Diary of a Network Geek

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

6/30/2006

My Personal Jetpack

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:58 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Hmm, is this geeky or just plain cool?

Well, either way, I would LOVE to have my own personal, James Bond-style jetpack. It’s really more than just a simple jetpack, though, as it incudes a sort of wing suit that, I assume, allows one to steer more easily. Also, there’s room for a parachute, essential gear for the flying spy, and a “payload” backpack. After all, if I’m jetting about the European countryside, I’d best be doing it for darn good reason. You know, like a spy mission that requires the use of super, high-tech gear that I stored next to my parachute on my flying wing jetpack.

Hey, what do you want from me? It’s Friday, and I am totally in need a little escapism! And, admit it, you are too, so, just click the link.

6/29/2006

Shadow Boxing

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:04 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Some time back, my therapist said something unnerving to me.

I’ve made a conscious effort to not hide things in my body language or close off any part of my thoughts or life to my therapist. So, when we were talking about what my “core issue” was, it surprised me that my therapist said I was so “well defended”. I don’t weigh what I say before I say it in his office. I just relax and go with whatever direction the session takes. Oddly, when he asked me what I thought my basic “problem” was, I shrugged and told him. It’s simple, really. I have a negative self-image. Nothing all that revolutionary or unique.
But, it turns out that was only partly what he meant. What he was really getting at was that the negative things, the things that hold me back personally and socially, are so integrated into my personality that they’re hard to pull out and apart. Also, because of that, I don’t take much personally any more. I mean, when the average stranger on the Internet says something nasty to me, I’m about as likely to simply agree with them as not. I imagine that must be frustrating for both them and my poor therapist. To have me just shrug and say, “Hmm, seems like you’ve got a point there” must be a little disconcerting. But, hey, like Dirty Harry says, “A man has got to know his limitations”. It’s like shadow boxing. I’m always fighting with myself.

The thing is, though, I see this and I see why it’s not a good thing. So, I’m trying. Trying to remake myself a bit at a time. Trying to become that person who I want women to find attractive. Or, perhaps more precisely, to be what I feel would be attractive to others. In short, I want to get healthier, but mentally and emotionally as well as physically. That’s what has motivated me to get running shoes and start shuffling up to a fast walk so I can maybe, one day, run and get into shape again. Yes, again. I used to be in very good shape. I used to work the heavy bag for 20 minutes, three times a week, and follow that up with five or ten minutes of shadow boxing with “Heavy Hands“. That in addition to push-ups and sit-ups every morning. I was in shape. And, I felt better about myself then than I do now. So, one thing I want to do is get back into shape.

And, I want to write more. No, I want to write and publish. Period. I want to be able to say that I’m a published author. I don’t need to win an award or anything, just get paid, a little, for my writing. I think I can get back to that place, too. Yes, back. Next to my desk, I have a framed letter from a publisher telling me that the editor/owner regrets returning my story, but that they’ve shut down. It wouldn’t have paid cash, but I would have been in print. I was that good, once. And, I will be that good again, eventually.

Now, I don’t think that I have to actually achieve all those goals before I’m attractive, but, I sure do have to be working hard at them to keep anyone’s interest. Isn’t that what so many of the ads on Match.com say? They want a goal oriented person. Someone who knows what they want. All that kind of thing. So, I’m setting goals and working toward them. And, to be honest, I think I do need to achieve at least some of them before I think I’m attractive.
I don’t know how long it will take, but, I hope, that some of these things will start to undo the knots that tie up the better part of me and slave that to the well defended, slightly defective, part. I hope that starting the work will start to break down the walls I’ve built over the last nine or more years. That the battlements might crumble down and that I can be more open, vulnerable and known to the people around me. I’m not promising anything, but, I am going to try.
We’ll see how it goes.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"If it falls to your lot to be a dishwasher, wash like Michaelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music... wash so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, 'There lived a great dishwasher who did his job well.'"
   --Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

6/27/2006

Some New Tools

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,Novell,The Dark Side,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:58 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
–Abraham Maslow

So, I’ve been doing a lot of strange things at work the past couple of weeks. And, by strange I mean working around problems like trying to get things done without spending money. That always seems to lead me through some interesting back doors and into areas that I’ve not been before.

First, I was asked to do some browser forensics. Basically, it was supposed that a particular employee, no myself, was spending a little too much tiem on the web. I was tasked with finding how much time and where they were going. Simple enough, right? Well, I had to do it on the “down low” and without sitting at their computer. Enter, Webhistorian, by Mandiant. This utility let me grab history files and arrange them into a nice, easy-to-read report that told me where, when and how long my intended target was spending time on the web. That combined with a drive mapped to the administrative share on his computer showed… That he was actually relatively innocent. Yeah, he went to some sports websites, but only first thing in the morning and at lunchtime. Nothing worth firing him over, at any rate.

