Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

6/23/2017

A Different Kind of Ad-Blocker

Filed under: Art,Fun,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

We pretty much all hate ads, right?

Especially on our favorite websites. Yes, I know, those ads help pay for the site, and I even have some, hopefully unintrusive, ads on one of my sites. But, the honest truth is that even I hate ads. In fact, I’ve been thinking about dropping the ads on Diary of a Network Geek completely and just coming up with a product to sell to try and pay for the hosting. It’s not much per month, and I love my websites, so I’d pay it no matter what, but defraying that cost would not hurt my feelings. In any case, all that said, even I hate web advertising. Adblockers have been around for a long time and there are probably thousands of browser plugins and addons to hide or remove those pesky ads. This week, though, I have a new variation on that for you; Intently.
This browser plugin for Chrome, Firefox and Safari doesn’t just remove advertising on websites, it replaces it with pretty pictures and inspirational quotes. You do have to sign up for a free account, but then you can download the plugin and get inspired instead of sold to by your favorite websites. There is a “Pro” version, which costs money, that lets you add more “premium channels” of content, so you could make the ad replacements skew heavier toward fitness or motivational quotes or puppies or whatever you’re into. I, personally, have stayed with the free account and been quite happy with it in the two weeks or so that I’ve been using the plugin.

So, there you go. Short, sweet and to the point. Free ad-blocking with a paid option for better replacements. (By the way, I don’t get any money if you upgrade to the paid version, so don’t do it thinking you’re helping me!)
Next week, maybe I’ll test my audience and share something even geekier than that!
Come back and check it out!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

6/16/2017

Government Approved Webcomics

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I’ve been sick for the past two weeks, so I’m short on thinky-talky-writey energy.

Still, trooper that I am, I’m here with a link to fabulous free things for you, like I have been every Friday for years beyond easy count. Honestly, I’m not even sure why I continue to do it most weeks, but, I suppose the habit is just hard to break. Based on my stats, hardly anyone is even coming to this sad, old site any more. Still, as Yukio Mishima once wrote, I have “[i]ncurable hope, like an obstinate case of scabies, which lodges, damp and reddish, in the infected skin, producing a constant itching, and refusing to yield to any outer force.” Hope that one day, my real and true audience will arrive and worship me as the literary deity I once hoped to be. Yeah, I have a hard time keeping a straight face when I write junk like that, too, so it’s okay to laugh. I’ve given up any literary ambition.
Still, I do like a good turn of phrase, and if it has a nice picture to go with it, all the better. And, that, dear readers, is why I’ve chosen to share with you the Library of Congress Webcomics Archive. That’s right, only the best government approved webcomics for you, dear readers. Also, in spite of that spectre of governmental approval, the collected comics are quite good, including such varied fare as “XKCD” and “Girl Genius Online Comics!” to name two of my personal favorites.

Anyway, I’m on antibiotics, so that’s all I’ve got this week. Like it or leave it.
See you in the funny papers!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

6/9/2017

Are We Becoming Obsolete?

Filed under: Career Archive,Fun,Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Are We Becoming Obsolete?

There’s lots of talk in the news of artificial intelligence replacing humans.

I don’t put much stock in it though, because, frankly, we are a ways off from that becoming a reasonable and less expensive alternative to most jobs humans do. Not all, to be sure, but, most. And, granted, automation has replaced a lot of jobs already, but artificial intelligence has to improve a LOT before robots can replace people in positions that require critical thinking skills, like, for instance, Network Administrators. On the other hand, most banks seem to have all but replaced tellers with ever more advanced ATMs. And, there’s been more talk about having kiosks for ordering fast food, too.
Okay, so maybe, as a tech who, according to the site Will Robots Take My Job?, has just a 3% chance of being replaced by robots and, in fact, has a projected growth of 8% in the next thirteen years, I’m a little smug.
Want to know how safe your job is? Hit that link and see. Probably, if you have the critical thinking skills to read my blog on the regular, you’re going to be safe. Or, you’re already unemployed. Either or.

