Category Archives: History

The Lensman Series by E. E. Doc Smith

First LensmanMany years ago that I read the Lensman series by Doc E. E. Smith, the precursor to all modern space opera that came after it. Even at the time I read it the technology was dated as these books were written in the 40s and 50s (and even I had no read them when they were first published), but that all did not matter to me at all. These were just great stories.

My first read was in a German translation and I am rather certain that I read at least a few of the books in English after I came to the US of A. For a long time now I wanted to read them again but these books are hard to come by – most of them were out of print and I believe still are – you can’t really find them on Amazon in form of inexpensive paperbacks, maybe as bound collectors items but not for an amount that I was willing to spend.

So I had given up for a while to find a complete set, but recently discovered the first, Triplanetary, as an ebook and am about to finish it on my tablet (apparently the only useful application for a tablet.)

As I was approaching the last few pages I needed the next one – First Lensman. Quite a bit of googling later I finally hit the mother-lode at Arthur’s Bookshelp. He had them all and as I was at it, I also got the Skylark series for the time when I’m done with the Lensmen.  That could be a few years at the slow pace I am going.

Just in case you need the sequence of the book, because it is sometimes hard to figure it out the chronology:

  1. Triplanetary
  2. First Lensman
  3. Galactic Patrol
  4. Gray Lensman
  5. Second Stage Lensman
  6. Children of the Lens

And here – as we are at it, the sequence of the Skylark series:

  1. The Skylark of Space
  2. Skylark Three
  3. Skylark of Valeron
  4. Skylark DuQuesne

 

Patrolling Space In the Spaceship Orion

I have mentioned the spaceship Orion previously in my post about Living Under Water. The German science fiction TV series Space Patrol (Raumpatrouille) follows the crew of the space ship Orion on their adventures through the galaxy.

Orion landed on a desert planetI remember waiting very excitedly for the première of the series and then every next week’s show. It came out at about the same time in 1966 as the original Star Trek, but it was much later that I finally watched my first Star Trek episode and it confirmed the German arrogance that we (the Germans) are better at creating things but it also confirmed the other stereotype that America is much better in marketing. Orion lasted seven episodes with a remastered movie version in the early 2000s, while Star Trek is still going strong after nearly half a century. Sets and special effects were so much more creative than the original Star Trek even though some people dared to make fun of some of the props, like the electric iron used to do some mysterious tuning task on the navigation console. In my mind then, those people just didn’t get it.

I do have the whole series on DVD and it is about time to watch it again, but today I enjoyed running into another fan of the series who took his admiration for the show a bit further than just buying the DVDs – he created stunning illustrations of the adventures of the star cruiser Orion.

I discovered Crossvalley Smith through a post on Facebook that featured one of his illustrations from the Perry Rhodan universe, another sweet memory of mine, a science fiction series published as weekly pulp novellas.

A scene from a landing of the Orion on a desert planet has for now replaced an anime illustration as my computer wall paper – go check out Crossvalley’s site, maybe you find something you enjoy.

The Hobby Kitchen – A Pre-Blog

thai-recipesThis is history as we made it!

It was in the early days of the internet, a time when Google did not exist yet, when we used Alta Vista to find things on that interweb. When Netscape was strong and the driving force for new developments on this world wide web. When there were pages at Netscape where you could tell the world about new sites or pages – and the world came.

It was 1995!

This is when we stared something that would later be called a blog. Sure, there was no php and certainly no WordPress, so the blog-entries had to be crafted by hand, usually in a simple text editor and the blogger had to know html. Not that there was much to be known – the leading edge of html tags were background images and music.

This was the year ‘My Hobby Kitchen’ was born. The plan was to publish one Thai recipe every few day, or how often we managed. If we would have kept it up, by now we would have – at one recipe per day – close to one thousand recipes. That number shows that it was just not possible as nobody knows 1000 recipes. We did – maybe – foresee that and invented the ‘guest-blogger.’ But only one came on board, shortly before the project died.

The amazing part of the story is that these pages survived. After a multitude of ISPs, and moving between different domains, these pages are still there and they are finding a new home no on this (real) blog.

I kept the pages as they were, just made some adjustments to fit into the framework of this blog, removed any pointers to web sites that don’t exist any more and anonymized it to protect the guilty. But I left all the tacky background music and images intact so that those young people can see how it all started. It was written from the perspective of my significant other who is Thai and knew what she was doing – your’s truly was just the webmaster.

Without any further ado, here is

My Hobby Kitchen.

The Last Roll of Kodachrome

KodachromeI got myself some nice Canon T4i but I can’t figure out where to put that film in, of which I still have a few rolls and which I don’t want to let go to waste.

I think I like Nikon better because on the old 6006, I still have, there was not problem with that – I just opened the back – and there is the space where the film fit in. I got the back of my new T4i open but there is still no place for that roll of film, only all that electronic stuff, chips and wires and such – hmmm.

