Exclusive interview with Jan Zahurancik from AmiKit

A Cryptmag exclusive from Riyan Productions


Cryptmag: Firstly can I thank you on behalf of Riyan Productions for granting us this interview.

Cryptmag: Can you tell us a little about yourself, and your interest in Amiga's.

Jan: My name is Jan Zahurancik, a 26 years old guy from Slovakia, currently living and studying in the Czech Republic. My first Commodore computer was an A500 with extended RAM and I was interested in games at that time, of course, who wasn't? :-) When I upgraded to an A1200 I discovered the elegancy of the AmigaOS and I've stayed addicted till now. I created an AmiKit package, the compilation of freeware and shareware Amiga programs intended for WinUAE that turns your PC into Amiga easily.

Cryptmag: What made you start the AmiKit project?

Jan: You are not going to believe me but I didn't know what I was working on until it was half way done, really. I just always wanted to have a powerful (with regards to functionality) and easy to use configuration which, in addition, would look nice. And I was partially successful on my real Amiga (which was an A1200 with Blizzard 1240/40) except it didn't look very nice due to limitations of the AGA chipset, you know. Then, I started to experiment with WinUAE where I discovered many new features like 32bit screenmodes, transparency, Warp3D support etc. Before, these features were only available for Amiga computers equipped with graphics card. So I started to use programs like Picasso96, AmiStart, ShowAmiga96, etc. In the beginning I was not very familiar with them so I was experimenting. Therefore I started to backup my whole system very often in order to keep it clean from unwanted files and other changes. This was extremely easy because it was enough to backup just one file (a "hardfile") that represents a virtual Amiga harddrive in WinUAE environment. So if anything goes wrong I was always able to get back to my previous configuration quickly and easily which saved me a lot of time. I realized this is a great way to add the new features without a fear of screwing something up. Actually, this is the point where the AmiKit was born and started to evolve quickly. Since I invested a lot of time into this personal environment (and I was proud of it too) I thought it would be a good idea to make it public so other people out there could use it to - without spending their time configuring everything from scratch.

Cryptmag: Directory Opus Magellan II v5.82 has never been available to the public before, how did you manage to get it for AmiKit?

Jan: Well, it was quite simple… I just asked :-)

I've used Directory Opus Magellan II since 1997 and I got used to it completely. Therefore most of the AmiKit functionality is tied up with Magellan. This means all the pre-configured filetypes, toolbars, paths etc. communicate with programs included in AmiKit. However soon I realized that my time and energy invested into configuring Magellan could be completely useless without proper permission to include it into AmiKit. You have to admit I had a great motivation to get the permission. First I contacted GPSoftware, the company that created Magellan, and I was told they don't have anything to do with it now because they passed the license to Guru Meditation. So I contacted them and … I was lucky! As Andreas Loong (the head of Guru Meditation) told me later in a personal conversation at Pianeta Amiga show, even though he had no idea how I was going to use Magellan in AmiKit, he relied on me assuming that if someone is able to configure such a complex program, then he can do it well.

Cryptmag: We know there are over 300 programs pre-installed in AmiKit, but how did you get so many exclusive versions for AmiKit?

Jan: I asked permission from every author whose program is included in AmiKit. And I want to emphasize that NOBODY rejected! During this difficult process of writing so many emails I also made a lot of friends who created something for AmiKit spontaneously, like Rex Schilasky and his excellent AmiKit Launcher or Ken Lester and his beautiful icons and other graphics. The exclusive versions of programs (like AmiStart, GlobalTrash, ShowAmiga96, etc.) were created as a result of my bugreports. Soon after, I suggested some new features and the snowball started to roll :-) Simply I think people were happy that there is still an interest in their programs so I would say it's all about motivation, you know.

Cryptmag: What was the most difficult part in creating AmiKit?

Jan: The process of creating AmiKit was fun and it's still fun to maintain it. However, sometimes it was hard to make everything work together because there are so many programs and patches included. The less fun part was to create an installation script that copies all the necessary system files to AmiKit. Once the AmiKit environment itself was finished I had to take care of this installation, needless to say there are several different sources of the system files. Fortunately I managed to support all of them (except OS3.1 which was an intention because of lack of the features compared to OS3.5 or OS3.9)

Cryptmag: What are your thoughts on the current Amiga status?

Jan: Well, like someone said, "the Amiga story is like a never ending soap opera." We have to accept the fact that Amiga, as we know it today, will never become the mainstream again. And to tell the truth I would not like to see it as mainstream anyway. It seems there's much more cohesion in the current small Amiga community than ever before. It's more like a family and I like it this way. Anyway, to prevent the community from shrinking, we need some new impulse like new HW available to buy. I am a bit more optimistic in this area since I saw three new boards (Amy'05, Panda and Samantha) on one table at the Pianeta Amiga show.

Cryptmag: What's the future for AmiKit?

Jan: AmiKit is still developing in my spare time. The latest add-on, which I am very proud of is AmiKit Live Update created by Daniel Westerberg. As far as I know this is the only program of its kind on classic OS3.x platform (except the other of Daniel's programs called TheMPegEncGUI which also supports self-updating). AmiKit Live Update checks the server for new available updates and if found the program offers you a possibility to download and install it automatically. This way you keep your AmiKit installation up to date very easily. The update archives consist of a collection of new or updated programs that have been released recently. However I still need to prepare such an update package. Because it would cost me a lot of time to prepare it for every single recently updated program I usually wait some time for more programs to be accumulated. It's obvious this way the new or updated programs are not delivered to AmiKit at the same time when they are released by their authors. Therefore I'd like to come up with a new Live Update method which would be able to do that. Then, the authors can upload their programs to AmiKit server themselves and it delivers them to AmiKit users immediately. Other plans are to implement Scalos as an alternative to Magellan. The original Workbench will be supported more so the user will have the option to select from three environments to boot into. As a long term vision of AmiKit future, I'd like to focus on OS4. However it's only a vision at this moment.

Cryptmag: How do you find the time for a project like this if your studying Psychology and Economics at University?

Jan: Good question :-) I don't know exactly, simply you always find a time for things you love and Amiga is one those things, you know.

Cryptmag: Do you have a message for our readers?

Jan: For those of you loosing your faith in the Amiga's future and are still waiting for new hardware, why not turn your PC computer into an Amiga meanwhile? ;-)

© RIYAN Productions