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Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
Posted by Michael on 16 November 2005, 15:02 GMT

For the second in our series of interviews with famous programmers, I interviewed Jimmy Mårdell. Jimmy has written a wide range of programs but most of you probably know him for his popular games Sqrxz and ZTetris. He is an outstanding programmer who won the 2003 Google CodeJam. Read on for the interview.

Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
MichaelHow old are you currently and what education have you had?
JimmyI'm 27. I've been studying computer science four years at Umeå University. However, I haven't graduated yet. I got a job offer during my studies, and decided I wanted to do something else instead for a while. That was more than 2 years ago now.
MichaelYou won the 2003 Google Code Jam which is very impressive. Have you done any other programming since you left the TI community?
Jimmy

Well, I program every day at work!

Besides that, I've mostly been involved in algorithm programming competition, such as IOI, ACM, TopCoder and Google Code Jam. They are great fun, and also improve your programming technique quite a bit. I believe quite a lot of people in the software industry underestimate algorithm and programming technique, and focus too much on software development processes.

I've also done some game programming on the Nintendo Game Boy. During my TI-time, I coded the Game Boy Color (partly in cooperation with Icarus Production and then moved on to the Game Boy Advance when it came out. I spent a year or so during my university time working on a commercial GBA game, Fila Decathlon which was developed by myself (all programming) and another guy who did the game design and all graphics. That was great fun, but I don't think I will do any commercial game developing in the future.

MichaelWhat else have you been doing in general? Jobs? Hobbies? Travelling?
Jimmy

Obviously programming is my main hobby...and in particular problem solving and similar stuff requiring analytical thinking. I also play chess quite a lot at tournament level (my FIDE rating is 2128).

I work at a Swedish startup company, Elucidon. I won't bore you with what we do, but it's really cool stuff so feel free to visit our homepage for more info. I'm mainly involved with backend stuff, databases and performance optimization.

MichaelDo you think the community has changed since you were active? If so, how and has it gotten better or worse?
Jimmy

I'm not that up to date with what happens in the TI community. I check ticalc.org once a month or so, but that's about it. Maybe I'm blind, but the community seems a bit lacking. I mean, people do all kinds of cool TI games obviously, but I don't see the community.

I see people write a lot in the forums, but I never read those (on any site, not just ticalc.org). Lets face it; the people who have anything interesting to say don't say them in forums because they're just full of ****sh**. That's why you have news items, and editorials. Speaking of which, why isn't there a regular editorial on ticalc.org, or have I just missed it? I don't think the newsletter (which I receive) is a good substitute for that.

If the forums are the community today, then I'd say it's a lot worse.

Michael What's the best thing you remember about the TI community? Worst thing?
Jimmy

Without a doubt the best thing about the community is the very reason it exist (I think): the birth of ZShell. And then it continued with Fargo etc. The whole "underground" culture was just plain cool. Also there weren't so many people doing asm programming in those days. A community that is too big isn't a real community imho.

When TI started to support assembly programming, it took a bit fun out of it actually. I don't know, maybe that was the start of the decline of the community.

I also suspect the community has also grown a lot. There are a lot more who develop programs today. I suspect the whole TI-"community" will (if it hasn't already) grow towards how things are done for Pocket-PCs (though hopefully most stuff will be free!)

MichaelIs there one of your programs that you like best? Why?
JimmyPersonally I liked Boulderdash most, because it used the exact same algorithms as the original version on the C64 (thanks to some people who reverse engineered it).
MichaelHave you ever met any other community members in real life?
JimmyYes, I've met fellow Icarus Production coders Andreas Ess and Matthew Shepcar at the ECTS (a gaming convention) in London the year 2000: (from left, Matthew Shepcar, Johannes Rajala [gfx guy, but did some TI coding also], Andreas Ess and myself). Most of us still keep in touch.
MichaelDo you have any advice for programmers who are just getting started?
JimmyHave fun when programming. Don't program because you think you must. Find enjoyment in the actual programming, not just in the finished program or game.

