InterView With RUNTIME
RUNTIME is the coder behind BeebEm for the PS2 and the XBox
This interview conducted on the 11TH October 2002.
Xbox Evolution: 1) Can you tell us where were you born,
where you live,etc.?
RUNTIME: I was born in Gibraltar (a small british colony
at the souther tip of Spain); its only about two and half
square miles so I got fed up of it very quickly; seeing an
opportunity to move out I got a degree in England and now
live a little north of London.
Xbox Evolution: 2) What qualifications do you have?
RUNTIME: I have a 9 GCSE's, 3 A-Levels and a BSc (Hons) degree
in Computer Science. I found GCSEs a real doddle, but completely
messed up my A-Levels; serves me right for letting my parents
talk me into taking the three sciences; I should have taken
Computers, Physics and English. The university degree was
fun, I and throughly recommend it - I didn't learn much about
computers, but I did learn a great deal of discipline in starting
long projects and sticking with them to completion; something
I found very hard to do when I was younger.
Xbox Evolution: 3) What made you get into computers?
RUNTIME My parents. I was about eight when my parents bought
me my first computer, it was a BBC Micro with 32K memory.
The first day I got my computer I remember my dad walking
me through an example program from the manual... it didn't
do much, it drew a flashing triangle on the screen. But this
was back at a time when authors of manuals weren't afraid
to dip into 6502 assembler by chapter 3 so it wasn't long
before I was learning the ins and outs of the Beeb.
I remember all my friends had Spectrums, Amstrads and later
Commodore 64's - they had all these cool games, mean while
I was just stuck at home with two games to my collection,
Missile Base and Rocket Raid, had no choice but to write my
own software (thanks Dad!).
Xbox Evolution: 4) What projects/coding have you done previous
to your Xbox/PS2 Scene work.?
RUNTIME Thats a real though one. Lots of little utilities,
compression programs, disassemblers, disk copy programs and
later demos (this was at the time of the 16-bit Atari ST and
68000 assembler), and a WarCraft clone (the PC era, a project
for my final year at University).
I guess I always worked on small projects because I had a
problem with continuing something when I couldn't see the
end 'in sight'. Fortunately, these days its much easier for
me to see progress, though I still suffer from the occasional
urge to 'dip' in and out of different projects..
Xbox Evolution: 5) What inspired you to make Your BeebEm
Emulator for the PS2 and what difficulties did you have getting
it to run properly ?
RUNTIME Naturally, BeebEm was inspired by the BBC Micro's
influence on me as a child. I learnt a lot from that computer.
To be honest I have very little experience working in the
Linux/GNU environment, I struggled for two weeks before I
could confidentally compile code, but if you asked me now
I still could explain how to configure makefile. I guess I've
spent too much time in the Windows world, I'm too used to
having a nice IDE (Integrated Development Environment) which
installs itself with all the right settings, you just have
to write code and click build.
Lack of documentation was a big problem, there was a lot
of stuff out their but it was pretty much fragmented and really
required Linux/GNU tools experience. I'm not sure if the situation
has improved but I suspect not much has changed. Developers
were generally quite helpful, but it really is no subsitute
for knowing your way around your environment; those two weeks
where very frustrating.
Xbox Evolution 6) Will you be updating BeebEm in the Future
RUNTIME Yes. Ironically, I added memory card support and
had a little memory manager icon designed for me which I added
to the code; but my build process was so chaotic that I never
got around to releasing it. I guess I owe it to the beeb to
see this one through!
Xbox Evolution 7) Do you have any More projects in mind
for the PS2 ?
RUNTIME Its unlikely - once I got a taste of XBOX development,
which is so similar to developing on a Windows platform its
uncanny, I didn't turn back. That probably contributed to
my switching attentions from BeebEm PS2 to the XBOX Media
Xbox Evolution 8) Whats the good and bad points about developing
for the PS2?
RUNTIME PS2 homebrew is completely free, no strings attached.
