Demoscene: Interview with Romeo Knight!

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It was difficult to know how to introduce this particular Q&A so I hope you will stay with me as I cast my mind back to 1989/1990ish…

Picture the scene – I was a proud owner of a Spectrum 48k which was beginning to show its age and the home computing market was accelerating at an incredible pace.  It was the dawn of the 16bit computer,  a brave new world where the disk drive replaced the tape deck, loading times were measured in seconds instead of minutes and the arcade conversation did represent a reasonable effort.  It was at this point I found myself at a crossroads, the choice I would make would dictate my computing path forever.

At the time in the UK the two 16bit choices were the Atari 520ST and Amiga 500.

But what to choose? compared to the Spectrum, both looked like Skynet or Hal and whilst the Amiga was superior in specs, the Atari ST was the more popular of the two at the time.  There was no internet (as we know it today), computer magazines sided with the system they wrote about and shop advice differed greatly depending on what the store manager wanted sold.

In these days though, the independent computer retailer on the high street was not as rare a thing as it is today, stores were pretty creative in displaying their wares.  It was in one of those independent shops that I made my mind up.  Which machine? the Amiga of course.

Why Amiga?

So what convinced me to choose Commodore’s product over Atari?  Was it the sales pitch?  No. Was it the PR sheets from the respective companies? No. –  I was sold on the basis of one display Amiga running a demo called the RSI Megademo, a 2 disk visual and audio feast that was not only a testament to the power of the Amiga, but the talent of a Demoscene group that would go on to be one of the biggest names on the platform.  The group?  Red Sector Incorporated.  I was not alone, certainly around Hertfordshire and Bedforshire people raved about the demo and I remember most of my classmates at the time making exactly the same purchasing choices on the basis of Red Sector’s work.

The Q&A

For many people, Romeo Knight was the defacto musician on the scene.  Now, approximately 20 years after I was introduced to the Amiga computer and subsequently Linux, I find myself conducting a Q&A with a person who influenced my computing decisions so many years ago.

So could you give an introduction about yourself?

My name is Eike aka Romeo Knight, born 1971, living in Germany. I’m known as a demoscene composer basically since the late 80’s, I produced music for some early well-known Amiga demos, a few games and after a long break I started doing this on PC again just a few years ago.

What are you currently working on or for?

Apart from my daytime job (which is producing audio for commercials predominantly), I’m working on music for some iPhone games that should be released in the next months (, I’m part of an ambitious independent game project as a composer (, now and then I do a C64 music remix if I got the time ( or a demoscene track for my group Brainstorm ( Right now I finished some guitar tracks fora collaboration track for a demo that will have been released at the recent Assembly 2010 demo party by the time you read this. On top of that I just had a live performance with the C64cover band “6581” for the “X” in October ( which needed preparation for several weeks.

Here in the UK the RSI Megademo (and in particular your “Rise up” Track)was used to sell many Amiga’s in local stores and acted as a showcase of what the Amiga was capable of, how does it make you feel to think that a generation of computer users were influenced by your music?

Weird. In fact, I was never really conscious about my music having so much impact on other users, maybe because I had my own heroes in that time and was just aiming to do the best music I could. Back in the days without internet I hardly got any direct feedback on my music, I was satisfied enough with having it placed in actual demo releases. Though, when we won the official World of CommodoreDemo Competition with the “Wicked Sensation” demo of TRSi in 1992, I was kinda proud as far as I remember (I mean – a bunch of Amiga developers themselves commented publicly on how much they liked the music, and afterall we won a brown Seat Ibiza :-)) The price giving was even shown on German national TV! Oh yes – those were the days….sigh…:-)

What is your favorite track out of all your work?

Hard to say. Lots of those old school tunes appear quite awkward to me nowadays, with few exceptions like “Cream of the Earth” and the Boesend or ferpiano track, however these are the most popular ones until today, too.But this is history, generally I like my recent works better, they’re more sophisticated from a musical point of view. Most of the old-school stuff only works in this certain demoscenish context whereas the music I did the last few years disconnects from that technical “how it’s done” issue and works on its ownmerits.In terms of supporting the visuals of a demo ‘Fairytale’ (the track itself was named ’Turtle’) does a quite good job in my opinion, but of course that is also due to Preacher, who programmed that demo. (

Who would you cite as your influences?

