Diary of a Network Geek

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

10/31/2011

The Worst Kind of Cross-Platform Porting

Filed under: Apple,Linux,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — 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

Hackers are porting Linux viruses (virii ?) to OS X.

Last week Monday, ZDNet reported that hackers have ported code for a trojan from Linux to Apple’s OS X.  For those of my readers who don’t know what a trojan is I’m referring to a malicious program that opens the door for other, usually even worse, programs to come into the infected operating system, like the Greeks did in the classic stratagem known as the Trojan Horse.  It hasn’t been seen in the wild yet, but apparently the C source code for this has been available for quite some time.

Frankly, I’m surprised that this doesn’t happen more often than it does.  In the old days, virus writers had to really know something because they used assembly to create them.  Now, with Windows and all the other object-oriented programming languages filled with bloated libraries of programming calls, along with the availability of existing code on the internet, they hardly have to know anything to write fairly nasty malware.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, as Apple laptops become more popular, more malware will start to show up there.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they figure out how to infect iPads and iPhones, too, if they haven’t already.

I hate people like this.
I spent most of my day today cleaning a malware infection off a machine.  This little bugger had not only disabled the Windows Task Manager, which is pretty common these days, but it also cleaned out the Start Menu, including all the built-in things like the link to Control Panel and My Documents and all those things on the right side of the Windows XP default Start Menu.  But, it also flagged most of the drive as Hidden and System, making it even more difficult to load the software I used to clean it.  I had to go into Safe Mode just to get the system clean enough to restart into Safe Mode with Networking so I could update Malwarebytes, which is what I eventually used to get rid of the beastie.   (I used Spybot Search and Destroy to keep the malware from loading to make the machine useable with networking support so I could update Malwarebytes, incidentally.)
So, yeah, these slimeballs keep me in a job, but, really, I’d appreciate it if they stopped helping me stay employed.  I promise I can find plenty of other things to do!

So, look lively out there people!  Be suspicious of what you download and click on!

UPDATE:  Apparently, this has been found out in the wild now.  And, according to TechWorld, it has a purpose; to use your system to generate BitCoins for it’s evil masters.  Very clever.  Nasty, but, still, very clever.

10/28/2011

Halloween LEGO Creations

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 5:32 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Well, Halloween is just around the corner, if you aren’t celebrating already.

I could go on at length about the historical and cultural phenomena that is Halloween, but, really, if you cared about that, you’d just go to Wikipedia.
So, no, instead, I’ll just share a quick fun link to some Halloween LEGO creations over at Blastr.com If you remember playing with LEGOs as a kid, you need to go check that link out, because I can pretty much promise you that you weren’t creating things like they’ve got over there.

And, remember, when you’re out trick-or-treating, or drinking yourself blind, this weekend, please, be safe.  Not just for you, but for the people around you, too.

10/27/2011

The Half-Life of IT Skills

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Geek Work — 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 New Moon

There is one, apparently.

So, it seems someone has figured out the answer to an old question which has often plagued IT professionals: How long are your skills good?  According to Eric Bloom, over at IT World, longer than you think.  He claims that the tech skills you have now will be half as marketable in two years.  If you read Slashdot, you’ve seen this article and the comments that followed.  Here are my thoughts, though.

First, I think it depends on the skills involved.
For example, if you’re working on Windows Server, your skills will probably translate fairly well and that two-year half-life is about right.  For Unix, maybe a bit longer than that.  For Novell, well, sadly, I’m not sure who actually uses that old warhorse any more, as much as it makes me sad to write it.  For other, less vendor oriented skills, I think two-years may be a bit short-sighted.  Take routers, for instance.  Now basic routing hasn’t really changed in quite a long time.  Even Cisco routers, the creme-de-la-creme of enterprise routers, haven’t really changed that much on the inside in the last 15 years.  I was in one the other day and I have to admit I was shocked at how quickly the skills came back to me after quite literally years of disuse.  Far more than two years, I might add.
Also, skills that are a little harder to quantify certainly stay “fresh” longer than those hypothetical two years.  Things like troubleshooting and the so-called soft skills involved with user support are something that I think are deeply engrained in someone.  They’re part of a work ethic.  So the customer service skills I learned more than 20 years ago when I worked for Hyatt Hotels are certainly still more than “good”.

Secondly, Mr. Bloom is talking about marketability, not actual utility.
So, the fact that, for instance, I don’t have a Cisco certification, even though I’m clearly capable of configuring a Cisco router, means that quite probably was never what he would have considered a “marketable skill”.  In fact, based on what many recruiters may have felt about the marketability of my skills, I should be farming beets right now, not working as the Lead Tech/IT Manager of a fairly prosperous design and manufacturing company.  Instead, of course, all through my career, I’ve managed to talk my way through the door and then show the people in charge that versatility and adaptability, not to mention mad Google-query-crafting skills, are far more important than any specific past experience or certification.

So, what about you, gentle readers?  What do you think?  How long are tech skills “good”?  And does working on legacy systems harm your future employability?

