Diary of a Network Geek

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

12/7/2018

Desk Jams

Filed under: Art,Fun,music — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

A little background music while you work.

I could have sworn that I’d already shared this months and months ago, but, if I did, I can’t seem to find it on my blog. In any case, right now, I’m working in a mostly open office area, so I don’t play music out of respect for the other people I work with, but I generally like to have soft, ambient music playing in the background while I work. I’ve used things like Winamp and iTunes, but all too often my taste in music may not be what one considers “corporate” and can be a bit problematic. What works better is something without lyrics, but that can be looped pretty easily. Over the years, I’ve looked for things that work, but nothing I’ve found really works better than Desk Jams.
It’s all free, though I suppose there are ads on there somewhere, and any voices are strictly ambient sounds that are part of the music. It’s a little on the trance end of things, but it’s pretty good, generic music that, if played at a reasonable volume, shouldn’t be offensive to anyone.
And, again, it’s free, so you can’t get too picky!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

11/30/2018

Passenger Rights

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

You have rights as an air traveler.

During the holidays, a lot of people travel. I avoid it as much as possible, mainly because I used to travel a lot and get pretty irritated with air travel these days. For one thing, since 9/11, security measures have gotten pretty onerous, which is too bad because most of them don’t really do anything to address actual safety. But, before I go off on a rant about my favorite subject (ie. Security theater), let me say that the worst thing about flying these days is the flying and the airline companies themselves. I know it’s a business and that we should be thrilled to get so far as quickly as we do, but they really play fast and loose with things like passenger comfort, over-booking and taking little to no responsibility when things go wrong.
Good news, though, you do, in fact have rights! Did you know that you may be entitled to compensation for delayed flights or missed connections? It’s true! You can read more about your air passenger rights, and get help if you feel like you’re due something from the airlines who lost or damaged your luggage or forcibly booted you off your flight due to over booking, at AirHelp. I have to admit, as of this writing, I haven’t used them, so I can’t speak to their actual effectiveness, and I don’t get anything from them to link to their site, but just having your actual rights laid out may be of significant enough benefit that I felt it was worth sharing.  Oh, also, their fee for helping you is 25% of whatever you’re due, but I still think it’s worth it, as otherwise travelers would just be out the whole amount.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/23/2018

How to Help a Loved One

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Personal Care — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Especially, if they’re depressed or suffering from other mental illness.

The holidays can be an especially rough time of year. I know for many years, I would get a kind of seasonal depression that would come over me after Halloween and last until at least Christmas, and often until after St. Valentine’s Day. In my case, it was due to not being in a relationship, mostly, and having an unrealistic expectation about how my life should look. But, frankly, even for people who are otherwise happy, the holidays can be rough. I mean, they call it the “holiday blues” for a reason, right? So, what do you do if someone you know and love is suffering from season depression? Well, sometimes, listening is enough. Just being there and hearing them, without necessarily trying to fix it can actually be a big benefit. Also, if it seems like your loved one is having more than very short-term depression, it’s perfectly okay to suggest they need more help than you can provide. Unless you’re actually a mental health professional, you may not be all that qualified to actually help someone who’s seriously depressed. One of my favorite science-based websites, Quick and Dirty Tips has some suggestions for How to Help a Loved One Suffering from Mental Illness. It’s really good and, yes, someone with depression is, in fact, suffering from mental illness. It’s possible that it’s seasonal and may pass, but, you know your loved one, and if it looks like something more than that, the linked podcast is worth a listen.

Also, if it seems like your loved one is more than a little depressed and may be suicidal, talk to them about it. And, no, talking to someone about whether or not they’re contemplating suicide will not make them more suicidal. That’s a myth, and a deadly one at that. (For more discussion about some of the more dangerous myths about suicide, again, take a look at this article on Quick and Dirty Tips.) And, if you think they already have a plan, encourage them to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You could actually be saving their life.

Hopefully, that’s not something you’re struggling with this holiday season, but if it is, please, get help. The holidays can be really rough and depression is nothing to try and ignore.

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!

11/16/2018

Pack Better

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Learn packing secrets from the ultimate world travelers; the military.