There have been a lot of different influences over the years. In the early days the biggest influences were the computer music heroes of C64 and Amiga like Rob Hubbard, Martin Galway, Tim Follin, Chris Huelsbeck or other scene composers like 4-Mat, Bit Arts, Walkman, Jesper Kyd, as well as other popular electronic music artists like Depeche Mode in first place, Erasure, Jean-Michel Jarre and such. Later on, when I turned from computer to guitar music heavy bands like Pantera,Suicidal Tendencies, Megadeth and alike have been a big influence to my own playing style (and are til date).Today, my musical influences are much more multifaceted. Since I compose music for ads and videos games again, I need to be able to relate to almost any given style and genre and so diverse is the music I’m listening to, including film scores and orchestral stuff (I’m a cineast, I love good film soundtracks) as well aspop, jazz or music with ethnic elements.

Being involved with Red Sector Inc must have been very rewarding since they were regarded as one of the best Demoscene groups on the Amiga, have you any funny stories to tell from your time with them?

I was never much involved in demoscene activities, parties and alike back in the days, socializing with scene people was not a big issue for me back then,very much unlike today. But I’ve been to one of the early legendary Radwarparties at least, the ones Mr. Gravenreuth used to attend. Lots of alcohol was involved, at least _that_ didn’t change. :-) But most of the stuff has been more than 20 years ago, memories are fading away, I feel like an old man right now. :-) Well then, let me think about it…there’s of course the story of Irata, who once massively crashed his chair in front of me when I played new modules to him at his place. (Dirk, if you’re reading this, please don’t mind :-))

During the days of the Amiga Demoscene, was there friendly rivalry between groups? or was it more competitive/hostile?

As far as I remember it, the latter. I mean, most active guys in the demoscene were aged under 20 back then, we were young, it was all about competition,about being cool (as far as this is possible for geeks at all), being better than the other groups.Today’s spirit is much friendlier, people exchange knowledge and a lot of co-op productions and demos come to life because people simply like to work with each other and appreciate their skills one another. Being part of a specific group is fun but it’s not that important anymore because there’s no actual need to separate from others anymore. It’s more like that in the meantime the scene found out that they’re a quite small elitist (regarding computer use at least) community and they got to stick together somehow to prevent the scene vanishing from this planet in the nearer future.

Out of the musicians today (on the Demoscene) who stands out the most to you?

I have a very selective view on demoscene music because I do not tend to listen to a lot of demoscene music in my free time. I usually only get to know the soundtracks of the top demos I take the time for watching at home, or the tracks that my fellow Brainstorm musicians post to our mailing list regularly.There is a lot of great music and I’m constantly impressed by how much talent is involved in the scene, a lot of stuff produced on a very professional technical level, too, but still I have to admit that there are very little moments that give me that astonishing “Hell Yeah” feeling I once had when listening to my heroes and favorites back in the oldschool days of the ‘80s and ‘90s. There are names though I’d like to mention: Xerxes (Klaus Lunde) of Brainstorm for example, who played a major role in bringing me back into the demoscene by letting me play live to his smooth chillout electronica tracks. :-) I adore Virt (Jake Kaufman),he’s a very gifted musician, listening to his “Lorem Ipsum” track every once in a while puts a big smile on my face everytime. Reyn Ouwehand is fantastic,he’s not a demoscene musician in the narrower sense, but once you saw him live playing his C64 game music covers as a one-man-band, you know what I mean. So please forgive me, I’m pretty sure I missed out basically all relevant demoscene musicians of recent times but I know you’re out there !

Whats your opinions on todays Demoscene and do you think that the limitations of hardware in the past offered the opportunity to impress with complex routines rather than today when advanced GFX are more common?

