they printed my letter!

As stated in an earlier post, I’ve been a long-time reader of Usagi Yojimbo (rabbit bodyguard). It wasn’t until a recent story that I was moved to write. The story had to do with the main character and his “nephew” Jotaro. In actuality, Usagi is Jotaro’s father, but Jotaro doesn’t know it. This story hit home with me for reasons most of you know about: being adopted.

Anyway, the way Stan handled the situation and the depth of the characters once again showed Stan’s mastery as both a writer and artist. Though my letter touched on this detail, I also asked if Stan has considered taking the long-eared one to a feature-length animation. The printed response only addressed this question. As is typical of letters columns in comic books, emotionally and/or politically charged subjects are not dealt with directly. The response simply stated that Stan has often been approached with the possibility of going to another medium.

A quick preusal of any of his work reveals multitude cinematic devices throughout. In fact, one is reminded of the work of Kurosawa in any of his samurai flicks. Miyamoto Usagi is, in fact, patterned after the historical figure Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest swordsman ever to have lived, and author of the “Book of Five Rings”. Stan has also incorporated aspects from other characters such as Sanjuro from the film “Yojimbo”. The lighter nature of the book seems to be from the latter influence.

Stan spends countless hours doing research into the history and culture of feudal Japan. As a result, readers are rewarded with not only an amazing story and believable characters, but they are offered a glimpse into the rich history of Japan. The biggest inaccuracy, of course, being that the Japanese are not and never were anthropomorphized fuzzy animals.

So again, I urge anyone with a piqued interest to check out any of the many volumes of Usagi Yojimbo. There are collected volumes for those not into the comic book format (or the hassle of collecting a bunch of smaller volumes). Oh, and the issue with my letter is Number 77 (Dark Horse Comics)

Happy reading!

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forced to move?

According to several sources, the first one I saw being the drunken blog, Yellow Dog Linux (YDL) will no longer support “old world” Macs. Hmmm, while I understand that they need to have a viable business without stretching themselves too thin,this saddens me.

I have been running YDL on an old Power Computing Power Tower Pro 200. This is one of the Mac clones from the late 90’s. It’s a sweet little computer that I bought from a graphic designer for $200 a few years back. The thing has been running non-stop as my mail server. There were 2 times it was down. Once, after uptime of nearly 300 days, I was rooting around in my closet (server room) and kicked the plug. had to reboot. The second time was when I moved to my new place. Never had to touch it since. The thing just runs, and relatively quietly, too.

Anyway, the “new world” macs have different firmware, and thus makes the older macs obsolete. There is hope, however. I recently got NetBSD running on an old 5500. The 5500 is also an old world system. So, when YDL no longer supports my version (2.3) of linux, then I’ll wipe the box and run NetBSD.

It’s strange, but more and more of my computers are running *BSD. It’s as though these PCs are born with and grow up running Windows®, Linux is the Ferrari of their mid-life crises, and when they get long in the tooth and want to settle down, they run *BSD.

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what a long, strange trip it’s been…

Whew! I finally got a bootable OpenBSD image on the Soekris Net4801. After many hours of looking at several how-to’s and adapting them to my specific setup, I finally got something working. The next step is to configure the services I need as well as properly configure all the onboard hardware.

The little Soekris boxes are really nicely made, and are made specifically for Open Source operating systems. I’ve ditched my old Pentium-166MHz box and am currently just using a cheap-o (i paid $10 after MIR) residential “router” that has really basic functionality.

The new box has 3 NICs, so I’ll be able to segregate my network traffic and filter out traffic to my internal network pretty nicely.

Omanomanoman, can’t wait to get this thing up! Of course, I’ll detail my steps once I get the thing finished.

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“his name is Robert Paulsen…”

Don’t know what got me thinking about this… There are so many technologies and products that buzz in and out of our collective conscience that it often feels like they don’t even have a name. They’re just faceless entities that served their time, perhaps not even a true role. Then, as quickly as they appeared, vanished.

My BeDev ID is 8837. I signed up to be a Be developer way back in 1997. The benefits were that you got a copy of the latest developer release of the OS, discounts on PowerPC hardware, and several newsletters. Those were the halcyon days at Be.

