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David Brunet



Interview with Christoph Gutjahr
(Interview conducted by David Brunet - February 2016)

Christoph Gutjahr is an active man in two of the main websites of the Amiga scene: amiga-news.de and Aminet. I contacted him to know a bit more about him, this two websites and his vision of the Amiga.

- Hello Christoph. Can you introduce yourself?

I'm 42 years old. Apart from living in Berlin for five years while visiting university, I spent my entire life in or around Konstanz, the biggest city at the beautiful Lake of Konstanz. I'm working for a local publisher and newspaper, plus I'm creating translations, websites or other documents for small local businesses.

Most of my spare time is eaten up by computers and my sports club (coaching the kids, plus I'm still competing myself), I'm also a Science Fiction nerd, and I like reading the occasional book.

- When and how did you discover the Amiga?

Quite late, actually. When Escom went down, their local shop got sold to a competitor who was redecorating the location. They had a big skip outside with all the old furniture and some old electronics inside, and somebody had apparently thrown his old Amiga collection in there. Me and a friend of mine saw that and took some of it home. That's how I got my first Amiga, an A2000.

Until then, I had only been using a heavily expanded C64 - before Windows 95, the Internet and "Multimedia" that wasn't as big a deal as it sounds now - but booting up the A2000 got me hooked quite instantly. Even before I put the Wings disk my friend had borrowed me into the drive I knew I'd be using that machine a lot.

- Which computers / operating systems / consoles do you own and use?

The switch to a flat panel TV more or less killed my retro collection - old monitors are one of the main reasons to use real hardware, IMHO. At one point I realised I hadn't turned any of my old machines on for quite a while, so I started to sell them off one by one. I just kept my very first C64.

I install Debian Linux on every computer I own - that runs on pretty much everything, so I stopped caring about hardware a long time ago. I constantly have desktop PCs and laptops coming in and going out, usually second hand and all of them boring grey... things.

I do a lot of retro gaming and retro computing on emulators though, so I have a lot of older operating system lying around. C64, C128, DOS, TOS all got some use this week, plus I checked out Kolibri OS.

- What are your favorite activities on Amiga?

I've been using AmigaOS as my main workhorse until about 2009, so I'm a lot less nostalgic about it than many other people: I've done enough Workbench tuning to last for a lifetime. ;-)

My favourite Amiga pastimes these days are working on Amiga related websites, preserving stuff for posterity and playing old Amiga games. Right now, I'm trying to win the Speedball 2 league once more, but either that game got a lot harder in the last 20 years or my reflexes aren't what they used to be...

- What did you do before working on amiga-news.de?

I did write the occasional magazine article. Other than that, I just tried to help a few application developers with betatesting, writing documentation and things like that.

A friend of mine used to run the local Amiga BBS, so we spent a lot of time organizing BBS meetings and discussing all things Amiga while having a barbecue. The core people met like once a week, those were great times - despite the constant flow of bad news.

- You are part of the amiga-news.de team. Can you remind us the story of this website?

amiga-news.de started out in 1997 as Petra Struck's private Website. In 1998 she started collecting news from all over the net and posting translated versions on her site. She was well connected since she was an active member of a big Amiga club - so there were technicians, other editors and translators involved right from the start.

The site got very popular immediately, because it did cover *everything* Amiga in quite some detail and was updated several times a day. In the late nineties, stumbling across a service like that was quite a shock for most people: after five years of doom and gloom, you were suddenly facing dozens of news items per day, lots of other useful information and a very active community...

The workload got too much for Petra after five years, so she handed over the reigns to a new team.

During the 'platform wars', the site stayed strictly neutral - a rarity amongst Amiga websites of the time - and just kept trying to paint a complete and honest picture of the situation. That was appreciated by the audience, apparently, as amiga-news.de continued to grow constantly - despite the community shrinking every year. I can't tell you where we peaked at, but around 2005/2006, amiga-news.de had nearly 11.000 visitors and 80.000 pageviews per day. A decade ago, those were quite impressive numbers.

But the decline of the Amiga market during the last decade and the resulting lack of new developments obviously hurts a news site a lot. Additionally our typical reader - the "Amiga desktop user" - doesn't really exist anymore, Amiga users these days are mainly retro fans trying to relive the good old days.

