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Interview with Niels Wagenaar

ArticlesIf I had to make a top list covering the 5 most important people in the Linux-emulation scene, Niels Wagenaar would absolutely be one of them. He has given us multiple reasons for not boot into Windows, as he brought descent "NeoGeo Pocket", "Gameboy Advance", "Atari Lynx", "Wonderswan Color" and "Atari Jaguar" emulation to Linux.

LinuxEmu: Hi Niels, could you please tell us about yourself.

Niels: Sure. My full name is Niels Wagenaar and I live in the Netherlands. I'm 24 years old, I have a fulltime job (Linux Engineer) and I'm doing a part-time education (Computers and Organisations). The time that is left is mainly for development on several sdlemu projects. Favourite things I do developing, eating pizza and drink beer (not necessarily at the same time ).

Niels also tells me that the best beers comes from Belgium.

LinuxEmu: How and why did you learn to program?

Niels: I learned programming on my trusty old Atari 600XL in 1988 with Basic and Assembly. In 1990 I got myself an Atari ST 1040STF with GFA Basic to extend my knowledge on programming (and this is where I learned about Emulation). It was in 1994 when I got my first P.C. and I began working on extending my programming skils with C (using Borland's compiler). Now I still use C, the only difference is I use the free GNU C compiler (GCC) and I rely heavily on SDL.I wanted to program so I could write my own programs and extend my knowledge on computers. Later on I just wanted to program emulators but just didn't have the know how.

LinuxEmu: Please tell us how you did get involded with the Linux emulation scene!

Niels: Well I used Linux since 1997 personally just to find out what Linux was. I got really fond of it and it had many free development tools. But my first involvement concerning emulation was not on Linux but on BeOS. Julien Frelat searched for a BeOS port for his NEOGEO Pocket Color emulator. I decided to e-mail him and he was kind enough to give me a shot. At first I wanted to use Allegro for rendering, keyboard handling, etc but Allegro has too much functionality.

So I had to use an other library. It had to be OpenSource (preferably LGPL) and it had to be powerful for rendering, keyboard handling, etc. In other words, it had to be a Multimedia library. Since I played several Loki games on Linux (I was a beta tester for several games) I saw they used SDL. So I wanted to give SDL a shot. Within 48 hours I had a BeOS version running of NeoPocott with SDL which displayed graphics. It was slow but atleast it was a beginning. My SDL knowledge expended (with many thanks to the SDL mailinglist) and later on I ported the emu to Linux. Since then I stayed on Linux for development since it had better development tools (IDE, new compiler, etc).

LinuxEmu: Please would you like to explain following statement: "but Allegro has to much functionality. "

Niels: Okay, Allegro isn't just multimedia capabilities but more like GUI and stuff. Because it's big it means that the library itself is quite large and the sources were even larger. I would use about 20% of it's functionalitity. That's why I decided to look for another library, namely SDL.

LinuxEmu: You did port the Windows version of NeoPocott to Linux using the SDLlib. But how did the SDLemu-team come together?

Niels: From NeoPocott I started on BoyCott Advance and later on Handy/SDL. Since I wanted to focus on linux in general I decided to look for someone with BeOS knowledge. That is were Carwin Jones (Caz) came in. He helps with BeOS compatiblity with our projects. Since we got more projects using SDL we decided to get a new name called sdlemu. NGEMU.COM was very nice to us and gave us space on there new website. Later on Lu_zero joined up for QNX compatiblity of our projects and now James Hammons.

LinuxEmu: Please tell us about the future of your latest project, Virtual Jaguar GCC/SDL!

Niels: Virtual Jaguar GCC/SDL was a project started to get decent Jaguar Emulation to the GCC platform using SDL. Sadly, the original project stopped, which seems active again because of our efforts, and he released the sources to the public. Again, another problem. He used Visual C++ as a development and all code was Visual C++ "standards" with Intel assembly. Caz did all the work on the assembly and I started working out several Visual C++ "standards" conversions to GCC. In about 3 days we had a working version already (which was Virtual Jaguar GCC/SDL v1.0.0). Later on James Hammons gave us a lot of feedback and new code. He was the one that stripped out all assembly and converted it to standard C which allows porting to other platforms with different CPU's (MacOS, etc). And now we're expanding the compatibility and it has improved very much.

LinuxEmu: Can you please give us your top 5 Linux emulator list?

Niels: 1) ZSNES (Super Nintendo emulator)
2) VGB (Nintendo Gameboy emulator)
3) Hatari (Atari ST emulator)
4) Atari 800 (Atari 8-bit emulator)

LinuxEmu: Shouldn't any of your emulators be on the list? They are pretty good you know, I like Neopocott/SDL the most!

Niels: My own emulators, well. Maybe. But since I develop them I enjoy other emulators much more. But I do use Handy/SDL and now Virtual Jaguar GCC/SDL frequently since I'm working on them.

LinuxEmu: What could we expect from the SDLemu-team in a near future?

Niels: Future prospects: Updated Virtual Jaguar releases. Updated Cygne/SDL release. Updates Handy/SDL release and hopefully a new version of BoyCott Advance (mainly bugfixes).But no new projects at the moment. We're to busy as it is.

LinuxEmu: If you could port anyone of all the emulators available for Windows, which one had you choosen? (Project64 hint hint!)

Niels: That's easy! Project Dolphin! The new and very promising Nintendo Gamecube emulator.

LinuxEmu: Do you own a Gamecube?

Niels: Yep for Zelda I also own a XBOX and a PSX2. I also have a Super Nintendo, Atari Jaguar and Atari Lynx lying around here some where. Of course I have a GBA to.

LinuxEmu: What do you think is the advantage of using Linux instead of MS Windows?

Niels: Free development tools directly available without downloading it. Big advantage : Linux License costs are minimal! Linux is just more complete than Windows and it has more options for one type of application. If you want to play MP3's you can use FreeAMP, XMMS and MPLAYER for instance.

LinuxEmu: We are nearly coming to an end of this interview. Which is the greatest videogame of all time and please tell us why?

Niels: Namely Daggerfall (Arena the Elder scrolls) which is the best RPG. Alien vs Predator on the Atari Jaguar. Broken Sword series (excellent adventures), The Pawn (Old Magnetic Scrolls Adventure). Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (Best Lucas Arts adventure IMHO) and the Metal Slug series (NEOGEO, Arcade at your home!)

LinuxEmu: Before we end this interview is there anything else you want to tell the readers?,

Niels: Go visit LinuxEmu! I do it every day.And go bug SCO about their stupid claims!

LinuxEmu: Many thanks Niels for taking time with doing this interview. It was very fun to chat with you!

Niels: No problem and the favour was all mine! Good luck with LinuxEmu, you're bound to hear from me soon on the forums.

Info about Niels Wagenaar
SDLEmu's homepage
Cygne/SDL - "Wonderswan emulator"
NeoPocott/SDL - "Neogeo Pocket" emu"
Boycott Advance/SDL - "Gameboy Advance emu"
Handy/SDL - "Atari Lynx emulator"
Virtual Jaguar GCC/SDL - "Atari Jaguar emu"


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