For the uninitiated, BeOS was the “pervasively multi-tasking”, Media OS for digital content creators. It had amazingly low latency for applications like audio and video editing. There were realtime VST plugins that could be used simultaneously. The basic video editor could do all its transitions in realtime on relatively meager hardware (although I had a dual PII-233MHz – which at the time was pretty hefty)

Its roots lie with Apple. Jean-Louis Gassee, ex-Apple VP, decided that he’d go out on his own to develop a next-generation operating system. The result was amazing. Micro-kernel-based, and lean, the OS could handle just about anything you could throw at it… at once. No exaggeration, I once had 9 copies of Doom running, and none of them seemed to be dropping frames. 1997. Pentium IIs. B’lie’ dat. There was also an OpenGL demo that ran really well. It was a software implementation, as they had no OpenGL hardware drivers at the time. It was amazing. You could also play multiple streams of video, audio, and have MP3 encoding all going on at once, too. I tried doing the same thing on Macs of the time, as well as NT4 on the same hardware, and, well… uh, they didn’t come near what BeOS could pull off.

One of the coolest aspects of BeOS was, of course, the community surrounding it. In those days, there were lots of developers who hung out on comp.sys.be.* You could follow discussions about kernel threading, fragile base classes in C++, and just about anything your geeky mind could think of. Not only that, but the developers would answer questions, too! 🙂

The biggest problem at the time was what the community referred to as “tractor apps”, apps that would draw people to use the OS. There were fledgling applications for audio and video, and even productivity, but there was nothing there that was really killer, that made someone say, “wow, I gotta gets me mines”. The biggest hook they had going was the “wow” factor in the media area.

What helped in my mind was that most of the GNU and other FOSS out there was ported to the platform. I remember playing MAME on BeOS, as well as using Perl, bash, gcc, LAME, and just about anything else imaginable.

I started a project! I hooked up with a developer in Madagascar and we designed a Windows ® Explorer-like file manager. I think we called it Marco Polo or something like that. BeOS didn’t have a tree view in it’s GUI, and that was something that took a lot of getting used to. However, there were several advantages that it did have in its UI. For instance, right-clicking a folder allowed you to navigate it’s entire sub-tree without opening a folder. You could also move or copy files in this fashion. Very nice. Anyway, after learning a lot about how the OS was put together, and running out of spare time, we dropped the project. It was fun, though! It was from programming for BeOS that one understands the simplicity and elegance of the system. The whole thing was truly object-oriented, which made programming a *lot* easier for beginners. The biggest complication in my mind was the POSIX layer that somewhat broke the OO model of the OS, but it was exactly this layer that allowed so much FOSS to be ported so quickly.

Life was good, and for once I had a computer that could keep up with my fragmented, scattered, everything-at-once approach to computing. Then, the meteor hit. Be announced that they would be “changing focus” – read: “uh, our market is starting to be addressed by our competitors(Microsoft), so we need to get into another market.” They moved to the internet appliance market. “What’s that?”, you say? “Never heard of that!”. That’s right. Because the IA market is the market that never was. BeIA (as the embedded BeOS was dubbed) found itself strewn among the carnage that included the 3Com Audrey and the NetWinder . BeIA saw limited use in a few products. There was the failed Sony appliance, the e-Villa, and the IZ RADAR 24. Shortly after the failure of the e-Villa, Be was bought by Palm. Everyone had high hopes of hearing the great news that the next big version of PalmOS would take advantage of the BeOS’ great realtime and media features. We’re still waiting (Cups hand to ear. hears crickets chirping, hard drive grinding).

As bleak as all this sounds, you may be asking, “what ever happened to BeOS?”. The answer is that it didn’t die. It kinda morphed into something(s) else. Yellowtab bought the rights to the source code, and have created Zeta, the next release of BeOS. On the FOSS front, there have been many activities, but the most interesting one is OpenBeos, recently reborn as Haiku. It looks fairly promising, as development has evolved over the years. There are other projects as well, but I won’t get into them.

These days, I have a PII-333MHz running BeOS, serving up MP3s. It doesn’t crash 🙂

So, there you have it. The story of yet another one of those technologies that came and went like a leaf on the ocean.

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man, I’m old

I just realized a few months ago that Usagi Yojimbo has been in print for 20 years. I’ve been reading it for about 15 of those 20 years. For all those years, Stan has managed to come up with compelling stories, believable characters, and a beautifully rendered world.

the most recent story arc has to do with Usagi and his “nephew” Jotaro. It’s been developing for years and finally came to a conclusion. I have to say I almost cried. This is the first story I’ve read in comics that has prompted such an emotional reaction from me. If you want to find out why, head over to your local comics shop (most big retailers don’t carry the monthly book), and pick up as much of the long-eared ronin as you can. You won’t be sorry.

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