Robster's Interview


Check out Robster's webite here


*Notice: Falken80 and Drumaster both worked on the gpDoom wads, but I, TJ Hooka, made a slight overlook and it should be corrected so please make note that both Drumaster and Falken80 did very good work on the IWAD's and PWAD's and should both get credit for there excellent work!*


Hooka: When did you get your gp32?


Robster: hooo! about march 2003 I think, I was kind of a late arrival.


Hooka: Besides having never done anything on an ARM processor before what convinced you to get one?


Robster: I like "bare metal" systems. Hacking on a system with dedicated sound chips, graphics chips etc., is actually kind of limiting: it's like, GBA games, or PC FPS games, all end up looking the same because they are built around the capabilities of the hardware. I think that something like the GP32, with a reasonably grunty processor and not much else, allows you to do anything without limit!


Hooka: I've noticed your name is attached to the list of developers for GPDOOM, what exactly did you do?


Robster: I added the music. I've always loved that Adlib sound, and I was pretty keen to see if I could get it working on the GP32. So I played with the Adlib emulation from MAME, and got it running pretty well. Then when I asked Craig if he was interested in it, it was around the time that he found he'd been running Doom at 60MHz or so instead of 133MHz like he thought, so all of a sudden there were plenty of spare CPU cycles for making music :)


Robster: I also coded up a sound engine in asm to run the Adlib emulator and play up to 8 sounds at once with directional stereo like ID intended.


Robster: Finally, I mucked around with other bits, like changing the SMC engine to try to fix the game saves (which was *mostly* successful), and adding a PWAD to the game.


Hooka: I remember somebody said that the overclock speed was dependent on the RAM, isn't that why you originally did the 32 MB upgrade?


Robster: I guess it was, but I'm now totally convinced that RAM "quality" or whatever has nothing to do with it. I had other reasons, like a vague interest in getting Linux running, and the ability to run neogeo games. And of course I have a "if it works, break it and see if you can make it work better!" kind of attitude towards my toys :)


Hooka: What programs have you modified to run on your 32 MB gp32?


Robster: Err, Doom... you can put the Lump cache (where Doom stores the data for each level as it loads it out of the WAD file) into the extra RAM, and it makes zero difference to the game!


Robster: The RAM upgrade hasn't exactly set the GP32 software development world on fire ;p


Hooka: I also remember you saying somewhere (pre-64MB mod, I think) that for the 64 MB mod you had to just use the same pins except for one which you had to run to the processor, is this right or a) I just incorrectly read something or b) did it turn out being a little different?


Robster: No, you're completely right :). If you have a look at the photo of my 64MB GP32, the second RAM chip is stuck right on top of the first one. There is one pin on the second ram chip which has a wire going to the CPU, otherwise all pins on the second chip are connected to the corresponding pins on the first.


Hooka: DJ Willis told me one day that he had some kind of bet going on with you about the 32 MB RAM (pre-cobbleware site I think) If you remember what I'm talking about, who won? I seem to remember something about a technicality making it a tie, but can't quite remember :)


Robster: I can't remember, I'm sorry. I did make a bet with DJW about whether England or New Zealand would win the Rugby World Cup... England won and New Zealand didn't even get into the final so I've been a bit shy of making bets with him since then :)


Hooka: Your Overclocking mod was an interesting idea, did it eventually lead to the guaranteed 166Mhz. gp32's at GBAX?


Robster: I think so, although you'd have to ask Craig whether he followed my guide or got the idea independently. It's not a new idea, PC overclockers have been doing it for years, and Samsung even supplies a graph in the docs for their new CPUs that shows expected maximum clock speed increasing as you increase the supply voltage.


Hooka: Aren't you glad it's not like old AT's where you had to switch out a diamond (of some sort) to change clockspeed?


Robster: I never had an AT, I think I was still playing with my 1K ZX81 in those days. I just remembered though (excuse the tedious reminiscing): When I was at school, Casio came out with these game calculators that had a "space invaders" game- numbers would come at you from one side of the display, and you had to tap a key to change your number to be the same as the advancing number and then press fire to shoot it down. Well, it got too easy after a while, even the fastest stage wasn't fast enough. So I wired a radio tuning capacitor into my calculator, which meant that I could turn the speed up and down. Phew, I've been a geek for a looooooooong time :|


Hooka: Being a host of GBAX 2004's entries, what did you find to be your favorite?


Robster: (Man, this is going to sound lame) I don't really play games on my GP32! In the time that I have to spend with it, I much prefer to hack around and make it do cool, pointless stuff! The last game that I played intensely was Gloop Deluxe, which I was glued to for a week or so. Money *very* well spent.


Hooka: I totally agree Gloop Deluxe is a masterpiece by Toris and for $5 an excellent buy!


Hooka: A JTAG cable was usually considered a last resort for fixing a gp32, but before you had to send it to Mr. Spiv. Was it because Spiv stopped his flashing service you decided to draw schematics for it and supply programs to do it?


Robster: No, it was more that doing the 32MB upgrade without one is a bit dodgy- you have to flash it with a BIOS that won't work until the upgrade is working, so it's an all-or-nothing thing. Sending my GP32 to Finland to get flashed would be a major pain, so I decided I needed one of my own.


