Cyrano Jones / D-Bug
cxt: Hi CJ, you have gathered some kind of reputation within the
scene as a member of D-Bug and Automation, where you were known
as "the Law" and there were a lot of other nicknames you applied
to yourself. You are located inside UK and your real name is...
Well, I better leave it up to you to release that and any other
important fact to the public. So please take your time to
introduce yourself :)...
CJ: Yeah, I've had a few names (some of them even polite, I
might add) I'm from the UK, and I'm a returning founding member
of D-Bug and ex Automation and BBC "oldie"... My real name, as
Mike (or Xerud) is so fond of posting on forums is Lawrence. I
guess you could say I'm a cracker, coder, whatever for D-Bug.
Kinda got my finger in a few pies, but its all fun. When it
isn't, I'll disappear again, but until then I'm here, bringing
sarcasm and cynicism to the world of Atari.
cxt: What is your real life occupation?
CJ: IT Engineer for a telecoms company (No, it's not BT!)
cxt: Cyrano Jones is a fictional character in the original Star
Trek series, who also became a general nuisance to Caption Kirk
since he was responsible for a Space Station's infestation with
those little fur-balls called "Tribbles". He appears in the
episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" and in another episode in a
Star Trek spin-off (DS9). Is your nick based on this character
or is it a coincidence?
CJ: Well, after Automation fell (for various reasons), and the
BBC disbanded, Rob decided to start afresh with a new group to
rekindle what Automation was supposed to be about (doing
everything ourselves) - so D-Bug was formed and we decided to go
with new names. I was actually watching The Trouble With
Tribbles when Rob called, so that's why I became Cyrano Jones :)
cxt: You obviously watch Star Trek and I saw you quit IRC for
Stargate Atlantis, so it seems you are into science fiction a
bit. What is your favourite science fiction series on TV?
CJ: Yep, pretty much any Sci-Fi, but at the moment Atlantis and
the new Battlestar Galactica series.
cxt: In 1999 you mentioned "Highlander" and "The 5th Element" as
your two favourite movies. Well Highlander has it's qualities
like perfect cuts and transitions which combine the flashbacks
and the current storyline like never seen before. However
Christopher Lambert is surely no martial arts pro nor a
swordsman :) and the choice of Queen for the soundtrack was
always something which I considered really lame. For the 5th
Element it's a nice action comedy and I really loved that
villain :) However, do you have some new favourites in the
CJ: Not really. Team America: World Police is extremely funny
(and accurate) though.
cxt: In another interview you mentioned that you own a lot of
machines, for example a ZX Spectrum, an Amiga and several Ataris
such as 800, 800 XL, 130 XE, ST. Do you still use all those
machines, or do you just collect them?
CJ: A bit of both. I like collecting them as a hobby, but I also
switch them on and play with them for hours on end occasionally.
I don't actually have a ZX Spectrum though... I do have (from
memory) Atari Falcon030 (x2), Atari STFMs (x4), Atari STe, Atari
Mega ST2 + Megafile 60, Atari 800XL (x2), Atari 400, Atari 800
(Broken!), Amiga 1200, Archimedes 305.
cxt: What was the Spectrum you were referring too in the
interview from 1999 then?
CJ: Goes off to re-read that interview..... Ah, well I did have a
Spectrum, but it went away a long, long time ago. I have no idea
cxt: What were your main activities on those machines?
CJ: Were? Or Are? On the non Atari machines, mainly fun and
games playing... On the Atari ones, well, you know the story
there, hehe. The Archimedes I have yet to get working properly,
I know it boots up, but I need an Archi->VGA to make any further
progress with that one.... And the Amiga... well, that's just a
Battle Squadron host! Currently the Falcons are getting the
attention, due to recent (and future) D-Bug releases.
cxt: When did you got in touch with computers? What was your 1st
CJ: The first machine I had a play with was a Dragon 32
belonging to a relative.... A few months later my parents got me
an Atari 800 - that machine was a great introduction to
computers in general, and I became a "geek" from that point on
cxt: What's your opinion on accelerators? Are they the next step
of Atari evolution or are they completely superfluous to you?
CJ: Accelerators are nice if you plan on using the machine to
actually do anything, but as for a target platform for a
production I don't think they're worth the effort, as you really
are reducing your audience to mainly .avi playing people - and
it is so much nicer to see things running on the real hardware.
Price wise, anything Atari these days isn't worth spending the
cash on for any reason other than personal pleasure, but for me,
the cost of a CT6x board for the Falcon far outweighs the use it
brings home. Good luck to the people with them, and the
productions they make, but its not for me.
cxt: From your previous answer it seems you are into gaming too.
Especially since you own several game consoles like the Sony PSX
and the Atari Jaguar as well as Handhelds like the Atari Lynx.
