"I am not paranoid...WHO SAID I WAS?!"
Gracie, "The Nanny"
AN INTERVIEW WITH DAN WILGA OF GRIBNIF SOFTWARE
by Richard Karsmakers
Probably about six years ago, American software company Gribnif
released their increasingly popular "NeoDesk" programmed by Dan
Wilga. Yours truly got quite attached to it, to such an extent
that I've upgraded to all versions up to and including "NeoDesk
4" (although I still haven't got it at the time of working out
But who is the person behind an illustrious program such as
"NeoDesk" and, likewise, products like "Geneva", "MemInfo",
"SysMon" (not the Isakovics one), "NeoDesk CLI" and a whole host
of Colaware programs such as "ColaCalc"? Who, when it boils down
to it, is Dan Wilga except for the person who is the major person
behind a severely weirdly called software company?
Reading the below interview might help you answering that
question. I succeeded in diverting him for some time from his
important programming duties ("NeoDesk" version 4, mostly) with
the following result.
Can you give us a short biography of your life, education,
computers, work and social status?
Dan: I was born in Northampton, MA in 1967, where I continue to
live now with my longtime-companion, Lisa, and her half-million
cacti. I attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA,
for several years before forming Gribnif Software.
This is just one of the five colleges in the immediate area,
which give it such an interesting flavor. Since Smith, Mount
Holyoke, Hampshire, UMASS, and Amherst attract very different
students (from very different backgrounds), the area is known for
its liberalism, desire to be on the "cutting edge", and never-
ending pursuit of anything that can be considered politically
correct. Despite all that, I like it anyway <smile>.
I think I've used pretty much every small PC around: I started
toying with BASIC on a Tandy Model II, then used a friend's Apple
II, and eventually bought a Timex/Sinclair-1000 (ZX-81) and,
later, an 800XL. It was with the T/S-1000 that I first learned to
use machine language (I wouldn't go so far as to say "assembly",
since that implies actually using an assembler, which I wasn't).
I also spent several years working for UMASS on their Cyber
mainframes programming graphics software in FORTRAN.
Could you be a bit more specific with regard to your birthday
Dan: OK, alright, my birthday is December 22. It's not something
I feel too confident about giving out, since it's one more thing
that some bored hacker could use against me when trying to kill
my credit rating or nuke my bank account. Me? Paranoid? Nahhh...
Or are you just into numerology? <smile>
Can you give us a description of your home, most specifically
the room where you do your work or another room that you perhaps
think deserves to be known better?
Dan: Most of my programming these days is done in the Gribnif
Software office. It's a fairly small space in a converted
schoolhouse situated in the farming town of Hatfield, to the
north of Northampton, along the banks of the Connecticut River.
What do you look like? Or, at least, how would you describe
yourself (feel free to throw in a few character traits as well)?
Dan: Appearence-wise (you certainly don't believe in loaded
questions, do you, Richard?) I'm 5'11", 165 lbs, blue eyes, light
brown hair, and have the poor eyesight which I think is a
prerequisite for being a programmer. I was recently compared to
Kenneth Brannagh (sp) in the film "Dead Again", a reference which
I have yet to determine whether it's positive or not. I think
it's just that I have the same beard he did in the movie. Let's
see, according to Emma, I'm very charming, suave, and am a
scintillating conversationalist. I'm well-known for my numerous
films including Henry V...Oh, wait, that's Brannagh...
What is your worst habit?
Dan: While I used to be the guy who worked until 3 or 4 in the
morning, those days have pretty much gone by, so that I can be
here in the office during "normal" hours (fortunately for my
mother, who used to think I was a vampire).
Do you have any pets and, if so, what kind?
Dan: I have several pet fish. None of them is named Eric.
If I were ever to visit you, where would you take me for a night
Dan: If you were to visit, I would probably take you to one of
the excellent ice cream parlors here in Northampton.
Do you do any other work except for that through which most
people tend to know you?
Dan: I do a little consulting on the side, sometimes.
What is your local ST/TT/Falcon scene like?
Dan: Locally, there is one dealer who sort of sells Atari
computers, and another small store that is just starting up.
There are a few local user groups that we speak to from time to
What programs in your AUTO folder or ACC directory would you
rather not be without?
Dan: Most of my AUTO folder and ACC programs are programming
utilities: "ColaCalc" (a TSR programmer's calculator), "MemFile"
(a memory/disk/file editor), and "TempleMon". I also use a Crazy
Dots board (usually in monochrome) with the ET-4000 version of
"NVDI", here on my TT.
What is the latest program you've done?
Dan: Right now, I'm working on a new version of the original
desktop replacement for the Atari, "NeoDesk" (i.e. version 4,
ED.). I am also continuing to update our most recent release,
"Geneva", the multitasking environment. There are still a few
features I'd like to add to this one, too.
Which book have you read recently that made most of an
impression on you?
Dan: I read mostly SF and fantasy books (big surprise, there!).
A few series stand out more than others: Steven Brust's Vlad
Taltos novels, David Eddings Belgariad/Mallorean series, and the
Sten series by Cole and Bunch.
What's your favourite season, and why?
Dan: I like the spring most, because it's just after the ten or
so feet of snow have all melted, and just before all of the cow
pastures around here really start to become noticeable.
What's your favourite music?
Dan: Musically, I really like Petunia Clark and Shirley
Bassie...oops, that's Brannagh again...seriously, I like to
listen to a lot of different things: New Order and Depeche Mode,
Pink Floyd and Traffic, Laurie Anderson, the Cocteau Twins, Bob
Marley, Peter Tosh, and just about anything on 4AD. I reserve Joy
Division for when I'm doing my taxes.