Most German users (including a lot of former users) still check in regularly, but no longer once per day, or even several times a day - so the statistics don't look as impressive as they used to.


- Currently, how many people work on amiga-news.de?

Six: Two editors, a translator, two technicians and one IRC admin. Though the IRC admin isn't actually drowning in "work", I guess.

- How much time per day do you work on amiga-news.de?

Hm, hard to say. I do visit all the news sites, forums, etc. once per day. I'd do that anyway, but not as thouroughly and not every day, I guess. I'd say that takes about half an hour - unless something big happened, like somebody going bankrupt or getting sued again.

After that, the news items need to be written. The amount of work really depends on what kind of news you have. Two or three small updates of existing programs don't take more than 10-15 minutes - it's mostly cut'n paste from older news items or the changelog. Translating text, looking up stuff, writing summaries - developers are often very bad at writing documentation or explaining something - takes a lot more time on the other hand, as does taking screenshots.

The really big ones - interviews, reviews, tutorials and the like - easily eat up lots of hours, of course. That's why we don't do them as often as we'd like to...

- What is your method to find new news? Do you make researches yourself or do you have robots that probe Amiga websites?

Our content management system is monitoring a bunch of RSS feeds, but other than that it's done manually. We used to run a web spider ages ago, but these days the amount of false positives that would generate compared to actual newsworthy stuff would actually increase our workload, I guess.

Usually, we just read other people's websites to see what's new. Unless we get tipped off or something smells fishy - that's where actual 'research' comes into play. It usually means digging into public databases, trying to find old quotes in various forums or contacting the people in question to ask for information or statements.

- Do you refuse to publish news occasionally? If yes, what kind of news?

We try to cover everything worth covering. That's why "not worth covering" is usually the reason if something doesn't appear on amiga-news.de: promotional activities ("5% off this month!"), announcements from chronic announcers - stuff like that.

In very rare cases, we refrain from posting a news item due to legal problems: if your release isn't 100% legal, we don't cover it.

- Do you have future projects for the amiga-news.de website? Do you need more contributors? (news posters, translators, proofreaders...)

We could always use help: from people supplying news to PHP coders and web designers. Our sole remaining translator could use a helping hand aswell, so if you're capable of translating German into English - please drop us a line!

A web designer knowing his way around XHTML/CSS would be very handy to have: the next big project is to provide two versions of the site, depending on the type of your browser: the current design would be delivered to Amiga browsers, everybody else would get a similar but more modern, XHTML/CSS based version that offers more features. That requires a lot of groundwork, which we've been working on for quite a while.

After that, I'd like to expand our news database backwards: With about 31.000 news items since autumn 1998 (about 70% also have an English translation), we're as much a documentation project as a news service. Importing news from older sources like newsletters, defunct sites or old press releases would make for an interesting project.

- About Aminet now. Are you sad to see other download websites like AROS-Archives or OS4Depot?

I'd rather have one central archive, yes. I don't see why we need four, it just complicates things for everybody, IMHO. But it's been nearly a decade since the first alternatives got established, so I don't loose much sleep over it these days. What's done is done.


- A web upload function was available on Aminet in 2007/2008. Why was it retired? Do you plan to put it back?

It was retired temporarily due to technical problems, I'd have to look up the actual details. As to why it never came back... We had lots of motivation and ideas initially - but the core people were all very enthusiastic about AmigaOS 4, so the problems behind the scenes and the litigation between the various parties involved hurt us a lot. As did the lack of interest from all 'next generation' camps.

We had lots of ideas, e.g. we were already working on drafts for a cross-platform package management system inspired by Debian - because that would have obviously been the next step of file hosting - but all of that slowly died.

The web upload is not dead yet, its comeback just takes longer than I anticipated. ;-)

- I remember a gallery function was also in progress some years ago. Currently, is someone working on it or it had been abandoned?

It was a temporary solution written in Perl (ugh...) by one of the miror administrators. He took it offline again, I think.

- Do you have other projects for Aminet?

Since there aren't all that many uploads these days, our focus switched to preserving as much of the Amiga history as possible.

That means trying to upload as much old stuff as we can get our hands on. Progress is slower than we'd like, but there's been a steady flow of old programs, sourcecode and magazines being added.

If somebody wants to help with this: Just start uploading! Lots of early freeware games and tools are still missing from Aminet. Other things, like source code or full versions of former Shareware titles require getting in touch with the original developer, that's a time consuming process - any help with that would be appreciated a lot.