Jimmy raised a very good point about the lack of a regular editorial on ticalc.org. This is because no one ever submits any. If you have a quality editorial, feel free to e-mail it to news@ticalc.org.

  Reply to this article


The comments below are written by ticalc.org visitors. Their views are not necessarily those of ticalc.org, and ticalc.org takes no responsibility for their content.


Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
slimey_limey  Account Info
(Web Page)

> Have fun when programming. Don't program because you think you must. Find enjoyment in the actual programming, not just in the finished program or game.

I agree. Don't lose hope when you've been degubbing for the past eight hours; just come back to it tomorrow or next week. Sometimes it helps to print out a section of code that's been giving you the most trouble.

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 15:27 GMT


Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
Snave2000  Account Info

> just come back to it tomorrow or next week.

Or continue debugging for another 4 hours. Many times, I've found, I suddenly see something obviously wrong with the code, (i.e. unconditional jumps...err...) and, upon fixing it, the program moves forward. Persistance is the key to programming.

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 16:51 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
slimey_limey  Account Info
(Web Page)

Usually, if I've been debugging for 4 hours, it's time to go to sleep.

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 17:37 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
burntfuse  Account Info
(Web Page)

Yeah, if you've been coding or debugging for that long, it's probably better to stop and come back later.

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 20:40 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
CDI_  Account Info
(Web Page)

I dunno... I've once debugged for 23 hours straight just to find a bug, and I was looking in the wrong program :x but I made the code better :D

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 23:37 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
KermMartian  Account Info
(Web Page)

:D point and laugh.
I spent 5 months looking for a bug only to find that TI-83+ ASM progs couldn't execute past $c000. :/

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 00:29 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
Andy Janata  Account Info
(Web Page)

*bites tongue*

Which is one of the first things most tutorials tell you.

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 01:58 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
Kevin Ouellet  Account Info
(Web Page)

hehehe

(yeah bugs in programs we are making are always stupid mistakes, I dunno why :D )

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 13:51 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
elfprince13 Account Info
(Web Page)

I generally program for no longer than 2 hours without a break (mainly because of parental limitations)

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 21:03 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
Snave2000  Account Info

I know what you mean...

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 23:34 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
burntfuse  Account Info
(Web Page)

One of my most common mistakes when writing code while tired is to put in a loop, but forget to increment the pointer/counter/whatever so the program freezes, and I spend way too much time going through the whole thing in VTI until I figure out it was a stupid mistake on my part.

Reply to this comment    18 November 2005, 20:29 GMT

Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
Sebastian Schmied Account Info

"[...] the people who have anything interesting to say don't say them in forums because they're just full of ****sh**."
What could the "****sh**" mean?

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 15:37 GMT

Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
burntfuse  Account Info
(Web Page)

Um...think "BS".

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 20:42 GMT

Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
calkfreak83  Account Info
(Web Page)

Duckshoe :)

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 03:09 GMT


Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
elfprince13 Account Info
(Web Page)

as cool as Jimmy is, I think that is sort of rude to places like UnitedTI, which has a lot of interesting people, who say interesting things

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 21:05 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
Sebastian Schmied Account Info

I agree. How does he even know? He visits the boards just once a month.

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 21:21 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
Sir_Robin  Account Info
(Web Page)

You can't blame someone for making that assumption about forums, when 99% forums ARE indeed duckshoe.

Reply to this comment    23 November 2005, 01:29 GMT

Re: Interview with Jimmy M岤ell
James abba shalaka Rubingh Account Info
(Web Page)

Jimmy is my hero.

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 16:06 GMT

Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy M岤ell
Michael McElroy Account Info
(Web Page)

I knew I'd see you here.

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 14:44 GMT


Re: Re: Interview with Jimmy M岤ell
Haroon I Account Info
(Web Page)

Jimmy is also my hero =)

Reply to this comment    18 November 2005, 15:42 GMT

Re: Interview with Jimmy Mårdell
Zeraz Account Info
(Web Page)

But why is the header 'Interview with Joe Wingbermuehle'?