Dan: 4AD is a non-mainstream record label in the UK that is
known for producing very eclectic music that nonetheless has a
certain commonality to it (it was the Cocteau Twins' first label,
if that means anything to you). If you are at all interested in
this type of music, I strongly suggest you check out "Filligree
and Shadows" by This Mortal Coil.
What computer hardware do you have?
Dan: At the office we have one of just about every computer
Atari has ever made: 2 1040's, a STacy, two Megas, a Falcon, a
Mega STe, and a TT. We also have the standard array of hard
drives and burnt out Atari monochrome monitors. I either use my
TT with a VGA monitor and the Crazy Dots card here at the office,
or I take my work home with me on a Syquest cartridge, where I
have an accelerated Mega 4.
What is the computer game you play most at the moment? What's
your all-time fave game?
Dan: I'm still awful at it, but I've been playing Jeff Minter's
commercial version of "Defender II". I also really like to play
"NetHack" from time to time, and just finished "Gods" a few
months ago (Along the same lines, the Bitmap Bros' "Xenon II" is
still one of my favorites).
What is the film you've been to recently that made most of an
impression on you?
Dan: On the subject of films, I saw "Schindler's List" 72 times,
and I'm about to pop off and drown myself now... no, actually,
Lisa and I just saw "Four Weddings and a Funeral". Aside from the
poor acoustics in the theater making it difficult for us to
understand some of the accents (and I watch lots of British and
Australian movies and TV shows, and rarely have this much
trouble), it was a really hilarious film. My only qualm is that
they should have developed Andie MacDowell's character a bit
Do you remember a film that struck you as being especially crap,
a film you was tempted to get a refund at the cinema for?
Dan: Probably the worst movie I can recall seeing in recent
years is "Joe Versus the Volcano". The only redeeming part in it
was when one of the female leads gave the all-time best
rejoinder: "I have no response to that."
Do you play any musical instruments? If so, which one(s) and how
Dan: I studied the drums for a while, just long enough, in fact,
to now have the ability to seriously annoy anyone within a 50-
foot radius of my tapping hands and fingers within a matter of
You are connected to the Internet. What do you think of it?
Dan: In my opinion, the singlemost disappointing aspect of using
Internet has to be the archaic software we are expected to use to
enter and view messages. This is especially true in the Unix
world, where most of the mail readers seem to have sprouted like
so many weeds, in a disorganized mish-mash of differing
terminology and interface. Until there is an easier way for the
average user to get at and communicate using Internet, there are
going to be a lot of people who are still driving down the
Information Superhighway with their right turn signal stuck in
the "on" position.
What is to you the music release of 1993?
Dan: My favorite disc of 1993 is one called Deep Forest. It's
just a guy with a Synclavier and lots of rhythms taken from
Pygmie chants, but it sounds absolutely fantastic, even on the
Is there something you see everybody likes but you that you
loathe most intensely?
Dan: Something that everyone else likes, but I loathe: Feta
cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. If I'm going to eat something
resembling foot fungus, I refuse to pay ridiculous prices for it.
Most cliche question of the interview (possibly): What's your
favourite food? And favourite drink?
Dan: My favorite drink is Coke. Favorite foods: Ice cream, Heath
(toffee) bars, and pizza (not necessarily together).
What is your favourite fantasy?
Dan: My favorite fantasy is to actually do what I like to do,
and get paid lots and lots of money for it. Too many people
forget the first part of this equation and just go for the lots
and lots of money bit.
Now some words to react to. Feel free to mention whatever you
warrant should be mentioned after hearing a word.
The ozone layer.
Dan: Invest in Coppertone stock now (an popular American brand
of sun tan lotion, ED.).
Dan: One of those things nearly everyone does, but very few
admit to. The most important thing to do is to educate people
away from the mentality which says that "these are big companies
and they won't mind if I give a copy to my friend." Maybe
MicroSoft doesn't miss a few dollars, but in the Atari market,
every dollar makes a huge difference.
Dan: A good idea run afoul in the same manner as popular radio
here in America. Too much repetition and commercialism have made
it into just another tool for the record company executives to
increase their net worth.
Dan: Singing lessons are not something that can be taken
Dan: Stop me before I do to Adams for the last book what Agrajag
wanted to do to Arthur in the third one. "So Long" was pretty
boring, but at least not too upsetting. "Mostly Harmless" was far
more interesting, but the ending was pretty pathetic. OK, not
just pathetic, downright annoying. He spent all this time
developing some weird new subplots and characters, only to have
an ending which seemed kind of like "Well, I've written the
prerequisite 200 pages, it's time to murder them all."
Dan: The best-intended concept which has had the most
unexpectedly horrific results.
Dan: Too many articles, not enough Spam. I've only read the one
issue of ST NEWS you sent me, so I didn't really feel that I
could say anything terribly intersting about it, so I opted for a
[Monthy] Python reference instead. I do realise that this is a
facetious comment from an obnoxious American that will only be
understood by the useless 1/3 of your readers <smile>.
Why should people buy "Geneva", not "Mag!X"?
Dan: "Geneva" is a program that I've worked very diligently on
for two years now, and am very proud of. Not only does it have
all those nice multitasking capabilities, but it has things like
online help, automatic keyboard equivalents for buttons in
dialogs and menu entries, 3D buttons and window gadgets, the
ability to load and unload desk accessories whenever you want to
(without rebooting), a very spiffy file selector, a comprehensive
manual, and even documentation for all of the extended
programming functions. And it's all done in a way which not only
takes up very little memory and causes no noticeable system
slowdown, but it is extremely compatible with older applications.
I prefer to be positive about "Geneva" rather than negative about
"Mag!x", since I'm obviously biased (likewise, Dan refused to
comment on words to react to such as "Gemini" and "Teradesk",
probably a wise thing to do, ED.).
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.