It was not so easy to make the interview with one of the best Amiga software developer! But dreams come true and now you can read it! The guy behind great and amazing Hollywood MAL and Designer is here. Andreas Falkenhahn! Enjoy!Andreas Falkenhahn - brought to you by Airsoft Softwair - the hardest working man in the development business!
1. Let's start off with a standard and easy introduction: please describe your first ever contact with a home computer. Was it Amiga or any other machine?
It was an A500. In the early 90s my friends started to get A500s one after the other and after some months
I was finally able to convince my parents to buy me one as well.
2. What was the type of configuration of your first Amiga? Were there any other models to follow on?
It was just a stock A500 (last revision). By the time I got an A500 (it must have been in early 1993 I guess)
there were already A1200s in the stores. Still, all I wanted was playing the games all my friends played and
an A500 was enough for that. So I first got a 512kb A500 and a 1084S and sometime later a 512kb memory expansion. Later I bought a CD32 with an SX-1 expansion and finally an A1200 in a Micronik Tower with a Blizzard 68040 accelerator. The A1200 was my main development system between 1997 and 2001. But it didn't have a graphics board. So by the turn of the millennium, I was still using a 640x256 16 colors Workbench or so, I was really a latecomer concerning RTG.
3. How did your adventure with Next Generation systems start? It looks like you are using all flavors of Amiga systems.
Yes, I try to support them all, including real exotic stuff like WarpOS. Hollywood 1.0 was released in November 2002 and it was written in AmigaE. The success was really overwhelming so I ported the whole code in just 3 weeks to C so that I could compile a MorphOS version (there weren't any E compilers for MorphOS back then). At that time I was running a public beta of MorphOS 0.4 or something on my Blizzard PPC. At the beginning of 2005, I was given a Micro-A1 to port Hollywood, Hollywood Designer, and Malibu to AmigaOS4. That was my real start of my experience with NG systems. A little later I bought a Pegasos2 to run MorphOS 1.4 on. Later in 2005 I completely moved development from my A1200 with a Blizzard PPC to the Pegasos2 running MorphOS. This is still the main Amiga development system today because it can run both MorphOS and OS4. I'm hoping to replace it with an X5000 soon, though, but currently, there don't seem to be any graphics boards that support both OS4 and MorphOS decently on the X5000.
4. You are a well-known person within our community and I can honestly describe you as the hardest working man in the Amiga development business ;) Please tell us something about your work and how did you actually start the Hollywood project.
Actually, I was on the verge of leaving the Amiga for good when I got my first Windows PC in 1999. That's why there wasn't much Amiga activity in the years 1999 to 2001 from me. But then, I think it must have been some time in 2001 or so, someone from the Czech Republic was offering me his used Blizzard PPC accelerator (040+200mhz PPC) for an insanely cheap price. I wasn't really interested in Amiga that much at that time but it was just so cheap that I couldn't say no. I actually was very skeptical if he'd really send the board and I was mentally prepared to find myself cheated in the end but it really was insanely cheap so I just took the risk. But the guy was completely honest and sent the board and it worked fine. So in 2001 or so, I had an RTG Amiga for the very first time because the big advantage of the Blizzard PPC was that it allowed me to use graphics board on my A1200. And then, in 2002, after finishing my A levels in April, I had some time to kill, actually several months before starting my studies in October that year, and I had this alluring RTG Amiga machine at my home. I had never done anything RTG Amiga before so it was a whole new world to explore, even though I was really late to get an RTG Amiga! Still, I thought let's do something
that we don't have on the Amiga yet. And this was an RTG programming language and presentation system. So sometimes it's really funny to see how things come about: without the guy from the Czech Republic selling me the PPC accelerator for an insanely cheap price I couldn't resist I probably would have left the Amiga for good in 2001 and there would have been no Hollywood at all. It was only the RTG experience made possible by the PPC accelerator that rekindled my interest in the Amiga.
5. In my opinion, Hollywood is "our future”. It's platform independent and already quite mature. How hard was it to bring Hollywood to such an advanced stage? Could you shortly describe pros and cons of your language? What kind of a software can be created in Hollywood?
