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    Spotlight on LDChen

Date: 2004-02-09
Current Project(s): FPSE and various ports
Location: Italy

LDChen, a very talented developer is now in the EmuFanatics Spotlight. The 28 year old from Italy is best known for his work on the Playstation emulator known as FPSE. Usually misunderstood by the majority of the community after some older controversy that since has damaged the reputation of the FPSE name. Never to be one to give up he has always continued to develop his projects and give great support to the FPSE Port Developers. LDChen has always been a great friend to us here at EFx2 and has always been open and honest to us about his progress. We have the upmost respect for him and all that he has developed. I recently was able to get a hold of him to ask him a few questions about his experiences, projects, and what he is currently working on.


Q : When did you get into emulation either as a coder or just a fan?
A : I wasn't a coder but I wasn't a real fan too ... I started using my first emulator at school. It was the 1988 and we were studing the Z80 working system and assembly language. And you can surely imagine that it wasn't really "funny"... Our school didn't have hardware devices for making exercises, so they found this solution. You wrote your assembly language program on your PC and then you tested it with Z80mu, the best (and only...) Z80 emulator available. It's incredible how things have changed today... try to imagine ten guys around a PC based on Intel 8088, 512KByte of RAM, floppy disk drive and MCGA graphics! Now it could even be an emulated system, thanks to present technology. However, the first *true* emulator I launched on my PC was C64S. I remember I read on a magazine (it was "Commodore Computer Club", for interested people) something about a C64 simulator, so I searched for it on some BBS, because Internet didn't exist yet... Ehy, this question is making me too older!

Q : What was your first coding experience for emulation?
A : Immediately after playing with C64S. I started to code a C64 emulator (never finished). I couldn't accept the fact that my 486DX at 33 MHz wasn't able to play CBM games at full speed. My computer was the fastest machine at that time and it was at least 1000 times faster that a Commodore 64. I started it, but I stopped this development for other projects.

Q : What interested you in PSX Emulation?
A : From the time I started playing games on my PC, I got the impression that something was wrong and everything could be better and faster. The VGA card was never used at his full power, the PC speaker played only some beeps instead of digital samples. When I was a demo coder, I remember I got some fights with Commodore Amiga users... they got nice graphics and sounds in their games. And they were right, because they had in their machine a *true* operating system and a fully known hardware. Time has passed, but things didn't change. And when I saw the PSX in action for the first time, I understood that I wanted to see the same things on my PC. Movies! I was watching a game on the PSX with wonderful movies and their quality wasn't comparable to any PC game. What to do? I tried PSEMUPRO, but it didn't support movies very well. And with a Pentium at 133MHz you can't ask miracles. Now I can say that I wanted to join to PSEMUPRO team, but I couldn't (I was a soldier...). When I finished and I came back to home, PSEMUPRO was dead. While I was searching around on the net, I found a page with that: "PSEMU and PSYKE are dead but there is another PSX emulator. It's FPSE. It's in early stage but it's open-source". The words "FPSE" and "open-source" were my words and it was the day when LDChen was born.

Q : What do you think about the current state of the emulation scene?
A : I already wrote something on that in the past. It could be better. I can't understand why my Pentium 200 MHz runs the MAME 0.73 at the same speed of my 486 with MAME 0.28! I know that a lot of people have a very powerful system, but let's think on people like me too! That's why I started another project near FPSE.

Q : Are you currently working on any other projects besides FPSE?
A : As I wrote in a previous question, I'm trying to do something else. First of all, I'm coding on a set of dynamic recompilers. I re-used some old code from my weak CBM emulator and I wrote the first of these engines. It's the first experiment for a new generations of emulators. I also tried to do something for N64 emulation, but I couldn't do something useful. I think I'm too stupid, because I used a lot of time but I didn't got nice results. I must tell to the N64 coders that I'm very sorry for that...

Q : What is the lamest request you have every received?
A : Mmmm... I can't remember... I received so much bad emails... If I could write them on papers & put them into a box, it would be 20 meters high!

Q : What is the nicest complement you have received?
A : If I remember right, it was a "thanks".

Q : Could you give us some information regarding the current state of your projects?
A : FPSE is the project were I spend most (all?) of my energies. Recently I stopped the core development because I helped SchTruck (the porter for the PocketPC version) for making his version. I coded the ARM compiler and I optimized the sources for a better code generation when an ARM device is detected. I must say that things are harder than I could imagine, because the Microsoft compiler for WinCE is *weak*. The GCC defeats the Microsoft this time (yeah!). About version 0.10, the core is advanced, but many things are still missing.

Q : What requirements need to be met in order to release a new windows build of FPSE?
A : The real problem in FPSE for Win32 is the GUI. This will take a lot of time because there are many (many...) things to describe. There isn't a PS1 emulator only but many tools must be available (included a true graphical debugger as I want). If we talk about the system requirements of the user, I think that the words I wrote into the document file of FPSE 0.09 are still real. You can run it on all systems with 386 or higher, 8 MByte of RAM, a CDROM drive, a keyboard and a monitor. If you have something better, you can gain more speed thanks to the new internal codes.