Next, there was a more, um, general security question. And, okay, it wasn’t actually at work, but it’s good to know for work. A friend thought her computer might have been inadvertantly used in the comission of a crime by a “guest” and asked me to check it out. I can’t go into details because of pending legal action, but I decided to let her take it to the proper authorities first, in case I were to mess up any evidence. Once they’re satisfied, however, I’ll take a look at it. And, thanks to another blog I read, I’ll be using something called Helix.
I have read the aforementioned blog, A Day In The Life Of An Information Security Officer, for, well, years, actually. Mostly, it’s just an interesting diversion, but sometimes, I get good ideas from the posts and case files. This time, the new tool came from the comment section. Helix was suggested by another faithful reader. It’s a bootable, “live cd” Linux distribution. It’s also free, which is one of my main criteria for the tools I use.

I also had to clone a giant Windows XP disk this week. I tried a number of utilities, including Symantec’s Ghost, but it was another Linux distro that saved me. This time, I used Knoppix. Also a bootable, “live cd” distro which is available free from the Internet. I found the command by accident while searching for something else, but I also discovered there are other ways to clone a cd via Knoppix. My Google search turned up several HowTo documents. There was one on Knoppix.net’s forums, another on Linux.com and a third on Just Linux. I used the third method first, which turned out to not work so well at all. Something to do with XP and how finicky it is about hardware and booting, I suspect. So, I finally moved on to the appropriately named NTFSClone. I still had problems making it bootable, but I attribute that to the old disk running Windows XP. I hate XP. Truly. Still, I managed to have some good fun with all the different attempts. I enjoy a good intellectual challenge!

These days no one can afford to be just a “Windows Admin” or just a “Novell Admin” or, even just a “Unix admin”. We have to use the right tools to get the job done, whatever that looks like.
I’m the man behind the curtain who makes the great and powerful Oz go. If I want to outwit the flying monkeys that the Wicked Witch of the West sends after me, I’d better have a whole lot of tools in my toolbox besides my magic ruby hammer.
Even though I’m Linux certified, I don’t work with it enough for my taste, so I’ve finally gotten off my lazy butt and installed Open SuSE on two old laptops I have at the house. Again, it’s free and so were the laptops. One is an old Dell that came from an old job. The other is a Compaq that a friend gave me because he knew I’d get more use out of it than anyone who he might donate it to for the tax write-off. Either that, or I’ve become a charity. Hey, it could happen!
In any case, I’m working on expanding my toolbox, one piece at a time. And, now, you can take advantage of my tinkering to expand your own digital toolbox. Have fun with the new toys!

6/26/2006

Hanlon’s Razor

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings,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 6:22 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

So, I was thumbing through my copy of The New Hacker’s Dictionary and I came across this gem:

Hanlon’s Razor /prov./

A corollary of Finagle’s Law, similar to Occam’s Razor, that reads “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.” The derivation of the Hanlon eponym is not definitely known, but a very similar remark (“You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.”) appears in “Logic of Empire”, a 1941 story by Robert A. Heinlein, who calls it the `devil theory’ of sociology. Heinlein’s popularity in the hacker culture makes plausible the supposition that `Hanlon’ is derived from `Heinlein’ by phonetic corruption. A similar epigram has been attributed to William James, but Heinlein more probably got the idea from Alfred Korzybski and other practitioners of General Semantics. Quoted here because it seems to be a particular favorite of hackers, often showing up in sig blocks, fortune cookie files and the login banners of BBS systems and commercial networks. This probably reflects the hacker’s daily experience of environments created by well-intentioned but short-sighted people. Compare Sturgeon’s Law.

Now, you might wonder why I mention this. Or, you might not, if you know me well enough. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, I do believe in evil, after a fashion, but most of the “evil” perpatrated against me is mainly stupidity and selfishness, not real, capital “E”, evil. But, then again, there are a lot of stupid, selfish people running around out there, so it does add up after a bit. Now, I’m not being mean or arrogant or anything that anyone reading this hasn’t been before either. I’m just writing it “out loud”, so to speak. I mean, you have to admit, the mass herd of humanity has gotten in your way and irritated you sometime in the past month, haven’t they? But, does that make the idiot who cut you off or called you a name on the phone or whatever “evil”? No, just an idiot.
That’s all. It just struck me as an important thought that I should share with my readers.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It is only when they go wrong that machines remind you how powerful they are."
   --Clive James

6/24/2006

Benefits of Reading

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,Things to Read — 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 Waning Crescent

