Seven Things

January 26, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Personal, Work 

So yeah, I got tagged for this by both Eric Shepherd and Sean Alamares.

Ground rules:
1. Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

On to the seven things you may or may not have known about me:

1. I grew up as the son of a United Methodist pastor.  So yeah, that makes me a PK.  Somehow I managed to avoid falling into either stereotype of that situation (I knew several people who fit one or the other of them though).  United Methodist pastors typically get moved around between churches every few years.  Most of the time, my dad managed to stay put longer than most, so I only ever moved twice with my family before moving out on my own, once in the middle of Kindergarden, and the other time in the middle of 8th grade.  I would never recommend to anyone ever to move their kids in the middle of a school year.  Just don’t.  But I survived. :)

2. With the exception of two exchange programs that I participated in, I’ve never lived outside of the state of Michigan.  It’s a great place to live, when the economy doesn’t suck.  Michigan is currently the only state in the U.S. with a two-digit unemployment rate (10.6% for December 2008).  We can thank the failing auto industry for that.  I count myself very fortunate right now that I work for a company that’s still doing well despite the recession.

3. One of the above-mentioned exchange programs was a pastoral exchange when I was 12 years old.  My dad traded churches (and parsonages) with a pastor in Fleetwood, Lancashire, in the UK, for 6 weeks. We went and lived in his house, and he came and lived in ours. It was a pretty fun experience, and the first (and last) time I’ve ever been to a salt water beach.  The tide pools and miles of sand when the tide was out were quite fascinating.

4. The other of the above-mentioned exchange programs was a student exchange just after I graduated from high school.  I went and stayed with a host family in Concepción, Chile, for 2 months.  Yes, that was also on the ocean.  No, I never went to the beach while I was there.  It was the middle of the winter and too cold. :)  I had a tremendous amount of fun while I was there, and I didn’t want to come back.  The exchange organization that I had gone through for the exchange also had 6-month and 1-year programs in addition to the 2-month program, and I almost managed to get it extended to 6 months.  The only thing that stopped it from happening is my parents had already paid my tuition for the fall semester at college.  I was tremendously shy as a kid, and never had very many friends, mostly because I was too shy to make them.  I wholeheartedly credit this trip with bringing me out of my shell. :)

5. I met my wife while hiding in a dormitory basement with 80 other people during a tornado warning 3 weeks into that fall semester my freshman year at college.  I guess it’s a good thing I did come back from Chile when I did. ;)  It was about a year later before we were seriously dating though, and several months after that before we decided to get married.  We held off until after she graduated to get married.  A few months from now we’ll have been married for 15 years, and I love her now more than ever.  We have 2 children, who are now in 1st and 4th grades, and are absolute joys to be parents of… most of the time. :)

6. I never graduated from college.  I was working toward a Computer Science degree, and the computer area at Adrian College was pretty much falling apart around my Junior year, for both a lack of qualified faculty and limited number of participating students.  All of the computer classes there were considered part of the Math department at the time.  This wasn’t exactly a good fit.  They had three professors there who actually knew what they were doing with computers.  One of them was the chairman of the Political Science department (and thus only taught one or two computer classes).  One of them was the chairman of the Chemistry department (and thus only taught one or two computer classes).  The third was actually full time in the computer department, but was a native of India, and didn’t have a very good command of the English language, so you couldn’t understand anything he lectured about.  The remaining professors were all math teachers, and didn’t really understand computers well.  I understand that they split computers off to its own department and had a huge push on modernizing it with equipment and qualified faculty not long after I left, but it was already too late for me.  Also adding to the mix, I had gone in with a friend on an off-campus apartment, hoping to get cheaper housing.  My roommate ended up backing out on it after the lease had been signed, so I got stuck with the apartment by myself (which was no longer cheaper as a result).  This meant I had to go get a real job (rather than just a student job on campus) to pay for the rent, and homework of course suffered, and eventually there was no point in continuing school.  After we got married, Lori moved into that apartment with me.  But as strange as it seems, that lowly job working in the hardware deparment at the local Meijer store did actually lead to a career working with computers.  It took seven years to get there, working a little way up and down the chain within Meijer, but it did.  There’s enough meat there for a whole other blog post (or you can just go read my bio on the About page linked at the top, most of it’s in there :) )

7. I’m a huge fan of Asian media, mostly anime.  My taste is mostly in high school dramas, fantasy, scifi, magical girls, and slice-of-life stuff.  I tend to avoid mecha (which is what most people think of when they think of anime for some reason) and Naruto-style stuff.  My current favorites (minus a few) are listed over on the right on my blog.  You can find more (and some of the older stuff) if you dig around in the Anime category on my blog.  The Anime industry is in the middle of a huge upheaval right now, with many of the publishers starting to catch on to online distribution.  Personally I think it’s a great time to be a fan…  having more and more places to go to get good shows right from the publishers.