I used to travel quite a bit for work, back before 9/11. In fact, I had just gotten back from a work trip a couple of days before it happened and, if not for that event, I might have lost my job that week. As it was, things got dragged out for another month, and then I had a series of jobs that didn’t really need me to travel as much. These days, I don’t bother trying to squeeze everything into a single, carry-on bag. It’s too much hassle for too little pay off. Besides, getting through security is time consuming enough without adding to it by dealing with things like electric razors.
Still, I did learn quite a bit from packing from those years. Things like putting the heavy items, like shoes, near the bottom. Or folding shirts as flat as possible so they could stack up more neatly and compactly. Or my favorite, putting toiletries like shampoo and toothpaste in separate, small Ziploc bags, which go into other, larger bags, to make sure nothing gets squished out onto clothes. I learned most of these tricks from my father, of course, who was quite the “road warrior” in his day. But, it turns out, he may well have learned some of those tricks from his time in the military. Don’t believe me? Well, check out Military Packing Secrets That Will Make You a Better Traveler on Thrillist. They have several tips that seem like common sense, but, really, they only are after you’ve done them once or twice.
In any case, this may not be “fun” exactly, but it did seem like something useful for my readers who might be packing for holiday travel soon.
Feel free to leave your tips in the comments! And come back next week for some more advice that may be handy this holiday season!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

11/9/2018

Book Cheaper Flights

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Well, for at least some weekends.

Last week, I shared a service that let you buy airline tickets on an installment basis before you fly. Hopefully, for anyone who might need it, that was helpful with enough time to pay off your flight. This week, I’m afraid, I don’t have anything that will likely be of help during the holidays, because, frankly, traveling during the holidays is never fun. If you haven’t done it, and can avoid it, I encourage you to do so. I’ve flown before Thanksgiving and Christmas both, and neither is an experience that I can really recommend. Also, airlines charge premium prices on those weekends because, well, they can. I mean, they really have you over a barrel. Every “good” son or daughter wants to get home for the holidays, so they can suffer through family dinners where someone is mad at someone else or is disappointed in how their lives turned out or whatever. At least, if holiday movies aren’t lying to us. (My family was always fantastic and warm and kind during the holidays, of course.)
But, if you can manage to travel on some other weekend, then WeekendFlights, is for you! You just go to the site, put in your point of origin and your destination and they whip up a calendar with all the weekend rates on it, highlighting the best, and worst, weekends to fly. (If you go, you’ll see that Thanksgiving weekend and the weekend after Christmas are flagged as some of the worst times to travel.) Yes, it is a short trip, but, if you’re looking for a quick, weekend getaway, this site can help you save on the airfare.
Check it out and see if you can save!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

11/2/2018

Payment Plans for Flying

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Plan ahead and pay in installments.

Air travel is expensive. There’s just no way around it. In fact, when I had over $50k of credit card debt a few years ago, a lot of that was related to air travel. Before I moved down to Houston from Chicago in 1998, I spent way too much money flying down to see my now ex-wife. And, yes, I’d still say it was too much money to spend even if she weren’t my ex-wife. That debt was crushing.
But, even though I’m remarried, my family is still mostly in Illinois, which means I still need to fly. So far, I’ve managed to do it without going back into consumer debt, but I’m not sure that I’ll be able to keep that up forever. Maybe, though, with the help of Airfordable, we may be able to swing it. Now, full disclosure, at the time of this post, I haven’t actually used the service yet, so all reports about it are anecdotal. What they do is let you buy a ticket well in advance of your flight and then make regular installments until it’s paid off before you actually fly. Obviously, one advantage of this is that you get your ticket price locked in, because, let’s face it, airfare rarely drops in price. And, yes, there is a service fee for doing this, but it’s considerably less than paying all that interest at 15% or more on a credit card. Also, it lets you be sure you have a flight booked for, say, holiday travel, before you may have the money for the entire ticket.

So, let me know, faithful readers, have you used this service or one like it? How did it work for you?
And come back next week for more travel-related posts!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

10/26/2018

Save Your Work

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Geek Work,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Have you ever lost form data on the web?

I hate when I’m typing into a form on a website and something happens, then all my data goes poof. Seriously. It’s super frustrating for me, because sometimes, when I’m putting in a support request for work, those forms have a LOT of data in them and losing it can really throw a monkey-wrench in my day.
Or, worse yet, when I’m setting up blog posts, I can really get into a writing groove and then my internet connection might blink and, again, poof, all that hard work is gone. Granted, I should be saving the draft as I go along, but, even though I may seem like a tech god to some, I’m really just a regular human who doesn’t always follow best practices. Sad, but true.
In the past, I’ve used a great Chrome plugin called Lazarus to help me recover lost form data, but that plugin has gone away. Now, though, there’s Typio Form Recovery. Sadly, it’s only available for the Chrome browser, so if you use Firefox or something else, you’ll have to find another alternative. It IS free, though, so there is that. Also? If you know of a similar plugin for Firefox, please, leave a comment with information about it!
And, yeah, I know, not exactly “fun”, but, hey, come back next week and see if I can do better!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

10/19/2018

Scamming Scammers

Filed under: Fun,Geek Work,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

There’s a special place in hell for scammers that take advantage of the technologically weak.