My mother always told me that all that reading would make me smarter. Now, thanks to this article on MSN about just that thing, she has some extra weight for her argument. Apparently, someone at UC Berkley actually did a study and wrote it all up in a paper called What Reading Does for the Mind. Based on that study, we get three benefits from reading, especially when we start young. First, reading increases vocabulary more than talking or direct teaching. That was my mother’s main argument for reading, incidentally. Second, reading substantially boosts general knowledge while decreasing the likelihood that misinformation will be absorbed. This one is the one that most people seem to think is true. I’m not quite as convinced, but, hey, the study says it’s true, so I’ll go with it. And, finally, reading helps keep our memory and reasoning abilities intact as we age. Again, not sure about this one, yet, but it did seem to keep my grandmother sharp. She lived to be like 96 or something ridiculous like that and was pretty sharp all the way until the end. Well, except for often asking the same question several times in an hour, but I always suspected that was more her testing us than her not remembering. Always checking to see if my story changed and all that. And, she only had one or two episodes in the hospital when she had any age/time displacement, so I figure that’s pretty good. I mean, after all, she was born before electricity was common in the home and when the “horseless carriage” was still a bit of a novelty, so, all things considered, she did pretty well.

So, even if I don’t read quite as much as I used to and a lot of ficition as well, I figure it’s still good for me. At least, in the long run.
So, kids, a little advice from your Uncle Jim? Read, even if it’s just comic books. Reading actually is good for you!  (And it also gives me justification for my position that if you have “too many books”, really, you just need a bigger house.)


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses."
   --Alphonse Karr

6/23/2006

New Novell Boss

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:42 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Hey, remember the days when I talked about geek stuff all the time?

Yeah, me neither, but, still, the title of the blog is Diary of a Network Geek and this is news that matters to geeks, so…  I saw this yesterday and again early this morning: Novell Sacks Cheifs. So, it looks like another changing of the guard at Novell.  I find myself wondering how long this company will be able to hold on these days.  I know, people have been saying that for ages about poor, little Novell, but, really, how much longer can they hold on at this point?  A dwindling market share, massive competition from giants like Micro$oft and endless management changes do NOT inspire confidence.  Sure, they’ve revamped their product line to embrace Linux, but I’m starting to think that it’s too little, too late.  And, trust me, I LOVE Novell and their products.  I’ve been a Novell zealot since I started in IT and Novell certified for fourteen years.  I used to live and breathe this stuff.  I’ve seen Novell product do more on fewer resources than, well, than almost anything going.  But, even I have to question the company’s decisions and direction these days.

I guess it’s a good thing I enjoy Linux and got Linux certified not too long ago.  Maybe, with this news, it’s time to focus on my Unix experience and abandon Novell to the market wolves.  I certainly would prefer a Linux or Unix job over a Windows Admin position.  Of course, if the pay is right, I’ll babysit your kids or design web-pages for you.  Heck, if you pay me enough, I’ll even publish trade magazines for the self-storage industry!

How to Disappear

Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings — 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

At least, in an urban environment.

Somehow, I missed this on Cool Hunter, thankfully, bOING bOING caught it and pointed the way. A Dutch design firm has created a sort of urban “blind”, but, I don’t think they mean for you to hunt ducks downtown with it. It’s a little, single-person shed that’s meant to look like the ubiquitous lumps of metal hiding and protecting the omnipresent electronics that run through our cities. My only thought would be that, instead of getting a little privacy, I’d keep getting phone guys checking to see if their backhoe had just taken out my circuits.

Anyway, the possibilities are endless with this and it looks so goofy that it must be fun. C’mon, you know you want to click the link and see the pretty pictures.

6/22/2006

Cryptic References to Non-Events

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — 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

Oh, so many things on my mind and so many ways to get into trouble talking about them.

To look at me, you’d never know that I’m the repository of so many secrets. I know so many things I shouldn’t that, at times, I think I’ll split at the seams and they’ll come rushing out in a sticky mess that will leave stains on the carpet. But, I dare not talk about them, or write about there here. If I tell Secret X, then Ms. Y will never confide in me again. If Secret Z comes out, then Mr. A will be so depressed there’s no telling what he might do. Worse yet, if I share about the thing with the people in the place who are dealing with that technical issue… Well, let’s just say it would be bad. Honestly, I never knew I was so trustworthy until I sat down last night to write about all the things on my mind that I simply shouldn’t talk about in public and started listing the secrets people have entrusted to me.

