Robert J. Shepherd's Interview
Hooka: When did you get your GP32?
Robert: Some time in 2002 I think, it seems so long ago now. Obviously was the original non-lit one, which is now finally currently up on ebay for sale. Perhaps I should offer to sign it, what with me being so famous and all. ;-)
Robert: I also have a FLU and a BLU, with the former being for development work and listening to MP3s at night, and the latter for just playing games.
Hooka: Why did you decide to get one?
Robert: If I recall, and bear in mind I am probably remembering wrongly, I think I read about it on the Vintage Gaming Network, or linked off there anyway. It was certainly the first time I'd seen it mentioned anywhere. Anyhow, with all the emulators it allegedly supported I just had to have one. Plus I needed an mp3 player to listen to audio books on at night, and most mp3 players were about £100 then anyway, so I thought this would be perfect to amuse me night and day.
Robert: Until I got it that is. Then I found out that whilst there were emulators for it, many were a tad on the poop side, but GPEngine definitely filled the void. Oh and of course I realised the mp3 playback sucked too.
Hooka: Am I correct in assuming that you've "played" with the MADPlay libs, ect. prior to your porting it?
Robert: Yes, we played footie in the park every Sunday morning, and the occasional game of chess too. Actually no, I had no experience of libMAD prior to "porting it", although that is a generous way of saying I renamed all the malloc/free's to gm_malloc/gm_free. :)
Hooka: GPMADMP3 is a great MP3 player, I remember you saying that you worked on it so that you could be able to fastforward on MP3's on the GP32 do you feel that you have accomplished that and more?
Robert: Yes, when I started that was my goal. The built in player was just rubbish, the interface sucked, it would only playback stereo mp3s encoded at 128kps, why did they bother? To listen to audio books I had to convert them all before copying them across, and even then I could get about 60 mins on an SMC to boot.
Robert: I figured, I could hardly do much worse. In the process I've learn't far more about mp3 file formats than I care to remember, not to mention bloody ID3 tags. And I'm actually quite proud of the final v1.0 of the player, as far as I know it is bug free, but I'm sure someone will correct me on that. ;)
Robert: I wrote it for me, but I think it has pretty much everything most other people would want in as well. And I love the interface, which was a bit of an accident. It just happened in Photoshop, and is a bit Apple iMacy.
Robert: However, GpMadMp3 probably would never have happened at all if Mr Spiv hadn't helped me solve the sound playback speed issues that had literally got in the way of development for 6 months. It wouldn't have looked anywhere near as good without the GP Font Maker tool and code by Oankali.
Robert: Also have to thank at this point Rob Leslie, the author of libMad, for his help and advice on certain problems too. And also Squidge for letting me use his GpDrive source and advising me on a few things relating to it, and of course Mirko for his zda container thingy that helped me make the executable a lot smaller.
Robert: All of these aforementioned people are very nice guys, who helped me out when I was stuck, or provided code I needed, or both. Whilst I am happy to take thanks for providing GpMadMp3 to the gp32 community, these guys all have to take a bit of credit for it too.
Hooka: Did you know that the only place you can find Unwhettedly on the internet is infront of Robert John Shepherd?(go figure the internet doesn't like a word cause it doesn't sound anything like porn :P)
Robert: Yes, I am the inventor of this word, so of course I know that. Part of the reason it doesn't appear anywhere else is due to my strict licensing models which involve large sums of cash. The other part of the reason is because nobody else can quite carry it off properly in their emails.
Hooka: What does unwhettedly mean anyways?
Robert: Whet is to make sharp, so, via a bit of jiggery pokery, unwhettedly means to put bluntly. I started using it years ago on Fidonet, back when the internet was a wee little baby and most people used things like, yes you guessed it, Fidonet.
Hooka: Ok, really off topic here but SMTWTFS shows up more than unwhettedly and everybody in school told me it wasn't a word!
Robert: Somethings you learn in school, are wrong. However everybody at your school was right, it is not a word, it is an acronym. :p
Hooka: You're probably right but to me SMTWTFS is a word all to it's own...
