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Interview with:Xport


Date: 2002

The Interview

Wraggster: 1) Can you tell us where were you born, where you live,etc.?

Xport: I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen. I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number. I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them alive again from the water. I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me. I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ringwinner and Luck-wearer; and I am Barrel-rider.

Wraggster: 2) What qualifications do you have?

Xport: I can recite, verbatim, the entire movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (Along with most of their other work.)
I can walk on my hands.
I can juggle.

...unless you meant "how are you qualified to program for the xbox?" - to which I would respond that, much to my dismay, Sally Struthers does not offer a degree in XBox Programming.

...or perhaps you meant "what experience do you have with computers/programming?"

Two words : punch cards. You kids today don't know how easy you have it. GUI's, IDE's, SDK's, API's. Bah! Try cutting holes into nearly a hundred punch cards with a ruler and a razor blade because the punch machine went on the fritz....then complain to me that the on-the-fly syntax checking of your IDE didn't catch your omitted semicolon.

Wraggster: 3) What made you get into computers?

Xport Just seemed like the thing to do at the time. It appeared to be a very promising field back in the day....and boy-howdy!

Wraggster: 4) What projects/coding have you done previous to your Xbox Scene work.?

Xport For work or for play? I once wrote a "program" for punch cards that, once fed into the punch machine, would play out the familiar tempo of "Shave and a Haircut." That was some play at work before the days of Tetris, fragging, and porn.

Almost all of the "for play" projects I've done (with the notable exception of the XBox ports) have remained confined within my walls. Gaming related projects include trainers (some selectable, some not) for lots of different consoles ( Atari 2600, NES, GBC, SNES, GG, N64...) and computers (C64, Apple ][, DOS/Windows) (No, I was never associated with any "group" - this was all just stuff for myself and the few adults around me who shared similar interests.) Copy protection removal. Lots of save game editors. Graphics/sound rippers. I've dabbled in programming on most consoles....written a few minigames... Basically I've just always liked to tinker with gaming machines.

Wraggster: 5) You have ported 8 emulators so far, what difficulties did you come up against and how did you over come them?

Xport On average, none of them really presented any significant difficulties. There were a couple of times on a couple different ports where I hit a wall (some obscure bug that only surfaced when porting to XBox) - but I'd just put it on hold for a while and work on something else until the problem got sorted out in my mind. There isn't a whole lot of XBox specific coding that one needs to learn before being able to write something useful. The biggest pain (initially) was having to burn a CDRW each time I wanted to test something. Finally the smart folks behind Evolution-X came along with their dashboard replacement which helped out tremendously.

Wraggster 6) Will you be updating any of your ports that you have already done in the Future ?

Xport Probably. There are some things that I've been meaning to fix/update, but I've lost a lot of interest in the matter. The emulators do everything I desire of them right now. The updates would be mostly due to requests that other people have made. When I decide for certain that I don't want to do any more updates, I'll just dump the source and people can do whatever they want with it. It will most likely be dumped at http://Xport.xb-power.com

Don't ask for the source on the message boards there. Be happy with what you have. As an aside (since I'm thinking of it and since I'm on the soapbox), let me just say that I simply cannot fathom the arrogance and ingratitude of the individuals pestering the XBox Media Player authors to release source under the duress of their interpretation of the GPL. Amazing...the community gains a useful product and the authors gain nothing (except perhaps a little fame). One would think that the normal response to such an act would be to thank them. Never underestimate the power of greed. Gimme, gimme gimme.

Wraggster 7) Everyone has a reason for porting a certain Emulator etc, you have ported so many was it because you have a love for each system or is it because it was easy to do once you had done the first one?

XportEach of those systems has lots of games that I like(d) to play. Yes, I was somewhat able to cookie-cut the ports after the first two or three, but I have not ported anything that I had no interest in playing. Oddly enough, however, I really haven't played any of them very much. The one I've put the most play-time into is Stella because they just don't seem to put that much thought into gameplay anymore.

Wraggster 8) Whats the good and bad points about developing for the Xbox?

Xport Good - It's easy in comparison with programming for other consoles. Almost just like writing a DOS/Windows app.

Bad - I don't really have any complaints.

Wraggster 9) In your opinion whats possible on the Xbox in terms of Emulators, Media Players etc?

Xport Heck, just about anything that runs on a PC should run just fine on the XBox. It's simply a matter of source availability, finding someone who wants to do it, and how much time that person is willing to put into doing it.

Wraggster 10) What got you interested in development for the Xbox?

Xport I've tinkered on just about every gaming console. Once a modchip was out, it was just "the thing to do."

Wraggster: 11) Do you have any projects, that you would like to start for the Xbox?

Xport The only thing left that I'd be interested in seeing on the XBox is a more functional N64 emulator. Yes, projects like PJ64 are "open-source", but the problem is that they rely heavily on plugins to do a lot of the work. These plugins (the ones that work *well*) are not open source. I've tried contacting Azimer ( http://www.apollo64.com/ ) and Jabo ( http://www.jabosoft.com/ ) but I have not yet received any response from them. I'd very much like to get the source code to their plugins so I can port PJ64 to the XBox, but I certainly have no grounds to complain if they choose not to do so. If anyone knows these folks, drop by the forums at http://Xport.xb-power.com and let me know.

Wraggster: 12) What would you like to see ported to the Box and what is realistically the limit to what can be done?

XportN64 and a hacked W2K kernel. It would be neat to run DirectX Windows programs on the XBox that won't run under Wine or VMWare in Linux. Limits? For every person who says "this can't be done", a dozen more will work feverishly to prove that it can. Human nature.

Wraggster: 13) When will we see a fully legal emulator/ application for the Xbox and will through legal means be able to get the same speed out of a port as you have through the official sdk?

Xport Apparently this will happen pretty darn soon (might already be out by the time this is published.) If a program runs at a certain speed with one development kit, then it's certainly possible to get the same speed from another. I don't understand why people are so interested in this, though. The only real change is that it will make binaries a little bit more readily available. Who's going to be running these "legal" XBox programs, though? People with modchips. What kind of people install modchips? Pirates. Do you think pirates have any problems locating "warez"? Just about everyone with a modchip knows how to get the currently available homebrew programs. The few people who don't know how to get them already will probably still have difficulty finding the more widespread ones.

Wraggster: 14) The Bochs emu is fascinating, what games have you had running through it and what is possible to run through it?

Xport I played some Infocom and Sierra games. Blockade and King's Quest I came preinstalled on the initial distribution. There are some older, more obscure video modes in some DOS games (most notably the Commander Keen games) that do not work correctly in Bochs. Most things run fine on it, though....but I'm sure that most things people intended to use Bochs for did not meet their expectations speed-wise. Yes, it runs Windows 95, but sssssslllllooooowwwllllyyyy. I ported Bochs to play old DOS games, and it does that task quite competently.

Wraggster: 15) if you could have a Dream port yourself what system would you like to see emulated on the Xbox?

Xport PS2....but it's not like I'm a PS2 zealot....it would just mean a little more shelf space.

Wraggster: 16) would you consider porting across to other systems such as the Dreamcast or the PS2

Xport Pretty much everything I want to see emulated by a console has already been done on the XBox. The only thing left that interests me is N64 and, at the moment, it would be a lot easier to port that to the XBox than to any other console.