Robster: I must point out here that the Windows software on the site doesn't work at the moment. Two people apart from me have tried it and failed, and so I went back to it and found that it doesn't work for me either! It worked just before I posted it on the site, honest... It's *hugely* frustrating because the software for Linux and Windows is exactly the same, the Windows version just has a little GUI. But the Linux version works and the Windows one doesn't - I even made a Windows command-line version, it doesn't work either. So sorry to the people that are struggling with it at the moment, we'll get it fixed one day!


Hooka: Was it easy making a tutorial on setting up a gcc toolchain for Linux?


Robster: Yeah, there are many guides around for setting up gcc for various targets. gcc is amazing, so portable and yet it still produces pretty damned good code. The script I have in there for setting compiler options for the various libraries is extremely dodgy, it works but it's certainly not The Right Way to do it.


Hooka: Did you ever find a way to stop the quad-split screen bug in GPDOOM and would it help other programs with the same bug?


Robster: Terrible admission time... yeah, I have a fix for that. I've been saying I'll put out a new version "soon" but it just hasn't happened. The main enhancement I want to do is better handling of WAD files so you don't have to rename Falken80's or Drumaster's IWADs to "DOOM2.WAD" to get them to work... but it's a fairly large job and Doom is kinda "good enough" so I have been struggling for motivation :(


Hooka: What do you think of Drumaster's and Falken80's work on getting the pWAD's to work on the gp32's lower memory limit?


Robster: I think there both genius', and they've both done a huge service to the GP32 community - certainly they've turned GpDoom from a couple of games into several. Big ups to Falken80 and Drumaster!


Hooka: Are you a fan of the good, old Johnny Rotten?


Robster: ? Strange question! But yes I am, I was too young for the original punk invasion but I was well into Public Image Ltd. for a while there and I think Johnny's got great style. I can still listen to the old Pistols songs, it's amazing how well some of them have lasted.


Hooka: So seriously, what's with the 1000 monkey's quote? If you want to explain and if you feel it's pointless then don't :)


Robster: Heh... there's a fairly famous quote, someone said "If you had 1000 monkeys, banging away on 1000 keyboards, sooner or later they would produce the complete works of Shakespeare." Or something like that. And Mr. Spiv is half genius, half nutcase (in the nicest possible way :D) so I liked the mental image of these monkeys, banging away, producing mostly gibberish but with the odd pearl of wisdom in there as well :)


Hooka: Hey, the ONLY reason my poo looked like my website was because I ate a box full of wax crayons... and I'd do it again! And I apologize because this isn't a question, and I have changed my diet :) but I'll put a questionmark at the end to make everyone wonder?


Robster: You have very artistic poo, and what's with the questionmark at the end?


Hooka: What other projects have you worked on?


Robster: Well at the moment I'm doing some sound stuff for fGen32, it's going slowly but surely (that was going to be a bit secret, but rlyeh let it be known so I guess I'm allowed to say it as well).


Robster: I've got many things kind-of in progress, I've stopped talking about them because I'm becoming the guy that promises the world and never delivers :/


Hooka: Anymore hardware hacking planned for your gp32?


Robster: I've connected my batteries to an analog input on the CPU, so I can measure the battery charge level. I'm really disappointed that Gamepark didn't think to do that, I mean it's a battery-operated device, people are going to be interested in how charged their batteries are, right? That feature would have cost them literally half a cent to include.


Robster: I've also added blue LED’s to a couple of GP32s, but I can't think of anything else right now that I want to do inside the GP32 (and no, a CPU upgrade is *not* a possibility!). Outside the box, I've made a serial interface and the JTAG thing and I'd really like to get USB devices working with the GP32 as master... but progress on that is really slow.


Robster: Oh, and I must get a chatboard soon- it's the new season's "must-have" accessory!


Hooka:  So how does it feel to be a hardware Guru for the gp32?


Robster: Heh, it's a great community to be a part of. People should be aware that I will state my opinion, sounding like it's fact when often I'm not so sure that I'm right. But there are lots of other very knowledgeable people who can (and have) corrected me when I've been wrong. So I'm glad that I contribute, and I'm even more glad that there are so many other people contributing too :)


Hooka: What are you hoping will happen after the Euro launch?


Robster: Lots more developers doing lots more cool stuff. Look at the GBAX entries, look at other stuff around the scene (Akuma no Houkon's stuff, Giana's Return, hell, we even got Pong!) and a wider exposure can only be a good thing. People shouldn't worry about an influx of clueless newbies at GP32x, in amongst them (as always) will be some valuable contributors.


Hooka: Do you think with the Cyclone 68000 core and the 32 MB upgrade and some good coding skills (probably an asm z80 core too) that a Neo-Geo emulator for gp32 would be possible?


Robster: Sure, I am very confident that it will happen ;). Perhaps it will be the catalyst that makes lots of people go for the 32MB upgrade.


Hooka: Have you helped Craig at GBAX with enhancing the heretic port for gp32? (Or is it a totally new port?)


Robster: No, I've never been involved with Heretic.


I would like to thank Robster for his time and doing the interview, it was a pleasure to have him answer my questions ;)


*Interview finished 25/05/04*


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