TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Meet Andrew Welch

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 12
Column Tag: Interview

Getting Started

Meet Andrew Welch

by Dave Mark

This month's column is a bit of a departure from our normal Mac dev exploration. As long-time readers know, I am a big gaming fan. I recently had the chance to hook up with one of the originators of shareware gaming on the Mac and I wanted to share this conversation with you.

Andrew Welch, aka Ambrosia Software, Inc's el Presidente, started developing software in high school because frankly, it was better than flipping burgers (though he did have a stint as drive-thru guy at Roy Rogers). He went on to study Photojournalism in college, but decided to pursue software development for a living rather than carry someone else's camera bags. He currently lives in Rochester, NY, and has the oddly polar hobbies of origami and weight lifting.

Dave: Can I call you Andrew, or would you prefer el Presidente?

Andrew: If you call me "el Presidente" I might end up the target of some sort of "regime change", so let's keep it safe; "Andrew" is fine.

Dave: I first became aware of Ambrosia in 1992 with the release of Maelstrom. Can you give me a bit of history here? What led up to Maelstrom?

Andrew: I was actually in college at the time, working on a degree in Photojournalism. Maelstrom was developed over the summer, primarily because I heard someone state that good color animation wasn't possible on the technologic tour de force at the time, a Mac IIsi.

It served as a fun little project for me to hone my 68K asm coding skills; almost all of Maelstrom is written in assembler, with a few non-critical interface routines done in C. I wrote the game myself, but I had a number of people who assisted me, creating the graphics for the game, and all of my friends pitched in play testing it and helping me record sound effects for it.

I polished it up, put it online on AOL, and was surprised at how popular it became.


Remember Maelstrom? I love the attention to detail in the graphics. The first game I remember with truly sharp 3D rendering and perfectly smooth movement.


The good guys and the bad guys.

Dave: What was the state of shareware back then? Was there any kind of movement to organize shareware? Did you get a lot of payments, as compared to the number of game downloads? Where did people get most shareware? CompuServe? AOL?

Andrew: At the time, at least in my world, AOL and CompuServe were the major places to put software. The web hadn't taken off yet, and the Internet was something that only people with few social skills muttered about.

Shareware back then was fairly unorganized, in the sense that there were few products that required license codes to operate, payment was optional, and you had to send in checks or cash to pay for something. One of my favorite things was receiving money in various currencies I'd never seen before, from all over the world.

There was something distinctly cool about writing something in my dorm room in Upstate New York, and having people all over the world writing to me about it.

As for payments received vs. downloads, it's never a metric I've considered important. Many people download something, then forget about it, trash it, or whatever. I really didn't pay too much attention to the money it was making, because I was busy in college, doing things college kids do.

Dave: 1992 saw the introduction of System 7.1, as well as the Mac LC II, the Quadra 950, the 25 Mhz 68030-based PowerBook 145, the Mac IIvx and Mac Iivi, and the PowerBook Duo 210 and 230. Microsoft introduced Windows 3.1 and NeXT released NeXTSTEP 3.0 and NeXTSTEP 486. What was your dev environment back then?

Andrew: I actually had the original NeXT documentation, too -- I was a NeXT developer, even though I actually didn't own a machine (I couldn't afford one). On the Mac, my development environment was originally THINK Pascal, but I transitioned to using THINK C (this is before Symantec bought them out). My main development machine was a Mac Iisi at the time, with a whopping (for the time!) 17mb of RAM!

I actually started coding originally on a 512K "Fat Mac" -- yes, younguns, this was the technology of the day, and it had only 512K of memory. I used a 1200baud modem, and my life changed utterly when I was able to buy a 20mb hard drive for the machine. Prior to that, I booted from a 400K floppy drive, and did all of my development on an external 400K floppy disk.

You young whipper-snappers have no idea how good you have it! God, I feel old now...

Anyway, back to the question at hand. THINK C was a very cool development environment for the time, though it wasn't as friendly as THINK Pascal, the environment I started out programming with. I taught myself both languages, and the "bible" at the time was a phone-book style volume called "Inside Macintosh." It was mostly an exercise in curiosity for me; I wanted to figure out how these computers worked, and I truly enjoyed creating things.

Dave: More than ten years after Maelstrom, how has your development environment changed?