Your applications can be burnt and run from CDR so its quite
inexpensive. Also Napalm supplied developers with a great
tool to transport and execute your code on the PS2 remotely,
that helped a *lot*.
The bad points? Well the build tools weren't very easy to
setup up - but perhaps thats changed? As a solution the PS2
is a powerful piece of kit, but on its own the PS2 CPU isn't
very powerful so its difficult to write good emulators without
know a lot of arcane tricks to enable the rest of the PS2
Xbox Evolution 9) In your opinion whats possible on the
PS2 in terms of Emulators, Media Players etc?
RUNTIME Its all possible but you need to be very creative
and know the hardware almost inside out. Unfortunately, because
it isn't the easiest console to write for projects require
that much more thought. And because the build environment
back then was in its infancy, I found it hard to be productive.
Xbox Evolution 10) What got you interested in development
for the Xbox?
RUNTIME The platform. Lets face it, you and I know its a
PC. Its runs X86 code, there is such a huge wealth of knowledge
about the architecture that it was a sure thing for me, especially
having spent the last 5 years writing Wintel code.
What really sold it was when I was shown a sneak preview
of the XDK. It was obvious that Microsoft had produced a system
that was designed to please coders; they really went out of
their way to make life easy for developers of XBOX titles.
Xbox Evolution: 11) What inspired you to make a Multi-Codec
and infact excellent Media Player for the Xbox and what difficulties
did you have getting it to run properly ?
RUNTIME For a long time now I've been annoyed that the VCR
has been king; I guess I was impatient that technology hadn't
advanced quickly enough to bring digital media into our living
rooms. I mean you had TiVo and the other PVRs, but they were
very inflexible, designed more with Holywood in mind than
with consumers. So this was my big chance. I had a box in
my living room which I could compile code for in the comfort
of a familiar Microsoft Visual Studio environment.
The first few iterations of the Media Player were relatively
painless, I saw results very quickly early on so this only
encouraged me further. The difficulties where more in actually
managing a project which was growing very rapidly, lots of
features would be expected and its very easy for things to
become maintainable when your developing in an ad-hoc manner.
Xbox Evolution: 12) Do you have any projects, that you would
like to start for the Xbox?
RUNTIME If I can ever find the time I would love to write
an RDP or a VNC client so that you can access your desktop
PC remotely over the LAN or WLAN. Porting BeebEm to the XBOX
is on the cards.
Xbox Evolution: 13) What would you like to see ported to
the Box and what is realistically the limit to what can be
RUNTIME Short of expanding the hardware, you can pretty much
do anything a similarly specified PC can do. It would be nice
to see an AtariST emulator for added nostalgia.
Xbox Evolution: 14) When will we see a fully legal emulator/
application for the Xbox?
RUNTIME In a sense I suppose we already have if you count
the Linux effort, but if you're thinking of purpose built
native XBOX code then I think its going to be a while. It
could take anything from 6 months to 18 months; the development
of OpenXdk is key to this happening. Fortunately, there are
a lot of clever developers around!
Xbox Evolution: 15) What in your opinion are the differences
between the Xbox and PS2 in terms of how far they can be pushed,
ease of programming for etc?
RUNTIME Well with a 733MHz processor the XBOX has a lot of
brute CPU power, its easy to write emulators and CPU intensive
applications lends themselves well to this. But in terms of
reach mass appeal the PS2 will guarantee you your largest
I think its fair to say you'll always find yourself more
productive on an XBOX, RUNTIME debugging is a *very* powerful
In the end its like comparing apples to oranges, they're
two totally different system architectures encouraging different
styles of development. They're both great machines and I'm
glad to be in the position that I can enjoy both of them.
Developers and gamers alike are spoiled for choice :)
We at Xbox Evolution would like to thank RUNTIME for his
time in answering these questions and for his many efforts
in continuing the Xbox hobbyist development scene.
This document/interview is Copyright © 2002 by Wraggster
and may not be reproduced in whole or part without permission
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