Nigelibrown's Interview


Nigelibrown's website is here


Hooka: When did you get your gp32?


Nigelibrown: Think it was January of this year, 2004.


Hooka: What helped you make up your mind to get one?


Nigelibrown: Was looking at using real-time operating systems to solve a latency problem I had when presenting an auditory stimulus (playing a sample), initially looked at the GBA but when I came across the GP32 realised instantly it was more suited to the task. Forgot that it didn’t have any Digital I/O so first thing I had to do was build a DIO interface, it’s on the web-site under hardware.


Hooka: What dev environment do you use?


Nigelibrown: Am using the ARM Developer Suite v1.2, it in turn uses Code Warrior as it’s IDE and is a great piece of software. Made all the better by “GP Generator” by Harry Denholm Also use geepee32 to do most of the software only actually running it on the GP32 when I need to see how it looks.


Hooka: I noticed you mention that you originally ported a project to the acorn (we'll talk about that later) that you now plan to port to the gp32, do you like the ARM processor or what?


Nigelibrown: The first assembler I learnt was Z80 for the Sinclair machines, it’s instruction set was way to complicated but spent many a happy hour with it. When I started using ARM I could hardly believe the lack of instructions but the ability to make each one conditional and use any registers was a revelation.


Hooka: What other Acorn projects did you work on? (If any)


Nigelibrown: A Data Acquisition and Analysis program written entirely in ARM, Blowpipe, a sideways scrolling shoot-em-up. ARM, A Sinclair spectrum emulator, C Interpreter, called C—, Numerous PC Multimedia conversions, Dorling Kindersley - PB Bear, TWTW, MFIAD and Graphic file conversion plug-ins for Art Works (XARA STUDIO) Should I go on?


Hooka: On your website you have a lot of unique gp32 stuff, for instance you're the only place that I know of that sells the GP32 Chatboards pre-modified, do you think that this will be a good selling point?


Nigelibrown: The reason I started selling the Chatboards was mainly because I wanted one. Came across a few sites that promised they could make one but when I checked dates their promises were a year or more old. Have also been supplying Chatboards to developers at reduced rates.


Hooka: You also sell a GP32 Serial Cable, what could this be used for? Do people have to write there own drivers dependent on what they want to do with it?


Nigelibrown: The serial cable was initially designed to interface any Serial device, of which there are many in existence. Modems etc. But then another project I had worked on came to mind using LogIT devices.


Hooka: Is this the same kind of Serial Cable that Toholl uses to work on his GP32Linux port?


Nigelibrown: Yes most definitely a serial cable is a serial cable.


Hooka: Does the GP32 -> LogIT SL/Live/DataMeter Serial Lead have any uses besides being a portable acquisition systems and exactly what is a portable acquisition system?


Nigelibrown: The LogIT cable is slightly more advanced than standard serial it has IIC bus as well.


Hooka: Do you think that the gp32 chatboard will become a common gp32 accessory?


Nigelibrown: Not sure I think the majority of owners probably use their machines for running games emulators etc… Don’t think there is a great need for using it as a PDA but I would love to be wrong.


Hooka: Are there any new gp32 programs that take advantage of the Chatboard that you could inform us of?


Nigelibrown: Think the ones listed on my site are most of them sure there will be some I have missed but update the site regularly so keep checking


Hooka: The GP DataLogger / PC MeasureIT software looks unique, how can you use it to find out what you learned in the field, ect.?


Nigelibrown: There are many schools in the UK that use LogIT/SL/Live/Datameter as a portable means to collect analogue information from a wide variety of sensors these include light levels, PH meter temperature etc… The data is recorded onto the SMC of the GP32 and can be transferred to a PC back in the classroom to be analysed.


Hooka: What kind of projects would this be used for?


Nigelibrown: Think it is mainly used for science projects, but let your imagination run wild. What about a tropical fish tank management system keeping track of salinity, Ph, temperature and maybe giving you a warning if the level moves outside a certain range?


Hooka: You also sell GP32 Ext. Connectors + cable, is this for people to try and make there own accessories or to just modify there own Chatboards?


Nigelibrown: Those were made available to offer likeminded people to have a chance of trying similar experimentation. When I originally tried to source connectors I found it very difficult, so wanted others not to have the same experience.


Hooka: What do you think would be the ultimate accessory for the gp32?


Nigelibrown: Wireless LAN. Without a doubt this should open up lots more possibilities for further software / hardware in the future.


Hooka: Your developer section has lots of nice little extra's like information on Compilers, an IDE, Downloads and Utilities, have you used all this stuff yourself and decided it would be useful to other coders?