It’s exactly like you say. The main focus has shifted the last decade.Back in the days the deal was to impress people by breaking the boundaries of your hardware limitations. Nowadays, clever programming is of course still relevant, but everybody knows with that extreme 3D graphics power of modern hardware, every imaginable visual effect can be achieved somehow. So instead you need to impress with design and beauty, with the demo’s atmosphere, the sync of audio and visuals, maybe a story, I don’t know; the whole demo just needs to be coherent in any way to still get people amazed in front of the screen.Personally, I like that demoscene evolution because demos have evolved from pure programming technology demonstrations for geeks to an actual digital art form. And as such, I think, it’s the only way the scene can live on, at least in longer terms. On top of it there are demo categories like 4k, 64k or Wild which still allow to show your programming skills within very limited technical boundaries. So there’s something suited for everyone.

In the past the Demoscene and “warez” were often linked. Do you think the Demoscene is now an entity/medium on its own?

It is, or better, it should be. It’s a certain art form that exists for its own sake, but it’s hardly regarded as that. People create demos simply because they like to. Nevertheless the demoscene is quite unknown to the public – although it offers more audiovisual delight and impact than any other contemporary art form in my opinion. A good demo is simply spectacular to watch, for anyone. Demos are somehow related to video games what should make them easier to consume for younger generations one might think. Still, people who are into the demoscene,actively or passively, are almost always middle-aged, it’s the generation that grew up with their first 8-Bit computers in their bedrooms, the generation that swapped floppy disks with cracked games on the schoolyard. It looks likeyou’d need this kind of background to share the fascination for the artistic and technological effort put into demos and to understand the background (realtime rendering, anyone?) generally.

What do you think (if anything) is lacking from todays Demoscene that prevents it from having the mainstream popularity of the days of the Amiga?

As indicated above, I believe it’s simply a matter of generation, of being raised with old-school computer platforms at home. The average John Doe simply doesn’t care if the computer animation he’s watching is pre-rendered orcalculated in realtime. He might not even understand the difference. He also might not get what enormous amounts of work and intellectual genius went into most of the recent top demo productions. Apart from that I don’t think the demoscene is lacking anything specific except for some serious marketing strategies to make it more popular for the mainstream.On the other hand, who wants that? :-)I’d even say it has more to offer than other regular art forms because it provides a whole developing scene culture instead of only some vague accumulation of artistic devices that define it. Every few weeks there’s at least one well-organized demoscene gathering somewhere in Europe, I don’t think that artists who paint on canvas have something like that. But then, that’s exactly what it separates from being part of the generally accepted art culture. We’re a small but global community and need to maintain our values by ourselves (man, that reads weighty :-))

Whats your platform of choice Windows, Linux, Mac or other and why?

I use Windows, just because for me it’s what I’m used to. When we had Macs at work (like until 2000), it was logical for me to have a Mac at home, too. But nowadays there’s simply no good point anymore to use a Mac for audio production instead of a Windows PC. _If_ you know how to handle it, it’s easier to administrate, to alter hardware and software to your own needs, just to use it the way _you_ like to.  For example I usually build my audio PCs from selected parts by myself. The price tag makes a huge difference, too, if you need like 20 computers for a whole studio facility. Linux is not a choice at all since very little pro audio production software exists for it.

I mention “Rise Up” again because it was one of my personal favorites,how long did it take you to write and where do the samples come from?

First question: I don’t remember, it’s more than 20 years ago!

Second question: Funnily enough that’s easy to answer (although 20 years ago):The main sources where ripped samples from Chris Huelsbeck’s R-Type track,drum and speech samples from several tracks of the album ‘Romeo Knight’ (yes,that’s where my handle originates from!) of the not-so-well-known Hip-Hop band Boogie Boys (except the ‘Red Sector’-sample, that’s my own voice) and I can get even more specific: The “dommm” sample was taken from Art of Noise’s “Closeto the Edge” and the wobbly bass came from Erasure’s “Say What” (on the album “Wonderland” from 1985). Satisfied? :-)

Thanks and goodbye, watch out for future demo and game music releases on

For those interested in the track (which for me) started my love of the Amiga and the demo scene:

If you want a brief introduction to what the Demoscene is, click here.

And one of the best places to view Demoscene creations (both new and old) click here.