Hooka: How do you manage to code while still doing reviews of DVD's on reviewer.co.uk? and do you have any other sites, ect?
Robert: Easy, I get other people to do reviews. :) Currently I'm working on a silly online game for the "Reviewer Network", but some weeks I may not code at all for the GP32, sometimes even for a month, and then I may spend 2 hours on a couple of nights, and a fair few at the weekend as well.
Hooka: That first year you had your GP32 you stayed quite quiet... were you working on GPMADmp3 most of the time?
Robert: No, for a few months at least I struggled with the built in player, then I started checking out the development scene. Then I tried to get something working, then I had lots of problems with sound speed, then I gave up for a few months, and tried again, then gave up, then Mr Spiv appeared as if by magic in a dream (or was it an email) with the sun shining out of his arse.
Robert: I would at this point, like to confirm that the sun really does shine out of his arse, although he is too modest to admit this.
Hooka: What features do you hope to add to it for the future?
Robert: See now there is the thing, well not THE thing, but a thing. If I never do anything else to it at all, I am more than happy with what I have done, as it does everything I personally would want from it.
Robert: But if I get bored with current projects, I may well go and add OGG support, let people adjust their own equaliser settings, and most definitely introduce a less accurate but much faster scan forward/backward option.
Robert: Beyond that who knows, the scene may be dead by then. ;)
Hooka: Are you making ports of emulators for your single game arcade's? or are you writing your own emulators from scratch?
Robert: I got fed up waiting for someone to port MAME, and who can blame them, it is a silly idea. MAME is an excellent emulator but it is bloatware, and not designed for handheld underpowered (compared to desktop PCs) systems. So I googled for source of Space Invaders emulators, and decided to port one.
Robert: It was AMOAD, which stands for none other than Arcade Machine On A Disk. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel, but I'm happy to port it.
Robert: However, I have always wanted to write my own Spectrum 48K emulator, completely from scratch, and have started doing so via a ZX81 emulator which will include my own Z80 core. Yeah I'm THAT sad.
Hooka: Could you maybe give us some hints as to what other arcade games you maybe looking at? (I think we all already know about Space Invaders II)
Robert: Ah see now, I was originally just going to port a few single emulators, but now I have changed my mind. I'm doing ROMARCADE, aka ROberts Multiple ARCADE emulator. It will be like a mini-MAME, with multiple drivers and multiple arcade machines.
Robert: I'll be happy when I've added Space Invaders II, Pacman, Scramble, Donkey Kong and a few other 8bit classics that will run at full speed.
Hooka: Is the 32 band equalizer built into GPMADmp3 and I've just missed it?(I noticed you talked about it awhile ago on the GP32X boards)
Robert: It turned out to be a false promise, based on the fact that mp3s store audio data split into 32 equal bands. However in actual fact they don't really, despite everywhere saying they should do. So all you get is the 7 band one, which is integer based, if anyone cares. :)
Hooka: Auto power off is an interesting idea, but I'm wondering if you can even do that with a GP32 is that why you put even if it's possible?
Robert: Well there are apparently, from talking to those in the know, ways of putting the chip into a suspend mode, and also you are supposedly able to
turn off the LCD. Although they have also stated the latter might be a bad idea for some reason or another.
Robert: At present, when the mp3 player isn't doing anything, and this includes when it has free cpu cycles on playback, it executes a lot of NOP instructions. To the best of my knowledge these use the lowest current and is all I can do at present to conserve battery life.
Hooka: Do you condone stuffed animal orgies? or did you just feel it needed to be online?
Robert: I do not condone such things, I am merely bringing them to public attention. Plus its fecking funny, and I hate Disney. By the way, I hate Disney, and in particular their USELESS PR company here in the UK. They have never sent us a single review copy of anything, ever! Yet they want PR in return. So consequently on my website, you'll find we hardly mention them at all, ever.
Hooka: Do you still have your puppy Minna?
