Diary of a Network Geek

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

10/29/2010

Rice of the Beast

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is mid-afternoon or 3:30 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Though this is funny, to me, it’s not quite a joke.

Once upon a time, back in the Old Days, before there was an internet and people kept their blogs in analog format on paper, by hand, there was a nasty, old occultist by the name of Aleister Crowly.  His own mother nick-named him the Beast because he was so contrary and irreverent and hard to control as a child.  In fact, in certain circles he’s quite infamous for being, among other things, quite an outspoken hedonist.
Apparently, in addition to the many other things he was and was famous for doing, he was also a bit of a chef and was famous for a spicy, Indian rice recipe.

No, seriously!  And, now, thanks to the relentless digging of somewhat unusual researcher, you, too, can make the near-legendary Rice of the Beast! (Page 2 is here…)
And for those of you who have all started praying for my immortal soul, which is surely now in danger, don’t worry.  I never cared much for Crowley and I don’t plan to make his rice, but, since it is about to be Halloween, I thought I’d share this, even though I don’t really celebrate Halloween since I don’t have kids any more.
I mean, I really only had one and she was on the “lease to own” program, but it turns out the lender wasn’t willing to let me pay the balloon payment at the end, so I had to turn her in, so to speak.
Also, I really hate how people bus their kids into my neighborhood because they think they’re going to get better candy.  Seriously, I’ve seen this.  People who I have never, ever seen anywhere near my street before, ever, following along in trucks with their kids on the sidewalk.  And, you know, I would have been okay with that except for the year I saw the guy, apparently drunk out of his mind, driving along with a smug look on his face like he was sticking it to all of us.  That pretty much tore it for me.

In any case, all that aside, enjoy the rice if that’s your bent.  Mostly, I just shared it because, well, it was too good to pass up.
Happy Halloween everybody!

10/25/2010

Take Shelter!

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:41 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, with all the posts in the past couple weeks about the end of the world, I thought I should share some things about shelters.

No, seriously.
So, here’s a link to an article Wired ran on the latest and greatest disaster shelters.  And, yes, they’re called “disaster survival shelters” now, because we worry about more than fallout.  They’re not cheap, incidentally, but buying one will help pay taxes here in Texas, so I think you should buy one.  Also, they have the advantage of being private.  You get to stock it with whatever, and whoever, you think you need to survive the coming apocalypse.
On the other hand, if you’d prefer a more upscale solution, you can buy space in the Terra Vivos underground community.  Again, not kidding about this.  Discussed quite extensively on Boing Boing, this guy is selling what amount to doomsday timeshares.  Could be snake oil, or the smartest deal since the end of the Cold War.  You’ve got about a 50/50 shot of guessing right.

Of course, you could do what they did in the ’60’s and build your own!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It is never too late to be what you might have been."
   --George Elliot

10/22/2010

Mossberg Just In Case

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Speaking of survivalism and the coming zombie apocalypse…

Okay, so last week I was sharing links about survival rations to keep you going through some “worst case” scenarios.  Well, this week, I think I have found the ultimate in fear marketing for the survival market.  Seriously.  The Mossberg “Just-In-Case” line.
You get, in an air-tight tube complete with carry strap, a Mossberg 500 12-gauge shotgun with pistol grip in a resealable water-proof bag, and either a “survival kit in a tin” or, for the marine models, a multitool with serrated, lock-back knife.  I assume you have to buy your own ammo, but, still, that’s pretty much the last thing every long-term survival kit needs, right?  Stock up on those rations, then fend off the zombies with the shotgun.  That should pretty much cover it.

No, this is not a joke.
Yes, a friend told me about this, so their word-of-mouth campaign is working.

10/20/2010

Spike it, with MS Office

Filed under: Geek Work,GUI Center,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:05 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Yeah, I know, I’m not really a huge fan of Micro$oft Office either, but, what can you do when it’s become the defacto standard?

Make the most of it!
So, back in the day, the reason I originally got into computers at all was due to writing.  I know, crazy, right?  Well, I discovered how much easier it was to edit documents without having to retype the whole thing and I was hooked.  Then, as I wrote more, I got really into moving whole sentences and paragraphs and, yes, even entire, multi-page sections of text from one part of my work to another.  It was pretty fantastic, really.  In any case, copying and moving text is one of the things that Word is really good for and there’s even a secret feature to make your editing job easier; The Spike.
With the Spike, you can copy or cut multiple sections of text and then paste them all into the same section all at once!  You can even take text from multiple documents and copy it to the Clipboard and then paste it into a new document with the Spike!  How fantastic is that?

So, go check out the link and see how to leverage all that power for yourself.
Enjoy!

10/15/2010

Survival Rations

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Most of you don’t realize that I’m a closet survivalist.

