Obligement - L'Amiga au maximum

Jeudi 08 décembre 2022 - 13:32  

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Interview with Jérôme Senay
(Interview conducted by David Brunet - September 2022)


Jérôme Senay In summer 2021, Amiga fans were surprised to see BOING appear, a new print magazine in french dedicated to the Amiga and edited by Boing Attitude :). Manager of this company, Jérôme Senay proves once again that he is one of the most motivated people in the Amiga community, and with the position of editor-in-chief of the magazine, he adds a new string to his already busy bow.

- Hello Jérôme. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Hello, I am a freelancer in the IT field. My firm is called "Boing Attitude"... I'm sure your readers will understand the reference :-). My activity is divided into two main parts: provision of services to companies and publishing. I am 48 years old, my favorite color is green and I like to play board games, practice sports (running, cycling...), understand geopolitics and many other things.

I am known in the Amiga community under the nickname "Glames" (from the name of the hero of the game "Operation Stealth", the first video game I managed to finish) or sometimes "Acid Jack" (from the name of one of the characters in my games). Some may know me for the "Restore French" operation which consisted of translating the AmigaOS 3.9 books into French, others for my "MeUp" software/games intended for the new generation Amiga (AmigaOS 4, MorphOS) and Windows like AskMeUp XXL (multiplayer quiz), DirMeUp (file explorer) or WordMeUp XXL (that combines an arcade game with strategic thinking and memory skills). Still others for my Android games or applications (ScoresMeUp, PixMeUp...). Finally, more recently, I created BOING, a French paper magazine devoted to Amiga, which undoubtedly made me more famous.

Fortunately, most people are unaware of my existence and that suits me very well! ;-)

DirMeUp
DirMeUp

ScoreMeUp
ScoreMeUp

- What computers do you own and what do you do with each one?

At one time, I only had new generation Amiga (PowerPC architecture) but I recently plunged back into the "classic" world thanks to the Apollo Team and its "Vampire" product line.

Today and for more than 10 years now, I own "The Red One", a PowerPC machine running AmigaOS 4. I am very happy with it, especially for its silence, its low power consumption and of course for AmigaOS 4. This is the computer I use the most: to manage my emails, my websites, coding, video games...

On the NG side, I also have an AmigaOne G4 (from Eyetech times) that I employ for tests and backups. I have a Mac Mini G4 running MorphOS that I occasionally take out for my game or application ports. I also use WinUAE, AmiKitXE, FlowerPot and AROS x86 in PC emulation, mainly to test my applications and games in as many environments as possible. Windows is also required to create BOING magazine with Scribus software.

On the "classic" side, I have a Vampire V4+ Standalone that I use quite regularly under AmigaOS 3.2.1 to test the latest games and applications or play great old games (Pang, The Settlers, ATR, Skidmarks... ). I listen to music (via HippoPlayer and AmigaAMP), write a few articles, surf on Aminet, in particular to keep my system up to date. Sometimes I switch to ApolloOS to test new versions of the system. I also have an A500, an A600 and two A1200s which I use on a more occasional basis, mainly for gaming but also for testing some (small) programs of my own design.

- You launched BOING, a new paper magazine. First, what are the reasons for?

The main reason is that I was tired of English articles in Amiga Future magazine! ;-) Even if I like the language of Shakespeare, I still find it more pleasant to read in French. At the beginning of 2021, "Amiga Addict" was released in English and then "Passione Amiga" in Italian. That was the sign: why not a magazine for French speakers? Add to that a lockdown, a purchase of Vampire, the release of AmigaOS 3.2 and I had no more excuses not to embark on such an exciting adventure. As I had already written for websites (like Obligement) or fanzines (Boing Attack, Amigazette, Amiga Impact...), I didn't ponder too much (fortunately) and started writing a voluminous file on Vampire V4+ (11 pages in the end!). One article leading to another, I ended up having enough of them to make a magazine. Anecdotally, very few people were originally informed, not even Mickaël "BatteMan" Pernot who is one of the French celebrities interviewed in the first issue.

BOING BOING
Two first issues of BOING

- Who helps you with writing? And in terms of other tasks in the production of the magazine?

As soon as issue #1 came out, Amiga fans contacted me to contribute to the magazine by writing articles. There is now a team of 3-4 regular writers plus others for more occasional (but equally appreciated) contributions. After having submitted the subject to me beforehand, each author then sends me his article in a simple text file (sometimes in doc format), images and photos for illustration and from time to time associated comments. Arnaud "Aïto" Schwetta, a professional designer known to many Amiga fans, also helps me and I don't hesitate to ask him for advice. He even sometimes draws the cover of the magazine.