Have a great weekend!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words

6/2/2017

Music for Gaming

Filed under: Fun,music — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Ambient music with the gamer in mind.

Last week, I brought you a blog which explored the latest, and classic, MP3 music. This week, I’m bringing you a link to more music, but of a different kind.
I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone who reads my blog that I was a table-top role-playing gamer. Yes, that means Dungeons and Dragons, as well as others. Games like Traveller and Top Secret and Star Frontiers, not to mention the more obscure Gamma World and Villains and Vigilantes or Dragon Quest. (Yes, Dragon Quest was a table-top game once that had nothing to do with the more well-known video game.) Back in the day, we generally played these games in someone’s spare room or basement and, if we were lucky, there was a TV with a VHS player where we could run appropriately themed movies in the background for a little “mood music” soundtrack.
Now, though, I’d bet that pretty much everyone has a computer, of some kind, in their favorite game area. And, what with all the digital music available, means a much easier means of playing some appropriate music in the background. Which brings me to the link I have to share with you all today, Tabletop Audio, “ambiances and music for tabletop role playing games”. They pretty much have a background track for every genre and most every situation. Everything from a Wild West Saloon to a haunted House on the Hill to a Busy Space Port to the Colosseum or an Elven Glade. They also would probably make good background noise for genre writers looking to get into the right mood for their work.
And, yes, all free, though they do gently ask for free-will donations.

Come back next week to see if I even bother blogging anything at all!
And have a good weekend.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

5/26/2017

Free Music Downloads

Filed under: Fun,music — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I know, I’m all over the place this month.

Honestly, I think it’s the essential existential crisis of suddenly not having three quarters of our credit card debt. I mean, seriously, that is a huge deal. I honestly thought I was going to be paying those off for the rest of my life. But, now, poof. Gone. And, we didn’t even have to declare bankruptcy to do it or anything. But, one of our challenges now is to stay frugal and keep paying as much as we can against the other debt. And, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I can be a cheap bastard. It’s just how I roll.
Still I do love new music. Or at least music that’s new to me. In fact, I’m told that my wife kind of admires that about me.
One way I try to keep introducing myself to new music is via music blogs, like Fluxblog. And, who Matthew Perpetua has been writing about music on Fluxblog almost every day since 2002, claims that this is the very first MP3 blog. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know that he has some pretty great ideas about music and regularly offers free MP3s you can download. Right now, I’m listening to selections from his six “disc” 2016 MP3 Survey Mix. He has others, focusing on other years, but, I’m grooving on the current stuff.
Matthew says the MP3s change often and are only available for a limited time, so grab these mixes while you can!

And, enjoy your weekend. Remember, Monday is Memorial Day, when we remember the brave service members who died defending their country and our way of life. It’s not just another day off.
See you next week!

5/19/2017

Free Creative Business Course

Filed under: Fun Work,Life Goals,Photography,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Seems like everyone is looking for a “side hustle” these days.

Personally, I’ve never felt very comfortable in a real entrepreneurial role, but even I have gone hunting for a side business on occasion, trying to get a leg up. When I was in college, I wrote. I’d always had the idea that I might eventually write a novel or three, which would, of course, sell forever, giving me a slow trickle of income for years and years. Clearly, that never quite happened. I have, on the other hand, done some consulting on the side, to make up for a hit in salary fifteen years ago. And, of course, to occasionally make a little extra when I needed to spend a little more, like when I got my first digital camera. Then, when I first started getting into photography, I thought I might find a way to leverage that into something. Unfortunately, that never quite happened and I decided to just let my photography be a hobby. But, if I had the opportunity to take this free business course for photographers and other creatives, I may have tried to make a go of it.
Well, if you want to give it a try, check out the course, but do it fast, because the course is only free until July 1st.
And, if you do decide to give professional photography a whirl, check out FindMyPhotographer.com, where you can set up an account in a growing directory of photographers. And, yes, that’s my site, too. You can setup a free account, or upload more sample photos and rank higher in local searches by buying an account. Use discount code Startup25 for a 25% discount for new accounts.