But, jokes aside, I know there is no more film produces any more – at least not in form of a mass production – and that I would have a hard time to find a lab these days that could still develop film. This roll on the right is probably about 15 years old and expired so solidly that there would be hardly anything on it any more, even if there was a process to develop it with.

But I got to think about that when I ran into a video of photographer Steve McCurry, securing the last role of Kodachrome produced in 2009 and going on a world tour to shoot that last roll ever to leave the factory.

Reminded me of the beginning of my photography career back in Germany. Obviously, with the German arrogance, I did not use Kodachrome – the colors were just too American to satisfy a German eye – we used Agfachrome which displayed a softer gradient of colors and saturation. Back then I always shot slide film and I don’t really remember what my reason was to suddenly get into film for color prints when I got a much better camera – the Nikon 6006 – after coming to the US of A. It might have been because there was an affordable service to give me, with the prints, a scan of the images I could download from the lab’s web site. Another reason probably was, that I was not a purist any more and did break down and took memory photos – back in my early days that would never had happened – the shutter was pressed only when art came out.

This very selective pressing of the shutter was paramount for Steve McCurry when he shot the very last role of Kodachrome. Here is his report…

This documentary got me very interested in Mr. McCurry and I found this interview with him.

You can see the gallery of the 31 images from the last role of Kodachrome on Vanity Fair.

PS: Reminded me that, during my early days of photography (with Agfachrome), I considered it a good outcome when I got one good shot from a role of film.

X11Forwarding But DISPLAY variable not set

x11-logoSerious programming in the olden days mean to deal with Unix – the father of today’s ubiquitous Linux running bigger part of the internet.

The first bigger project I was involved in was still the good old DOS with Turbo Pascal – anybody remember that?

As soon as I could, and we had to build something less of a hack but more of a software-engineered application, I steered my client into Unix, first the X86 version of Xenix, which turned out to be too flaky, and then a nice hundred thousand dollar HP Workstation. As it was an application involving graphics, an important order of business was to get familiar with the principles and techniques of the X11 windowing system.

This was not a very long-lived project and with the advent of more powerful x86 hardware and a finally decent piece of software from Microsoft – Windows NT – the develoment was moved to that new platform. The fact that the port from X to NT was not terribly difficult was a nice testimonial for proper application of software engineering principles. Hacking mentality as promoted by something like Turbo Pascal would have required a complete rewrite.

System administration, I had become familiar with during that time, was helpful when I started to maintain a few linux web servers years later. I always considered X11 far superior to all the other graphical windows software but I really had never anything to do with it any more – until a point in time a few days ago.

First of all, I finally succeeded in getting Ubuntu running on an old laptop. A flaky DVD had never gotten me through an installation properly and the machine was so old that it could not boot from a memory stick. I ultimately succeeded when I found a utility I could burn on a CD and boot from that made my USB bootable. Now I could load Ubuntu from the USB stick.

So, there I finally was again with a computer with a proper graphical user interface. But that computer was tucked away somewhere with little physical access. It serve as a local testing machine for web development – did not really need that X Windows for that!

But it was sitting there, teasing me, so I finally got XMing – an X Server running on MS Windows – installed on my main computer where I sit all day and I could finally connect to that old laptop remotely with a graphical user interface. In my early days of X11 there was not too much concern about security – it was all on the local network – yes, a coax ethernet cable – and to have an application display on an xterminal you just had to set the DISPLAY environment variable to the IP address of any X-Server, like a xterminal, and authorize its use.

That is all different now. I learned that from a remote machine you start an ssh connection on my workstation (windows 7) to the remote host (old linux laptop) using putty. If the putty session had X Forwarding enabled then a secure tunnel for all the X traffic was created. This tunnel could even go through a router with NAT without a problem. Initially I had wondered why I saw the value of the DISPLAY variable set to strange things like localhost:10.0 – but I finally understood that this was how the ssh tunnel worked: the ssh server on the old laptop pretended to be a local X server on display number 10; then it transported all the X traffic it received securely to the machine I was sitting on and fed it into XMing. It all worked perfectly.

Two weeks later I received my first Raspberry Pi and that little wonder did behave the same way as the old laptop, a bit slower I have to admit, so the old laptop is still a bit more powerful than the miniature linux box sitting over there on my speaker. Both are full LAMP systems and are even accessible from the rest of the world through the magic of DynDNS and port forwarding.

But then my trouble began.

As I had all this so nicely and easily set up, it was suddenly not enough any more that I logged into my real web servers only with putty, SCP, and DirectAdmin. Nostalgia had me in its grip and I just had to get X running on them as well.

First of all there was no X-stuff installed on those servers as they were web servers in some remote data center. But a “yum install xterm” got this handled. Still no go – starting xterm from the ssh login gave me the error message that the display was either not there or could not be opened.

The next step, I found out, was to enable X11Forwarding for the sshd on the remote server – but still no go – the DISPLAY variable was still not set. Lots of Googling around but no solution – everything I tried made no difference.

