Diary of a Network Geek

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

10/31/2005

10 Things: Securing Wireless Connections

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:29 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

This sort of seems like an oxymoron to me.
But, I suppose in this modern world of ubiquitous, wireless connectivity, we must hold tight to our illusions of security. Toward that end, TechRepublic has an article titled Ten Things You Should Know About Securing Your Wireless Connection. I still can’t, in all good conscience, reccomend that you run anything you want to keep secure over a wireless connection, but, if you must, at least read this very short article about keeping your connection as secure as possible. Certainly, if you’re doing this at home, it’s worth the look. If you’re attempting to keep a secure wireless connection at the office, and haven’t started hitting the “happy sauce” yet, this is a good place to start, though I sure wouldn’t run any important financial data over wireless, either at home or work.
Well, it’s a good article, even if I have my personal, Luddite misgivings about wireless.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Failure doesn't mean you are a failure... it just means you haven't succeeded yet."
   --Robert Schuller

10/30/2005

Mr. Bad Example

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:44 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

“Do as I say, not as I do.”
Boy, I hope all the kids that have ever known me take that to heart. I’m sure not the best example of how to live one’s life. Oh, I do okay these days, but… Well, let’s just say I earned the scars, the tattoos, and that slightly amused look in my eyes when someone is surprised at the other two. And, I’m not even half-way done.
I don’t know what got me thinking of that the other day, but, well, there you are. Maybe it was those damn turkey vultures that knocked my sense of “normal” off the rails. Doesn’t matter I guess. These things just come up sometimes and have to be worked through so they don’t consume me. So, I’ve spent some time thinking and I think it’s time for a bit of honesty. That category “Advice from your Uncle Jim”? That’s all about the things I can’t say to my estranged step-daughter. She’s an amazing kid. Creative and smart and funny and sensitive and cute. (From what I understand, in her Middle School, she’s considered quite the looker.) My ex-wife, her mother, has told her “things” about me. What things and how much of it true, I have no idea. C’mon, I’m no angel, so the truth could be enough, but, still, knowing my ex-wife and the things she told me that later turned out to be “wrong”… Well, let’s just say I admire her ability to write fiction, okay? Anyway, I suspect that, from time to time, that smart, funny, adorable kid is going to check out this blog. I know she used to read it, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she still does, from time to time. When, if, she does, I thought it’d be nice to have a way to sneak a little, tiny bit of my life experience into her head for later use. Never know when some of the crazy things I know might come in handy.
For instance, did you know what when it’s cold outside, if you back into a warm building, like a bar, your glasses won’t fog? Works every time, honest. How about this: saying I love you to your parents is often the scariest thing in the world. Scarier even than saying it to a date. Or, try this on for size: These really are the best times of your life, so keep a journal and, later, when things get tough, look back and remember how good it was today. (Honestly, can anything beat Junior High, as we used to call it up North? Not in my book. It was the most freedom and least pressure I’ve ever had!) And, don’t confuse a religon’s practitioners with the message. Most of the time, the original texts are pretty uplifting, no matter what the goons who claim to follow it actually do.
Anyway, Shorty, if you’re reading this, don’t use me for a role-model. Or your mother, either, for that matter. Neither of us are the best examples of how to live your life. Heck, don’t even use your Dad, though he’s about the best role-model you’ll ever have in your life. Don’t use anybody for a role-model. Don’t try to be or copy anyone else. Just be you. And, when you’re not sure what that is, go do something you love and find out.

Here endeth the lesson.
I wish I could blame all that on being drunk or hung-over, but I never did get to drinking heavy last night.
Anyway, since you’ve been good enough to read this whole post, here’s the Warren Zevon song lyrics that inspired the title, the post, and a fair amount of my misbehaving.

