hooka: What other projects have you worked on?
Sixxie: My only other personal project is a window manager for X11 (evilwm). I did a task-tracking team-organizing tool (WebTodo) which my employers allowed to be released under the GPL. Not much else, really. Guess I've found the occasional bug in, and added the occasional feature to some Free Software projects. That's always nice to be able to do.
Hooka: When I first asked you to do this interview you said "Hmm, I wouldn't mind at all, although looking at who you've already interviewed on your site, I'm really nowhere near as knowledgeable about the GP32 as the likes of mr_spiv, etc. Not sure what you'd get out of me. ;)" Have you realized I REALLY like the CoCo yet? 6809 forever ;)
Sixxie: Hooray! Ok, yes, it makes more sense now ;)
Hooka: What's your favorite system?
Sixxie: Hmm, tricky one. For games: the cube, definitely. It seems to get the sort of games I like (Eternal Darkness, Zelda and in the future Unity looks like it will be stunning). For a workstation, I really rather like Sun hardware. I'm not sure what the future will bring from them, but at the moment I think my ideal would be Sun box running a Free OS. Of course, their solidness comes with a price, so like most others, I've got an x86 piece of poo at home ;)
Hooka: Will XRoar ever be capable of running OS-9 or NitrOS-9?
Sixxie: It can already run OS-9 Level I! I'll attach a screenshot before I send this mail ;) Level II and NitrOS-9 would require GIME support and CoCo disk support, so that depends on me adding those.
Hooka: Would you agree that OS-9 is to CoCo as Linux is to PC?
Sixxie: I'd say not quite. The defining good feature of Linux is that it's free (libre), where OS-9 is not. Also, Linux is just a kernel, and I think OS-9 refers to the entire OS. Also, OS-9 was designed to be real-time.
Sixxie: But with that pedantry out of the way: OS-9 and Linux-based distributions are both Unix-like operating systems that aren't actually descended from original Unix source.
Sixxie: Did it bug anyone else when Apple released version 9 of their 'Operating System', and all the Mac-heads started referring to it as 'OS 9' instead of 'Mac OS 9'? Confused the hell out of me, I thought OS-9 was making a comeback ;)
Thank you Sixxie for your time and doing this interview, I’m glad to have had the chance ;)
*Homer Jay Simpson , the Simpsons, ect. Are all copyright or TM by Matt Groening (I think) Thanks for making one of my favorite cartoons and I hope you don’t mind (If you even notice ;P)
*Interview finished 28/05/04*