Andrew: For my personal development these days, I use Project Builder. It used to be Code Warrior, but to do some of the projects I've needed to do for Mac OS X, Project Builder was a better, if less refined, choice. But now it isn't just me; we also have an ace coder named Matt Slot working for us (we affectionately call him our "Code Whore"), as well as developers all over the world we partner with.

I don't do as much coding as I used to. I do some work on our supporting libraries, and there are some major projects that are all mine (such as Snapz Pro X), but I spent a lot of time running the company and managing projects these days.

I've dabbled a bit with Cocoa, such as our free WireTap product for recording system audio, but I'm not comfortable enough with it to say I'm any good at it. I wish that I had the time to invest to dive into it deeper, but so it goes...

Other things have changed a bit. The development cycle is no longer code, run, crash, poke around in MacsBug, then reboot your computer while you slam your head into the monitor. Lather, rinse, repeat. In that sense, my sanity is significantly improved these days.

Dave: You used to do all of your development in house. How has this changed?

Andrew: We try to stay very involved in the design and development of all of the products we work on, because we collectively have a lot of experience in terms of making a polished product that people will be interested in. We are involved on many levels: helping to design the feature set/game play, offering technical assistance in the form of libraries we've written that do very useful (and hard) things, as well as debugging support, and then of course things publishers do, such as marketing, support, etc.

We do both in-house and external beta testing, phased in so that it fits with where the program is in terms of development, and we manage the beta tests. External testing is a must, because there is no other way you can get an idea how your product will perform in the wild. If I had a dollar for every time something I wrote crashed on someone else's machine, but "worked for me", I'd be rich indeed.

Dave: Clearly, games are one area where you really need to be able to move pixels quickly. Can you talk about the kinds of approaches to blitting you use in house? How about outside developers that you work with?

Andrew: We used to do all sorts of very tricky things to blit pixels to the screen quickly, such as using custom assembler for critical portions. Now it's mostly just of historical interest. Computers are fast enough now that you can safely just use the provided OS routines such as CopyBits() or even better, just use OpenGL (for both 3D and 2D).

Dave: How has your net gaming strategy evolved over the years? Is there a standard protocol for finding opponents over the net, for example? Do you roll your own net gaming libs?

Andrew: Obviously, net gaming is important, and has been for years. It's important to the point of designing your game around the physical limitations that things such as latency introduce, as well as designing your game to be a fun multiplayer game.

We looked at available solutions out there, and decided to roll our own. We use something Matt Slot wrote called Network_Tool (hey, no one said his forte was coming up with creative names), which handles TCP/IP as well as UDP networking. It performs quite well, using proprietary algorithms of concatenating and retrying transactions. This is an example of a library we develop and provide for the partners we work with to use. It takes care of the dirty, tough to write stuff, so people can get on with making their game.

Similarly, we have a library called Reggie that handles allowing people to find others on the net. It works in a very general manner, allowing for data to be stored in any format the client application wants, and it's all stored on the back end in an SQL database.

Dave: I know you recently implemented your own order processing system. How did you used to do fulfillment? How does the new system work? Is it something you wrote yourself?

Andrew: We have long had our own merchant account for credit card processing, but we decided it was long overdue that we take it to the next level and automate and enhance our order processing system. We came up with a set of design specs, and handed them off to a third party developer to implement them.

Alas, in the end, we had to do quite a bit of work ourselves to make it work the way we wanted it to. On the upside, though, our customers get their license codes instantly, they can get lost/renewed license codes sent to them any time they wish, and it all integrates seamlessly with our FileMaker Pro Server back end.

Dave: What are the technical details behind your web site? Do you use a DBMS? Is it straight HTML? Do you update it by hand? FTP? Use a management package? BBEdit?

Andrew: Our web site is for the most part nothing too exciting. We have a number of custom written or modified Perl scripts that handle the drudgery of most of it. We set up systems so we generally don't have to edit HTML, just work with custom scripts we've written to do various things to it.

We update it by hand over sftp, and BBEdit is of course the tool of choice to do any kind of serious editing. It's true, it really doesn't suck.

Dave: You've got some fascinating utilities that have pushed the envelope beyond traditional application development. Snapz Pro is a perfect example. Can you take us behind the curtain on some of this technology, tell us a bit about how they work?