BOING BOING
BOING issues 3 and 4

For my part, I write fewer and fewer articles but still about half for the last issue released (#4). Then begins the proofreading of my texts and those of others. I pass them first to the spell checker and I print them to read them again. Then starts the layout, carried out under the open source software, Scribus. Then I re-read all the formatted articles (this time on screen). Finally, I update the Boing Attitude website as well as the links page which are included in the issue to be published. When releasing, I manage invoicing and mailings.

The most time-consuming phase is still writing the articles. This is why I warmly thank all the people who provide me with reviews, interviews, tutorials or files. Managing shipments is also quite time-consuming (but luckily I live 30 seconds from a post office).

- What are the biggest difficulties in making a paper magazine for the Amiga?

Definitely find time to devote to it. The first issue took me the equivalent of two months of work. The last one rather a month. Imagine that you get in touch with your boss to take a sabbatical (therefore unpaid) for a month. That's what I do, even if my self-employed status allows me a little more flexibility and I work a lot in my free time. For example, I did 5-6 weeks over 60h (and even one at 70h) last autumn so that number #3 could be released just before Christmas. Work is health... :-)

Then, the printing itself: you have to manage crop marks, bleeds, color profiles, digital or offset printing and many other notions specific to this job. Initially, I groped a bit, most of these concepts being new to me. Now I have a little better mastery of the DTP software Scribus and it goes faster.

I then had problems with the printer itself to provide the correct file format and some big disappointments with it. For example, for the last issue (#4), I had 40 unsellable copies out of a production of 250, most of them for problems of bad cutting or even reversed pages... So I am currently looking for a new, more reliable service provider (and if possible in the Nantes region) so that I no longer have this kind of problem. Until then, it was digital printing and we will probably move on to offset (the most used printing process for quality documents).

But fortunately, there is a great ease: it's to find topics of articles, so the news is rich! We can't even review all games or applications of the moment as there are so many on the "Classic" Amiga.

- Was the name "BOING" easy to find? What were the other potential names, if any?

It sounded like a no-brainer. My company having the name "Boing Attitude" and my logo being a reworked Boing Ball (Aïto-styled), there was no real choice: from my first sketch, BOING was the name of the mag.

- What is the magazine's editorial line?

Our slogan is "Amiga in all its variants": first a nod to the health situation when the first issue came out, it is also the idea of dealing with all the variations of the Amiga (AmigaOS 3, AmigaOS 4, AROS, MorphOS) even if in fact, after four issues, we mainly talk about the so-called "classic" Amiga (the one with Motorola 68k architecture) and ApolloOS (installed by default on standalone Vampires). However, we publish news specific to AROS, AmigaOS 4, MorphOS and we sometimes even include reviews of games or applications specific to these platforms. But let's face it, the majority of news and users are of course linked to the original Amiga. Maybe some releases like the A1222 will change things a bit for the new generation (PowerPC architecture) but for now... In the end, it's the contributors who choose and I almost only receive articles on the machines of origin, which is in total adequacy with our readership.

The magazine provides a space to video game/application reviews and interviews with celebrities from the Amiga scene (always with the idea of better understanding the inner workings of creation). There are also one or more focus files on specific subjects (such as the video revolution brought by the Amiga in issue #3). There are also "workshops" (tutorials). BOING is not a nostalgic magazine. I ensure that there is always a majority of contemporary articles. There is so much going on right now, we are not going to rehash our (glorious) past over and over again. However, there is always a retro review, it's a kind of tradition that I started from the first issue with "Cruise For A Corpse". I would describe the style adopted as serious with a humorous tendency, which I think corresponds to my personality: you have to be serious... but never take yourself too seriously! :-)

- In BOING, are there unpublished sections that are not in other magazines?

Unpublished, I don't know, but original, for sure. The review includes an "unusual" section where documents or photos relating to the Amiga are published. For example, in the first issue, we find Commodore's answer (with letterhead!) to a request for an internship. In issue 2, we have a mini comic, published with the agreement of Yann Serra (Amiga Dream [A French Amiga magazine from the nineties]).

We also have a "relaxation" section which always has a link with the Amiga: crossword puzzles, coloring drawing... Even a mini book where you're the hero in issue #4!

Finally, we got exclusive interviews, like the one with Romain Canonge, one of the co-founders of "Amiga Dream" magazine or with all the members of the Apollo Team, which still represents 25 people!

The idea is to bring interesting content for our readers, with focus files and useful tutorials. We cannot compete with websites on the volume of information because they are updated daily. But we bring, I think, a quality of content, and also a step back, an expertise, a global view on many subjects and I think that our readers appreciate that.