Okay, yes, in some sense, my entire career is based on being more tech savy than pretty much everyone around me, but I’m pretty open about what I’m doing. Also, I’m actually trying to help and, frankly, it’s what I get paid to do. I mean, I make a deal with someone to actually help them with technology for money. What I don’t do is create a problem before I help solve it. That is both unethical and, for the most part, illegal.
Two plus years ago, when I was looking for work, I actually got a call from someone claiming to be from the “Windows department” and trying to convince me that I needed to let them on my computer so they could fix a Windows problem for me. I’m afraid that my twenty-five year and change of IT experience and having to fix the problems caused by these bastards led me to really hammer this scammer hard. I mean, to the point of calling him back and literally yelling at him over the phone about how he was a terrible human-being for trying to take advantage of people who are afraid of technology on which they rely. And, my own mother, who is in the scammer’s favorite category; older, retired, and with at least some disposable income, has stories of dealing with scammers like this trying to get her to give up her credit card information. Thankfully, I’ve trained her better than that and she didn’t fall for it.

Now, I know that these scammers aren’t limited to tech-related issues. They’ll come at you trying to convince you that they have cheaper airfare for you, or some other “too good to be true” deal. My mother and I have both been know to play with scammers like this, I suppose because we have a similar sense of both humor and justice. But, guess what? There are people who have elevated this to a real art. Or, maybe a sport. In any case, they’re brilliant and some of them have recorded their exploits for our entertainment. You can finally see and hear some of these scum-sucking bottom-feeding scammers get what’s coming to them at the hands of some scam-baiting artists over at Engadget’s blog post Making A Living Scamming The Scammers. Some of these go on for quite a bit, but it’s terribly fun to watch these scam-baiters messing around with terrible, heartless scammers.
Besides, how are you going to waste time on a Friday?

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

10/12/2018

Free Curated Movies

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Free, obscure movies to stream.

So, at this point, faithful readers, it’s no secret that I love movies of all kinds. I tend toward science-fiction, of course, but I also love gangster movies of all stripes and origins, not to mention noir films of all kinds as well. It’s also no secret that I love free. And, in fact, that love of cool, free things is what spawned my regular Friday posting. Even back when I was posting a lot more regular content, I tended to post the fun stuff on Friday, to give my readers, and myself, a break.
In any case, I’m not the only one who likes to share. Luckily, folks with more power and resources often share great stuff and I bring it to your attention. This week, I’m sharing a site called byNWR. According to their “About” page, the site was “[b]orn from a passion for the rare, the forgotten and unknown, byNWR breathes new life into the culturally intriguing, influential and extreme.” What that looks like is obscure film, bought to you, and at least partially curated by Nicholas Winding Refn. You will need to sign up for a free account, but then you’ll be able to see films I can almost guarantee that you haven’t even heard of, much less seen. Definitely worth a sign-up.
So, check it out and see what you think, but, be warned, some of these may not be precisely work safe. What else do you have to do besides work on a Friday?

10/5/2018

Woven Photos

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:39 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

More interesting art for your enjoyment.

Last week, I shared some Andy Warhol-inspired videos that would help you create in a similar style. I love those kinds of tutorials. But, I also love just sharing interesting work. I’m also an amateur photographer, which you can see via my Photo Gallery page, though I’m far from what I’d consider an artist. My photos have been used by a close friend of mine, though, who is an artist when he put together a book of his work. And, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the odd things about our current age of digital photography is that thousands more photographs are being taken every day than ever before, but fewer are being seen. Even fewer are being printed. One of the things that convinced me to marry my wife was that she printed one of my photos and framed it for me. It’s the first of my photos I’ve ever printed, and may be the only one to date, actually.
All of which is to say that I really admire artists who take their photographic work and not only print it, but manipulate it into something more. And, obviously, that’s what I’m sharing with you this week. Head over to Boing Boing, via this link, and see Photographer shreds her work then weaves it back together again, so see Lala Abaddon talk about her work, shredding her photographs so that she can then weave them back together in unique and beautiful abstract works. Or, you can skip the woo-woo artist talky bits and just look at her work, which is also shown on the same page. And, there are links to where she is on the web, so you can see more of her work. Philosophy of art and her relationship to the universe aside, the work is quite compelling.
Besides, it’s a Friday and you weren’t planning on working so much you couldn’t take the time to follow the links, so go for it!

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