Q : Could you list all the Ports that have come from the FPSE Source?
A : At the moment we have these versions:
FPSE for Win32 http://it.geocities.com/fpseemulator
FPSE for WinCE (ARM) http://fpsearm.psxfanatics.com
FPSE for AmigaOS (PowerPC) http://www.amidog.com/emu
FPSE for Linux (Intel386) http://darktears.psxfanatics.com

The next target I want to reach is a version for Macintosh systems. Thanks to Amidog, we already have a strong dynamic compiler for PowerPC and all sources are already coded for taking his advantages. I hope it will become a reality soon. I would like to code compiler functions for SH too. Hopefully I know these CPUs very well. Maybe one day I will find someone for compiling a version with this target, like Dreamcast.

Q : Is there any other authors currently working on Native FPSE Plugins?
A : The authors for FPSE's plugins are:
SaPu: he coded an excellent CD plugin. We have a much improved version, with all newer features added in FPSE 0.10.
Eternal SPU Plugin 1.40, coded by PSX SPU Plugin Development Project.
BURUTTER plugin, coded by Alex7. You can find more informations on this device at www.burutter.com
JOYDEMO plugin, coded by Darko Matesic.
Harakiri Pad Plugin 1.4, coded by gunshinn.
All other plugins are developed by me.

Q : Do you ever plan on working on another emulation project after FPSE? If so what would interest you and challenge you?
A : Honesty, I don't think I will start a *new* project. The truth is that I'm tired to code alone. I prefer to join to other teams and write some pieces of code. That's why I'm just coding dynarecs...

Q : Are you satisfied with the work you have done up to this point?
A : After all research and coding I did in these years, FPSE is not as fast as I want. When I started I had a target, but I haven't reached it, not yet.

Q : Does the progress of your projects surpass all of your expectations so far? Or do you think you would have been further along in development?
A : Something that surpassed all my expectations is ARM dynarec and his optimized engines. I couldn't ever imagine this result, because it's something really new. Usually if you do something already existing, you think "it's better than other, but I have already seen something similar". This is a completely new object and it's great to my eyes. Now I know that 2 years ago I did the right choice.

Q : Who else do you currently work with on your projects?
A : At the moment the core is developed only by me (and SaPu when I need his help).
Amidog writes the code for the Amiga PPC and all big endian tests.
SchTruck writes the code for the WinCE iPAQ.
Lu_zero and MrFog test my versions.

Q : How much have they influenced you and how much have they improved your work and vice versa?
A : They are very important, not only for this emulation project. From the coding side & development, they helped me with great support (coding, suggestions and testing). But the best thing is that they are great friends. I must really thank them for everything.

Q : After you have moved on from the scene what do you want to be most remembered for?
A : "LDChen" was born with FPSE, so people can only remember this name with my PSX emulator. However, I hope that people will remember me in a different way. I was a coder with some dreams. I don't think I changed my mind in these last years. And this is the only thing I would like to be.

Q : Could you provide us with an teasers of things to come for your projects?
A : First of all, if you read carefully previous replies to questions, you will discover that I changed my PC for doing this development. Well, my 486DX is still near me, but it was *absolutely* hard to continue the development of FPSE on that machine (cause: too big workspace, too many files, etc). So, I switched on my Pentium 200MHz MMX that I usually use for work. The first target is a very good speed. Compiler become a new object called "recoder". Basically, it works like a compiler, but it also tries to understand what the PSX code wants to do. If it get success in this phase, it avoids a lot of code. This is the first thing you can see on the new FPSE (he he...) Then I was finally able to finish the internal optimized cores. FPSE will enable them automatically if the host have MMX, 3DNow! or SSE technology. There is a full HLE emulation of the BIOS. At the moment some filesystem functions are still missing (especially on memory cards), but it's question of time. But the first impact is bad... FPSE still uses the external configurator but I haven't updated it in a long time. Many features are "undocumented" because they are not available on the FPSECFG. We have to change them manually by editing FPSE.INI I would like to add a GUI. Althought I can code everything (almost), I have a big problem with my fantasy when I try to imagine a nice design for the user interface!

Q : One last thing is there anything you would like to say or anybody you would like to thank?
A : In the space of the thanks, There are many, many people to thank. They are even too numerous, I'm sure I will forgot a lot of them. I must thanks BERO, the first coder of FPSE, because he teached me the PSX coding with his emulator. All the friend I met with FPSE development: MrFog, SaPu, lu_zero, Karma, Amidog, SchTruck, and all people that know me and now they are reading these lines.

I know that I will never been alone. Thank you.

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Related Links:
:: FPSE Official Site
:: FPSEce Official Site


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