XeNTaX

From XentaxWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Website: http://www.xentax.com

The Early Years

XeNTaX is a computergroup that was founded in 1989 as a Commodore 64 graphics/demo group by two people: Mr.Mouse and Mr.Ammo (14 and 15 years old at the time respectively).

After messing around for a year, they got active and Mr.Mouse started to compose SID (the C64's on-board soundchip) tunes and code/hack some assembly, and Mr.Ammo improved his graphics skills. Lacking the skills to code an actual music player and editor XeNTaX relied on the use of the editors around.

Music Editors

Mr.Mouse first started to compose in Future Composer
Future Composer
, but created the majority of his tunes in Voicetracker in which he tried to create original sounds as much as possible and making the tunes sound as if they were not done with Voicetracker.
Voicetracker
A lot of tunes in the scene sounded the same when they were done in the same editor, and the Voicetracker standard sound was not the best around. Still, Mr.Mouse got used to working with Voicetracker and forcing the maximum of possible effects out of it. A few times though Mr.Mouse created some tunes in the more popular DMC editor, only to turn back to good old Voicetracker.

In 1991, XeNTaX had completed a music demo called "Toxic Waste" which centered around some of Mr.Mouse's early Voicetracker C64 tunes.

Addybook

Toxic Waste
Addybook

The German C64 diskmagazinegroup "Blaze" got interested and asked the two to join their (editorial) staff as editor/musician (Mr.Mouse) and editor/swapper (Mr.Ammo) for their magazine Addybook (shot). Mr.Mouse reviewed music by c64 composers that sent music to him, and Mr.Ammo talked about the non-c64 music in the outside world.

Here's a list of all 14 composers reviewed by Mr.Mouse in Addybook (1992) for Blaze, the '/' sign means "of" :

  • Addybook 7
    • Active/Proxyon (joined XeNTaX as well)
  • Addybook 8
    • The Gee (groupless at the time, joined Hitmen and XeNTaX)
  • Addybook 9
    • Cyberdyne/Trinomic
    • Young Orgasm/Fluid
    • The Syndrom/The Imperium Arts
    • Ragman/Leech (joined XeNTaX as well)
  • Addybook 10
    • Mateus/Torture of Music/Trash (joined XeNTaX as well)
    • Gaston/The Imperium Arts
    • Top Secret/Torture of Music/Trash
    • Guy Shavitt/Sidchip Scratchers
    • Andre/Antic/Sunrise
  • Addybook 12
    • Gero/Abadion
    • Tragic Error/The Imperium Arts
    • Sascha/Nagie

Communication: disk swapping

Communication in the C64 scene went via diskswapping, with swappers (such as Mr.Ammo) playing the key role in communicative efforts between scene members and groups, copying and sending disks with demos, games, music and notes to eachother all over the world to hundreds of recipients. Imagine the cost of
A note to contacts
sending envelopes with disks each month. Luckily there were ways to "work around the problem of spending money" on sending disks. Also, modem use provided ways of communication between scenemembers, as Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) were run day and night by the groups of the scene.

During this period Mr.Mouse decided it was time to turn XeNTaX into a music group.

XeNTaX Zax: A SID-music group

"XeNTaX Zax" members included :

  • Mr.Mouse/Blaze (leader/musician, Dutch)
  • Gop!/Genius (musician, Australian)
  • Peace/Blaze (musician/coder, German)
  • Mr.Ammo/Blaze (swapper, Dutch)
  • The Gee/Hitmen (musician, Dutch)
  • Mateus/TOM/Trash (musician, Chech)
  • Pina/TOM/Trash (swapper/coder, Chech)
  • Active/Varsity (musician, Dutch)
  • The Stranger/F4CG (musician, German)
  • Ragman/Leech (musician, German)
  • Death/Hitmen (graphician, German)
XeNTaX Music Player
Maestro
After two years of releasing music in single presentation files or collections such as Maestro, producing hundreds of SID tunes, most left the c64 scene, due to busy university years and other activities. The High Voltage SID Collection lists most of the tunes composed. Mr.Mouse (responsible for 71 SID tunes) and The Gee continued to compose music, this time in XM format (Fasttracker by Starbreeze) for the IBM PC (1995-2002).