Mr. Bad Example Lyrics

I started as an altar boy, working at the church
Learning all my holy moves, doing some research
Which led me to a cash box, labeled “Children’s Fund”
I’d leave the change, and tuck the bills inside my cummerbund

I got a part-time job at my father’s carpet store
Laying tackless stripping, and housewives by the score
I loaded up their furniture, and took it to Spokane
And auctioned off every last naugahyde divan

I’m very well aquainted with the seven deadly sins
I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in
I’m proud to be a glutton, and I don’t have time for sloth
I’m greedy, and I’m angry, and I don’t care who I cross

I’m Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirt
I like to have a good time, and I don’t care who gets hurt
I’m Mr. Bad Example, take a look at me
I’ll live to be a hundred, and go down in infamy

Of course I went to law school and took a law degree
And counseled all my clients to plead insanity
Then worked in hair replacement, swindling the bald
Where very few are chosen, and fewer still are called

Then on to Monte Carlo to play chemin de fer
I threw away the fortune I made transplanting hair
I put my last few francs down on a prostitute
Who took me up to her room to perform the flag salute

Whereupon I stole her passport and her wig
And headed for the airport and the midnight flight, you dig?
And fourteen hours later I was down in Adelaide
Looking through the want ads sipping Fosters in the shade

I opened up an agency somewhere down the line
To hire aboriginals to work the opal mines
But I attached their wages and took a whopping cut
And whisked away their workman’s comp and pauperized the lot

I’m Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirt
I like to have a good time, and I don’t care who gets hurt
I’m Mr. Bad Example, take a look at me
I’ll live to be a hundred and go down in infamy

I bought a first class ticket on Malaysian Air
And landed in Sri Lanka none the worse for wear
I’m thinking of retiring from all my dirty deals
I’ll see you in the next life, wake me up for meals

Written By Warren Zevon & Jorge Calderon
c. 1991, Zevon Music,
administered by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing corp./Googolplex Music BMI


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us."
   --Helen Keller

10/29/2005

The Hell That Was Friday

Filed under: Apple,Career Archive,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Personal,Rotten Apples,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

It all started with those damn black birds last week…
Actually, it was a mostly quiet week, except for the fact that my house refinance is in limbo because my ex-wife’s lawyer didn’t file the special warranty deed that grants me possesion of the house. Ah, well, some things never change. She’s still sticking it to me even after the divorce.
Anyway, today, everyone in the company decided to dump their problems on me for the week. An entire week’s worth in one day. This after a week of Access database development. Yeah, development, not database administration. I hate doing Access development! All pointy-clicky and why-the-hell-does-it-do-that? But, not Friday.
Friday, I replaced a cd-rom drive in the shop. No big deal, right? Yeah, well, at the time, there was a guy in the office looking at negatives of welds, in the dark. So, I did this under someone’s desk by the infrequent light of the glowy box he was using to read the negatives. In other words, I changed a cd-rom drive basically by touch. Then, there was an electrician who need to print labels but was dissatisfied with the fact that they were off by a centimeter in one column. After wrestling with that for fourty-five minutes, I walked away to do something else and found out later that it wasn’t the printer that was off at all. It was the cheap labels he’d bought. They cut them on a bias!
Then, there was the too-picky engineer who complained all day about getting a 19-inch flat-screen LCD. Yeah, complained about it! No one but him could tell the damn difference, but he claimed his recently lasik-ed eyes were strained and hurting because of the low-resolution. Well, until we suggested that he could have his old monitor back. Suddenly then he found settings that looked good enough. Yeah, sure.
But, the coup de grâce was the Vice President of Sales having his Macintrash G4 go South on him. I worked on that alone and, worse, with the boss, who’s the resident Mac expert. There’s noting I hate more than not knowing in front of my boss. And, after buying a hard drive, and exchanging it for one that would actually run in a damn Mac, we finally, after working until 6:30PM on a Friday, finally decided that it was a memory issue. We think. We left it running to see if it hangs up again. So, just to fight my personal ignorance, I went to Borders and bought Mac OS X : The Missing Manual, Tiger Editon . (Well, I also bought some other things including How to Do Everything with PHP and MySQL so I can build an app for Fantasist.net. And, Looking for Jake : Stories, because China Mieville is a great writer and I deserve a break!)
So, tonight after church, children, your Uncle Jim is going to be drinking heavily and ignoring trick-or-treaters. Happy Halloween. Bah!

10/28/2005

Sulu is totally gay!

