Diary of a Network Geek

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

4/28/2006

Give Her All She’s Got, Scotty!

Filed under: Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

No, for a change, that’s not a metaphor.
According to The Scotsman.com, appropriately, someone is working on a “warp” drive. A physicist at the Applied Sciences University in Salzgitter, Germany, and a former chief of aerodynamics at the European Space Agency, Professor Jochem Hauser, who’s one of the scientists putting forth the idea, warned that they’re in the very early stages of this project, but indicated that an propulsion system based on ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s is possible. The drive would work by creating an intense magnetic field that, in theory, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.
That is the catch, though. It’s all theory. Now, there is a somewhat mysterious “Z Machine” that was created by the US Department of Energy that could generate the kind of magnetic fields required to drive the engine, so it is possible that some very interesting tests might be run in the near future. Apparently, NASA and the US Airforce took notice of this work after Prof Hauser and an Austrian colleague, Walter Droscher, wrote a paper called “Guidelines for a space propulsion device based on Heim’s quantum theory”.
Now, all they need to do is get a Scot on their maintenance crew and they’ll be all set.

4/25/2006

An Example

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:05 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

You know, some days, I really feel like I’m an example.
Sadly, it’s often a bad example, as in “Well, at least you’re not as bad as him.” Or, “Hey, it could be worse! Look at that guy!” Or, even, “Thank God I didn’t make as big a mistake as he did!”
I think today was one of my “special” days.
Ah, well, at least I serve a purpose, even if it is only to be a warning to others.
That is all…


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car."
   --Kenneth Tynan

4/24/2006

Triumphant Return

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Career Archive,Dog and Pony Shows,Geek Work,Hoffman's Home for Wayward Boys,Life, the Universe, and Everything,On The Road,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:28 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Well, I survived my trip to the sweaty, stinky armpit of the South.

The flight over was fairly uneventful, though it did start out with an ill omen. At the airport there was a helicopter that had a collapsed landing strut that had caused some fairly severe damage to the whirlybird, including bending the blades on the main rotor. Very bad and very expensive. Little turbulence on the flight over in spite of warnings about bad weather. Though, I have to admit, I’d have been more comfortable if my pilot hadn’t been taking short naps along the way. I know we were on autopilot and all, but the idea of crashing over those swamps in East Texas and Louisiana just are not my idea of a good time.

The thing that hit me when we got to New Orleans was the damage still from Katrina. We drove for almost three miles from the little airport where we landed before we started to get to intersections that had working stop lights. Most of the houses that I saw were either empty, or had blue tarps over the roof as an attempt at some temporary repair. I did see some FEMA trailers, but most of them were in a big parking lot where they were totally useless. Apparently, that’s the latest outward sign of a bureaucracy gone terribly wrong. The thing that really got me though was the messages spray painted on the abandoned homes and buildings. Most of it was in some sort of rescue-worker code, but on one house the message was clear: 1 pony DOA, 1 dog DOA.

I spent the entire day Thursday watching data copy. Yep, about as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow, but people keep interrupting any reading or writing you might be doing to ask what’s going on with the server. (“Uh, the same thing that’s going on when you asked the last fifteen times, you slack-jawed Luddite.”) Then, right when everyone starts to scatter near the end of the day, the data finishes and I can actually start doing real work. A whole hour’s worth of real work before, you guessed it, I copy data back to the new server from the backup drive. Woo. Yea. Oh, the exciting life of a sysadmin on the road.
But, I kept reminding people that I had no rental car and needed a ride to the hotel and/or restaurant, hoping that they wouldn’t abandon me. It went about like this:
“Um, you know, I still don’t have a rental car or anything so, I’ll need a ride to the hotel, right?”
“Yeah.”
“So, you’re not leaving yet, right?”
“Yeah, hold on a minute.”
“Ah, so, since I don’t have a rental car are you going to be driving me?”
“Wait, I’ve got something better than a rental car for you!”
“Better?”
“I’ve got the shop truck for you!”
“Ummm…”
“Of course, you’ll have to put gas in it. It’s on ‘E’.”
“Right. Great. Thanks?”

So, yes, I drove the shop pickup truck that they use to make deliveries and, yes, I filled it up. Thankfully, I grew up in the greater Chicagoland area and only had to stare down one guy who looked like he was going to beg for money at the ratty, little gas station I stopped at in the trashed-out neighborhood where the Holiday Inn I was booked in was sadly located. Now, keep in mind, I used to work in the hotel industry. I never worked in Housekeeping, as is evidenced by the current state my house is in, but I did learn what a hotel room is supposed to look like in great detail. This particular Holiday Inn did not meet Hyatt Hotel’s standards. In fact, it didn’t even have the faintest idea what that standard might possibly resemble. Sadly, it was still not the worst place I’d ever spent the night while on the road. After all, the sheets were clean, there was an extra roll of toilet paper, and no used band-aids on the floor. Yes, it can, in fact, get that bad. I did, however, have to plug in every electrical appliance and light. I only had to kill a single cockroach, though, so it all works out. Besides, it was the only room available anywhere close to that part of town.