- Your magazine is in French. Do you have non-French speaking readers? And do you plan, eventually, to publish it in another language, in English for instance?

The vast majority of our readers are indeed French-speaking (including nearly 90% of French people but also Swiss, Belgians or Quebecers) and we have also a few Germans, Italians or Spaniards. Some of the latter are fluent in French but others have just a few notions learned at school. We also have some French-speaking readers expatriated in the United States or Australia, for example, and others from the french overseas departments and territories. In any case, it's very nice to know that BOING shines outside of France.

The idea of producing the magazine in English is appealing and foreign readers promptly asked me for it. But the amount of additional work would be substantial, especially to transcribe the humor :-). However, I haven't completely abandoned this idea, especially since some interviews are initially conducted in English before being translated. For the moment, we publish on our site the interviews carried out in English a few weeks after their publication in French. Fortunately for Anglophiles, there are excellent available magazines like "Amiga Future" and "Amiga Addict".

- The price of the magazine has increased from 5 euros to 6.50 euros. Could you remind us why? Do you fear further increases given the current economic situation?

This is indeed a difficulty that I could have included in one of your previous questions. In these times of inflation, it's hard to keep the magazine price as low as possible. The price of paper pulp has exploded since the beginning of the year: the paper bleaching process uses a lot of natural gas, it seems. Initially at 5 euros including tax, which in retrospect was incredibly cheap for a 52-page glossy magazine, I raised the price of the last issue to 6.50 euros, which corresponds exclusively to the increase in costs print run imposed by the printer. And currently in my search for a new service provider, the quotations that I receive represent a new additional cost of around 2 euros... So unfortunately, it is likely that the magazine will undergo a new increase from the next issue.

- It seems you can only buy BOING individually. Is a subscription to your magazine possible or planned?

This is not exact: you can order several copies of the same issue or several issues at once. There are buttons to do this very easily on our site. There is even one called "totality" which allows you to buy all the issues of BOING published to date at once. Payment is made by credit card or Paypal. Some readers also pay me by bank transfer, check or even cash (for those who live in the Nantes region with personal delivery). People can also contact me to buy a combination that is not available online. For example, I sent 5 copies of issue #1, 2 copies of the first 3 issues... This saves (a little) on shipping costs which are unfortunately prohibitive (but beyond our control).

Of course, this is true only when the issues are not out of stock as they are now. Only issue #3 (which received a new print in July) is still available (about 15 copies available). I encourage anyone interested in the other issues to email us "I want my BOING 1", "2" or "4". If there is enough demand, we will make new prints. There is indeed an economy of scale at work. If, for example, we re-printed a single copy, it would cost close to 50 euros.

I have also been asked for subscriptions but there won't be any: first of all, the magazine is published intermittently and it can last a few weeks or a few months between two issues. There would then be pressure to release issues regularly, which could harm the quality of the magazine. Then, "subscription" often rhymes with "reduction" and the very low margin on each issue does not allow us to make discounts. At the same time, all costs increase as we have seen previously, whether it is printing or postage (not counting indirect costs such as electricity). If I had started a subscription from issue #1, I would currently be losing money on every magazine sale! For information, I invest around 1500 euros in each issue so that it can be published.

- Magazine editors-in-chief will tell you: after the work done for the first issue, you have to redo everything for the next one. In the long run, how do you stay motivated?

It is totally true. This is why the publication of the magazine is intermittent, irregular. From the start, it was clear to me that it was not possible to release a magazine at regular intervals, without "wearing out" the editors. Apart from me who devotes part of my professional activity to the magazine, all the others participate voluntarily (or against a free copy more exactly) on their free time. We cannot impose on people who work for fun a specific performance or schedule. And personally, I have a lot of other things to manage too, so I need to breathe after the publication of each issue.

This is why I never give a deadline for writing an article (with a few rare exceptions such as the Christmas 2021 issue). As I often tell editors, if the article is not ready when it is published, it will be included in the next issue. It allows people to work when they have time, when they feel like it. This allows them to keep this pleasure of writing and allow BOING to maintain its quality.

- Have you received any reactions or encouragement from other Amiga magazine editors, especially from the late Amiga Power, the last French Amiga magazine?

Not particularly. Of course, we received a lot of encouragement and very positive feedbacks to the release of BOING, which is our best fuel to continue. Some people who wrote in "Amiga Power" or others congratulated us but it was more, I would say, in a personal capacity than in the name of a magazine or a fanzine.