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:40 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

You knew this had to happen.
I mean, sooner or later, at least one of the crew had to come out as gay, right? Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long. And, yes, I have to admit, I would have thought the first one would have been someone other than George Takei, or rather, I never thought that Takei was “gayer” than anyone else in those queer, little boots they all wore. Now, if Scotty had come out as gay, that would have been a real shocker! But, c’mon, the navigator? Gay? Eh, sure, why not, who cares. Someone had to be.

Seriously, I think it’s great that he came out even after all this time. Maybe it will pave the way for gay Trek fans to be more comfortable and accepted. Of coure, they’d still be Trek fans, but, still…

DIY Necronomicon

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:04 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

“That which is dead cannot die..”
Ah, yes, my old favorite H.P. Lovecraft and his infamous The Call of Cthulhu where the infamous Necronomicon was first “discovered”. Alas, there are some things that man was not meant to know, but, still, should that keep one from having a fun, little prop just in time for Halloween? I don’t think so! And neither do the fine folks over at Ravensblight.com who bring you Necronomicon Notebooks.
Now you, too, can have that unspeakable tome at your side to greet trick-or-treat-ers.

Hey, it’s the Friday before Halloween, what did you expect from me?

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10/27/2005

Review: I Heard You Paint Houses

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:23 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I finished I Heard You Paint Houses last week.
I meant to do a review over the weekend, but that thing with the birds rattled me and I forgot. Anyway, it was a good book. I read a fair amount of “true crime” sort of books and they vary widely in quality, but this was pretty well written. Of course, a lot of the book is actually taken directly from taped interviews with Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran who, before his death, claimed to be the guy who “took care” of Jimmy Hoffa.
In fact, that was one of the interesting things about this book. See, Sheeran was a long-time friend of Hoffa. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. The book starts out with Sheeran recalling his rather rough childhood on the mean streets of Philadelphia. Coming from a home with a poor, alchoholic and abusive father made Frank Sheeran a tough Mick in an already tough neighborhood. That toughness would serve him well after he enlisted during World War II and served in the most active Army unit in the European theatre. Most of his friends didn’t make it through the first few weeks, much less make it through the whole war, so Frank learned to not get too attached. Well, not to anything but red wine and a “good time”. Mainly, though, he took after his old man and drank. After making it through the war, Frank came back to tough times. To make ends meet, he started stealing from the companies who hired him to drive trucks. It was through some of these crooked contacts that he met crime boss Russell Bufalino. Later, after doing way too many favors for Bufalino, Frank would find out, like the rest of the nation, that there was not only “organized crime”, but that his friend Russell was one of the top Godfathers.
Along the way to that discovery, Sheeran would get involved in the quickly growing Teamster’s Union. Remember, this was back in the days when things like unions might be all that stood in the way of gross abuses perpetrated against the American worker by big business. Many of the current government legislation to protect the working man simply didn’t exist and it was all out war between the Corporation and the Worker. And, that kind of bloody war was right where both Sheeran and Hoffa were at home.
I won’t spoil the whole book, but I will say that, if it’s all true, the “mystery” of Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance, who was behind the assasination of JFK, and why the Bay of Pigs failed are all made clear. Sometimes, I wonder if any of it’s true, but, well, either way, it’s still a good read. Fast paced and informative, it’s some of the best writing and story-telling I’ve read in a long time.
Oh, the title comes from the first conversation Sheeran had with Hoffa. Introduced over the phone by Russell Bufalino, the first question Hoffa asked was “I heard you paint houses”, which is slang for “I hear you kill people for the mob” and comes from the fact that killing someone in a house “paints” it red with their blood. Sheeran’s reply was “Yeah, I do my own carpentry, too.” That’s slang for “I build the coffins to get rid of the bodies myself, too”, though, most of the time, there aren’t any actual coffins.
In any case, it’s a great book and I reccomend it highly to anyone who’s interested in either Jimmy Hoffa or the Mob.

I also read Tarnsman of Gor this week, because it was close to hand. I don’t reccomend it though, unless you’re an undersexed adolescent boy, that is. That’s the primary audience. Personally, I read it hoping with each page that it would get better, but it never did. And, still, that stinker sells like hotcakes. Go figure.