Goblin –

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Peppermint Team – Q&A with OpenBytes

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Regular readers here will remember the Peppermint One review I covered recently.  I was very impressed and the project has had me re-evaluating my views (and usage of Cloud based apps)

The feedback I have had from users Ive spoken to around the net is very good and a combination of a lightweight Ubuntu derived distro combined with great integration of a diverse range of applications (both locally installed and cloud) make for a superb system which has enough scope to cover everyone from Netbook user to Power desktop PC.

If you missed that review the first time around, you can read that here.

It was with great pleasure then that I was able to catch up with a couple of members from the Peppermint team and put to them some questions about Peppermint, their views on the future of the cloud and a variety of other subjects.  It was greatly appreciated that both Kendall Weaver and Shane Remington took time out of their day to give their views..Now on with the questions:

Can we have an introduction of yourself and background?

Kendall Weaver:

My name is Kendall Weaver and I’m the lead developer for Peppermint OS.  I also build and maintain the Fluxbox and LXDE editions of Linux Mint, as well as work as a developer for Astral IX Media in Asheville, NC.  I also run a wholesale produce company.  And yes, I drink a lot of coffee.  I currently reside in Hendersonville, NC where I love living and I have to plans to move anytime soon.

I got started coding back in high school writing games for TI-83 calculators.  My crowning achievements in this regard were a fairly rudimentary RPG and a semi-text-based version of TIE Fighter that my statistics class couldn’t get enough of.  I eventually started dabbling into some “real” programming and settled on Python as my language of choice.  At that point I didn’t really do anything constructive with it, I just thought it was cool and I loved the structure of the language.  Eventually I took a “technology hiatus” for a few years (no phone, no computer, no TV, no microwave, etc) while I moved about the country working a variety of jobs ranging from barista to high performance automotive technician.

I first took note of Linux about the time Ubuntu 8.04 came out and my roommate eventually dual booted 8.10 with Windows XP.  During the summer of last year I purchased a laptop loaded with 9.04.  When Linux Mint 8 came out I installed and started brushing up on my coding and experimenting with building Debian packages.  Within a month I was welcomed to the Linux Mint team as the new maintainer for the Fluxbox edition and after another month the Fluxbox RC was released and I started learning to configure LXDE.

Shane Remington:

I have been a web developer for a number of years specializing in design, SEO and marketing. Growing up I was always messing around with computers in one way or another and arcade gaming for pleasure. Eventually, in community college where I was studying radiology and MRI, I was exposed to DOS and fell in love again with the machines. It made me wonder what I was doing in the medical field for certain. During that time period it was still pre-internet/WWW and I met a group of local hacks who were involved in a dial-in BBS called Oblique Strategies or aka ‘The Whale Zoo’. Late nights on the BBS with my Amiga is where I witnessed the emergence of all the technologies that the ‘Net is today and I’ve been hooked ever since. From that point forward I have felt compelled to help others get their information onto the ‘Net as well as creating my own. Once my first daughter was born we moved to Asheville North Carolina. Before the move I sold my computers and took a total technology break to be close to my newborn girl. By the time she was three we had met a couple in town with a son the same age and that’s how I met Michael. He was the one who convinced me that I needed to get another machine, get back to what I enjoyed, and turned me on to Linux.

What is the inspiration behind Peppermint?

Kendall Weaver:

Originally the concept was rather simple, we were going to take Linux Mint and make it “spicier” (hence, the name “Peppermint”) by adding clean social network integration.  I love the look of Sidux so we decided on a color scheme in that general neighborhood.  I guess the single biggest inspiration is the fact that with more applications moving to the cloud, your OS serves less purpose as an OS and more of a portal.  We decided that we wanted to build the best portal.

Shane Remington:

I knew Kendall Weaver from town but never really sat down and spoke with him at great length. That all changed this past winter when he and I sat up late at the local pub over several pints. I was happy just to have met someone who used Linux on a regular basis. But, as conversation went further and more pints kept coming, I realized that we had the beginnings of something really clever on our hands. What we really wanted when we had a final product was that anyone with simple computing skills could use the software right out of the box. So, providing a very familiar workspace for the beginner was at the front of the design and operation. We want very young children to use Linux. We want to show those who are tired of overpriced and unstable operating system software that there is an alternative that works. When people hear the word ‘Linux’ they have a tendency to feel that they would never understand how to operate a Linux based system. We created Peppermint to lay that notion to rest once and for all and pull as many new users into Linux as we can.