The next morning, I got down to the nitty-gritty of actually moving the PCs and users to the new server. It went like clockwork. Well, after I got the first few problems worked out and everyone finally had the right security rights. But, freakishly, considering all the things that have gone wrong in the past on these little junkets, I was done by lunchtime. So, I just had to hang around until my plane left at 8:30PM. At least, I managed to slip out for my favorite Southernism, the oyster po’ boy. After that it was just killing time cleaning up little detail things like verifying the backup scheme and updating the anti-virus files, until it was time for the crawfish boil. Now, you might not think that a damn, Yankee carpet-bagger like myself knows what to do with a mess o’ mud bugs, but, surprise, I do. Though, I didn’t eat as many as locals, I did know to suck the head. By then it was getting on toward 6:00pm and I was itching to get to the airport and make sure I had a seat on the plane home. I rode back with the most back-country, redneck sounding guy you ever want to try and listen to, but he was really very bright and, in his own Southern-fried way, quite articulate. In fact, it was everything I could do to keep from imitating his swamp drawl after a bit.

So, I got to the airport, and home, early. My girl got me from the airport and we drove to the far ends of the Earth to get my car from the West Houston Airport where it was not only safe and sound, but looked like it had been washed! Apparently, those stories I’d heard about torrential downpours in Houston while I was away were not exaggerated. By the time we made it back to my house, it was about 11:30PM and Doc had gone to bed, but my Hilda was quite glad to see me. Either that, or she’s learned that Ms. NewGal always brings yummy dog treats with her when she comes.
Oh, while I was away, I also managed to get some reading in, so I finally finished A Better Way to Live and started a trashy novel called Seppuku. I suppose I’ll try to review those when I finally get caught up!
(Oh, and by the way, the boss said I could put down Ms. NewGal’s milage on my expense report, so she’ll get a little something more than the pleasure of my company, which is all she claimed she wanted when she volunteered. Gotta’ love it!)

4/21/2006

IT Defender Game

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Yea! Geek Games!

Okay, yes, these are the kinds of things that geeks like me love. They’re funny, witty and mimic both the fantasies and nightmares about our jobs. No, really. I’m so not kidding about that. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve felt like someone was making a game out of my problems at the office. Well, in any case, there’s a game that lets you live all that fun and excitement for yourself: IT Defender Game.
The object of the game is to maintain a baseline of computer security and not get fired before the end of the day. This is so like life, but with better graphics.

Anyway, it’s Friday, so what the heck, go for it! It’s not like you were doing anything better.

4/19/2006

Return of the Road Warrior

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Career Archive,Dog and Pony Shows,Geek Work,GUI Center,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Linux,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Novell,On The Road,Personal,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:58 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Looks like I’m hitting the road again. Damn.
You know, mostly, if everything is arranged all nice and all, I like traveling. I especially like traveling on someone else’s dime. But, I hate having to hit the road for business at the last minute. This time, I’ll be swapping out a Windows 2000 server, including a data copy, at a remote location in far less time and with far less notice than I’d like. The sad thing is, I’m getting used to that with this job. How does that phrase go? “I’ve done so much with so little for so long that I’m now qualified to do anything with nothing.” Hmm, maybe I should add that to my resume under “qualifications” or “Skill set”. And, I was just telling Ms. NewGal tonight on the phone that I’ve been making the impossible probable and the improbable common place for more years than I can remember. It’s not too hard with Windows, since any moron can handle a point-and-click interface then call himself a Director of IT, claiming that he can manage servers. But, I’ve done it with Windows, Netware and Linux, with a little Solaris and even VMS thrown in for flavor. And mostly at remote sites where things often go wrong. Very, very wrong.