Currently, I’m reading Jesus in Blue Jeans, which is an interesting counter-point to the last two books! I’m not sure what I’ll pull out of the pile o’ books by my bed to read after that. With my eclectic taste, it could be anything!

10/24/2005

Space: Above and Beyond, the DVD

Filed under: Art,Fun,Review,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:54 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Oh My God!
Finally, after literally years of waiting Space Above and Beyond – The Complete Series is available on DVD. This was the finest science-fiction show EVER! Yes, I mean ever. Including Star Trek, in all its various incarnations, and both versions of Battlestar Galactica and anything else you can think of to date. It was real, hard-nosed, gritty science-fiction with compelling stories filled with drama and real meaning. Not psuedo, let’s-all-get-high-and-get-Roddenberry-laid messages, but the real deal. Every episode dealt with something that made you stop and think about what it meant to be something, to stand for something, or even to be human. There were funny parts, but not like in Star Trek that played for campy laughs. No, if there was something funny, it was funny the way things are in life, not some wooden slapstick played for laughs with goofy music.
And, of course, it’s the only science-fiction show to ever feature R. Lee Ermey. What can top that!? Yeah, he’s only in the two-hour premiere, but, still, Gunny makes his appearance. And, yes, I love this show so much I mentioned it on my other blog, the Fantasist’s Scroll.

Excuse me while I go spend a little money on whole lot of joy.

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10/21/2005

Omen or Just Odd?

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,MicroSoft,Personal,The Dark Side,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:14 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I don’t normally post twice in one day, but…
But, well, this has been an odd week and I had to cancell my therapist appointment last night, so you’ll have to do, eh? As you regular readers know, I was so sick Monday that I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Alas, I lived through my brush with whatever that particular plague was and had to finally go into work Wednesday. Wednesday, I also found out that I had a quickly approaching deadline to get my house refinanced before we had to start the entire process again. Thursday seemed fine. Until lunch.
Normally, I take my lunch in the backyard and eat while the dog runs and plays. After lunch, I read under my covered porch and let Hilda get some squirrel/bird chase time in. (Relax, tree-huggers! She’s only come close once that I’ve seen and, besides, she’s just doing what dogs do. It’s her nature and a force of evolution. What’s unnatural is the way she loves to eat off my plate!) So, Thursday, I’m sitting there finishing I Heard You Paint Houses and the dog starts to get all strange. I look up from my book just in time to see this giant, bird-shaped shadow sliding over the lawn as the biggest damn bird I’ve ever seen in person starts to make a landing by my ponds! Without any exageration at all this bird must have had a wingspan as large as my outstreched arms! (That’s over five feet, for those of you who haven’t met my manly physique in person.) Of course, I exclaim loudly, which startles this monstrosity into landing on my garage instead. I could hardly believe I was seeing this thing. I mean, I’ve seen big birds before, but, as a rule, even in Texas one does not expect to see a giant, black turkey vulture swooping into one’s backyard.
Now, what got really unnerving about this is that the thing just sat there looking at me. Not scared, really. At least, not of me. Frankly, the dog looked at me as if to ask, “Uh, Dad, care to fill me in on just what the hell is going on here?”, so I doubt the feathery beast was all that intimidated by the dog, either. Anyway, I decided I didn’t like the way this thing was eyeing the pond, or either of us, and I sort of shouted at it to try and scare it away.
It blinked at me.
So, I waved my arms and shouted.
The damn thing just glided up to perch on my chimney and blink at me. It just sat there, this huge ebony carrion-eater with wings, and blinked at me as if to say,”Yeah, and, your point would be, what, exactly?” Then, being bored with me, it looked down the chimney. So, I start looking for small rocks to throw at this thing to scare it off. The first two shots encouraged it to move to the far side of the chimney and, yes, blink at me. Then, I noticed the second one. Oh, great, a mated damn pair of enormous black harbringers of death in my backyard. Looking for a new home, no doubt. I bend down to find more stones to throw and I hear a loud thump. I check and, sure enough, that one on the chimney is looking down inside. At this point, I’m sure I let loose with a string of expletives that would have made a sailor blush because I’m convinced that the damn thing as dropped a dead animal down the chimney. I start looking for more suitable rocks to throw, but when I find them and go to assault the dirty birds, they’ve gone. Just as quietly as they arrived.
Well, at this point Hilda and I look at each other to confirm that the other has seen what we thought we did. (Yes, I know she’s a dog and has limited communication skills, but it’s the best either of us could do on short notice.) Then I start laughing, put her inside, and head back to the office. Once back to the office, I call a friend of mine who happens to work in the Houston Zoo in the bird department to check on what I’ve just seen. He confirms the guess of turkey vultures, expresses a little surprise at the proximity to “civilization” for that kind of encounter, and then he says “Impressive birds, aren’t they?” Um, yeah, sure, “impressive”. Just the word I would have used. Not freaky. Not menacing. Not down right frightening. Nope, impressive fits the bill just right. And then, the day turned ugly.
That’s about when I got the call from our Bellechasse office that they were having problems with the network. After a minute or two of troubleshooting, I can’t see an issue, so, since I’m dealing with a Windows 2000 server, I figure a reboot is in order. Now, see, this is where that black omen comes in. The reboot ends in a Blue Screen Of Death. Hmm, well, that would be a problem, wouldn’t it? So, we kill the power and try again. No joy. I try Last Known Good Configuration with the same results. I try doing the automated recovery, but again, end up with a BSOD. Mind, at this point it’s 4:55pm so I end up calling to cancel my therapy appointment, much to my chagrin, since I had some things to talk about this week. Finally, after all that, I get into the Recovery Console, run chkdsk and repair the error and get back to the original problem. Yeah, I spent 3 hours dealing with a secondary issue only to come back to the original problem. Again, after waiting for someone to come back to that office after making his appointment, which was for a HAIRCUT, and some more troubleshooting, I finally determine that the hub has gone out. The damn hub had died. No moving parts to fail and no power-spike, but the damn hub had failed. And, finally, I drag my sorry butt home at 8:00pm.
This morning, they get some new switches in place, which is no small feat in Katrina-damaged New Orleans area, and, like Network Geek Magic™, they’re up and running.