From an outsider's point of view creating such a beast as Hollywood might seem like a monstrous task for just a single programmer. But of course, it hasn't been like that from day 1. In 2002, it was very limited from today's point of view but since then 15 years have passed and I have been constantly improving it throughout this time. The pros are of course that it's very easy to use and can be used on almost all important platforms. The biggest con is that of course, Hollywood programs can never be as fast as real machine code. But that's not Hollywood's goal anyway. Apart from that, you can create all kinds of software in Hollywood, except maybe 3D games, even though there's now an OpenGL plugin but of course, it doesn't support 3D stuff needed by modern games. Still, there's a plugin interface which you can use to add the things not already available.
6. Do you personally perform all the works or you have a team behind this project? What about beta testers?
No, there is no team, it's just me, although I do like to refer to Airsoft Softwair as the hardest working MEN in code business, that's just marketing speak because it sounds better. There are some beta testers but most testing is also done by yours truly. I always do extensive tests myself instead of just hacking things in and letting others find the bugs. Most time is actually consumed by testing and writing documentation. That takes a lot more time than writing the actual code.
7. Your environment (Hollywood) feature cross-platform development, we can use it also to create apps for MS Windows and MacOS. Could Amiga developers potentially make some money releasing software for all systems?
Sure, you just need a good idea. A lot of people especially on mobile platforms have shown that you can make lots of money with software which isn't complicated to write at all. Take WhatsApp as an example. I just take a good idea.
8. What about mobile platforms: support for Android is included, do you plan to support iOS?
Hollywood has already fully supported iOS since 2011. For Hollywood 7 iOS support was greatly improved and the backend was rewritten. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't allow the Hollywood Player on the App Store, probably because it falls under the anti-Adobe Flash rule. To allow people to run their Hollywood applets on iOS anyway I'm now trying to create a Xcode Hollywood framework which will enable people to compile their projects for iOS. But of course, you'll need a Mac for that.
9. Hollywood with Designer look like a smooth starting point for easy software development. What should be the default approach: to first learn Hollywood scripting language or to forget about it and just use the Designer?
Depends on what you want to do. The Designer has its limits and isn't suitable for certain sorts of software. If you only want to create simple games and presentations, Designer is enough and you don't need to know anything about what's under the hood. For serious software development, you need to learn the Hollywood scripting language directly. And you shouldn't start by looking at code generated by Designer because that is very complex.
10. I feel like the updates of Hollywood Designer do not follow the rapid development of the Hollywood itself. Can we expect more frequent updates and better support for new features in next Designer? Do you plan to release Designer on others systems as well?
There will be a big update for Designer soon. The technology offered by RapaGUI would also allow me to
port Designer to other platforms without going to great pains, although it is still a lot of work. Whether or not we'll see Designer on other platforms hasn't been decided yet but there'll certainly be a major new version for the Amiga platforms soon.
12. Hollywood is considered to work a bit too slow, especially on real 68k systems. Do you plan to perform any optimization?
Not really. 68k systems aren't my main focus of interest because if you want to program fast-paced games for 68k systems, you have to go with the custom chips and Hollywood isn't the right language for you then.
You'd have to use palette-based screens or even take over the system completely, all of which is impossible
13. We're equipped with great documentation, although it's not suitable for people without experience. Would you agree a book is needed? Perhaps something like we had in the past with AMOS?
A book would certainly be nice but I'm so tired of writing all this documentation (Hollywood, Hollywood SDK, MUI Royale, RapaGUI and GL Galore together are well over 2000 pages) that I certainly won't write a book. But I wouldn't mind if somebody else took up the challenge.
14. What are your plans for future Hollywood development and would Amiga always be in the center? You could probably benefit more from all modern operating systems...
There are no big plans for Hollywood itself after Unicode and 64-bit support has been added. However, I
have several ideas for some nice plugins. I think this is a good way to go. Keeping the main program rather slim and provide extra functionality via plugins. Concerning modern operating systems, I consider myself a retro guy so I'm not that much interested in being forced to be up to date and hop on every train that comes around. That's too stressful and as a single software developer, it's impossible to keep up with all the new developments anyway.
