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Alive 13

Interview with

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
        where :)

        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 
        you own?

        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,
                   Thunderforce V

        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
        Archive, anyone?)

        cxt: So what will be the next step for D-Bug once the menu disks 
        are complete?

        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??
        E: Emulation.
        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

Alive 13