You can view historical snapshots of the c64 years!

XeNTaX = SadCom Ltd.

Sadcom in huge font

SadCom Ltd. Phase

A new pc demo/coding group was founded in 1996 named "SadCom Ltd." with the following members:

  • Captain Corny (coder in Pascal, Turbo C, Assembly)
  • Rogue (graphics)
  • Mr.Mouse (coder in Pascal, Turbo C, Assembly and musician)
  • The Gee (musician)

This cooperation started when Captain Corny, Mr.Mouse and Rogue had to work on a programming assignment "Wator96" for a Bioinformatics course during their study of Biology at the University of Groningen. Mr.Mouse coded the GUI, Captain Corny the engine and Rogue drew the graphics.

Tech-Tech effect
Gourad shading
Furthermore, Mr.Mouse coded stuff like a EMS-using crude videoplayer, Tech-tech effect, fullscreen zoom, a stupid game, blur/scroll/fullscreenbounce and Captain Corny created cool stuff like a 3D Engine, Gourad shading, Tunneleffects, Blur among other routines.

However, no real joined project was finished. These were all DOS programs written first in Pascal (the Wator96 legacy), but quickly they turned to C and Assembly. This period lasted from 1996 to 1998.

Blur effect
Tunnel effect

Although SadCom Ltd. never really died, drinking together and LAN partying became the prime occupation of the group, organising the famous NWP biyearly, and that's still the case.

MultiEx Commander

DOS Version

DOS Version

However, one project Mr.Mouse had worked on during the SadCom Ltd. active period was MultiEx, a script oriented multi-game-datafile-format file extractor/importer, that initially started out as Mad Ed, an editor for Actua Soccer sound archives. Work continued on a more general utility, moving from under the SadCom Ltd. banner to the XeNTaX banner. During 2000-2003 work continued on MultiEx Commander. The last DOS version was released March 2001.

Windows version

Although some third party people had offered to participate in the Windows conversion of MultiEx Commander, they all lacked sufficient will to set this up. Thus, Mr.Mouse kicked his own lazy ass and thought of a quick way to turn this project into a Win32 environment. He came up with Visual Basic as the most easy method to write Win32 apps in and created a genuine Win32-MultiEx Commander after teaching himself Visual Basic on the fly.

Version 3.0 was the first Windows version released in April 2001 and actually really awful. It had the same sort of GUI that the old DOS version had and that was a mistake. It had sounds from the Star Trek computer voice (Majel Barett) and it did do what it was supposed to do : command the commandline driven DOS engine MultiEX2 (16-bit) to cough up lists of files in game archives.

Version 3.1 was swiftly released, as 3.0 had a fatal bug: files were deleted that were not supposed to be deleted. Version 3.1 now also featured 4 background tunes composed by Mr.Mouse.

Exclusive music

A big change in the world of MultiEx Commander occured on the 18th of May 2001 with the release of the personal milestone Version 3.2. Not only had it the GUI layout it still has today, it also featured exclusive XM music from:

  • Jeroen Tel (Wave)/MoN,
  • Drax/Vibrants/MoN,
  • Laxity/Vibrants/MoN,
  • Aymes/Fromage/XeNTaX,
  • The Gee/XeNTaX and
  • Peace/XeNTaX.

Furthermore, the list of supported games viewed from within the program clearly showed that Mr.Mouse was working on a win32 MultiEx3, to replace the old DOS 16 bit MultiEx2 that MultiEx Commander called each time it needed to open an archive. This showed, because the Supported Games list also gave the Process designation for each archive format.

Indeed, in Version 3.3 (released 9th of September 2001), MultiEx3 appeared for the first time : one could see that either 'MEX2' or 'MEX3' processed the game archives, as listed in the Supported Games list. The problem was that the old MultiEx2 script was becoming a real nusance, the source code had been lost, and frankly it just gave a lot of trouble. MultiEx3 had to change all this and introduce file importation into game archives (replacement of original files).