As further evidence that I’ve been doing this too long, when I pulled my toiletry kit out from under the sink, it was already stocked with almost empty containers of every thing I use on a regular basis. Enough after shave for a week, a couple of good gargles of mouthwash, a toothbrush and some toothpaste, the last bit of deodorant. I even had shampoo and conditioner in there from the last place I stayed at, just in case! And packing my clothes took all of fifteen minutes, too. I normally plan for one extra day, plus any special circumstances, so, I have three days worth in there, just in case. It’s going to take me longer to pack my toolkit and carry on bag than anything else. And that’s only because I have to slim down in case I have to fly back on a commercial flight. My boss is flying me over, which is actually sort of nice, but there are thunderstorms expected for Friday afternoon, so I may be flying back on a commercial flight. That means time wasted in an airport. In fact, an airport I spent the night in once. The part about all this that sucks, though, is having to go back to the little podunk airport to get my car when I do finally get back into town. So, I’ll be dragging my sorry, tired butt from either Hobby or Bush Intercontinental over to, basically, Clay Road and Highway 6. Yeah, the opposite side of town. Just so I can drive back to my house, which I will essentially pass on the way to get my car. The only upside there is that Ms.NewGal volunteered to pick me up and drive me to my car. What a sweetie! Of course, it does get her closer to me faster, but she claims she didn’t even think of that.
Thankfully, Hilda has a keeper for the next couple of days. And, in case Doc has to work late, I’ve asked one of the guys from work I trust to come let her out at lunch on Thursday and Friday. Hopefully, she’ll go out and not make a mess at all. Not that she ever has since she was a pup. At least, not unless you count the times she was being ignored while I was at the office during the prelude to my divorce. Oddly, she’s not had a problem since she’s been back. Imagine that! Must have been the company.

So, now, it’s off to queue up the coffee and the Friday Fun post. If I get the chance, I’ll moderate comments, but, I might not until Saturday morning, so, please, be patient.
It’s going to be a Hell of a trip, so pray for me!

4/18/2006

Pink Poodle

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:42 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

If you have dogs, you have got to see this!
You may have seen what you think of as fancy dog cookies in PetSmart. You know, the ones that are shaped like bones, but have frosting on them. But, I am here to tell you these are low rent compared to what the nice people at Pink Poodle Gourmet and Design have. I mean, go look at these things and you’ll see. They look almost too good to give to your dog. (Sorry, Hilda.) They’re better looking, and tasting, than a lot of cookies made for people. And, yes, before you get all wierded out by the fact that I ate dog cookies, they are made from all human-edible ingredients. They’re also quite tasty. At least, all the ones I’ve tried personally are, but I haven’t risked any liver flavored ones yet. They do sell from the website, but, you might want to find a local supplier so you don’t have to deal with shipping. (You can sniff them out at their webpage.)

Okay, okay, you caught me. This is actually a shameless plug for the darling woman that I’ve been seeing. This amazing lady has run her own business for more than two years and paid all her bills with it. Obviously, she works very, very hard at her business and her product really is amazing. I mean, I understand the rudiments of making a cookie, dog cookies even, but what she does… Well, it’s the difference between me building with Lincoln Logs and her building 30 storey sky scrapers. Really, I cannot urge you enough to go check out her work: Pink Poodle Gourmet and Design And, no, this is not a bribe to get more pie. Though, it’d be well worth it. Her pie is delicious!

4/14/2006

Fancy Laptop Cases

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Linux — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:38 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I hope I haven’t posted this before.
Either way, I don’t care enough to either search or change it if I have, so, there you have it. As you regular readers may recall, I’ve been working on setting up a Linux laptop since forever. That’s still going on, but when I get it done, I’m going to need a laptop case or bag in which to carry it. And, that’s where this week’s link comes in: The Top Ten Coolest Laptop Cases.
Peronsally, I like the wood ones. Hey, it’s Friday, go look at them yourself and have fun.

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4/12/2006

“Nobody expects…”

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:33 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

“…the Spanish Inquisition!” Not sure that’s the best way to begin, but…

I suppose it is the most delicate irony that today is the day that, in 1663, Galileo was put on trial for heresy for suggesting that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and not vice versa. In 1835, Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was finally taken off the Vatican’s list of banned books. But it wasn’t until 1992 that the Catholic Church formally admitted that Galileo was right. Hopefully, it won’t take me as long to admit when I’m wrong and should answer the right questions. You know, the ones that are asked, not the ones I’m afraid might be asked.

I have no idea how we got onto it last night, but the subject of Ms. NewGal staying over at my place on a “school night” came up. As I have a schedule in the morning and a routine that I really hate to have disrupted, I wasn’t so hot on the idea. Sure, I should be more flexible, but, well, I have so few things at my job that are regular and stable and routine that I have to build in my own routine so that I feel secure. Maybe it’s juvenile or whatever, but, hey, it works for me. I guess the way the question was asked punched some buttons for me because, suddenly, I felt that I was being asked to describe my Five Year Plan for our relationship and my life. Now, understand, I know that’s not what she was asking, but, damn if that’s not what I heard. Sadly, my reaction was less than stellar.

