We've recently had (as of June) two important updates of two major GEM
applications. These are for Aniplayer, now at version 2.22, and the web
browser Highwire, now going all the way to v2.0.
Firstly we look at Aniplayer. This is the brainchild and ongoing work in
progress of Didier Mequignon, also well known to CT60 fans as the man who
coded the firmware for the CT60, and things like the CT60 config CPX, with
that famous temperature gauge for it. As a result of Didier's extensive work
and dedication to making the CT60 run properly, Aniplayer has languished in
the shadows without a fresh update from v2.21 for over a year. More
recently, he did say that the CT60 firmware, was more or less complete, and
that he would return to Aniplayer shortly.
This he did, with a surprisingly quick turnaround of v2.22, mere days after
making that announcement. It looks like Didier has been quietly adding to
Aniplayer in his spare coding time over the previous year, as there has been
a lot of work done in key areas.
One major improvement is immediately noticeable, Sorenson compression in
animation files is now recognised. This opens up a larger range of .avi and
.mov files in particular that are now viewable which weren't previously. The
Mp4 Quicktime standard is apparently readable, more work has been done on
the Ogg Vorbis decoder which I can confirm does work within the capabilities
of the '060. The Mp3 sound libraries and Lame Mp3 encoder are now re-
included, which brings us to the most important news of all, Aniplayer is no
longer shareware. It has gone to Freeware status which will be welcome to
many people, but any spontaneous cash contributions that you might like to
make to Didier, to show appreciation for all of his hard work will be
welcomed by him I'm sure.
Other improvements include more work on the MPEG side, with different ways
of displaying movies added. New screen modes for 'without gem' playback on
CT60 have been added, these are 640x480 Trucecolour for the 'with solders'
fitted CT60 running a 50mhz bus, and 640x400 Truecolour for the 40mhz
Also there is an issue that will be addressed in future versions of killing
off delays in the soundtracks of these, when the sound goes via the DSP. As
far as I can tell, on a CT60 spec machine, it should be possible to get a
decent looking playback of low to medium resolution Mpeg movies with the
soundtrack taken care of via the DSP, and with a minimal overhead on the
Aniplayer is increasingly being optimised around the CT60 as the 'standard'
platform, to gain access to all the more intensive formats. There are
libraries which you can set up for it to make better use of MagicMac, and
Aniplayer does work well with higher spec emulators such as Aranym. (One
benchmark, not particularly recent for this, quotes a DivX movie playing at
around 75% of cpu time there, with a version of Aranym using JIT routines
for the native cpu.)
(A little tip for improving playback speeds, which seems to work a treat on
my CT60. 256 colour mode is the slowest or most cpu intensive of all.
Truecolour is marginally quicker, but you can get some major playback speed
gains by dropping down to lower colour modes. Sixteen and four colour modes
both show gains, and the best of all comes from dropping to ST-mono, which
practically halved the cpu load in one case. That is, if you don't mind too
much how this stuff looks in such a low colour mode!)
Aniplayer is that most amazing thing in this day and age, an application
which is still being developed, and which has such a wide range of uses from
simple jpeg viewing, through to most current movie formats. Long may
Didier's dedication to this must-have app continue.
You've all heard me bang on about when I met Rob Goldsmith for the first
time at the 2000 Stafford ACC, where he showed me his first prototype code
for Highwire. You've heard it more than once I should think. Rob had big
dreams for Highwire, of making it into a fully featured modern browser,
better than Cab. I also remember thinking that he may well have something,
but this was probably going to be yet another over-ambitious dream that
would turn to dust.
Rob did have a good idea for long-term survival, which was to throw open the
project, and get other willing parties to join in, and eventually take it
over. The main part of the coding grind in the latter versions, fell to
another of those Didier-like dedicated individuals, AltF4, who has now
managed to get Highwire to a state where we can safely say that we are
The previous release version was 1.7. We have neatly bypassed versions 1.8
and 1.9, as this latest version is deemed to be such a major improvement on
what came before.
So what is new? The long awaited ability to process text in forms has
arrived. We can Google with Highwire at last! Also we can add our thoughts
on how cool this is or what, to forums like the DHS Bulletin boards, or the
Atari Forums. There is still the important feature of cookie storage and
recognition to come, so some places still won't let you in yet, (the BT
Yahoo email front door for example), but this is a good step forward.
Another useful feature gained, is the ability for HighWire to properly
handle downloaded 'warez', as it can now save these to a place of your
choosing. We are now at a stage where we can effectively replace Cab for 95-
98% of our normal internet useage, where before it would have been something
There is also the handy feature of being able to grab a webpage URL, and to
paste it to the sister application of your choice, whether that is an email,
or live on IRC when you feel like urgently informing Felice of the fabulous
"www.hotnipplez.com"! Of course, the usual array of bug-fixes get their
names added too.
Also new to this distribution is a nice little extra. For the first time, a
dedicated 'STing' OVL module has been added. Not that the STiK OVL was
giving me any problems before, but it is nice to have something more closely
tailored to your own particular internet connection software.
Well that is the good news out of the way, and it has been great. Now as far
as I can see, there are still a number of features left to add. I anticipate
these falling into place fairly quickly.
On the still to do list;
Display:-Imagemap recognition, some pages, such as 'nature.atari.org'
navigate with these. Also animated gif files to be made to work, and
background wallpaper image file displaying would be handy.
Functionality:-There is Cookie recognition still to come. (To be fair to
AltF4, I'm sure this is the next major add-on forthcoming.) One area where
Cab is still indispensable at the moment, is in the area of third party
clients being called from the browser. Straightaway, I can thing of Falcamp
for that cool Nectarine radio sound! Not to mention things like emailers and
beyond Cab, which hinted at this in their abandoned v3.0 from many years
ago. Also a proper hotlist or 'favourites' feature would be nice.
Anyway, with version 2.0, we can safely conclude that we are nearer the end
of the process, than the beginning.
CiH for Alive Mag,June '04
What has happened since June?
Oh dear, time never stands still in the crazy fast world of Highwire
development. Since we got the rather groundbreaking v2.0, no less than
*three* further new versions of Highwire have slipped out from under AltF4's
Lots and lots of things have been added, most of them internal and hidden
away from general view, but invaluable for smoother functioning of the main
shell. The two major additions from v2.0, are that Cookies are enabled (from
v2.1), and we've finally got imagemap support (v2.3). As a little extra,
which even AltF4 wasn't aware of, is that Highwire now displays plain text
ASCII art correctly, which it never quite did before.
If anything, the work-rate of AltF4 seems to be speeding up, as there was
only a month between v2.2 and v2.3, hardly any time to get used to the
earlier version! Yet again, applications coders put demo-makers to shame!
Update - Dec '04