This is an interview that I had with Jan Zahurancik from AmiKit which was originally posted on Commodore is Awesome. But due to a server meltdown it was lost. That is until I found a backup of the interview stashed away on a flash drive. Here is the interview in it’s entirety.
Recently I had the pleasure of talking to Jan Zahurancik from AmiKit. Much like many of us in the Amiga community he is passionate about what he does. What follows is a selection of questions that I put forward to Jan about his history with Amiga and AmiKit.
CritAnime: Welcome and thank you for taking the time to come and speak to use here at Commodore is Awesome. Just so we have a better understanding can I ask that you clarify who you are and what it is you do?
Janzah: Okay, first of all let me thank you for your interest in this interview. I am really honored. My name is Jan Zahurancik, I am Slovak living in Czech republic (do you remember Czechoslovakia?)
I am 31 years old now and working in human resource area. So nothing related to IT actually
CritAnime: That’s OK I am a nurse. I think when it comes down to the Amiga it crosses all boundaries.
Janzah: yeah, exactly.
CritAnime: What first got you into the Amiga?
Janzah: I think my story is pretty same like the story of other Amigans out there. Once I visited my friend and saw Amiga, and I was amazed by its graphics and sounds, it was unbelievable. Especially if you compare it to ZX Spectrum which I was used to at that time (Actually it was Didaktik Gama, a Slovak clone of ZX Spectrum)
CritAnime: Ah yes I have read about them.
Janzah: And so we (together with my brother) persuaded our parents to buy us Amiga 500.
CritAnime: An excellent computer.
Janzah: Yes, we had so much fun with it
CritAnime: Was it purely a gaming computer or did you venture into the desktop side of it?
Janzah: Yes, at that time we used it for games only.I remember I didn’t understand the role of Workbench and I perceived it as redundant. Which has dramatically changed when I purchased A1200 with HDD.
CritAnime: What were the sort of games you would play?
Janzah: My first Amiga game ever was Vroom. But I think I didn’t have any preference at that time, I enjoyed everything. For me and my brother the two-player games were the top-notch, you know. But my most favourite games were probably Elite and its sequel Frontier. I remember I spent weeks and weeks exploring the space… similarly I explored Aminet years after when building AmiKit.
CritAnime: Talking of AmiKit I would like to congratulate you on the recent release of AmiKit version 1.6.0. Was it a difficult process finding new programs and additions to add to the existing list?
Janzah: Thank you! Actually it wasn’t so difficult as there are not so many new 68k programs as in the past, unfortunately. But there are still many updates to existing programs. Difficult job was to put everything together, fine-tuning, polishing and testing. The good old rule showed to be true again – the last 5% of the work took about 95% of time, you know.
CritAnime: So true in many ways.
CritAnime: With the release of version 1.6.0 you also released a credit card sized flash drive with the AmiKit logo and all the add-ons, videos, docs and of course the Amikit 1.6.0 release for Windows, Mac and Linux. What was your reasoning for releasing this rather nifty little device?
Janzah: As you might remember the previous two major AmiKit version were released on CD. (The first edition was introduced during Pianeta Amiga 2006 in Italy. And releasing another CD would be boring. So I wanted to come up with something different, something even more stylish and with more capacity, of course. And while DVD is visually still the same, USB was my choice. I searched for different designs and as soon as I saw this credit card designed USB I knew it’s the one I wanted. Is there any other Amiga you could take with you everywhere in your wallet?
CritAnime: It is a really nice device. I have mine stashed away in my laptop bag for when I need it and also to convert my friends computers to Amiga’s.
Janzah: I am glad you like it.
CritAnime: But lets go back now to the origins of AmiKit. What was the original drive to create AmiKit? Was it personal need, a need to push the limits of the Amiga OS or did you always intend to make it for the needs of other Amiga users?
Janzah: Not at all. At the very beginning it was my personal system growing slowly. I loved to fine-tune everything, play with programs’ configurations, etc. Then, when I realized I invested so much energy into it, I started to back up everything. When I switched to emulated Amiga (WinUAE) this was extremely easy as it was enough to backup one file (a hardfile) that contained all the Amiga files inside. And I kept adding programs into it. And if anything went wrong I could always go back to previous hardfile. This is how AmiKit was born.
CritAnime: Was it primarily a solo project or has there been a lot of input from others in the Amiga communities?
Janzah: A pure solo project at the start. But when I decided to release it for the community things had changed and accelerated. I started to ask programmers for their permissions to include their programs into this project and started to cooperate with them. I must say that not a single programmer rejected! In many cases the not intended (don’t know the right phrase) fruit of this cooperation was new versions of their programs, with new features and bugfixes based on my requests and reports. And new friendships were born too. I’d like to especially thank to Ken Lester who painted TONS of graphics for AmiKit. Especially his patience is heroic because he survived all my picky requests. The same for Rex Schilasky, the programmer of AmiKit Windows launcher and installer. Without these and other guys the AmiKit would never be what is it now. I am grateful I know them and I can call them friends.
CritAnime: It’s documented that AmiKit will work on a real Amiga, given the right hardware set-up. Was this the original goal for AmiKit or has it been a nice side-effect?
Janzah: AmiKit for real Amiga was a only a side-effect. When I switched from underpowered A1200 with no GFX card to WinUAE with all those nice 32bit colours and speed I knew I will never switch back (maybe if I had A4000 that would different, you know).
CritAnime: If I had the chance to own a 4000 I don’t think I would ever be able to drag myself off it.
CritAnime: What future developments do you have planned. Or are they top-secret?
Janzah: AmiKit is now pretty feature rich. It contains full version of Magellan II, the best program ever created on Earth, IMHO. You can change the AmiKit skin easily with MorpheuZ or various add-ons, the whole system updates itself via internet, etc. But there’s one more thing to do. Imagine the USB credit card that boots your computer into AmiKit directly.
CritAnime: That would be excellent. I can think of a few good uses for that, such as turning works Dell desktops into high-end Amiga’s.
Janzah: Hehe, yeah!
CritAnime: Just a few quick and fun questions to finish off the interview. Are you ready?
Critanime: Retro or modern gamer?
Critanime: Favourite computer?
Janzah: Now it’s Macbook. I am happy AmiKit is available for Mac users too.
CritAnime: As am I as I have a white 2009 MacBook.
CritAnime: Favourite console?
Janzah: I’ve never had one so I don’t have any favourites
CritAnime: Favourite game or games?
Janzah: Hmm.. except Frontier? Let me think. Heroes III Might and Magic and King’s Bounty. I love the atmosphere of these games.
CritAnime: Favourite movie?
Janzah: I like Tarantino’s movies like Gangsters or Pulp Fiction
CritAnime: Pulp Fiction is a classic.
Janzah: And its Czech dubbing is excellent.
CritAnime: And that is it for this interview. Thank you once again for popping online and having a chat with us at Commodore is awesome.
Janzah: Thank you very much for the interview, James.
CritAnime: it’s been an honour talking to you and I hope that AmiKit stays with us for a long time to come.
Jan is honestly one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of chatting with. He is incredibly warm and open to people and more than willing to share his experiences with the Amiga.
AmiKit version 1.6.0 is available for free download right now on Windows, Linux and Mac OSX. The USB flash card is also available for purchase and Jan is working his hardest to make sure everyone gets theirs as speedily as possible. And he is incredibly happy at the response he has had towards this device.
My thanks once again go out to Jan for giving up some of his time to do this interview. I hope we have more from AmiKit in the future!