Robert: Yes, she will be 7 the day before Christmas Eve. She is still as fluffy, bouncey and cute as ever, not to mention smarter than me on occasions. She sleeps by my bed every night, and forces me to leave the house twice a day and get some fresh air, which is a good thing for someone who spends so long in front of PCs. :)
Hooka: Please tell me you've never rubbed Old Spice under your armpits ;)
Robert: God no, she is ginger after all! Although I think these days she is no longer a Spice Girl, and is just known in the UK as Old.
Hooka: Your hampster didn't like you much did he? Atleast it wasn't a ferrit... you can lift them up and swing them around and they still got a good grip on ya when they bite...
Robert: I had two hampsters in all, over my childhood years, and it is on this combined experience that my entire understanding of them is based. They don't live for very long really, which makes them an ideal pet for children.
Robert: The first one actually managed to work out that if he moved and then climbed onto the jam jar, he could tip the lid open using the weight of his bed compartment which stuck out the roof. He did this once and disappeared for a few days, which led to nightmares (nearly said Knightmare then, god that was a good TV series when I was a kid) about him chewing through important cabling.
Robert: Ironically, I found him in the end when I discovered only one speaker was working on my Alba midi system (see I was a rich kid, affording such top of the range gear as that in my early teenage years) as following the cable behind my bedside unit showed me his new home.
Robert: He had of course chewed through the speaker cable, but how he had got into the underside of my bedside unit and yet been unable to get out, is a mystery. However whilst there he decided to eat through two layers of carpet and make a nest out of it. Which pleased my mum no end.
Hooka: What is the tiled picture inside of the WORLD text in the Robert's World logo?
Robert: Cheap naff repeating image downloaded off the internet somewhere a fair few years ago. It looks even worse close up, trust me.
Hooka: What on-line gaming ISP were you designing the web site for before www.dvd.reviewer.co.uk?
Robert: I may possibly have been responsible for the first redesign (note not the very first design, which involved a certain Ben Lawton who he himself admits that Comic Sans is about his limit when it comes to HTML and webpages) which involved a lot of strange striped metal effects, loads of image slices, and so on, at BarrysWorld (rest in peace!).
Robert: But that is a whole other interview, and anyway, I mentioned me good mate Ben so he'll be happy about this answer at the very least. :)
Robert: Oh, and before I forget, I am pretty sure that it was at this moment that I invented the cookie based New! flag, whereby the site tells you everything that is new since you last visited it, and then sticks New! next to stuff.
Robert: Many sites do it now, but at the time it was an original idea, and it was mine, and I did it. I wasn't aware of anywhere else that had done it prior to that, and believe it or not, I'm still doing it on my sites now. :)
Hooka: Just one question... Beer and a cigarette... right?
Robert: Neither in this gob. :) The former, well I just don't like alcohol, it isn't the effect, it is the taste. No point drinking what you don't like the taste of imho. And cigarettes, well I don't want to die younger than I have to, and I also refuse to be controlled by a substance.
Hooka: Then I am totally confused by your picture in the meet the team section of reviewer.co.uk... Either that or you're smoking a Joint and have a bong in your hand (joking)
Hooka: Is this who I think it is?
Robert: If you mean the author of the uk.media.dvd usenet FAQ, which is probably not only way out of date but not used anymore by anyone on that newsgroup, yes. :)
Hooka: So how did you and Mark Fountain wind up starting reviewer.co.uk in 1st November 1999?
Robert: It was a funny thing really, we were driving back from the cinema when this spacecraft just drops out of the sky causing an emergency swerve, narrowly missing an old lady. After much arguing over which side of the road we drive on in the UK, the aliens conceeded the point in the end, blaming their navigator who in turn blamed the map he was using. At least I think it was a he, you can never be sure with aliens.
Robert: Anyhow, it turned out they thought they had landed on the other side of the English channel, which led to a discussion about why it wasn't called the French channel, or at least some combination of both. Which in turn led to the navigator slagging off human writing for being upside down and back to front, as apparently alien languages are all uniformly the other way.
