You may or may not have heard of the ZX Team, a duo of developers who have only recently hit the scene with such ROMs as ZX Donut. I caught up with Zach and Stefan and asked them some questions. This is the (heavily edited) result.
Dan/AndroidSpin: So Zach, can you introduce yourself briefly?
Zach: Hello, I am zachattack052, a new dev to the android community.
AS: And xillius, could you do the same?
Stefan: Yep, Iâ€™m Xillius200, full name Stefan Skarbinski, and Iâ€™m also a new dev to the community 🙂
AS: Would you prefer if i called you xillius or Stefan?
Stefan: Stefan 😛
AS: Do you both have ‘day-jobs’ as such? school, college, anything of the sorts?
Zach: Yup, I just started working at a local auto repair type deal (btw i am 16)
Me: Repairing cars before you can even drive them?
Zach: No, I donâ€™t repair them, I wash them after they are repaired, etc.
AS: And Stefan? How about you?
Stefan: Yep, I go to school and am in a group of three in a special ICT group. However, Iâ€™ve got no job because Iâ€™m 15, and not 16 till the 28th of May, but Iâ€™m hoping to get a Saturday job at a computer place 🙂
AS: A special ICT group because of skill?
Stefan: Sorta, I got told off by the council for computer reasons but yeah group was due to that 😛
AS: I know that thereâ€™s some debate in the community as to whether people like you are actual developers. Would you guys be okay with me calling you devs?
Zach: No problem
Stefan: Yeah, because devs don’t have to be coders 🙂
AS: What were your first android phones?
Zach: I got a MyTouch 3G on the first day it was released.
Stefan: HTC Magic from Vodafone.
AS: Are those phones your current phones or have they changed?
Zach: Yup, I still have my Mt3G.
Stefan: Yep, still have the trusty Magic.
AS: But I presume they’ve been hacked beyond all belief, right?
Zach: Yes they have.
Stefan: Yep, pretty much anything you can think of has been done 😛
AS: Here’s an interesting one. How did you first get into Android development?
Zach: Well me and Stefan were chatting on the OpenEclair forum, and I sent him a message asking if he wanted to do a ROM together, which lead up to Z.X.D and to now.
AS: So for you it was a spontaneous sort of thing?
Zach: Pretty much, I always wanted to do it, but never acted upon it until then.
AS: and Stefan, I know you started as part of the OpenEclair team. How did you get into that and how far have you come since?
Stefan: The first rom I tried was wg-build 9, and from there I got chatting to wesgarner (the developer of the rom), and he taught me all about android. He was the only dev who spoke to me, and then he added me to one of the WG build things, then the OE team after that. I learned development and how to compile, I made an Open Remix rom, and then as Zach said he sent me a message and we made Z.X.D which lead to ZX.
AS: So Wes is a good guy?
Stefan: Yep, in my opinion the best dev going, except from Cyanogen in coding.
SHORT COMMERCIAL BREAK 🙂
AS: So you guys are both reasonably new to the scene, as it were. What ROMs would you say you are most well-known for?
Zach: ZX Donut, 100%.
Stefan: ZX Donut it was a huge success 😛
AS: Zach, I remember a rom called ScienceTest that I helped test for you.
Zach: Yes, that was just a small mod i decided to do, but thanks to Stefan I have learned a lot more than just some theming.
AS: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve currently got ZX Donut, Eclair, and 2 flavours of ZX Hero.
Zach: ZX Slide too.
AS: Duly noted. Which of those do you two use as your everyday roms?
Zach: My daily driver is ZX 1.5 Hero.
Stefan: ZX Eclair or now ZX hero decided earlier today.
AS: so you still run a Cupcake rom?
Zach: Yes, but its sense. Iâ€™m sure we will be moving on to ZX 2.1 hero soon.
Stefan: Yep if you want true speed (I like speed as you may have noticed) then you have to stay with the basics, but yeah, 2.1, Iâ€™m sure Zach and me could make it just as fast.
As: And of those 5 roms, which would you say you are most proud of/pleased with overall?
Zach: For me 3 of them are my most “proud of”, ZX 1.5 hero, ZX 2.1 Hero, and ZX donut.
Stefan: ZX Donut. Most of the hard work and fun was put into that rom, and it was the first time we found how to get a good rom so I pick that one.
AS: A lot of people in the Android community are put off a bit by the large numbers of ‘developers’, especially those who basically modify existing ROMs and release them as their own. What do you guys think about this?
Zach: I am put off by the “Rom cookers”, yet at the same time I have some respect for them, because thatâ€™s how i started out.
Stefan: Well, I thought about this for a long time a while ago and I think if the dev community was too small, they would be moaning that they haven’t got enough roms to test. I think having more roms and devs are better as we get a wider variety. That’s why I like Android, I like to test and experiment. I also agree with what Zach said about â€œROM cookersâ€.
AS: I mean, let’s say someone took take ZX Donut, changed some graphics and tweaked it a bit, but basically kept it much the same. If they released that as their own work, how would you feel?