And, that’s all the “side hustle” I have time for this week. Come back next week for more free stuff!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

5/12/2017

Character Records

Filed under: Fun,On Creativity,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Keeping your dramatis personae straight can be a chore.

Back in the day, when I played Dungeons and Dragons, my favorite part of the game was creating characters. I know, it’s weird, but, there it is. I don’t know what it was about filling out the forms, either the ones we created or the fancy pre-printed ones you could buy, that used to entertain me so, but it did. It’s funny, because I don’t like filling out other kinds of forms, but I do still get nostalgic about character record sheets. Years later, when computers became an essential part of role-playing games, there were even programs that did most of that work for you. I enjoyed them, too, even though I had stopped playing years before. There’s something about codifying and quantifying an imaginary character that just appeals to me, I guess.
That odd propensity carries over a bit into figuring out characters for fiction. Though, I have to admit, I tend to do more character generation than actual story-telling, too. It’s a bad habit, I suppose, but one I’m happy to encourage in others.
And, that brings me to the links I’m sharing with you, dear readers, this week.
First, there’s the Character Chart from Rebecca Sinclair. It’s a good, complete informational form to fill out so that you can get to know your characters in detail. Even if you never use them in your story, knowing the details of a character makes them feel more real to you, and your readers. A better version, in my opinion, of that chart, is the downloadable, fillable character chart, which takes that questionaire and makes it a fillable PDF form. It’s pretty excellent.
And, since a character’s starting equipment was always one of the most important, and fun, things to work out, I whipped up the Random Fantasy Pocket “Liter” Generator and, for more modern settings, the Random Daily Carry Generator. These also feed into some of my favorite kinds of stories, wherein the protagonist finds themselves in the thick of the action, in media res, if you will, and only has what they’re carrying on them at the moment to survive their adventure.
And, finally, the oddball link. This is really meant, I think, for genealogists, but if you’re writing a sweeping epic and need to keep track of an extended family, the Family Echo family tree creator is a nifty free tool to help you out. If you want to save your trees, you need to make an account, but the hassle may just be worth it to keep track of your fictional family.

So, there you have it. A somewhat random collection of writing links for your Friday fun. And forgive me if that doesn’t work for you, but my wife and I are closing on our mortgage refinance today, so I’m a little distracted.
Enjoy your weekend and I’ll see you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

5/5/2017

Fly Through the International Space Station

Filed under: Art,Fun,Ooo, shiny...,Photography — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

For me, living aboard a space station is about the most fantastical thing imaginable.

I truly admire the brave people who risk their lives by exploring space. I really and truly believe that humankind’s future is in space and off planet Earth. It’s not that I’m a pessimist, because I’m not. I just believe, as does Stephan Hawking, that humanity shouldn’t keep all our eggs in one basket. I think we need to reach far and wide, starting with space stations and moving to permanent settlements on other planets in our solar system. To me, it just makes sense.

That being said, I also recognize that I will never leave the planet of my birth, at least while I’m alive. In fact, in my lifetime, only a relatively few humans will ever leave our little cosmic garden for wider vistas. And, the majority of those who do will never leave orbit. They’ll mostly stay in spacecraft or live for relatively brief periods of time on the International Space Station, doing research on how more of us might work and live in space.
Over the years, I’ve seen plenty of pictures of the ISS, but today I’m sharing something even cooler than that, a “fly-through” of the inside of the International Space Station in ultra high-def. If you can, play this on a big-screen 4K television. It’s gorgeous and, for most of us, the closest we will ever get to space.