Nigelibrown: One of the things I found most disappointing when I arrived on the GP32 scene was the lack of a compile and run IDE. It took a long time for me to find the system I am currently using. Despite what some people preach there are a lot of engineers who just want to write software not create make-files etc.


Hooka: Did you ask yourself all those questions about your GP32 IDE and then reply to yourself or is it a collection of questions you got emailed that you wanted to clear up?


Nigelibrown: The IDE is not mine it is one I am hosting for Alessandro Manno.


Hooka: How exactly did you use ARM Compare to help you to make your z80 emulator?


Nigelibrown: When writing an emulator you really need some reference about the chip you are trying to emulate and the mnemonics you are using to do the job, using this software I could check which flags were being set by comparing two values.


Hooka: Did you ever release your emulator?


Nigelibrown: No, it was written for fun only and although it booted the spectrum 48k ROM it was never completed.


Hooka: Which do you feel is a better SDK Mirko Roller's or The Official Gamepark one?


Nigelibrown: I feel a little disappointed that Mirko has not sorted out an ADS version of his library, so not really in a position to compare them.


Hooka: What is a Digital I/O card used for exactly besides putting out a pulse to a scope?


Nigelibrown: The Digital I/O card is used to trigger the playing of a sound sample on the GP32. The latency (response time) is far superior that a 64 bit PC running windows or Linux.


Hooka: What could this be used for commercially?


Nigelibrown: DIO (Digital Input Output) cards are available for many computer platforms already. They enable you to interface to the outside world, either for monitoring or controlling devices connected to them.


Hooka: Why do you guarantee that everything is made of Genuine Samsung parts? Is this a quality assurance of some sort or just because the gp32 is mostly Samsung parts to begin with?


Nigelibrown: The GP32 is built from Samsung parts, everything about it comes from Samsung the CPU support chips the SMC socket the Ext connector, all Samsung. I just wanted people to be aware that I had spent a long time sourcing parts of the same quality as their machine.


Hooka: You've recently released the source to Pushy! GP32 version, what game for the Acorn is this a remake of?


Nigelibrown: Pushy! It’s a sokoban clone with nice sound and pretty graphics.


Hooka: How complete is it now?


Nigelibrown: A little more than the one on the site I think the one on the site doesn’t load the graphics from disc.


Hooka: Is there a compiled .fxe in the .zip?


Nigelibrown: Yes, I will check this to make sure it is the latest. And it works on the GP32 I only run it on the emulator?


Hooka: What system was Kiyeko, and the lost knight for?


Nigelibrown: PC originally, then ported to Acorn, and next to GP32.


Hooka: How long did it take to port it to the Acorn originally?


Nigelibrown: 3 months, the biggest job was dealing with the proprietary format of the files we did get some assistance from UBI Soft.


Hooka: Will it be a quick port because it's already optimized for an ARM CPU?


Nigelibrown: I am sure once we can dedicate some more time to software it shouldn’t take long it is mainly written in C with optimised parts in ARM.


Hooka: How do you plan to minimize it from a 650 MB game to be able to fit on the gp32's 128 MB SMC limit? Will you split it across cards or are you going to compress it down (and if so will it cause a quality loss?)?


Nigelibrown: We have been looking into this problem recently, because the GP32 screen size is 4 times smaller than the original. We should be able to squeeze it down a lot and maybe load each of the levels separately when you progress through the game.


Hooka: The newest project your working on is a way to control a Sony AIBO with a gp32 ( You

mentioned using two GP-Links is this one for the computer and one for the gp32 or is it for two gp32's?


Nigelibrown: This project is in very early stages at the moment, we have some hardware and also some software, but nothing worthwhile running on a GP32.


Hooka: Do you agree with STUFF magazines rating of the AIBO?


Nigelibrown: Yes 100%, this toy is no toy. It’s the most amazing piece of AI I have come across. Even after many months of ownership it still surprises with its actions.


Hooka: Would you be able to use the gp32 and the AIBO as a sort of spy device with this setup?


Nigelibrown: Yes, definitely this was the main reason for the project in the first place.


Hooka: Will you be able to stream video and audio from the AIBO to the gp32 at the same time?


Nigelibrown: Using the RFLink it is not really expected but you should be able to have full control, downloading of static pictures should also become a reality. However one of the other projects we are working on should give us much higher bandwidth.


Hooka: Do you have any other projects or planned projects for the future?


Nigelibrown: Yes, we are working on at least three projects currently; these are both hardware and software.


Hooka: What would you like to see for the future of the gp32?


Nigelibrown: For the homebrew community to thrive, I think this is the best introduction for young people to become the future of computing.


Thank you Nigelibrown for doing this interview, it was a pleasure to have my questions answered ;)


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