Tag, you’re it!

Actually, after looking around a little, I can’t find anyone with a blog who hasn’t already been tagged for this, so I guess it’s time to let it die.  It tends to get out-of-hand if you let it grow loosely anyway.  I’ve seen this mème going around Facebook listing both 16 and 25 as the number of things and people to list.  Consider yourself fortunate that the Mozilla community managed to keep it at 7. :)

Review: Angelic Layer

January 18, 2009 by · Comment
Filed under: Anime 
Misaki and Hotoko with Hikaru and Suzuku

Hotoko with Suzuka and Misaki with Hikaru

I recall seeing a description of this anime somewhere a few years ago and nothing jumped out at me as something I would enjoy (in fact, I thought it sounded kind of strange at the time), so I passed over it.  Looking back on it now, I think the description I saw just might not have been written well.  Recently, Crunchyroll picked up a license to stream it in North America, and the description jumped out at me a little bit more.  Since it was free, I figured I’d watch the first episode and see what it was like.  It hooked me, and I ended up watching the entire series over the following four days.  Although what Crunchyroll is streaming is Japanese audio with English subtitles, I noticed that all the credits were in English, and they had an English vocal cast listed in the credits in addition to the Japanese vocal cast.  This series really jumped out at me as something my kids would probably enjoy as well, so going on the clue from the credits that there must have been an English version, I checked out amazon.com and sure enough, found a box set of the series in English.

The premise of the series revolves around a game in which the participants buy high tech electronic doll kits, design the dolls (called “angels”) and outfits for them, and then fight them against each other on a playing field (called “the layer”) which allows the player to control their angel via a headset that transmits their thoughts to their angel.  You win the game by having the most remaining points at the end of the 10 minute time limit, taking away all of your opponent’s remaining points, or by getting a “layer out” by knocking your opponent off the layer.  The game tables are expensive, so most people don’t own their own, but rent time at a table in local establishments resembling cyber cafes to practice or have games with each other.  If the technology really existed to do this, it would be incredibly fun to participate, I think.  The actual fights seem pretty similar in concept to the “net battles” in Mega Man NT Warrior (but no weapons, it’s all hand-to-hand combat), which my kids really enjoyed, and was why I figured they’d enjoy this, too.  The dolls only work when on the table used for the playing field, and it reminded me of the “dimensional area” concept in Mega Man NT Warrior that allows the net navis to come into the real world, but only within the dimensional area.

The series opens with the main character, Misaki, moving to Tokyo to live with her aunt Shoko.  Her father died when she was a baby, and her mother left to go to Tokyo to work when she was 5, and never came back, leaving her with her grandparents in the country for the last 7 years.  The directions she gets from her aunt for how to find her house have her changing trains at Tokyo Station, getting off the regional bullet train onto the subway to get further into town.  But she gets lost inside the station and accidentally leaves the station instead of going to the transfer area, meaning she would have to pay for a new ticket to get back in.  In the square in front of the station, an Angelic Layer game is playing on the TV above the square.  The eventual winner of game is a small white angelic-looking doll, who comes from behind to win against a larger opponent.  Misaki, being fairly small herself, becomes very enthralled with this, that someone smaller could beat a larger opponent.  It’s then that a man in a white lab coat (who had actually followed her out of the station) approaches her and offers to show her how to get involved.  She eventually makes it to her aunt’s house, but not before spending all her money buying an Angelic Layer doll and accessories.  Having no money left to buy a new train ticket, and the guy in the lab coat having disappeared (he had gotten detained by the store security because of a misunderstanding with a store worker) she ends up walking all the way to her aunt’s house.

Over the next few days, Misaki (with some random help from Icchan, the lab coat guy) more or less accidentally ends up in some matches with people at the local store, and turns out to be really good at it.  Icchan takes the liberty of entering her in the local tournament without her permission, and she reluctantly agrees to participate.  The series follows Misaki’s adventures (and also the adventures of her mother, as some of her co-workers and Aunt Shoko attempt to convice her to go back to her daughter) as she progresses through the local, regional, and national tournaments as the “Miracle Rookie.”