Zach: Well, I do recall an incident between us and Cyanogen. He was not so happy with us, because he thought we signed off of his rom and took the credit, but it turned out to be an honest mistake. And i have to say i agree with Cyanogen, and why he was mad, because he put all of that work in and got no credit. I would be happy if the person said that it was signed off of it, but you canâ€™t just steal someoneâ€™s work and claim it for yourself.
AS: What do you mean by the phrase ‘signed off of his rom’?
Zach: Just to clear things up we didnâ€™t sign off his rom. It was a repo sync combo between ZX Eclair and CM5. Signing is just changing a few things via test signing. Itâ€™s somewhat hard to explain.
AS: And Stefan, what’s your opinion?
Stefan: Well cyan never speaks to me so blah but yeah, we repo synced and we used part of cm5 in ZX Eclair and cyan got a bit uptight with the fact we were using his stuff.
AS: Would you feel the same if someone did something similar to your rom?
Stefan: Probably yeah so I don’t blame him.
AS: Okay, so let’s move away from development a bit now. The XDA Developers community has somewhat of a reputation. What is your general opinion of the XDA Developers community?
Zach: Well, some are cool, but 99.9% of them are huge newbs that areâ€¦I guess you can say stuck up. They will try to talk about something that they know nothing about, for example Stefan’s rom â€˜The Inevitable Donutâ€™ that no-one knows about was torn up on XDA, because they thought AOSP was â€˜The Official Donutâ€™ by enom.
AS: Did this actually happen, Stefan?
Stefan: Yep, they thought it was enom’s AOSP. It was actually compiled from official AOSP, and they didn’t know the difference, so they decided to flame it down.
AS: And your general opinion of the community?
Stefan: XDA Developers is an all right community, but a handful of the users sometimes don’t know what they are doing at all, or just flame the rom cause they don’t like it. Apart from that, it is a great community, but if XDA and AndroidSPIN combined it would be perfect, because all my Android news comes from AndroidSPIN, plus the AndroidSPIN community is nicer (no offence to XDA).
AS: I’m primarily an app reviewer (although it’s a bit hard to do that without a working phone right now). What are your favourite Android apps and games, and can you suggest any that we should review on AndroidSPIN?
Zach: My favourite app is taskiller primarily because even ZX Donut can be sped up by it. I hate to say it but Iâ€™m not a big gamer, so no favourite android games.
AS: Does that mean you disagree with the point of view put forward recently by Cyanogen and others that Task Managers don’t help much?
Zach: I do, I donâ€™t see how a ROM could slow down because of a task manager. They do have reasonable arguments though.
AS: And you, Stefan?
Stefan:Â Most likely some more apps like cubed music player etc. and louder volume hack.
AS: We all know that Android 2.2 (Froyo) is coming at Google IO. The three biggest features known thus far are Flash 10.1, auto-updating apps, and official and proper Apps on SD Card. Which of these are you looking forward to the most?
Zach: Official and proper Apps on SD Card
Stefan: Flash 10.1, but that doesn’t mean that I think it’s better than html5.
AS: What would be your ideal Android device? Be realistic (don’t go over the top).
Zach: I do believe that HTC did a great job with the Droid Incredible. So, somewhat like that, but sexier, and with a bigger processor.
Stefan: An android device with the new OMAP4440 – 1+ GHz dual-core 😀
AS: Do you prefer a hardware or software keyboard?
Zach: I enjoy a thin phone so software
Stefan: Software XD
AS: So I guess the MyTouch 3G Slide doesn’t really do much for either of you then?
Zach: Espresso sucks.
Stefan: Nope, not good enough. Not the right specs, and yep Espresso sucks. Not much has changed to the UI, which is why Espresso sucks.
Zach: Donâ€™t get me wrong, itâ€™s a sexy phone! But Espresso sucks.
AS: Apart from each other, which developers would you say you respect/look up to?
Zach: I canâ€™t say Wes, because Iâ€™ve hardly ever talked to him, and I canâ€™t say king, for many reasons, and canâ€™t say Stefan because Iâ€™m not allowed to. So Iâ€™m not going to answer this one, but if you hadnâ€™t said â€˜apart from each otherâ€™, I would say Stefan.
Stefan: WesGarner for the fact he makes awesome roms, heâ€™s helped me a lot, and he makes code from scratch. Also, anderwebs for his launcher and the fact he’s just a code pusher. He does do code writing now and again 😛
AS: Let’s finish this off with one final question. If you could make any single change to the Android platform, what would you change? You can add a feature, remove a feature,Â or change an existing feature, but not all three.
Zach: I would keep it clean, and not have so many devices out. Look at apple with the iPhone. They do great, but they only have 3 phones. Android should just have a few devices like the incredible, and the Nexus.
AS: And Stefan?
Stefan: Make it all open source instead of part of it still being disallowed so we can have Gapps legally.
AS: Well thank you guys for agreeing to do this interview. Do you have twitter accounts you wish to plug?
We’d like to thank Zach and Stephan for taking time out from developing to talk to AndroidSPIN.
The work of the ZX Team can be found at their AndroidSPIN Developer Homepage.