Destruction of 16-bit source code

The old MultiEx2 16-bitter DID have a command line-driven option for file importation from 1998 on, but due to the destruction of the source code between August and November 1999, it could not be updated to keep supporting newly encountered game archives. Illustrative for this destruction is the entry dated 9th of November 1999 by Mr.Mouse in the WHATSNEW.TXT file of a DOS MultiEx Commander release : "DAMN!!!!!! MY HARD DRIVE FUCKED UP!!!!! ALL LATEST SOURCE CODE IS GONE!!!!!!! DAAAAAAAAAMMMNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! AAAAAARGGHHHHHHHH!" Suffice it to say that from the onset of MultiEx3 game archives were supported for importation by the win32 based MultiEx Commander. From version 3.3 on the support increased for importation into game archives.

With the release of Version 3.4 in December 2001 the background music was left out, as it served no purpose and it was time to move MultiEx Commander to a more professional level. The look of the program was changed by the graphics from xeNusion/XeNTaX, and it now had a real WinZip-ish feel.

Half a year later, in June 2002, Mr.Mouse released Version 3.5, that was basically supporting a few more archives, but also the scripting and processing tools Mex3Scriptor and Mexbinder that were used by the author to create support for additional game archives. Thus, the user could now also write scripts himself. MexBinder was used to pack all the archive format scripts for MultiEx Commander to use into a single MultiEx Resource File (MRF), typically MC.MRF.

From Version 3.5 on increased web support from within the program was added, with 3.8 fully updatable via the internet via a few clicks. Version 4.1 is the latest version, and the first shareware version, at the time of writing, released in 2005, supporting ~200 game archive formats. Work continues on the project, though as allways in free time, which Mr.Mouse has only sparingly for years now. But abandon it he will probably never.

OpenMex

Open MultiEx (OpenMex) was intended to replace MultiEx Commander in september 2003. Coded by Arjan Dikhoff (Captain Corny) from XeNTaX. It was written in Python, and intended to be the multiplatform continuation of the MultiEx Commander principle and beyond. Yet, at it's second alpha release (after adopting MultiEx Commander supported archive formats by smart programming) work halted, as Captin Corny foresaw a whole lot work needed to replace MultiEx Commander. And time was not on his side. The project was abandoned, and Mr.Mouse continued work on MultiEx Commander. However, the Python experience Captain learned from coding Open Mex gave him the opportunity to create a nifty gadget. Earthclock.

MultiEx Forum

Finally, a MultiEx Forum was opened on the XENTAX.COM website in 2003, that now also is used for any game requests by enthusiastic users of MultiEx Commander.

EarthClock

EarthClock

Captain Corny's Earthclock can be described as follows. (Taken from website)

EarthClock is a little app that displays a realtime view of the earth, and overlays a clock. That's all! The realtime view is accomplished by downloading images every 10 minutes from Earth and Moon viewer. Earth and Moon viewer is made by John Walker.

So basically, you can watch the earth slowly revolving from a choice of views, and it's a clock too.

What can it do? Currently, EarthClock can grab both JPEG and GIF images (and also PNG I think) from websites. It is possible (and fairly easy, once you get the hang of it) to add your own views. How would you like an up-to-date view of the weather above your home town? It's possible with EarthClock. Also, if you're the artistic type, you can create your own semi-transparant skins to fully customize EarthClock to your liking.

Why do I need it? You don't. It's almost completely useless. But it looks pretty cool as it floats on your desktop.

Indeed, it was a hit when XeNTaX released it. Magazines, internetsites, and people picked it up to put it on their desktops, floating, shining.

Unfortunately, as with most of these projects, Captain grew bored with updating it. Development is halted for the moment.

C64 Activities in 2001?!