Do you own any other consoles?
CJ: Quite a few! I've been collecting them for a while...let's
see we have... Nintendo NES, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Gamecube, Sega
Master System, Sega Megadrive, Sega Saturn, Sega Dreamcast,
Atari Jaguar, Atari Jaguar + Catalyst2 Devkit (whoohoo!), Atari
Lynx, Playstation2, Xbox.
cxt: Is there any system, no matter if console or computer,
which you really would like to lay your hands on?
CJ: I'd love a NeoGeo, just for all the shooters, or a sharp
x68000 for fun.
cxt: Which is your favourite System amongst all these consoles
and why is that?
CJ: Out of the consoles, hmm tough. For practical uses, the Xbox
(XBMC is amazing and I use it daily). I don't really switch the
NES or SMS on very often so cant really comment. The Jaguar is
basically a Tempest 2000 host - I may as well just solder that
ROM in, hehe, and the Gamecube is great for multiplayer fun type
games (Donkey Konga, anyone?) - But I have to say I have a soft
spot for the Dreamcast, such a nice bit of hardware with some
really great games, and also the Saturn, which truly is leader
when it comes to Shoot Em Ups.
cxt: And what about the computers?
CJ: Its got to be the Atari ST, although the PC gets used a lot
cxt: Since you were cracking games and own a lot of gaming
devices, it comes to mind that you might like games. Are you
ever playing any of the games you crack, apart from testing
CJ: Recently, yes - as I've been doing titles I actually want to
see running on the Falcon/HD - so we've been adding trainers and
playtesting a lot. In the past, not so much it has to be said
(and most games on the ST are, lets face it, very poor)
cxt: Can you list your favourite three games for each platform
CJ: This will take a while...
NES Only have the console, no ROMs yet, so cant comment!
N64 Super Mario 64, Goldeneye, Starfox
Gamecube Ikagura, Super Monkey Ball, Super Monkey Ball 2
SMS Outrun (only got one ROM!)
Megadrive Sonic, Micro Machines, Space Harrier II
Saturn Radient Silvergun, Parodius Fantastic Journey,
Dreamcast Ikagura, Confidential Mission, Under Siege
Xbox House of the Dead III, Crimson Skies,
Project Gotham Racing
PS2 Time Crisis III, Soul Calibur II, Guitar Hero
Jaguar Tempest 2000 (are there any more worth playing?)
Lynx Zylar Mercenary, Gates of Zendicon, Shanghai
Atari ST Helter Skelter, Giana Sisters, Monster Business
Amiga Battle Squadron, Hybris, Moonstone
Atari 8 Rescue on Fractalus, Dropzone, Mr Do
Archimedes No idea, but I bet I like Zarch :)
cxt: In the past you named Pacifist as your favourite emulator,
I am pretty sure this isn't true anymore, so how would your
personal emulator ranking look today?
CJ: STEem has to be out in front, still not perfect though :),
with MAME being a very, very close 2nd.
cxt: You stated that "keeping out idiots" was something you
liked about Pacifist. Do you still think this is necessary?
CJ: Well, there are two sides here. I'm all for helping people
who want to learn, but the vast majority of people asking for
help could find what they want by using google and a single
brain cell. The internet is a great resource, kids, go make use
of it! On the other side, ease of use is important, and in that
department Steem stomps all over Pacifist. So, it's a bit from
column (a) and a bit from column (b) - although I do wish the
ROM kiddies would leave the Atari scene before it attracts the
attention of the Men In Suits.
cxt: Do you think the "men in suits" you are referring to, would
show any interest on your activities?
CJ: Not ours no, but in the "protecting of their intellectual
property" in the form of disk images (They are *NOT* Roms, you
bunch of kiddies!!), they might shut down a lot of the sites.
cxt: Some crackers simply love Emulators, since there are no
secrets anymore. Even the most wicked piece of protection can be
traced without much effort. How do you think about emulators in
general and about using them for cracking in special?
CJ: Emulators are great and also deadly in the world of
cracking. As you say, you can simply skip over the protection
and your done... but at that point you really have no idea of what
the protection actually did, or if it will do something again in
the future. Also, the emulators won't actually run everything,
for example, Blood Money on D-Bug 194 does not run on any
emulator, so I had to use a trusty old STFm! The old arts are
still the best. Emulators are a great substitute, but are by no
means a direct replacement. However, all the coding work I do
for the menus, loaders, ULS, etc is all done in steem, where I
edit files using notepad and assemble with GenST, then send to
the Atari via GhostLink. I can't imagine developing on an Atari,
far too painful these days.
cxt: In the past it seemed your activities had come to a rest,
now you are more active than ever. What's the driving force
behind all that?
CJ: Fun. Everything I myself do for D-Bug is for fun. And
because I want to. If other people enjoy them then that's great.