15. What are you missing on Amiga platforms? (tools, memory protection, etc?)
Personally, I'd like to see some improvements in the datatypes. Maybe a datatype for playing video streams or an HTML datatype or something. Memory protection would be nice to have as well but I don't think that's going to happen soon because there will be many compatibility issues. I can live with Amigoid operating systems having no memory protection, though. I think it's nicer to have compatibility with the classic Amiga than memory protection. I mean, everybody has memory protection, just use Linux if you want it :)
16. Do you think there is still chance to keep AmigaOS, MorphOS, and AROS up to date? Lately, we can see there is a big slow down, especially on MorphOS side.
Well, you have to live with the fact that these are all hobbyist projects done by people in their spare time.
Of course, they can't compete with professional developers with multi-billion companies behind them. I think it's still fascinating to see that almost 25 years after Commodore's bankruptcy there are still people working on AmigaOS and tribute operating systems like MorphOS and AROS. Of course, progress is very slow, but there is progress still. For example, 2016 saw the release of brand-new hardware, the X5000. It took a long time but ultimately it really was released so I think that's a good sign after all.
17. Current Amiga market splits into 3x NG and 68k systems. This is less than perfect for developing new software that would run on all previously mentioned systems, for instance, MUI is different for AmigaOS and MorphOS, AROS has Zune. Maybe we should have one core team for MUI/Odyssey etc., and then port software for the other three major systems?
Yes, I'm strongly for a joint MUI developing MUI team but unfortunately, I don't think that's going to happen because of strong resentments among the people involved. Apart from that, I'm not even sure if the division between OS4 and MorphOS is so bad at all. There's an old saying in German which claims that competition is good for business. I'm not sure if there would be more progress if we only had AmigaOS 4 and no MorphOS. Maybe the existence of OS4 is an extra encouragement for the MorphOS side to try to be better and faster than OS4.
18. Lack of time usually equals lack of software development. Let's take Odyssey - it's a great browser without major development in the last four years, and as we all know, an operating system without a good browser is nothing nowadays. Can you comment on it from the developer standpoint?
I think Odyssey, albeit 4 years old, is still working really well with most websites. Of course, nothing changes faster than the WWW, but from a developer's point of view, nothing is probably scarier to write and maintain than a browser. I can fully understand why nobody likes to touch those projects. You can't even compile them on Amiga systems because they are just way too big. Browsers are really intimidating pieces of software, from a developer's point of view at least.
19. A lot of Amiga users state that porting is not a preferred way for our future. Isn't it better to use QT and port modern software instead of developing everything from scratch?
I'm not such a big fan of ports, especially if they feel foreign to the host system. That's why my RapaGUI plugin takes a complete native approach. GUIs created with RapaGUI will be native on all supported systems, i.e. on Amiga (MUI), Windows, Linux (GTK), and Mac OS (AppKit).
20. What Amiga could you advice for the newcomers? Classic, NG or emulation?
I'm all for NG Amigas for newcomers. Classic hardware will die sooner or later anyway and you can do all
stuff related to classics with WinUAE anyway. For NG Amigas you need the real hardware (although OS4
emulation is now supported on WinUAE but of course it's painfully slow compared to real hardware.)
22. Classic Amiga still has the largest community, mostly driven by pure nostalgia. NG could only dream about this size - do you think can we change these proportions somehow? Or maybe it's too late and our community is too old?
I don't know. I think it's good to see that people are still interested in the Amiga, be it classic or NG. Maybe some classic fans will become interested in NG Amigas after some time. Who knows? After all, we all started on classics and were classic fans initially.
23. Polish Amiga community is very active and you have lately sold a number of copies of Hollywood to users in our country. Do you think this trend could be repeated in other countries as well? More users mean more potential devs!
Yes, I'm really happy to see all those new Polish Hollywood users and I'm hoping they will create very nice
programs and games with it. And they are perfect beneficiaries of Unicode support introduced in Hollywood 7 because Polish is not a language that is in the ISO 8859-1 (Latin 1) encoding used previously by Hollywood.
Greetings to all Amiga users all over the world. Keep spreading the word that Amiga is still alive andkeep supporting all developers who create new software and hardware for it. This is the best way to make sure that the Amiga scene will still be active in 10 years from now!