Also, it’s been a busy couple of weeks and this was all I had time to scare up and share, so enjoy.
See you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

4/28/2017

A Vulgar Tongue

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:04 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Language is the key to culture, real or imagined.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a dyed-in-the-wool geek. I mean, totally hardcore. I started playing Dungeons and Dragons in the Seventh Grade and did, on and off, through college. I still, to this day, have a significant bookshelf of roleplaying games, including some D&D books. These days, I don’t have time to play, and the books are mostly there for theoretical inspiration, if I can ever get writing again. But, way back in the dark ages, before the internet, I had a subscription to Dragon Magazine, which was the official D&D magazine. It was there that I was first exposed to invented languages. Later, as I read more and after the internet became a thing, I discovered a community of like-minded wierdos who created languages, too. “Conlangs”, we called them, short for “constructed languages”. Some of the most famous are Klingon, Dothraki, and Tolkien’s famous Sindarin, more popularly known as “Elvish”, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them now.
Most of the results of my peculiar hobby, or “secret vice”, as Tolkein called it, are safely tucked away where no one will ever see them. Though, I did setup a page of resources and links over at my fantastic fiction site, Fantasist.net. I had some tools there that got so popular, they were crashing my webhost’s servers, so I had to take them down. I’d always meant to get back to porting them to a new, more stable and less resource-intensive programming language, but I never did. Now, though, there are so many people sharing things like this, and better than the stuff I made, that I don’t really feel bad about it. And, new tools for creating languages from the ether are springing up all the time.

Recently, someone shared a tool on the newsgroup I’m part of for conlanging, CONLANG-L, that raised quite a ruckus. It was originally shared by Boing Boing, and I saw it there, too. It’s a web-based language generation tool called Vulgar. The page I’ve linked to there is the “free demo”, but that will gin up a pretty decent start for a language, especially if, like me, you’re not a linguist. There are a surprising number of options, if you want to take advantage of them, and even more if you’re willing to cough up $19.95 for the downloadable version. That downloadable version still runs in your web browser, by the way, so there’s not any compatibility issues between Windows, Macintosh or Linux. Now, of course, this isn’t going to get you a fantastic artificial language, but, if you’re a starving fantasy author who wants to whip up something that sounds reasonably okay with a very little effort, this isn’t a terrible start. For me, it’s fun, but probably not more than an amusing toy to play with on a quiet Friday morning.
And, based on the frenzied reactions on that conlang email list, my sharing it and saying that it’s not bad, will irritate some folks. Which is a different kind of fun.

Either way, go, try it and have fun. And enjoy your weekend!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words

4/21/2017

Magical Maps

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Autogenerated fantasy landscapes feel like randomly programmed dreams.

I wouldn’t really call myself a writer any more, since I don’t really write regularly, outside of emails at work and these weekly desperate blog posts. But, I was once, and when I was, I would obsess over what fantasy writers and fans call “world building”. In fact, eventually, that obsession took over all my time and energy and became my primary excuse for not writing. Still, I find it hard to let go of the idea that if I’m writing a fantasy story and don’t know where people are, or are from, or are going, that I can’t relax into telling their story. I know I’m not alone.
So, that leaves a writer with a couple of choices; steal someone else’s setting, or make your own.
I’m not a big fan of stealing, or even borrowing, someone else’s fantasy setting, because there’s always the possibility that you may need to pay royalties one day, if your new work sells. Or, that other author, or their estate, may squash your work altogether. It’s been known to happen. So, then, your other option is to build your own.
Personally, I’ve always loved the maps that come with my favorite fantasy stories. And, when I tried to write, I often would spend inordinate amounts of time trying to draw my own.
Now, though, there are other options. The one I’m sharing with my faithful readers this week is Uncharted Atlas. It’s a Twitterbot that automagically generates a pretty random fantasy map every hour. Yeah, a new fantasy world every hour. And some of these maps are pretty damn good! You can read some notes by the developer, Martin O’Leary, at his website about both how the maps were generated and < href="https://mewo2.com/notes/naming-language/">how the names for the maps were generated. Also, that page explaining the code includes an interactive, step-by-step example of generating a map. It gives you a bit more control over what the final map looks like and is a great way to waste a few minutes on a Friday.

Okay, so this isn’t likely to really fix any writer’s block issues, or even jump start my own writing, but, hey, it IS a great way to waste a little time on a Friday!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words

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