I gave the big sigh and the eye-roll a real workout on that couch. Ms. NewGal fled to the kitchen to cut her pie and clean up her heavenly manicotti and Ceasar salad. Yes, that’s the third pie in two weeks. Another apple pie that’s just as beautiful as the first. That pushed another button that she hadn’t found yet. I knew someone else who used to run away when she’d hit a soft spot. That never ended well. Thankfully, that’s not what Ms. NewGal was upto at all. She just felt insecure. Yeah, can you imagine? Felt as though she’d crossed a boundry and was pulling back to a safe distance. A safe distance for me, not her. When I finally figured that out last night, I melted. I just about disolved into salty puddle, but, instead, I held her. Or let her hold me. Or, maybe, a little of both. I honestly can’t remember the last time a woman was worried about violating my personal boundries. Really. For that matter, I can’t remember the last time a woman baked me an apple pie, not to mention two. (Actually, I can. It was college and my sister, but that’s another story for another post.)

But, here’s the thing. I read these blogs by women saying that they don’t want to seem “needy” or who want normal feed-back or who just want to get out with someone special more often. Or, as K-Dog wrote, “Need to have need and to be needy – how reluctantly we wish this to be said of us! Yet we pay the highest compliment
when we say of a poet, “It is a need for him to write.”
“I mean, it seems like so little to ask, doesn’t it? So, if I get the sense that Ms. NewGal is looking for that, I do my best to give it to her. It’s the least I can do for her, after all. I mean, dinner and three pies in two weeks? Who am I that she should lavish that kind of attention on me? Well, I may not have a good answer for that, but, I can tell you what I’m not. I’m not the jackass that would have bailed on her for asking questions that, while perfectly reasonable, made me uncomfortable. I’m not the bottom-feeder that would use someone he met on the Internet for his own personal gratification. Oh, make no mistake, gentle readers, I have been that guy. Oh, yes, I have. But, even an old dog like me can learn new tricks.

New tricks, like “honesty” and “consideration” and “gratitude”. They seem like such little things, like so little to ask of me. I feel like I cheat her, giving just that. Like I should have something else to give. So, when I feel like I’m in thumb-screws and the hot irons are being put to my feet, I’ll try to remember that it’s just my “stuff” that makes me feel that way and answer the questions, simply, honestly, with consideration and try to be grateful that she cares enough to ask.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"May you live all the days of your life."
   --Jonathan Swift

4/10/2006

I am a Serf

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 9:29 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I never thought being a sycophant could be a career skill.
One of my favorite political rants used to be how nothing has changed, socially, since the Middle Ages. We are all just very high-tech serfs serving a slightly different kind of feudal lord. The owners of companies are like the dukes and barons of old. Their companies are their fiefdoms. Their emperor, their “High King”, simply whatever government they happen to live under at the time. Oh, every once in a while someone reminds me that one thing has changed. “We can own property!” they exclaim, thinking they’ve found the hole in my pet political theory. But, of course, I’ve been waiting for that, so I simply smile shyly and quietly say “eminent domain“.
But, all this really means, to me, is that it doesn’t matter so much who’s in charge at the “top”. Mostly, it doesn’t have a significant effect on my life. I still have to buy the things I have to buy, pay the taxes that the current Caesar demands, and work at the job I happen to have. Ah, and there is the crux of things, that job. I have to keep that job, because, of course, I am in thrall to my economic lord. I live, at times, in fear of angering my liege, lest I become a financial ronin. A hungry mouth without a patron is a Very Bad Thing. So, I have learned to curry favor. I work hard at thankless tasks so that I might please my lord and he, therefore, will reward me.
So, here’s where being a sycophant comes in…
My job is basically based on whether or not the boss likes me. Good news! He does. Now, I’ve done a little informal survey around the office and people who have been there more than two years agree, if the president of the company likes you, you’re in. Personally, I prefer that my ability to do my job well was the determining factor on my job security, but, well, I can work with this. And, really, it’s not that I mind being a courtier or even a sycophant, but, why do I always feel like the court jester?

Incidentally, I’ve survived a lot of job changes over the years, mainly, thanks to a book called The Way of the Ronin, which is now in its third edition. It’s especially helpful for people with technical skills who have to always work to stay ahead of the curve.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"We are what we think. All that arises is with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make our world."
   --Buddha

4/7/2006

Mini-ITX PVR

Filed under: 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 5:19 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Okay, what does that alphabet soup mean?
In short, it’s a tiny, OpenSource, Do-It-Yourself Tivo. The Mini-ITX standard defines a super-small motherboard and system. In this case, they took a pretty standard mini system and converted it by adding a larger harddrive and a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) card. The system runs Ubuntu Linux and MythTV, which are both available free from the Internet.
Really, this is a very cool thing and it looks easy enough that most slightly experienced users could manage it. Go to the article on XYZ Computing and see for yourself. Mainly, you have to get a small computer, upgrade or add the harddrive, upgrade or add the special video card, and install the operating system and one, very special, program. You know, I might just do this myself! Based on the prices of the equipment, it wouldn’t be that expensive at all!

And, besides, it’s a great way to spend Friday afternoon, fantasizing about the wonders of technology.

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