Why all the effort not to travel? Because, Monday I have to get a certified file copy of the warranty deed from the Harris County Clerk’s office so I can refinance my house on Wednesday. All so I can save $150 per month. If I stay in Houston past next year. Can anyone, given that turkey vultures landed on my house, the likliness of another hurricane striking Houston, and the not always so great economic outlook for IT guys here in Houston, give all that, can anyone give me three good reasons to stay?
Damn bad-luck black birds.

Intro to Mini-ITX

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Linux,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:22 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, not here.
But, here is a link to XYZ Computing’s Mini-ITX tutorial. Why is this cool? Well, because this is about as small as you can get and still have a computer with “standard” parts. And, that’s cool because it allows you to do more and cooler casemods.
The folks in the article use Linux, which is what I’d do, but you could go other ways. The most important thing, to me, is that they list where they bought everything with links. Sometimes, it’s hard to get all the right pieces, especially when you’re looking to get the smallest, coolest one’s possible. Anway, I thought this was cool…

Hey, it’s been a rough week, and now it’s Friday, so work with me here!

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10/20/2005

Digital Dark Age

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:20 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

This is common sense to anyone in the business.
Honest. When was the last time you tried to find a computer that used a floppy disk? Have you even touched a floppy in the past year? If so, I think you’re in the minority. But, the same is becomeing true for something that IT Professionals (ie. professional geeks) have most likely dealt with: backup tapes. I’ve lost count of how many different kinds of backup systems I’ve used over the years and you know, most of them only would read tapes from one or two generations back. I wonder how many businesses have their archival data stored on tapes that they can’t read anymore…
Anyway, this article on smh.com.au regarding a coming digital Dark Age might be news to some of my readers, so I post it anyway. And, it is something important to think about, especially when dealing with disaster recovery plans. Are your tapes so old that your hotsite can’t read them? Better check quick, because hurricane season isn’t over yet.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

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