Preservation also requires a solution for long term storage that would survive the core people dying of old age or loosing interest. That's why we're currently working on making archive.org a permanent Aminet mirror - these guys are all about long term preservation.

- What do you think about AMIStore?

I don't think an appstore solves any of the (many) problems the Amiga has. Instead it makes the existing ones worse or even creates new issues.

What the Amiga needed (amongst other things) was a package management system that installs software automatically and resolves dependencies - similar to 'Grunch' on MorphOS.

What the Amiga got instead was a way to make it easier for users to pay for... whatever they vendors sell us this week. Good for those people that need updated versions of PPaint or Aladdin 4D, but how many of them are out there?

- How many unique visitors visits Aminet and amiga-news.de?

The Aminet main server handles the web interface and between 15% and 20% of all the downloads - the other downloads are distributed randomly to one of the mirrors. The main server has about eleven hundred unique visits per day.

As for amiga-news.de: thanks to your inquiry, I just noticed we hadn't adopted Apache after installing a proxy a few months - so our logfiles all contain the same IP number :-/ I fixed it now, but it's going to be a few days until I can give you reliable number of unique visitors. amiga-news.de currently gets about 30.000 hits per day.

- Do you have recent news from Petra Struck (former webmistress of amiga-news.de) and Urban Müller (creator of Aminet)?

As far as I can tell, they were both quite burned out at the end of their active Amiga period. They both left the Amiga behind long ago, but remember it fondly whenever I talk to them.

Petra switched from running amiga-news.de to being a moderator in an online community that helps Windows users with virus problems - not sure I'd call that improvement, but she seemed to be happy with her choice.

Urban is working with Linux and BSD: running servers, programming stuff - just like he always did.

- Imagine you were not the webmaster of amiga-news.de and Aminet. Which Amiga website(s) would you like to be the webmaster?

Haha, tough question. There are number of very good sites out there, but I don't think I'd be a good match for any of them. I'm way to grumpy to run one of those community portals, for example.

I really admire the Hall of Light database, and I'd love to continue the "Amiga documents" project one day.

- In a message on AmigaWorld.net early 2015, you mentionned that Thomas Frieden (AmigaOS 4 developer) was working for a Linux company and was no longer involved in the developpement of AmigaOS 4. Can you confirm this and say more about that?

I said "*allegedly* working for a Linux company", it was just a rumour I heard. I actually forgot what company was mentioned - but does that really matter? He's obviously working somewhere else these days, and only hanging around because he's (allegedly ;-) owed lots of money.

- You are the author of a document that reference Amiga games with support 4 joystick adapters. What are your favorites games with 4 joysticks? And your all time favorite Amiga games?

Four player games: Definitely Blitz Bombers, we wasted hundreds of hours playing that. Max Rally and Great Courts 2 also got a lot of use, despite the former having a few minor bugs. And if you don't mind actual, real-world violence, wait until everybody had a few beer and then convince them to have a go at Knockout.


My all time favourite Amiga games would probably be SWOS, Speedball 2, Pirates! and Lemmings. That's a boring list, so let me recommend a bunch of very good freeware releases I'm currently playing: The Game, Dr. Strange and Colonial Conquest.

- What do you think about MorphOS, AROS and AmigaOS 4 projects?

IMHO, they all face the same problem these days: There are no actual users left - which unfortunately makes them kind of pointless to everybody but the handful of developers and hardcore fans involved.

Fifteen years ago, the users were desperately hoping for a more powerful version of the Amiga, because the one they had simply wasn't fast enough for what was considered everyday tasks. But by now, people moved on to other platforms and view the Amiga as some sort of retro toy.

I don't think the projects you mention can turn that around. MorphOS and AROS lack the brand name, so they'll always be even more obscure than "the real thing" no matter what their technical achievements are.

As for AmigaOS 4: I loved it, I was using it was my main system for several years. but it died quite a few years ago. Vendors keep pretending otherwise because it still makes them money, and users keep pretending it didn't die because they don't want to admit defeat. But the smell is getting really bad these days, so I imagine it won't be too long until we can have a public wake and reminisce about the good old days when it looked like our beloved AmigaOS might actually be going somewhere.

- A last message for the Amiga community?


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