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 17:19 GMT


How do you type "å"?
slimey_limey  Account Info
(Web Page)

Oh the trouble cut/paste can get you into....

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 17:36 GMT

Re: How do you type "å"?
CajunLuke  Account Info
(Web Page)

>> How do you type å?

Simple: Option-A
Capital: Option-Shift-A

?

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 18:48 GMT


Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
Sam Lippert  Account Info
(Web Page)

On Windows:
Hold down the alt key while typing the numbers on the number pad, and have your Num Lock key on...

Å-Alt+0197
å-Alt+0229

I mostly use:
ß-Alt+0223
ä-Alt+0228
ö-Alt+0246
ü-Alt+0252
Ä-Alt+0196
Ö-Alt+0214
Ü-Alt+0220

Maybe I should remap my keyboard... ☺

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 23:12 GMT


How can I type "å"?
slimey_limey  Account Info
(Web Page)

But (read my account profile) I don't use Windows.

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 16:41 GMT


Re: How can I type "å"?
Sam Lippert  Account Info
(Web Page)

And for good reason too, I'm sure. Just being thorough.

Reply to this comment    18 November 2005, 21:49 GMT


Re: How do you type "å"?
Michael Vincent  Account Info
(Web Page)

Oh no! I just fixed that.

Probably no one here realizes that I have to make these tables by hand, copying and pasting interview responses, then some more HTML code, then my next question, then more HTML code, et cetera. It takes a while to do.

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 20:33 GMT

Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
burntfuse  Account Info
(Web Page)

No, I didn't realize that. I thought there was a template or something...

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 20:47 GMT


Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
Michael Vincent  Account Info
(Web Page)

There is for most static pages on the site, but news articles do not.

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 21:30 GMT

Tools exist to save time
slimey_limey  Account Info
(Web Page)

Perhaps you should look into using m4 to create HTML for articles. Then everything but the writing could be automated.

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 22:21 GMT


M4?!
Benjamin Moody  Account Info

M4, save you time?

I mean, yeah, I like M4 too, but seriously... what sane person would actually want to use it?

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 13:05 GMT


Re: M4?!
slimey_limey  Account Info
(Web Page)

It would save time after you finish learning how to use it. A week (more? less? I don't know how to use m4) spent to save a few hours total. Fair bargain.

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 15:31 GMT


Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
Sam Lippert  Account Info
(Web Page)

Ah, the FUN way of coding HTML. :D I prefer to do it that way myself, rather than an editor. I like knowing exactly what's in my code.

Reply to this comment    16 November 2005, 23:17 GMT


Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
KermMartian  Account Info
(Web Page)

I <3 coding in Notepad. No stupid Frontpage for moi. :P

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 00:33 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
nicklaszlo Account Info
(Web Page)

Vim is far superior. I suggest you try it. You'll find that you can write much faster. You'll probably start using it for ASM as well as HTML.

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 04:26 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
Michael McElroy Account Info
(Web Page)

I used VIM for about five seconds. Then I realized I couldn't use HOME or END, and you couldn't delete the new line character at the end of a line. Not without special key commands.
F*** that. Notepad2.

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 14:43 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
burntfuse  Account Info
(Web Page)

Yeah, the main reason why I use Vim as little as possible for coding is that copying/pasting is hard, and you can't move around blocks of text (as far as I know), which I do a lot in my programs. I use cooledit instead - syntax highlighting, a menu option to run gcc on the open file, etc.

Reply to this comment    18 November 2005, 20:34 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
Jason Malinowski  Account Info

To move blocks of text: Shift-V will insert visual line mode, and then hit up/down to select a block of text, then hit d. Move where you want to put that block, and then hit p or shift-P (p puts it after the current line, shift-P) before.

And going to grandparent post:

> Then I realized I couldn't use HOME or END, and you couldn't delete the new line character at the end of a line.