There is, however, one major exception: Stéphane Anquetil, a former Amiga Dream freelancer, bought the first issue, encouraged us and it was even thanks to him that we were able to obtain the interview with Romain Cannonge, the one of the magazine's co-founders. Then, Romain congratulated us after the publication of the issue, which is priceless! We have other famous regular readers like Éric Safar and we are very proud of that. And it seems that the magazine "Amiga Addict" slipped a little info about BOING. Thanks to them and congratulations for what they do! Such regularity and frequency with a (partial) return to kiosks is really impressive!

- What are/were your favorite Amiga magazines? And why ? (all eras and languages combined)

My first favorite magazine was "Tilt". At the time, I had an Amstrad CPC 464 (with tapes!) and it was a real pleasure to read each month (I was a subscriber) more than 100 pages devoted to my passion for microcomputing. When the magazine stopped, my subscription was rerouted to "Joystick" magazine, a publication of sometimes 200 pages whose mixture of seriousness and humor I really liked. I even remember crying with laughter while reading some articles. As you will have noticed, these two magazines were not devoted only to the Amiga. If I had to choose a magazine dedicated to the Commodore machine, I think it would be "Amiga Dream" for its serious and mainstream side.

More recently, I really enjoyed "TOTAL Amiga" which ceased publication in 2007. Since then, I have subscribed to "Amiga Future" and bought a few copies of "Amiga Addict".

- Besides BOING, other paper magazines have been launched recently (Amiga Addict, Passione Amiga...). In your opinion, is this just a temporary phenomenon or is there really a lot to say about the Amiga from now on?

I hope this won't be temporary but it will probably be linked to current events in the Amiga scene. The pandemic has allowed a lot of people to take out their Amiga and rediscover this magnificent machine. THEA500 Mini, a very mainstream product, can also further expand the number of Amiga fans. Can this interest diminish over time? No doubt... It is up to us, the actors of the Amiga scene (programmers, designers, musicians, publishers, manufacturers, media...) to retain them by looking to the future and not always to the past. In any case, for the moment, I am not worried. The game, software and hardware news is really very rich!

- Amiga fans already knew your software publishing activity (AskMeUp, WordMeUp XXL, DirMeUp...). Will you continue their development? For example, what new functions do you envision for DirMeUp?

Yes, I go on. The development of my applications and games has never stopped, even if it is true that the magazine has taken an important place in my schedule: I sometimes have to make tough choices, which is never easy. But I don't want to stop my productions, that's quite clear in my mind. DirMeUp will continue to evolve, in particular by adding more and more instant visualizations, such as MP3s or videos. But all this is dependent on my free time, so you'll have to be patient...

- Your software are available for AmigaOS 4, MorphOS and AROS. Are you tempted to port them to ApolloOS/Vampire, or even to develop new programs for this platform?

Yes, I would like to port these programs to Amiga RTG, so not only to Vampires but also to any Amiga equipped with a graphics card. The ultimate fantasy is of course to release a game on floppy disks for a basic A500, but this requires a lot of work: less available memory, less colors, less data access speed... Many challenges are therefore to raise! New creations, I have quite a few waiting, but unfortunately for years, for lack of time to devote to them. Give me 1 million euros and it will help! ;-)

- Do you have other Amiga projects?

Yes, as I said just now. But they are not advanced enough to talk about it now. Some already have real specifications, others are just one or two sentences laid down on a piece of paper. I think there are some good concepts, others probably need throwing out. We'll see... But I hope to release new products. One of the problems is that I'm a perfectionist: I therefore tend to always want to improve the existing one, which is good for users/players because they often benefit from many updates, most often free.

- You were one of the first to support and develop for Amiga Inc.'s Amiga Digital Environment (AmigaDE/AmigaAnywhere) in the early 2000s. Looking back, what do you think of AmigaDE? And the strategy of Amiga Inc. during these years?

This is a good question that is not easy to answer. At the concept level, it was really interesting and I think (a little) ahead of its time: develop once and distribute without any modification on several platforms, while having applications optimized for each type of hardware (to the reverse of Java at the time). We were in the early 2000s. I was able to release my first professional game, "WordMeUp", on Pocket PC and Windows Phone, so of course I have special memories of it.

At the programming and technical level, the VP (Virtual Processor) was a language mixing C and assembly. It's always super exciting to be able to create something in a new language. In addition, it was necessary to dynamically layout the elements on the screen, given the different resolutions and mobile devices available on the market at the time. This is something that served me a lot later in my work, including in my productions for Amiga. I also got to know nice and talented people such as Matthew Kille (Zeoneo).