But I learned about the -vvv parameter to ssh. It would give me insight into what was happening during the establishing of the ssh connection. Unfortunately, putty does not have it! But I found that it has a logging function and after turning this on and comparing the logs from connections to my local old laptop and the remote web server I finally saw the light:

xauth

After I had it yum-installed and run to generate a new .Xauthority file for a local X server my quest for the xterm running on that web server and displaying on my local machine behind a NAT router in my office had come to a successful conclusion.

Not that I will use that much – putty and SCP have done the job for me for years – but I now could, potentially, install firefox on that server and start browsing through that server located at a very different place on the planet.

Hmmm  – why don’t I just try that: yum install firefox……………………….
finally, after installing a gazillion dependent packages, the installation is – complete!

Now: firefox& – wait – wait – wait…

ff-on-linux

But it is clear that I have to file this away under ‘education’ as it is so slow to make it more or less unusable.

Seeing the Future

When I was in my late teens, starting to read science-fiction, I was sure that by now we would regularly traveling to other planets and had settlements on the moon, and the flying car was a given.

But many of these things are still only subject of science-fiction, but something totally unimagined has materialized – a network that did make the world’s knowledge accessible from the palm of my hand. I knew there would be talking robots but that I would be able to access all data with just a query – I just hadn’t thought of.

Found this interesting video of visual thoughts of how the future might look like…

But with that last experience, what’s really going to happen, will be something totally different altogether.

Google in the 60s

My first encounters with computers were through the medium of punch cards and line-printers.

Thus, finding the Google60 art project made me a bit nostalgic. The project tries to show how you would interact with the all-pervasive Google through the mediums of the 60s.

Click on the image to experience it yourself…

Google60-inout

Google 60 Art Project

Emotional Stuff That Makes Me MAD

This emotional video of a 6-year-old boy with cerebral palsy walking to his homecoming marines-dad the first time made me raving mad…

Am I the only one wondering why this dad was away so long instead of being with his son during all these years?

What is so heart-warming about a mercenary for an imperial outfit to go out and miss his family to support the ‘interest’ of the owners of a country like the US?

Usually, in response to this, we hear that they are heroes defending our freedom and liberty.  Could not possibly be true if we look at the only country I know of that had no war for two centuries – Switzerland – a country smack in the middle of the bloodiest wars.

They have a militia – as suggested the US should have according to the constitution. Being in the militia is a part-time job, so they can be home with the family and they don’t go out to foreign lands to conquer. They are just all armed and ready to shoot any invading troops and are trained snipers to take out the highest officers – not troops – and that caused even Hitler to leave them alone.

No, marine-dad, there is no reason for you to wait years to see your son walk, if you would stop believing all this imperialistic propaganda, evaluate the ethics of what you are asked to do and find out that killing is simply killing, even if you are ordered to do so by a ‘law-maker’ – a glorified lawyer.

Just imagine – they gave a war – and nobody went…

Triumph of the Nerds

Now that all those nerds that created the computer revolution are getting to an age where we might lose them – see Steve Jobs – documentaries like Robert X. Cringley’s Triumph of the Nerds become more of a history text book (book understood more figuratively).

In the old InfoWorld magazine/newspaper Cringley’s column “Notes from the Field” was always my favorite – your’s too, Max, right?

So, I just had to stop and listen (and watch) when I ran into his documentary “Triumph of the Nerds” on Youtube.

What to Do to Be on Money and Coins

When playing with my scanner and photo editing software to find out how to get around the built-in law prohibiting to scan money, I looked at the dude on that one bill and could not help thinking about what he did to become so admired that he now is on one of those pieces of paper that is usually called money.

Honest Abe managed to trample liberty with all his feet by forcing the south to remain in the union. They did not like to be in that union any more but Abe did not want to lose what they contributed so he waged a war to keep them in. As he was the victor he packaged his motives as “freeing the slaves” – but politicians, especially when victorious have always been very good at this kind of re-purposing.

Another dude that I just recently learned to see in a different light does not have his own paper bill, but at least he has a coin, and, as I remember, at least one stamp with his picture…

Wernher von Braun – the man who took us to the moon.

But he also was a war criminal because he built – or helped build – all the V2s that were used to bomb England. He did not have to stand trial in Nuremberg because his services were needed in the US of A.

So, what could I do to get my picture on some money or at least a coin?

No good idea yet but maybe some of you might come up with something.

And, so that you did not come here for nothing – here is how I got the picture of Abe from the 5 Dollar bill. My scanner – an HP – did scan the bill without a problem into a png file. I could not open that in Photoshop or Corel Paint – but Gimp was not so picky about the law. So I opened it there, cropped and straightened it, then selected all and hit the Crtl C.

In Photoshop I could open a new doc and just paste the data from Gimp. Once saved as a Photoshop native format – psd – there was no problem re-opening that file – and cutting out honest Abe.