Andrew: Snapz Pro X is something I've been working on heavily lately. We've done a major interface reorganization, and an even more major boost in performance of the video capture engine. When 2.0 is released, we'll have made video capture as easy to do as static screen captures (something Snapz Pro X excels at already), and I'm betting that many people will opt to put a short video of their product in action up on their web site to show it off, rather than a static screen shot.

Making something like Snapz Pro X work involved very long sessions probing the various MacOS X system frameworks with nm (a command line tool) to ferret out the functionality we needed. Many times the APIs we needed didn't exist, and waiting for Apple to make them available just wasn't a viable option. Remember folks, it's software - anything is possible, it just depends on how much effort you're willing to go through to make it happen.

Dave: What advice would you give today's shareware developers?

Andrew: My main piece of advice is not to set the bar low just because they are writing shareware, or they are pricing it cheaper than commercial counterparts. People tend to judge things by why they offer them, not by how inexpensive they are. For instance, let's take games. Games are entertainment. If you go to the video store looking for a movie, you don't bypass the better movies for a budget $2 college film. Sure, it's cheaper, but it doesn't matter, you want to be entertained.

Don't kid yourself that you can offer an inferior product just because it is cheaper, and expect it to do well.

My other main piece of advice would be to figure out what you want to do. Many people who go into think they want to do the whole shebang: development, testing, marketing, support, order processing, etc., etc. This is a quick way to lose your sanity if what you really want to do is just develop cool software. Figure out what you really want to do, and partner with someone if it is appropriate.

Dave: One of my favorite things about being part of the Macintosh developer community is what an incredibly small world we live in. Whenever I travel I always seem to run into someone I know from this universe. Don't you have a story - something about beer?

Andrew: I recently went to Germany for Oktoberfest, which is a wild time, with some great German beers in mugs you need two hands to lift up. While sitting in an old brew house having some beers with friends, I was a little surprised to see a guy walking by with a Metrowerks t-shirt on.

So I pulled him aside, and decided to clink mugs with him, and see what he used CodeWarrior for. As it turned out, he was a Metrowerks employee... and all 20 or so people at his table were as well. So if the next version of CodeWarrior is a bit delayed, I think we may know why... the coders are all off boozing it up somewhere.

Dave: What's on the horizon for Ambrosia?

Andrew: We're always working on plenty of new projects. We just released our Internet search tool, iSeek <http://www.AmbrosiaSW.com/utilities/iseek/> that's going over quite well, and as I mentioned, I've had my head buried in Snapz Pro X 2.0. That's going to be a huge product when it comes out, the video capture performance is just amazing now.

Additionally, we're always working on cool new games, some of which we've announced, like our 3D racing game Redline, and others we haven't. And you can't make me talk either. :)

Till Next Month...

I hope you enjoyed this little respite from coding. I know I did. Part of this was getting to know someone who has really been a part of the Mac gaming story. But another part of this month's column was a bit of a stroll down memory lane. I mean, c'mon, Think Pascal before it was bought by Symantec. I love it!!!


Dave Mark is a long-time Mac developer and author and has written a number of books on Macintosh development, including Learn C on the Macintosh, Learn C++ on the Macintosh, and The Macintosh Programming Primer series. Be sure to check out Dave's web site at http://www.spiderworks.com.

 
AAPL
$108.00
Apple Inc.
+1.02
MSFT
$46.95
Microsoft Corpora
+0.90
GOOG
$559.08
Google Inc.
+8.77