In 2001 plans were made to create more c64 stuff. 5 XeNTaX members (Captain Corny, The Gee, Sav, Necrose and Mr.Mouse) went to the X2001 party at the end of the year to have fun and release some tunes. Captain Corny won the bet between him and The Gee as to who would rank higher in the musiccompetition there. Mr.Mouse did not score well, claiming the jury were a bunch of morons. :)

Yet, Mr.Mouse heard of Cyberbrain/NoName's Cybertracker at that party and started to create tunes with it almost immediately when returning home. This was an editor heavily inspired in layout and design by Fasttracker. Some 5 tunes Mr.Mouse created in 2001 just before the end of the year, which were released in a joined production of NoName and XeNTaX : The Cybertracker X-Mas Music Pack 2001. This product was released at The Party (which used to be a good sceneparty, but has turned into a mega lan party instead apparently) in Denmark. There was one musiccompetition there in which PC, Amiga and C64 tunes all together competed. Mr.Mouse's "Europe United 2002" tune, done in Cybertracker, made it to place 10 out of 20. Two more tunes were composed in January 2002 and Mr.Mouse put an end to the C64 active revival period in May 2002. All C64/PC demo and scene related projects were cancelled and the group was disassembled into what it is today.

Chronological memberlist

Members of XeNTaX over the years (complete chronological list)

1991-1993 (very active Commodore 64 period)

  • Mr.Mouse (Michael W. Zuurman, Dutch)
  • Mr.Ammo (Rolf Greven, Dutch)
  • The Gee (Emile van den Akker, Dutch)
  • Active (Dutch)
  • Mateus (Ondrej Matejka , Chech)
  • Pina (Martin Pilney, Chech)
  • The Stranger (German)
  • Death (German)
  • GOP! (Brain Reid, Australian)
  • Peace (Thomas Manske, German)

1994-1997 (mostly inactive IBM PC period)

  • Mr.Mouse (Michael Zuurman, Dutch)
  • The Gee (Emile van den Akker, Dutch)

1998 - 2000 (active IBM PC period)

  • Mr.Mouse (Michael Zuurman, Dutch)
  • The Gee (Emile van den Akker, Dutch)
  • Captain Corny (Arjan Dikhoff, Dutch)
  • Rogue (Pieter-Bas Stolte, Dutch)
  • Klaus (Mike Roemer, American)

2001 -2002 (active IBM PC/C64 period)

  • Mr.Mouse (Michael Zuurman, Dutch)
  • The Gee (Emile van den Akker, Dutch)
  • Captain Corny (Arjan Dikhoff, Dutch)
  • Rogue (Pieter-Bas Stolte, Dutch)
  • Klaus (Mike Roemer, American)
  • 3s (Dries Brouwer, Dutch)
  • Sav (Sascha, Dutch)
  • Necrose (Harm, Dutch)
  • xeNusion (Marco Siegel, German)
  • Pina (Martin Pilney, Chech)
  • Mateus (Ondrej Matejka, Chech)
  • Jhavna (Sven Steinbauer, English)
  • Aymes (Andrew Yates, English)
  • Peace (Thomas Manske, German)
  • Cerror (Dutch)
  • Rogue (Pieter-Bas Stolte, Dutch)
  • Mage (Alain Schlesser, Luxemburger)

2003-2005 (active IBM PC period)

  • Mr.Mouse (Michael Zuurman, Dutch)
  • Captain Corny (Arjan Dikhoff, Dutch)

Members CV

Current update on (ex) members (March, 2003)

Although not sufficient info is known about all members, this can be stated :

  • Mr.Mouse (Michael W. Zuurman, Dutch)

Studied Biology at the university of Groningen, The Netherlands, plays drums in a funk/rock band, played in bands since his 14th, worked as a PhD student at the University of Groningen and produces scientific articles like this one. Is a molecular biologist, immunologist, medical neurophysiologist. Listens weekly to SID music. Worked for the Dutch PCZone website as admin, newsposter, moderator and wrote freelance once for their hardcopy magazine PCZone Benelux. Can program in Commodore 64 basic and assembly, PC assembly, Pascal, C, and Visual Basic. Got promoted to PhD in September 2003. Dr. Mike Zuurman is now employed as research post-doc at the University Hospital of Groningen, The Netherlands.

