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== Interview: Urban Mueller By: Jason Compton ==
[Urban Mueller, one of the minds behind the XPK compression standard and
chief administrator of Aminet, submitted to an interview with me recently
on IRC. -Jason]
Jason: Many people know what Aminet IS, and see what it DOES, but have no
idea HOW it all works in what seems to be such a convenient and
efficient manner. What, as chief administrator, do you actually do?
Urban: My work consits of 3 main jobs:
1. Check all the uploads. This means ensure the readmes are
correct, and contact the authors if they aren't. Check archives for
integrity and for viruses. Pretty boring generally.
2. Write and maintain the various software that works invisibly
behind Aminet, like index generation software and mirror scripts.
Here I get a chance to create some innovation from time to time, I
like that part.
3. Do the CD-ROMs of Aminet. Since I don't just dump a copy of
Aminet on to CD but try to create a nice presentation, this is a
full time job for me right now. (But I'm gonna graduate in a
Jason: How has Aminet grown to be as large as it is? Do sysadmins beat
down your door saying "Please, Mr. Mueller, take up over a gig of
our drives!"? For instance, I've once read that you've never been
closer than 1,000 miles to wustl...
Urban: There was a lot of luck involved. We started on a 50 Meg drive,
but kept having to delete older stuff. Friends on IRC offered to
mirror us, they could keep more. Wuarchive was one of the sites
mirroring us, and when our site in Switzerland shut down, they
offered to become the main site. This works amazingly well, I'm
answering these questions from my St.Louis account, but I am at
home in Switzerland. Why we got mirrored? Because this saves a lot
of (expensive) internet traffic. Thats how it became possible that
Aminet has some 30G of disk space around the world.
Jason: How much work do you think you put in on Aminet, say, weekly?
Urban: Right now, full time because of the 4 CD set I was making. Normal
mode of operation always was around 10 hours/week, except when I
was writing new software.
Jason: Ever get tired of working on it? Even when bothersome magazine
editors complain because the charts didn't get done or things like
Urban: Sounds familiar to me :) Nope, that's perfectly fine, for one
single reason: I know that every second I invest in Aminet helps
tens of thousands of Aminet users. Right now, we have 10000 users
a day on Internet alone, not to mention BBSes and CD-ROMs. I
think anyone would keep going if he knew that he can help that many
people. Incidentally: YES, I WILL keep going.
Jason: That answered the next question. :) You mentioned that you would
be graduating soon. How does one parlay extensive experience in
worldwide FTP administration, and a side job establishing a
compression system standard, into a job?
Urban: Sort of a difficult combination :) Well, I'm a plain Computer
Science student, all of those find jobs around here. However I
would much prefer to find anything internet related, as many of my
friends have. But that's my problem, not yours, I'll keep
supporting Aminet in any case, and my Internet access is secure.
If/while the CD-ROM income justifies it, I hope to be able to
concentrate completely on Aminet. The list of my ideas for
improvements keeps growing, but I just don't get around...
Jason: I know, from experience, how difficult it is to put a monetary
value on something you enjoyably do for free anyway. Have the
CD-ROM sales helped any? Particularly, has the Gold vs. Share
concept worked out?
Urban: Sorry to say, but no, it hasn't. The vast majority bought the
Aminet Share (which means no donation for me), and 99% of those
people have not paid a shareware fee to us. No one is good at
paying shareware fees, not even I. I account that to human
laziness mainly, not to the unwillingness to pay. Even in the case
of the (very well made) FreshFonts CD, which was given to users
*free* at several occasions, almost nobody paid. Oh well, there
goes an interesting concept.
Jason: So, that means that all future Aminet CDs will carry a profit
Urban: Yes. But - this you've got exclusive - we'll reintrodce the
policy of giving free CDs to authors of uploaded software
...if there's anyone who deserves to benefit from the CD proceeds,
then it's the people who created all that wonderful software.
Jason: (I thought US$12 was ridiculously low anyway.) You mentioned a 4-CD
set. Care to elaborate?
Urban: I kept being asked about a *complete* release of Aminet on CD.
Well, here you got it, with some improvements in the access
software. Now what can I say without drifting into
Jason: Watch for a review in an upcoming Amiga Report? :)
Urban: Let's try technical specs. 12500 files. 4 Gigs uncompressed,
2.3G compressed. Games and demos startable by mouse click in the
Aminet index. Mods in style sorted index. Thumbnail picture
database. Fish disk index, so you find files by Fish disk number.
German descriptions for newer files. Price: Under $40.
Jason: What do you have planned for Aminet? Preferably in order of
likelihood to actually appear. :)
Urban: My current TODO list has 100 items... some of those boring stuff
like 'get more WWW servers up' and so on. But one really
interesting concept is coming up: User feedback for Aminet files.
This means that anyone can append notes to somebody else's .readme
files . Those could be compatibility notes, recommendations or
ratings. I plan to collect those ratings and create charts of the
highest rated programs. This becomes necessary because it's really
hard to keep up with everything that apears on Aminet. While I'm
talking... we haven't noticed the *slightest* decrease in the
number of uploads since Commodore went under. The opposite is true,
it looks more like an up tendency. Another indicator is that the
number of people subscribed to our 'new uploads' mailing lists
keeps growing. Currently there are 2200 subscribers. [mail HELP to
firstname.lastname@example.org for subscription info]
So, even if the commercial developers abandon ship, we don't have to
be afraid of sitting around without new software.
Jason: Do you have any words of wisdom for Amiga users-and any words of
advice for the future New Amiga Company?
Urban: You imply I'm wise... fundamental error. But let's try: To the
users, all I can say is keep going. The Amiga community is special,
let's try to keep it that way for as long as possible. To any
future Amiga Inc. (hear me, guys?) I'd like to say: The Amiga pool
of FD software is absolutely unique, its size is almost on par with
those of much, much more popular systems like IBM and Mac. Seize
that chance! We need to bring that power to the people, to
everyone, including Joe A. User who has never heard of FTP.
Jason: By selling them Aminet CDs. :)
Urban: Hehe. Not necessarily, but I wouldn't object :)
Jason: Well, I thank you for your time, Urban. All I can say is keep up
the good work, and good luck with the ventures that lie ahead.
We'll keep up our end of the bargain and keep filling the docs/mags
Urban: Of course I'd like to thank all the people who helped make Aminet
what it is now; too many to mention. Special Thanks to Matthias
Scheler who helps with moderating files.