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Vitamin-R 2.20b1 - Personal productivity...
Vitamin-R creates the optimal conditions for your brain to work at its best by structuring your work into short bursts of distraction-free, highly focused activity alternating with opportunities for... Read more
Dropbox 2.10.44 - Cloud synchronization...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
Sandvox 2.9.2 - Easily build eye-catchin...
Sandvox is for Mac users who want to create a professional looking website quickly and easily. With Sandvox, you don't need to be a Web genius to build a stylish, feature-rich, standards-compliant... Read more
Cocktail 8.0.1 - General maintenance and...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.3.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
VMware Fusion 7.0.1 - Run Windows apps a...
VMware Fusion allows you to create a Virtual Machine on your Mac and run Windows (including Windows 8.1) and Windows software on your Mac. Run your favorite Windows applications alongside Mac... Read more
OneNote 15.3.2 - Free digital notebook f...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.4 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.0.0 beta 3 - Powerf...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
TextWrangler 4.5.11 - Free general purpo...
TextWrangler is the powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator's tool. Oh, and also, like the best things in life, it's free. TextWrangler is the "little brother" to... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Monster Flash Review
Monster Flash Review By Jordan Minor on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: ALONE IN THE DARKUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Solid shooting and a surprising amount of spooky tension make Monster Flash a great portable... | Read more »
Retry Review
Retry Review By Rob Thomas on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: SOARING HIGHUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Flappy who? Let Retry wash all those bad bird-related memories away on a cool retro-flavored flight… right... | Read more »
Dementia: Book of the Dead Review
Dementia: Book of the Dead Review By Lee Hamlet on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: A TOUGH READUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A witch hunter is sent after a demonic book in the spooky but short-lived Dementia: Book... | Read more »
Card Dungeon, the Semi-Board Game Roguel...
Card Dungeon, the Semi-Board Game Roguelike, Has Been Renovated Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 31st, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Logitech Protection + Power iPhone5/5S C...
Made by: Logitech Price: $99.99 Hardware/iOS Integration Rating: 3 out of 5 stars Usability Rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars Reuse Value Rating: 0.75 out of 5 stars Build Quality Rating: 0.75 out of 5 stars Overall Rating: 1.25 out of 5 stars | Read more »
This Is Not a Test Goes Free, Permanentl...
This Is Not a Test Goes Free, Permanently Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 31st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Swap Heroes Review
Swap Heroes Review By Campbell Bird on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: STRATEGIC SWAPPINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rotate a cast of heroes to fend of waves of monsters in this difficult, puzzle rpg.   | Read more »
Night Sky Pro™ (Reference)
Night Sky Pro™ 3.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Reference Price: $2.99, Version: 3.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Night Sky Pro™Wonder No More™ Night Sky Pro™ is the ultimate stargazing experience. From the creators of the original... | Read more »
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena (Games)
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A zombie shooter audio game. Made from gut-wrenching 3D binaural sound, for a new kind of weird immersion. You... | Read more »
RPG Asdivine Hearts (Games)
RPG Asdivine Hearts 1.1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.1.0 (iTunes) Description: SPECIAL PRICE50% OFF (USD 7.99 -> USD 3.99)!!! Travel alongside four companions and a cat in the adventure of a... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple now offering refurbished 2014 13-inch R...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $270 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple Regains Momentum As Windows Stutters An...
The latest smartphone sales data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, for the three months to March 2014, shows Apple performing strongly in the first quarter of the year, with sales bouncing back in... Read more
Worldwide Smartphone Shipments Increase 25.2%...
New smartphone releases and an increased emphasis on emerging markets drove global smartphone shipments above 300 million units for the second consecutive quarter, according to preliminary data from... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 2014 15-inch M...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple drops prices on refurbished 2013 Retina...
The Apple Store has dropped prices on 2013 Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros, with Retina models now available starting at $999. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and... Read more
New 2.8GHz Mac mini on sale for $949, save $5...
Abt Electronics has the new 2.8GHz Mac mini in stock and on sale for $949.05 including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any reseller... Read more
Sale! 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro available for...
 B&H Photo has the 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro on sale for $2649 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $350 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model from any... Read more
Mujjo Steps Up The Game With Refined Touchscr...
Netherlands based Mujjo have just launched their Refined Touchscreen Gloves, stepping up their game. The gloves feature a updated elegant design that takes these knitted gloves to the next level. A... Read more
Sale! Preorder the new 27-inch 5K iMac for $2...
 Abt Electronics has the new 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale and available for preorder for $2374.05 including free shipping. Their price is $125 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this... Read more
Simplex Solutions Inc. Brings Secure Web Surf...
New York based Simplex Solutions Inc. has announced the release and immediate availability of Private Browser 1.0, its revolutionary new secure web browser developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch... Read more

Jobs Board

Solutions Specialist with *Apple* Knowledge...
Company Description: We are an Apple Authorized Sales and Service Provider. We have been selling and servicing Apple computers in the Fairfield County area for over Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** Every day, business customers come to the Apple Store to discover what powerful, easy-to-use Apple products can do for them. As a Business Leader, Read more
Sr. Manager, *Apple* Deployment Programs fo...
**Job Summary** Apple is seeking candidates for a new position on the Education Content and Technology team. iPad and Mac is in the hands of millions of teachers and Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.