Worse still are the other things I more voluntarily keep inside though. Nothing the NSA would care about, mind, but important to me. To share those thoughts and feelings, I would have to make myself vulnerable to you, my few, faithful readers, and that, history has proven, is not the best idea. Besides, not all my readers are friendly. Some of them are down right mean and nasty, though those few seem to have finally learned that I won’t post their comments. I pretty well know what they think and, well, y’all know what they say about opinions…

I know, rumor has it that you blog-readers like reading about fear, uncertainty and doubt, but it’s gotten hard for me to share that. A little honesty is good, but, too much apparently leads to disaster on a Hindenburg-like scale. In the past, my experience being vulnerable with people has, to put it mildly, not worked out well at all. My therapist tells me that my sarcasm is a defense mechanism that keeps me from having to be in that oh, so delicate position of being vulnerable. Yet, I recognize that I must open myself to that potential pain, again and again, if I am to ever really connect with another human being. And, I really do want that, at least once before I die. Yes, I question that, in spite of having been married, that I’ve ever really been connected in a significant way with anyone, outside of family, anyway. Family is a different kind of connection, more fundamental, easier, more natural. The trick, I guess, is doing it in the right measure. Give them enough to let them in on the secret of me, but not so much that they get that “sticky-floor-in-a-cheap-movie-theater” feel about me.
That is a surprisingly tough balancing act.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity."
   --Albert Einstein

6/16/2006

Dale Reckoning Plugin

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:50 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, I upgraded to the latest version of WordPress not too long ago so I could test a little project of mine. Way back in the early days of blogging, when all these fancy programs were new and not so user friendly, I concieved of a beautiful way to present fiction to a large audience for free. Well, okay, me and about a million other people, but, still, I had an artistic vision. No, really! My idea was to keep a journal in the manner and style of a character from a fictional world via a blog. I saw it as a return to the roots of the novel which, in the early days, used things like journal entries and faux personal letters to tell a story. Naturally, a blog would be a perfect way to do just that.
But, as a curmudgeon and creative person who was not content to just record something in the standard calendar, I set about trying to adapt the blog I was using to a new, fictional calendar. Sadly, my first efforts met with very limited success, but, then I upgraded to the first version of WordPress and started learning a bit of PHP. It wasn’t long after that before I had a decent working plugin that would allow me to make my blog appear to be recorded in the calendar used for the Forgotten Realms setting by Wizards of the Coast, formerly TSR. It took many, many cycles of development and testing before I was satisfied, but, I finally got something that I thought was worth sharing and, then, they did a major overhaul of WordPress. So, I waited for all the bugs to get found and fixed. And, I waited and waited and waited some more for good measure. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I actually found the time to upgrade to the latest version and test my plugin again. A few minor corrections later, I had fixed all the quirks I could find and, so, without further ado, I present, for your wacky, fantasy blogging pleasure, the Dale Reckoning plugin for WordPress!

Use it in good health and enjoy! (And, yes, this is appearing almost simultaneously on my sad, little fantasy/writing blog.)

6/14/2006

UNIVAC’s Birthday

Filed under: Apple,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,News and Current Events,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:51 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

On this day in 1951, my profession was, essentially “born”.

Today marks the anniversary of the unveiling of the UNIVAC, the world’s first commercially produced and available electronic digital computer in the United States. The first electronic computers were invented during World War II by the military. Engineers in Great Britain invented the Colossus computer to help break Nazi codes, and engineers in the United States invented the ENIAC, to help calculate the trajectories of missiles.
The ENIAC used 17,468 vacuum tubes, 7,200 crystal diodes, 1,500 relays, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors and around 5 million hand-soldered joints. It weighed 30 tons, was roughly 8 feet by 3 feet by 100 feet, took up 1800 square feet, and consumed 150 kW of power. The ENIAC radiated so much heat that industrial cooling fans were needed to keep its circuitry from melting down. It took two days to reprogram it for each new task.

The men who created the ENIAC decided to go into private business for themselves, and it was on this day in 1951 that they unveiled their first product, the UNIVAC I, the world’s first commercially available electronic computer. It was quite an improvement over the ENIAC, using a mere5,200 vacuum tubes, UNIVAC I weighed just 29,000 pounds (or 13 tons), consumed 125 kW, and could perform about 1,905 operations per second running on a 2.25 MHz clock, which was the fastest calculation rate in the world at the time. The Central Complex alone (i.e. the processor and memory unit) was 14 feet by 8 feet by 8.5 feet high. The complete system occupied more than 350 square feet of floor space.
The first customer to buy the UNIVAC was the United States Census Bureau, and the computer was used to predict the presidential election of 1952, after early returns began to come in. It correctly predicted that Eisenhower would win. Originally priced at $159,000, the UNIVAC I rose in price until they were between $1,250,000 and $1,500,000. A total of 46 systems were eventually built and delivered.
Thomas J. Watson, the chairman of IBM at the time, thought that computers, with all their incredibly complex vacuum tubes and circuitry, were too complicated. He famously said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” But with the invention of the microchip in 1971, all the processing power of those thousands of vacuum tubes and punch cards could suddenly be crammed into a space the size of a postage stamp. Within a decade, the first personal computers, or PCs, began to appear. Ironically, Apple made them popular and inexpensive enough for the home user and drove what we think of as the computer revolution.

But, it all started with UNIVAC. So, happy birthday, big guy. Thanks for being just delicate enough to keep me working!

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