Peppermint is a great way to experience cloud computing without having to “throw your eggs in one basket”, what made you decide to go partly for cloud computing instead of a more traditional desktop release?

Kendall Weaver:

We decided on what we’re calling a “Hybrid Desktop” because it gives the user more freedom and more choices while offering a comfortable and familiar computing experience.  It’s possible that everything is eventually going the way of MeeGo or ChromeOS, but what happens in between what we have now and what we’ll eventually end up with?  The transition between, say, Windows XP and ChromeOS is not an easy one for a lot of people, but the transition between Windows or Ubuntu and Peppermint has proven to be rather painless for a lot of people.  By offering cloud applications in the default install (via Prism) we’re exposing a lot of the possibilities of what can be done in the cloud without taking away the ability to easily install local applications to handle all of the same functions.

Shane Remington:

I feel that this one question led us to the tipping point with Peppermint. In the beginning we were out to build a simple desktop and then one night I read a very interesting article on Read Write Web stating that according to research that by 2014 there will be nearing 130 Million enterprise workers that will utilize the Cloud for collaboration tools on a daily basis. I pointed this out to Kendall one night and we started down another path that led us to what is Peppermint today. This is what we started calling a Hybrid Desktop for lack of a better term.

We also realized that mobility and choice promotes freedom and this was critical to us in giving users both environments. Others were trying, and still are, but they are so chunky and slow. When you are working, living and playing at the speed of modern life, being slowed down is not an option. And, we also realized that putting a bunch of graphical [GUI] smoke and mirrors in front of people as a way to imply computational speed and power was absurd. People desperately want simplicity, speed, security and freedom and it should “Just Work”. Now. Not next year and not for $2000.00

Cloud computing has received its far share of criticism in the past, with critics saying that it could lead to your data effectively being held to ransom and/or security concerns regarding remote storage, what are your views and what would you say to people who may have reservations about trusting their data to the cloud?

Kendall Weaver:

I certainly think it’s a valid question and a lot of those concerns should be raised for legitimate reasons.  All I have to say is that using private data for such things is immoral and unethical on the part of whatever companies are and will be doing such things, but we have a choice to opt for something else in the cloud or to opt for local storage.  With Peppermint, we’re not trying to force users into having all of their data in the cloud and controlled by one company.  We’re trying to make people aware that there are options for where they put their data and how they can interact with that, both in the cloud and locally.

Shane Remington:

Are critics those closed minded types told Magellan that if he went to far that he’d sail off of the flat rectangle we all live on? Hmmmmmm….There is always a concern for security no matter what you are doing, especially on the Internet and the new Cloud type structures that are being built. However, what the world needs to know now is that if they expect to entrust their interactions with the Cloud to an operating system that is prone to virus and malware attacks in everything they have ever offered then there is real reason to be frightened. The other major player is too busy with their Closed System and mp3 players to put the job in their hands. Linux servers will deliver the cloud securely to your home and mobile device and Linux operating systems will keep you safe as you interact with them no matter where you are. Peppermint and other distributions like ours will lead the way in educating the world when it comes to your data storage on the Cloud and its security. Most of the personal data and identity theft issues we are facing can be corrected with better educating people on how to keep yourself and your data secure. Using operating system software that is Not Secure should be at the top of that list of subjects.

Whilst Firefox is a great choice as the default browser, what was your reasoning behind choosing it over say Chrome or Chromium? Since Peppermint facilitates the excellent Google Apps and with reports claiming faster browsing than Firefox more in line with your speedy distro?

Kendall Weaver:

During testing in the beginning, there were a lot of issues with partially rendered pages and some pages that simply would not render at all.  Speed is not the only main goal here, stability is every bit as important.  With an issue like the default browser, we decided that opting for stability was the wisest course of action.  I do want to make it very clear that the default application selection is just that, a “default application selection”.  We want people to install other browsers, we want people to create Prism launchers to other web applications, we want people to screw with it and play with it and make it their own in every way.