No, really, it’s true.
Back in high-school I read books about surviving the coming nuclear apocalypse.  For real!  All about how to hide in the sewers until after the fallout was safe and all that stuff.  Oddly, much of that comes in handy during hurricane season here in Texas.  Strange, but true.  Okay, not so much the part about hiding in the sewers, but a lot of the other stuff.  Like how to get drinkable water and stocking up on canned goods and the like.
Which brings me to the links I’m about to share with you.  If you’re from disaster prone areas, you probably hear all sorts of things about making sure you have enough survival rations to last for at least seven days, until help can arrive.  So, how about longer?  I mean, what if the zombie plague pops up one day and you, thinking strategically, don’t really want to leave the house for groceries?  What’s a survivalist to do?  Apparently, go to Costco, where they offer a 1-year supply of dehydrated and freeze-dried food, with a shelf-life of roughly 25 years, for $799, plus tax.  No, I’m not kidding.  In fact, Costco knows their market so well they offer an entire range of emergency food kits and supplies.  For real.  And, honestly, the pseudo-survivalist in me really wants to buy some of this stuff, just in case.  I especially like that 55-gallon emergency water drum.
And, if you don’t like the look of what you’re getting for your money, just compare them to what the troops are eating in Afghanistan in their MREs!  Trust me, this selection is way better than mil-spec!

Well, hurricane season is basically over for us here in the Gulf Coast, but, it never hurts to stock up for next year!
Also?  There is no season for zombie plagues.
I’m just sayin’…

10/13/2010

A little about RAID

Filed under: Geek Work,Linux — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dog which is in the evening time or 8:52 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I spent two days trying to teach someone just part of this once.

Now, you may think my failure in this regard is due to me being a bad teacher.  Sadly, it was not.  Two other people, one of whom I had already taught about RAID, and more specifically, SCSI RAID configurations, couldn’t teach this to my failed student either.  Shockingly, when I was “encouraged to find other opportunities to excel”, outside that company, naturally, that student took over my job.  Oddly enough, a few years later, I heard the person who had made that organizational choice had also been encourage to find other opportunities to excel.  Funny how that works.

So, now, in part to make up for not being able to educate that person, and also to spare someone the same teaching fate I faced, here are two articles about RAID.
First, from ExtremeTech, RAID 101, Understanding Multiple Drive Storage.
And, secondly, from TechRepublic, Choose A RAID Level that works for you!

You can go to those articles and get lots of detail, but I’ll break it down for you in brief here.
Something that people tend to forget, for some reason, is that RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks.  That’s not as true as it used to be, thanks to server pricing and how cheap SATA drives have become compared to SCSI drives.  Back in the day, we always used SCSI and I still do for server systems, mostly, because it tends to be faster and more reliable than anything else.  That’s not as true as it used to be thanks to improvements in SATA, but if you still want to do a BIG array of disks, SCSI is pretty much the only real option.
There are a bunch of RAID “levels”, but, realistically, you’re mostly going to deal with three or four: RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and, maybe, RAID 10.

RAID 0 is generally referred to as “disk striping”.
In a nutshell, what this configuration does is stripe data across multiple drives.  Generally, this is done to make more available disk space and improve performance.  The down-side is that there is no redundancy.  In other words, with RAID 0, you can take several disks and make them perform like one larger, faster drive, but if one disk crashes, they all do.

RAID 1 is generally referred to as “disk mirroring.”
And, that’s essentially what it is, a system which saves everything to a duplicate drive or drives.  Most often in server configurations, you’ll find the operating system on two drives that are mirrored.  That means that if one drive goes bad, the admin can reconfigure the other drive to take over running the server.  In theory, this works pretty well.  In practice, it takes a little finagling sometimes to get that mirror drive reconfigured as the primary.  The other thing to remember is that the second drive is essentially lost storage.  In other words, if you put two 1 terabyte drives in a RAID 1 array, you only have 1 terabyte of available storage when the system is running.
This is pretty much bare-bones, bottom-of-the-barrel redundancy.

RAID 5 is what most people think of when you talk about RAID arrays.
In RAID 5, data bits and “pairity” bits are striped across three or more drives.  Basically, data is broken up and written to multiple drives and then another, sort of “record-keeping” bit of data is written, too, so that the RAID 5 system knows where all the pieces of the data are.  Now, that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but, what it means is that if one of the drives in a RAID 5 array fails, the array keeps running and no data is lost.  Also, when a replacement drive is put into place, the RAID 5 array automatically rebuilds the missing drive on the replacement!  This, my friends, is like system administration magic!  Somehow, with a lot of really big math, that I frankly don’t understand, they can tell what the missing bit is based on the stuff they do have and fill it in.  This is the best invention since sliced bread!
Also, an option on many RAID 5 systems is something called the “hot spare”.  The hot spare is a drive that is part of the array but not active, until one of the other drives fails.  Then, the hot spare becomes active and will automatically start to rebuild the missing data on that new drive.  That means that the system admin and order a new replacement drive at their leisure and actually schedule down-time to replace it.  What a concept!  Not always doing things at the last minute or under fire, but planning ahead and taking your time.  It’s unheard of!
Finally, the best option available on many RAID arrays is the “hot swapable” drive.  In that case, you don’t need to schedule downtime at all, but only need to pull the damaged drive out of the array and pop the replacement right in.  All without even shutting the production system down for even a minute!  Again, this is like magic!