  • Mr.Ammo (Rolf Greven, Dutch)

After finishing the MEAO (receiving two diploma's) in 1995, Rolf started working at XS4ALL Internet. The XS4ALL team comprised only 6 members at the time. Years later it was one of the leading internet providers in The Netherlands, and was bought by the nations' largest telecom company KPN for a huge sum. The senior members profitted from this buy out. Although the board of directors quit the company, Rolf stayed there among others. Over the years Rolf worked as an assistant accountant, project manager and since 2004 he works as a process- and systems expert at XS4ALL. His expertise is mainly in the billing and financial systems field. On the c64 field he joined different groups over the nineties, USB, XeNTaX, Blaze, Triad and SCS+TRC.

  • The Gee (Emile van den Akker, Dutch)

Studied Biology at the university of Groningen, The Netherlands, is a few months away from becoming a PhD. Worked as a PhD student at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Is a molecular biologist, a haematologist. Listens probably weekly to SID music :). Is now employed in Paris, France as research post-doc at the university.

  • Captain Corny (Arjan Dikhoff, Dutch)

Studied Biology at the university of Groningen, choose a job in IT business at KPN, currently employed as 1337 intarnet programm0r at The Missing Link Company. Is a very good programmer. Can program PC assembly, Pascal, C/C++, Java and Visual Basic.

  • Peace (Thomas Manske, German)

Last heard to work in a music instrument store in Kiel, Germany.

  • Rogue (Pieter-Bas Stolte, Dutch)

Studied Biology at the university of Groningen. Current status unknown.

  • Mateus (Ondrej Matejka, Chech)

Is now a professional musician in the PC games industry, composed music for the game "Operation Flashpoint"

  • Pina (Martin Pilney, Chech)

Works with Mateus in the PC games music industry.

  • 3s (Dries Brouwer, Dutch)

Graduated from the Conservatory of Groningen with guitar. Played in numerous (show) bands, works at an African music instrument store in Groningen, is professionaly busy with composing and playing, plays practically any instrument, wrote a song for the Dutch National Songfestival 2003, a song sung by Kathy Bloom (live on Dutch national television) and finished 10th out of 600, played in the showband Globe, plays now in many other bands.

Of the others insufficient data is known. They are either busy in the IT business (Mage), at school (Sav, Necrose, Cerror), composing (Aymes, Jhavna) or enganged in game sites (Klaus).

2005 and beyond (an update to the above info)

In 2005, the XeNTaX wiki (what you're looking at) was officially opened to the public as a central repository for GRAF information. Mr.Mouse first started the OpenGRAF website where he was listing various formats for the public. Then, during the collaboration with Watto on the Definitive Guide To Exploring File Formats, Mr.Mouse discussed the OpenGRAF site and expressed the wish to set up a joined place where both Watto and Mr.Mouse could present the format information easily. Watto then suggested to set up a wiki, who also played a huge part in the initial effort to get the wiki up to speed before it was released to the public. Almost immediately, forum member Dinoguy1000 took an interest to it and was soon made a sysop. He is now the main caretaker of the wiki, after Watto's disappearance because of school, and he is currently polishing up and fine-tuning a new layout system to be deployed throughout the wiki.

Since MexCom ver. 4.1, two major versions have been released:

  • MexCom v.4.2.0, officially released in September of 2005, supported over 250 new formats for editing, somewhere around 700 total formats. In addition, the RahlyPluginManager and TestPlugin systems were added as new plugin systems. The official press release can be found here.
  • MexCom v.4.3.0, officially released October 1, 2006, supported over 1000 formats. Major updates included a completely rewritten Load Archive dialog, an update From Wiki feature, allowing one to download scripts directly from the WIKI, a system for multilanguage support, and an implementation of Strobe's Jaeder Naub file ripper program, which will scan for and extract major media types from any file.
  • MexCom v.4.4.0 Alpha Release Candidate 1 has been released on October 21st 2010, that does away with the MRF Manager and Jader Naub, and implements some other major changes, such as the obliged online functionality. 4.4. can be seen as a predefined change, preparing for the 4.5 major update.