Robert: It was at this point that we got involved with a roller skating cow chase, something you really have to see to believe, and met a man called Doris who wanted to show us how to juggle. And then after all this, returning home, I decided with all these bizarre happenings going on in every day life, what the world needed was another bloody DVD website.
Hooka: Being a DVD Reviewer have you had a chance to play with any of the Nuon DVD Players?
Robert: No. Silly idea anyway imho, people just want them to play DVDs on, not crap games.
Hooka: This is just great man! how many mails a day do you get like this?
Robert: Not many thankfully, although I did get one yesterday that simply said "CUNT MUNCH"
Hooka: Have you founded any other IRC channels besides #webdev on QuakeNet?
Robert: No, I think one is enough. I don't want to be greedy.
Hooka: On Thursday, 1st March 2001 you posted that you thought that Star Wars could possibly be coming out on DVD... are you suprized it took so long?
Robert: Part of me is, after all DVD has been so huge for a number of years, and with pirates taking a cut, I just couldn't understand the financial decisions behind not releasing it sooner. However, another part of me remembers Lucas saying he wasn't going to release them until he had released all three of the new films, so I guess in that respect it is early.
Robert: Perhaps he didn't make as much from Episode 1 and 2 as he thought, or perhaps he thought the franchise was waning and didn't want people to be so apathetic about Episode 3.
Robert: Still, if only he could see how lame his sense of humour has got with age, we might even see a genuinely funny moment in Episode 3. But how do you tell someone as rich as he is, that he just can't write funny anymore. C3P0 in Episode 4 == funny, but C3P0 in Episode 2 == funny as a broken plant pot.
Hooka: Nice job on sending encrypted data to your MP to let him know the shortcomings of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill!
Robert: Yeah man! Who knows, the useless fucker may have even read it. Actually he isn't useless, and I'm sure he's a very nice man as he helped to save our local signal box which was going to be knocked down. I'm not a train spotting anorak or anything, but it is a nice part of our local history.
Robert: And he also helped to continue the current Tory party tradition of getting less and less popular, which suits me fine. :)
Hooka: Was the Jesusified version of your page kinda like the pornolize version except with "clean words" instead of porn replacing the words?
Robert: Oh no, it is hilarious, you have to see it!
Hooka: Pornolize did this: (Smacks wanks © of Twentieth "Thrushmore" Century Fox, Warner Plows, Universal "Cock Sucker" Studios, or their respective copyright holders, All "Big Dick" Rights Reserved. All other spews and all content © 1999-2004 Reviewer "Long Finger" Ltd., All "Fuck me for a Buck" Unclefucks Reserved. DVD Reviewer and its logo is a browning asslicked trademark of Reviewer "Cock Sucker" Ltd.) to your disclaimer... I think it's quite funny! What's your opinion? (for a good laugh pornolize the meet the team section ;) )
Robert: If you knew the reason why we had a copyright message for that first mentioned company at all in there, you would think it far more truthful than what we currently show un-pornolized. :)
Hooka: What are your favorite apps/games/emu's/whatever else for the GP32?
Robert: In no particular order Speccyal K, GpEngine, Frodo, gpSpout, Little John GP, GPasteroids, fSMS32, Numo, GpDrive and of course GpMadMp3. :)
Hooka: What do you see/want to see for the future of the GP32?
Robert: Full speed accurate Gameboy emulation, complete with Pikachu speech in Pokemon Yellow. A faster GpEngine, so I can play Outrun etc. A less buggy version of Frodo. :) Quake at full speed, GpAdvance playing commercial games so I can play a footie management sim on the go, and more Pokemon. fGen32 to get another update or two.
Robert: Some newer builds of GpScumm (come on John get yer bloody finger out! no more of this "my gp32 is broken" excuses!), and of course a few other things too, but they are stuff I'm doing anyway. :)
Robert: Oh, and for everyone obsessed with mass storage usb drives, greater than 128mb SMC support, Linux, RAM upgrades and converting snes controllers to work with the GP32, to just SHUT THE FUCK UP! :)
Thanks for doing the interview Robert, hope you enjoy your GP32 coding!