I’ve long been a fan of not judging a system by what they include by default unless they don’t give give the option to easily switch.  Sometimes the defaults simply represent a preference of one of the developers which is great so long as other options are available.  Sometimes the defaults represent an attempt at forced adoption by large corporations with few or obscure alternatives which I think is still the predominant mentality that most people use when approaching situations like this.

For those who like Chromium more than Firefox, it’s an extremely painless procedure to install it.  The same can be said for other browsers.  Personally Midori is my browser of choice and has been for quite a while, so one of the first things I do on any clean install (regardless of distribution) is to install it.

However, In the near future we’ll be releasing Peppermint Ice.  It will feature Chromium as the default browser and will likely be even more cloud focused as we’ll likely drop printer and scanner support for it and replace more of the default applications with either smaller ones or cloud based alternatives. Once we launch Peppermint Ice we will be working towards bringing integration with Google Cloud Print as the next logical step in development for Ice and all other Peppermint versions

Shane Remington:

Very funny that you asked that question. We made a decision last week to pull our minds together and create Peppermint Ice, which would feature Chromium as the default browser. Prism will still be there for those web/cloud applications that simply perform best in its delivery. Again, Peppermint is based upon freedom, the freedom to take it and make it into your own hot-rod. We are also a forward thinking company that listens and delivers, next week, not next year for more money. We were finding a large group of people who love Peppermint and Chrome and this is our gift to them, we are excited to see where we can take this one as well….

What features can we look forward to in the future with Peppermint?

Shane Remington:

Peppermint Ice and a 64 Bit version will be in  the immediate future. Kendall and I have a lot more planned for Peppermint for the long term and this is what we are working on now. More news on that later.

Prediction time now, how far do you think we are away from a complete desktop cloud operating system in the home?  or do you think that the future will be more reliance but not total dependency on, the cloud?

Kendall Weaver:

I think “more reliance but not total dependency on” is going to be the direction things go in the future.  Regardless of the advancements in cloud computing there is still going to be a market and a need for locally stored files and locally installed applications.  Downtime and immediacy of access are things to consider here.  I’m all in favor of moving things to the cloud, but I still want a functioning system if I’m offline and I don’t believe I’m the only one with that sentiment

Shane Remington:

I can’t ever see a complete and total “Give up” of all data to the Cloud. Its this “all-or-nothing” and “the-sky-is-falling” yammer that makes me concerned the most. There will always be a need for locally stored data. Its not going away. So, why create a total Cloud OS that leaves a single point of failure which is the connection itself? When your Cloud OS loses connection, Peppermint can keep on trucking until the connection comes back. To be honest, I think the most amazing things that Linux and the Cloud have to offer will be seen in home appliances and the management of energy consumption from remote locations. Its not all about your personal files and Mp3’s, you know?

Are we going to see Peppermint on Twitter soon?

Kendall Weaver:

We’re already on top of that.  The official Peppermint accounts are @PeppermintOS for the main account and @AskPeppermint for support questions.  My personal Twitter account is @Kendall_Tristan, Shane is the notorious @roadhacker, and Nick (our support guy) is @Asheguy.

Shane Remington:

You can also find us on Facebook

If you had to name one FOSS application that for you represents the value of FOSS, what would it be?

Kendall Weaver:

For me it would be the GIMP.  What was originally “just a program” has been used, developed and modified to where now it’s so much more.  Think about GTK, the framework for what the majority of desktop Linux is built upon.  Think about the improvements in what can be done with image manipulation.  Think about the fact that it’s a free application that easily holds it’s own against the $700 industry standard.  Sure the learning curve is different, but I fail to see the downside of learning something useful.

Shane Remington:

I’m with Kendall on this one: The GIMP. Its the first FOSS application I show to a new Linux user and  Its the first one I showed to my own two daughters. Learn the GIMP and the LAMP stack and the Web is yours….

And that concluded the Q&A with the Peppermint.  I hope you’ve had a chance to download the ISO and take a look yourselves.

Peppermint, like many distro’s do need your help and support, whether its reporting bugs, telling people about your good experiences with the distro, making a donation or visiting the Peppermint store….it all helps to support and enables the development of excellent projects like this.

The Peppermint site can be found here:

Goblin –

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the Openbytes statement, here.