For the rest, the project was not sufficiently related to Commodore machines to be supported by the community because let's be clear, it was not Amiga. So Amiga Inc. tried to keep a link via AmigaOS 4 but AmigaDE was really something else. Although Fleecy Moss and Bill Mc Ewen were full of good will, I think there was a bit of amateurism. The product struggled to be clearly identified with the general public. It also probably missed big video game franchises, presumably for lack of finances. Was the mobile market mature? Were people willing to pay for apps or games? Frankly, I don't know. Still, I was never paid for the sales I made. This is why I now self-publish and work with resellers (Alinea Computer, Amedia-Computer and Relec) who pay the licenses in advance.

WordMeUp
WordMeUp on AmigaDE/PocketPC

- Do you still have contact with the people who gravitated around AmigaDE/AmigaAnywhere at the time?

No None. The fact that I never got paid probably didn't help. ;-)

- What is your opinion on the current state of AmigaOS 4? What do you think are its biggest shortcomings?

AmigaOS 4 seems to be paused for 2-3 years, although there are a few developers scrambling to release some software or game ports. The A1222 could revive a certain dynamic but as its release is regularly postponed... The objective was to switch as many "classic" Amiga users as possible to the new generation but I think we can now say that this did not work. On the contrary, the reverse has happened: people are going back to 68000-based machines.

The biggest flaw of AmigaOS 4 is first of all a lack of cheap machines and therefore of users. At the software level, it lacks a recent native browser allowing you to connect to all sites, social networks... We also expect a native and optimized office suite. On the development side, a recent version of the GCC compiler is becoming urgent.

- What do you think of Enhancer Software and the future System V54 from A-EON Technology? Will it split AmigaOS 4 into two communities?

Not good because I think it further divides a community that is already very small. For me, I now have to test my applications and games in both environments because they are not identical, which wastes my time (which is so precious). Moreover, rewriting an entire system is a time-consuming and energy-consuming effort. What a pity that all the actors do not sit around a table to pool forces! Also, rewritten components are sometimes no longer compatible with AmigaOS 4. A few years ago, my video games that had been running fine on AmigaOS 4 for years had no sound or music anymore, all because one of the reimplemented sound datatypes did not work exactly the same as the original one. Some components are even bought by A-EON Technology and no longer work correctly under the official AmigaOS 4 (like the Ringhio notification manager for example) because the team no longer has access to the sources.

- If you were the head of Amiga Inc., what would your main decisions be?

That would be quite a responsibility! Well, let's dream! :-) I would already need a lot of money to buy back all the rights concerning AmigaOS 3.2, its sources and the Amiga brand. I don't think open source is the solution here and I would like to keep control of all aspects. I would hire a development team (which I would therefore pay) to continue to evolve the system and its modernization. I would also quickly contact the Apollo Team to obtain a license for the Vampire S4+ (based on FPGA and compatible with the AmigaOS). I would call on a designer to find a box that would be out of the ordinary and immediately make you think of an Amiga, like a kind of A500 Maxi but in real size with a real built-in keyboard. I would therefore sell a single product, named "Amiga 1st" (since I would have the rights to the brand) based on 68k FPGAs with all the modern connectors and AmigaOS 3.2.1 preinstalled. I would (of course ;-)) have a substantial marketing budget to sell via mass distribution as RetroGames did with THEA500 Mini to reach the general public. We could quickly, I think, gain tens of thousands of users, which would already be great! Then, it would be necessary to contact some big names of the game on Amiga to make SAGA versions (therefore in million of colors) of their most famous games, to help in the development of IBrowse... When you think about it, it is "just" that the main actors talk to each other and agree (and find money). As you will have understood, I skip the entire PowerPC generation in favor of the 68k FPGA. Well, it seems simple, like that! :-)

- Boing Attitude's activity also includes the provision of services, in addition to software publishing. Can you reveal some of the services you have provided?

Yes, it is indeed the provision of services that allows me to live on a daily basis. Depending on the contracts, I work as project manager, analyst or analyst-programmer. I work for large retail or temporary work groups, but also for very small clients for whom, in general, I create software from scratch. I have thus happened to create ticketing, fishery, horse breeding software... In short, administrative data processing in its purest style.

- Is there a question that I haven't asked you that you would like to answer?

I don't think so because there were a lot of questions! :-) I can just add an anecdote regarding the design of BOING. I originally wanted to buy PageStream to make the magazine from an Amiga, like "Amiga Power" fanzine I believe. So I browsed to the official website to place an order but couldn't pay, even after several attempts. So that's why I "fallen back" on Scribus... But looking back, I think it was better like this.

- Any last message for the Amiga community?

Thank you to everyone who bought BOING and our other products: it's the best way to support us! Notes of thank are also a good source of motivation for us so THANK YOU! Keep using your Amiga. This is the way. :-)

References


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