Skrommel is the man behind 1 hour Software, today we sit down with him to talk about programming, life and …
Q. Hello, Mind giving a quick background on yourself so everyone knows who you are?
Hi, Mahesh! First of all let me start by apologising for my English skills. I’m from Norway so I speak Norwegian! Actually, skrommel means low quality in my incomprehensible dialect, and it’s the word used by parents to describe the music their children play. You know: “Turn down that skrommel music!”
I’m a semi regular contributor to the Coding Snacks forum at DonationCoder It’s a place where people request software, and I try to put together the programs. It’s just simple scripts or small tools for Windows, but it’s been very fulfilling. You can find most of my contributions at 1HourSoftware
I’ve got a wife and three kids aged 1, 4 and 7. And two cats. I wanted a dog, but I lost the vote. I live in the most beautiful place on earth, the fjord where Keiko spent his last days. And I just got married to my beautiful girlfriend last summer, so programming has taken a backseat to… ahem… family life? Isn’t life great?
Q. How did you first get started in computers?
A: I have always been a technology fan, and when the home computer revolution hit Norway in the 1980’s, my dad brought home a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K. You know – small, black, rubber keys. I can’t remember asking him for one, if so I would have asked for a Commodore VIC-20 like my best friend had, but he probably just stumbled upon one and thought it would be educational. And so I spent every waking hour playing Manic Miner on it. There’s gratitude for you! But I believe his buying me a Spectrum actually has been vital to my choice to study and work in computers, and also for choosing to program in AutoHotkey.
Q. What made you want to code in AutoHotkey? Why not VB or Java?
A: I see I’ll have to go on a bit about my first computer. You see, the Spectrum came with the Basic programming language built in, and the commands were printed on the keys of the keyboard. So pressing G would spell out GOTO, and shift-G would spell out THEN. A real timesaver. And the editor was mode sensitive, so you were only allowed to input legal parameters. Sir Clive Sinclair really is a genius! Go to WorldOfSpectrum (www.WorldOfSpectrum.org) for some nostalgia.I’ve been through a lot of programming languages over the years, but I’ve really ever found anything that matched the Spectrum paradigm. Generally, programming languages falls into two camps: Easy to use but limited, or powerful but difficult to learn. Take Microsoft Visual C++: It’s very powerful, but man what a nightmare! Case sensitive variables, unstructured layout, and structs and typecasting – it’s a conspiracy! And where’s the Visual bit? Or a proper help file? Maybe I’m just too lazy. I initially spent 6 months learning MSVC++ and developing a tool that would allow me to scroll a window by right clicking and dragging up or down. 6 months! Using AutoHotkey it took just 6 hours! Java and Visual Basic looks easier, but once you want to do something a little out of the ordinary, your’re thrown in at the deep end.AutoHotkey (www.AutoHotkey.com) almost strikes the perfect balance. First of all, youcan write a line or two of code, and instantly have it running. No need for an elaborate framework, or some cryptic include files or compiler parameters. Secondly the help file is excellent, filled with working source code and accurate advice. And third, the code is handled by one man, sir Chris Mallet, so it’s uniform, structured and very simple. Did I mention that it’s free? It’s not perfect, there’s still functions missing and since it’s a script language, speed can be an issue, but it’s evolving steadily. And the forum is filled with generous people sharing code and answering questions.
Q. Other than utilities in AHK, do you have any other projects on the go?
A: No, there’s not enough time to go around. But what I really wish is that I had the programming skills to implement the language/IDE I sketched in my masters thesis. There’s still room for improvements in the world of programming!
Q. Which tool do you use for creating apps?
A: I actually program in Notepad2 (www.flos-freeware.ch) by Florian Balmer. It’s small, has line numbering, syntax colouring and all the things missing from Notepad. I also use AWicons Lite (www.AWIcons.com) by Neil Sagitov to make icons for my tools.
Q. How much time do you usually spend on Donationcoder & on computers?
A: When I first joined the DonationCoder forum, I spent every night programming, almost completing a tool a day, and sleeping maybe 3-4 hours. But now I program for 3- 4 hours instead, so maybe 10-11 hours total? Much too much, anyway. So please stop by DonationCoder and support mouser aka Jesse Reichler. He’s doing an incredible job, and there’s just so much one man can do.
Q. Do you have any hobbies and interests away from the desk?
A: Does an old house, a wife and three kids count? No, seriously, apart from running a small computer firm, I have very little time for anything else than my family. The only other thing must be that I try to play the piano I bought during my midlife crisis two years ago! That’s also when I started programming for DonationCoder. Oh why didn’t I get a Porche instead?
Q. If you could name five must-have apps you use everyday, what would they be?
A: Maxthon (www.Maxthon.com ) is what Internet Explorer should have been. Tabs, super drag and drop, split screen, plugins… The list is endless! Go download and donate! Locate32 (www.Locate32.net) speeds up file searches by indexing the disk on startup. Please, Microsoft, buy them! Or ask Janne Huttunen for the code! Just save me from using the Vista search function!
Sandboxie (www.Sandboxie.com) keeps spyware from infecting my computer by running my browser in a sandbox. Download, donate and tell Ronen Tzur to diversify. This tool could be used for movable apps, easy virtualization, easy recovery, anything! But “No, I want to help surfers and give it away for free…” Go figure. AVG (www.GriSoft.com) protects my computer from viruses. For free. Why the world atlarge is using that Norton slug is beyond me.Picasa (www.Picasa.com) organizes and fixes my wife’s thousands of photos. IZArc (www.IZArc.net) is… oh, five, was it?
Q. Who or what in your life would you say influenced you most?
A: Hmm… The Norwegian history is filled with Vikings, explorers and unselfish people, but my mom has two sayings: ”Try to do your best”, and “Create your own fun”. Great advice.
Q. Your favourite stuff from: Food/ T.V.Show/ Music/ Books/ Website?
A: Food: I was brought up on my mom’s wholegrain bread and strawberry jam, and it’s still a favourite.T.V. Show: The Daily Show with John Stewart is always funny! Maybe the Norwegian media is skewed, but is he the only critical voice in the whole of USA? Music: At the moment my favourite is Regina Spector. Listen to Samson at www.myspace.com/reginaspektor. It’s fantastic! Books: I just completed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, the third book in the Millennium trilogy. I don’t know why I can’t find any of these in English, but be sure to read the series when they are translated! Website: I of course visit DonationCoder and AutoHotkey regularly, and ShellCity (www.ShellCity.net), but other than that I mainly use the Internet to read computer news. No seriously. I mean it! Honest.
Q. Any advice you’d give to new programmers?
A: Get some sleep! And a girlfriend!
Q. Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
A: Hmm… Probably spending the afternoons driving the kids to and from soccer practice, music lessons and birthdays… I’ve already had my midlife crisis, so I really don’t know what I’d change. I live in the countryside, and there’s very few jobs in computers nearby, so I’ll probably still be running my little computer firm. And programming. Always programming.