It's a hobby.
cxt: Is there any competition for D-Bug? What do you think about
other Menu groups?
CJ: Currently, I can't think of any - but again, its not a
competition. It's all good for the scene.
cxt: So you would also supply a crack to Atari Legend for
CJ: There'd be no need to, they can crack things themselves, and
we have our own "label" :)
cxt: Most games have already been cracked and released. So there
aren't much top titles to expect in the future. What's in the
pipeline concerning D-Bug menus, can you tell us anything about
CJ: "Cracked and released" and "Re-Cracked and Improved" are two
different beasts entirely. Expect much love for the Falcon030
and Hard Drives from us in the future. We do however have the
next (and last) five menus already basically laid out and ready.
The set will end at 200 - but D-Bug probably won't... (WHDload
cxt: So what will be the next step for D-Bug once the menu disks
CJ: A break from it all I guess (although probably not as long
as the last one which lasted.. what? 14 years?)
cxt: Isn't it a waste of time to crack a lame game, nobody will
ever play, just for the body count?
CJ: Yes. It always was, and it always will be. Unless you're the
one doing it, and having fun.
cxt: You once said that the time you spent in front of a
computer waiting for it to pack some files felt rather dull and
that you would like to code intros instead. Well I can
understand that, is it because of emulators which allow you to
pack much faster than any real Atari that you are back into the
dark arts of cracking?
CJ: Nope, I bought a Mega2+Megafile about 2 years ago and was
quite disappointed at how little could be run from the hard
disk. Then I managed to get an ICD-Link and a bigger drive, and
now a Falcon. After a look around the internet I found WHDLoad
for the Amiga, and spent many, many hours pondering how such a
feat could be done on the humble ST. The end result was the D-
Bug ULS (Universal Loading System) which does a similar job to
the Amiga's WHDLoad. I'd imagine progressing with this loader
will be the main driving force of D-Bug in the future. So,
really, it's all come from wanting to be able to switch on and
play, without all that tedious floppy drive stuff.
cxt: Well unlike your Lethal Xcess crack ULS doesn't seem to
work like a ramdisk, but does something else. Can you try to
explain the technical background for us?
CJ: Sure... The standard method in the past for getting things to
run off the hard disk was, as you just said, using the extra
memory as a RAM disk and pre-loading everything before launching
the game - this avoids having to read anything further so gets
around there being no operating system or drivers in memory for
the hard disk calls. ULS works differently, in that it keeps a
"copy" of the operating system and drivers in memory and swaps
this in and out as needed allowing things to be loaded and
saved, or any other TRAP functions you'd care to use in your
loader code. So, for example, you could now save your games or
high scores to a file on the hard disk, rather than lose it when
you switch off - which opens up the possibility for converting a
lot of adventures and other games to fully hard disk compatible
cxt: Well that sounds like an interesting article for next
Alive, would you like to write one?
CJ: Sure! Most of the documentations is already written and
included with the public release of ULS. However, as it is being
constantly worked on and improved it will probably need an
overhaul shortly. If you'd like a crash course in ULS 101 for
Alive, I'll see what I can do.
cxt: Nice. You once said you would tell yourself not to go out
in a special Night in December if you could travel back in time.
What happened in that night?
CJ: I can't remember. Probably for the best :)
cxt: You probably know the Alive brainstorming test from
previous issues, so just type whatever comes to your mind for
each of the following letters.
CJ: Elephant Antics. A truly crap game.
C: Big blue wobbly thing that mermaids live in
Y: YMwhatnot. The buzzy chippy noise thing in the ST.
R: Modem not found (Obscure 8-Bit reference)
A: has to be Atari, doesn't it?
N: NOP - A crackers perfect instruction.
O: Oh, it worked. Wow!
J: JMP - Sometimes as useful as NOP
O: Oh, it didn't work. Damn!
N: Neochrome??? Why?? What's wrong with Degas??
S: SID. Or, where did my CPU go?
O: Oh, it kind of worked. Where's GGN? He'll fix it!
F: Fat Freddy and Hit Cat.
D: D-Bug - The ONLY disks worth of their diskspace!
B: Bombs! Oh no!
U: Universal Loading System! Go ULS!
G: Gee Whiz, Batman.
cxt: Time to say goodbye, so if you want to greet someone or
want to get rid of some special message for our beloved readers,
shout it out now!
CJ: All the Alive team (for keeping it alive!) and the rest of
D-Bug (Shw, GGN and Melcus - Truly great people and a joy to be
part of a group with), and also Klaz of Atari Legend and the
good people of #atariscne on ircnet.
cxt: Thanks for this fine interview, and see you soon on the
next D-Bug menu.
CJ: You're welcome. Keep Atari Alive!
cxt for Alive, 2006-08-07