It works fine in my gvim installation here. Put the following line:

set backspace=indent,eol,start

in your _vimrc/.vimrc. In windows, put this in C:\Documents and Settings\<username>

For example, my file is C:\Documents and Settings\Jason\_vimrc. Note this Windows only. Linux will of course have it as .vimrc in your home directory.

Reply to this comment    19 November 2005, 16:24 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
Snave2000  Account Info

Vim is not bad, and I also find it useful for C. I would either Vim or Wordpad over Notepad because of their more advanced formatting capabilities, but end up defaulting back to Notepad because Vim leaves temporary files all over the place (it's supposed to delete them but doesn't a lot of the time) and Wordpad has the annoying quirk of not supporting spaces in directory names. Of course, on one of my computers, Notepad has the tendency to crash upon an attempt to save when TiLEm is running, so it's a no-win situation for me in any case.

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 15:57 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
elfprince13 Account Info
(Web Page)

screw notepad....cant interpret *nix line breaks correctly. Use WordPad if I have to. otherwise simpleText, ScriptEditor or XCode

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 21:08 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
Joey Adams  Account Info

Yeah. One annoying thing about Notepad is that it doesn't know how to do line breaking correctly at all. For instance, if you're typing, most of the time when you hit ctrl-s for save, the cursor will reposition itself to some seemingly arbitrary place.

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 22:00 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
Snave2000  Account Info

Yeah, I've noticed that too. I think it has to do with the position of the mouse cursor on the document, because I've noticed that most of the time, the cursor moves to the line that the mouse cursor is on.

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 23:36 GMT

Lameness filter engaged!
slimey_limey  Account Info
(Web Page)

int SaveFile(char *name)
{
CursorPosition=rand();
return OK;
}

Reply to this comment    19 November 2005, 02:12 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
Travis Evans Account Info

I used to have a lot of bones to pick with Notepad. It's especially buggy when writing long files. You would think it shouldn't be that difficult to make a program as simple as Notepad work properly and support files larger than 64K.

Reply to this comment    23 November 2005, 00:54 GMT


Too long title
slimey_limey  Account Info
(Web Page)

It's because of a limitation in the Win32 textbox control. A Win32 textbox used to only be able to buffer 64K.

Reply to this comment    23 November 2005, 21:52 GMT


With a spanner!
slimey_limey  Account Info
(Web Page)

> Vim leaves temporary files all over the place (it's supposed to delete them but doesn't a lot of the time)

Emacs does that (creates backups, not temps tho), but you can set it to put them all in one directory. I like it that way. Plus, emacs has a psychiatrist built in if you are tearing your hair out over that one Protected Memory Violation.

Reply to this comment    18 November 2005, 06:24 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
CajunLuke  Account Info
(Web Page)

heh… I write my HTML in XCode. jEdit is too slow and ugly.

Reply to this comment    19 November 2005, 16:55 GMT

Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
benryves  Account Info
(Web Page)

FrontPage has some advantages - the ability to edit/save files straight to a server is excellent (some apps emulate this through FTP but it tends to be horribly clunky and unreliable - especially on our hosting where the FTP connection gets closed every 240 seconds).
But yes, the WYSIWYG part of it is lousy, and it has a nasty habit of rewriting your PHP code for you when you least expect it. If only there was a free way to edit PHP from within VS2005 (or even better to switch to ASP.NET entirely... *sighs*)

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 17:41 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
Brian Gordon  Account Info

>>But yes, the WYSIWYG part of it is lousy

I don't know about that... frontpage is /so/ good at keeping track of z-indexes and making autoshapes cross-browser-compatible :p

Reply to this comment    17 November 2005, 22:03 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
anykey  Account Info
(Web Page)

So is CSS...

Reply to this comment    19 November 2005, 06:16 GMT


Re: Re: Re: Re: How do you type "å"?
burntfuse  Account Info
(Web Page)

Same here. No extra tags or properties or other stuff you don't need sitting all over the place.

Reply to this comment    18 November 2005, 20:35 GMT

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