The following paragraph describes some of the plot points revealed later in the series which helped to define the series and created much of the drama and tear-jerking moments in the series that won me over.  Since they’re crucial plot developments, I’ve marked it with spoiler tags to avoid spoiling the show for anyone who wants to discover them on their own.

click to reveal spoilers
We eventually learn that her mother (Shuko) really has multiple sclerosis, and has lost the use of her legs.  The real reason she left home was to participate in research to try to help her walk again, and she’s embarrassed to be seen by Misaki in a wheelchair.  She and one of the doctors (Icchan) had been working on neural transmitters to allow a user to control prosthetic legs in a natural way so that they would behave like normal ones.  The research was promising, but not promising enough for the bosses at the medical equipment company Icchan works for, and the funding had been cut.  Not wanting to give up, Shuko and Icchan turn to merchandising the small dolls they had been using to test the transmitters as a game in order to make money to continue the research on their own, and thus, Angelic Layer is born.  It took off way faster than they anticipated, and much of the research ended up getting channeled towards improving the game.  Shuko is the one who controlled the small white doll Misaki had seen on TV at the train station.  The man in the lab coat who found Misaki at the train station turns out to have been Icchan.  He had been sent there to make sure Misaki changed trains correctly, but failed to make contact in the station and lost track of her until after she’d already gone out the front gates.  Seeing her interest in Angelic Layer in the square in front of the station, he had decided it might be a good way to get the mother and the daughter to meet, since Shuko was still too paranoid to let Misaki see her in a wheelchair.  Icchan and Shuko’s sister Shoko (who Misaki is now living with) try many times to convince her to go see Misaki, but she never gets up the courage to do so until the end of the semifinal match at the national tournament, with Misaki not even knowing that her mother is involved with Angelic Layer at all (let alone the co-creator of it and current national champion) the entire time.  After a tear-jerking reunion before the final match, Shuko and Misaki get to battle each other for the national title.
.

Throughout the 26-episode series, we learn a lot about the background stories of several of the other players, and many of them become good friends with Misaki as a result of their interactions in the games.  There’s even a touch of romance thrown in.  The end of the series is really touching, and if you’re the empathetic or emotional type, I guarantee you’ll come out of episode 25 shedding at least a few tears.

I said at the top that I found DVDs with English audio on them.  I did order them but they haven’t arrived yet as I type this.  I made the mistake (if you want to call it that) of letting my son (he’s 10) watch the first episode in Japanese with subtitles online, and sure enough, he got hooked too.  He may have the entire thing watched in Japanese before the DVDs show up for him to be able to see it in English.

Bottom line, my son and I both really enjoyed this series.  The intended target audience is probably kids about my son’s age (upper elementary).  You can watch it online for free at Crunchyroll if you are connecting from within North America (in Japanese with English subtitles).  Paid subscribers get full DVD quality (480p), non-subscribers will get a lower-resolution (but still perfectly watchable) version.  The DVDs (with English audio) are available at Amazon.com (and probably other places).

Serving AppleShare from RHEL5 with Netatalk 2.0.3

January 13, 2009 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Personal, Work 

So I was recently trying to set up a fileshare in one of our offices and trying to get it visible to the filesharing stuff in Mac OS X, since several people in the office have Mac laptops.  The original thought (since it’s supposedly better-supported on Linux) was to set up Samba, but our authentication in the office is all LDAP based, and I gave up trying to get Samba to work with our LDAP server after a few days.  Samba seems to want complete control over your LDAP server, and won’t deal with a read-only one that just happens to have all the Samba auth info in it already.  This seems wrong, and I’m sure there’s a way to do it, but I sure couldn’t find any documentation to tell me how.

So then I thought maybe I’d try Netatalk.  None of the usual packaging repos seemed to carry a netatalk RPM, but I did find one for Netatalk 2.0.3 in Fedora 8.  I took the SRPM from that and rebuilt it on my RHEL5 server.  Then I went about trying to configure it.  Turns out the documentation for Netatalk SUCKS ROCKS.  Everything I could find was written in 1998 and last touched in 2002 or so, and there’s been several new versions of Netatalk since then.  When all was said and done, the configuration part turned out to be really easy, you just couldn’t figure it out from the docs.

I did find a tutorial for setting up Netatalk for TimeMachine on Ubuntu, which turned out to be incredibly helpful.  So my main reason for blogging about this is to help that tutorial get some more pagerank, since it wasn’t nearly high enough in the search results on Google. :)

So without further ado, here’s the Netatalk How-to for Ubuntu that I found.

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