The last “common” RAID level is RAID 10.
Basically, this is a combination of RAID 1 and RAID 0.  In other words, it’s a set of mirrored arrays.  This setup requires at least four drives and is fairly pricey.  It’s mainly used for redundancy and speed and, realistically, is almost only used for database servers.  In fact, I can’t think of any other instance that I’ve heard of this being used, outside of database servers.

There are other levels, too, of course, but you can hit the articles for more info about them.  They’re pretty uncommon outside of really high-end or experimental configurations of one kind or another.
Oh, one last thing…  RAID can be implemented either via hardware or software.  In general, software RAID, such as you might find in Linux, is cheaper, but is slower and more prone to having issues if something goes wrong.  Hardware RAID is faster, a little more expensive, but a far more robust solution.

So, there you have it, RAID in a nutshell.
And, yes, for those of you who have noticed, articles like this are me turning this blog back toward its roots as a technical blog.  I hope to have more basic info like this as well as some new projects over the next 18 months or so.  Certainly, more than there have been in the past two or three years.
I hope you’ll keep coming back for more!

10/8/2010

Enjoy Lunch!

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

Though I rarely post twice in one day, and frankly I post more than once a week these days, I present this link:
Extruding Chicken Nuggets at Gizmodo

Go look, and remember, that’s not bubble gum they’re making.  That your future chicken nuggets and chicken patties.
Enjoy your lunch!

Microsoft Security Book…

Filed under: Art,Fun,MicroSoft,The Dark Side,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:32 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

…for teens?

Okay, so according to LifeHacker, Microsoft has released an on-line book about internet safety and security aimed at kids and teens.  It’s called “Own Your Space – Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online“.  No, seriously.  They describe it as a way to “…[h]elp teens ‘own their space’ online.”  Apparently, also meant for adults to help their “tweens” and teens “… keep up with the latest computer and online safety issues and help kids learn to avoid them.”  The book was written in “partnership” with security expert and author Linda McCarthy, who I honestly have never heard of before.

So, it’s hard to argue with the alleged intent behind this free, downloadable book, but I’m wary of anything from Microsoft that claims to be related to “security”.  On the other hand, what little I actually saw of the book was okay and had fun illustrations, so it may not be all bad.  I mean, at least it’s a starting point for parents to talk to their kids about on-line safety and security.  But, Microsoft has a long way to go to make up for Internet Explorer and holes it created in so many systems over the years.

In any case, it’s a fun looking book and you’re obviously not doing anything important or you wouldn’t be here reading my blog this Friday, so why not check it out for yourself?

10/6/2010

Computer Crime is “Organized”

Filed under: Geek Work,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Wow, even computer crime is a “family” business these days!

Hey, look, I’m from Chicago, where you can’t hardly swing a dead cat and not hit a mobster, but this surprised even me!  Apparently, according to an article that ran on CNet, 85% of all stolen data last year was linked to some kind of organized crime.  And, 38% of data breaches used stolen credentials.

But, also, people are getting rich protecting us from the threats they create!  Seriously!  According to this article at eWeek, that’s just what some of the botnet crooks are doing.  And, remember, this is BIG business.  We’re not talking about a couple hundred infected PCs, we’re talking about tens of thousands.  There are websites dedicated to the buying and selling of the data these things collect and renting out the zombie PCs to do your dirty work, like send spam.  It’s big business and where there is big money to be made doing illegal things, there’s always been organized crime.

More and more, life is becoming like a William Gibson novel…

10/1/2010

William S. Burroughs Graphic Novel

Filed under: Art,Fun,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:44 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

No, this is not a surreal, drug-induced alternate reality.

No, seriously, back in the late 60’s, before the term “graphic novel” had even been coined, William S. Burroughs worked with artist Malcolm McNeill to make the experimental Ah, Pook Is Here.  It was a multi-year collaboration that flashed briefly on the literary scene of the time, then disappeared.  However, Fantagraphics has plans to resurrect this lost treasure as a two volume set.

I’m not familiar with the artist, though there are some samples at that link above, and the book itself seems to be yet another of Burroughs’ experiments.  In fact, the article describes it as an extension of the “cut-up method” that Burroughs is famous for and liked so well.  Personally, I think it’s just interesting as a piece of history.  Alan Moore may have all the pretensions he cares to about his graphic novel work, but he can’t possibly hold a candle to this genius.

Anyway, it’s Friday, so take a mental health break and go read about this crazy experiment that was well before its time.


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