10/24/2011

Light Field Camera

Filed under: Art,Fun Work,News and Current Events,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:31 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Well, this is interesting…

Some time ago, I read about a revolutionary new idea in cameras; focusing after taking the photograph.
Having had autofocus occasionally grab the wrong thing in a photo, this idea intrigued me.  The idea that a camera could simply capture all the available light, store it in a photographic format, and let you choose later where you wanted to focus seemed, frankly, like an impossibility.  It seemed like science-fiction.  Well, apparently, the future is now, because this camera…
Read More

Questions for Network Managers

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:06 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Getting ready for a job interview?  Be prepared!

I’m an old Boy Scout, an Eagle Scout, in fact, so I’m always thinking about “being prepared”, whether it’s a trip to the zoo for photography or a job interview.  Scouts taught me, among other things, to think about situations long in advance of being in them, so I can prepare for what I might need and what I might need to do if things go wrong.  There are thousands of ways this applies to being a professional geek, but, today, I’m going to focus on one way in particular: job interviews.

DICE ran an article back in November of last titled Interview Questions for Network Managers.  It’s good.  If you either are a Network Manager of some kind or plan to interview one, go read that article.  Seriously.  Of course, when I’ve been the interviewer in these situations, how the candidate got to the answer mattered to me as much as the answer itself.  The point of questions like these, for interviewer and candidate, is to display how the potential network manager thinks.  How we think about our networks and solve problems on them matter a whole lot.  I remember working with one guy who, basically, tried things randomly over and over until something worked or he broke it completely.  He never did understand the concept of changing one thing at a time to find out what was wrong so we could stop it from happening again.

In any case, I know a lot of my IT comrades are out of work out there and interviewing, so I thought I’d remind them of this resource to help prepare for future job interviews.
Good luck out there!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself."
   --Abraham Maslow

10/22/2011

Old Posts

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is mid-afternoon or 4:13 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Yes, I’m cleaning them out.

I’ve had this blog going, in one form or another for more than eleven years.  In that time, I’ve gone from writing the HTML pages by hand, often in a text editor, to using two different blogging software packages.  Currently, I’m running WordPress, which I do my best to keep up to date.
However, along the way, I’ve written a lot of posts that didn’t quite make it to the live blog.  So, I’ve developed a small backlog of posts.  Some of them, I’ve deleted because they were a little too topical and their time has passed.  Their “freshness date”, as it were, has expired.
There are, though, a few posts that are still, I think, relevant.  Those, I’m editing and updating and, in some cases, finally finishing, so that they can see the light of day.  I can’t tell you for sure how many there will be, but, as you see posts here referencing old articles various places on the web, that’s why.  It’s just me working through an eleven-year backlog of incomplete posts that, I think, still have some merit.

I just thought you all should know, in case anyone was curious.
Thanks.

10/21/2011

Next Sci-Fi Series to Watch

Filed under: Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:51 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Right, so last week, we had a sci-fi book-picker.

This week, it’s a flowchart over at SFSignal designed to help you pick the next science-fiction television series to rent from Netflix.  (Or, wherever, if you dropped Netflix due to all their foolish marketing stuff.)  And, I have to admit, there are several on the flow chart that I haven’t seen yet.  Though, again, if you haven’t seen Firefly or the newest Battlestar Galactica, I’m always in favor of those.

So, go ahead and check it out.  After all, it’s Friday and you don’t have anything better to do than pick out what you’re going to watch this weekend anyway, so jump to it!

10/19/2011

A Word On Writing Well

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:09 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Okay, a bit more than a word…

“Content is king”, they used to say. The idea was if you wrote enough compelling material for your blog or website, then the readers, and search engines, couldn’t help but find you and rank you well. Sounds like a great idea, right? Then why do so many people write such bad content?

I don’t know either.
What I do know is that everyone and their brother have an idea about how to write good, compelling content for your blog or website. Take SEO Book, for instance, who ran a post about writing better blog posts back in December of 2008. They, in turn, referenced Seth Godin and a book titled On Writing Well.
Now, I’ll grant you, I tend to share links to other resources, offering an opinion about them usually, but not as much original content as I’d like.  But, still, I think that even those posts are written reasonably well.  And, I think it’s worth taking the time, even on a blog, to write well.  Not to improve my rankings in search engines, but because writing well, communicating clearly, is a worthy pursuit.  It may not always be obvious here, but I actually worked quite hard to become a competent writer well beyond things like English class in high school.  One way or another, I’ve written for years and take pride in my ability to write clearly, concisely and in an entertaining manner.

You see, the thing is, as much as we love video and photos and graphics and the like, in the end, we use words to actually communicate.
The next time you’re driving down the street in whatever town you live, notice how many signs have writing on them.  Or, better yet, notice how many signs are, in fact, themselves, writing.  Words, and writing, is still the medium we use to express ourselves, even on the web.  How we write is an expression of how we think.  Writing well is an essential skill that displays our intelligence and our education.  Writing poorly, with sloppy grammar and with “text message” abbreviations, subtly tells people that we are not as smart as we claim to be, and not to be trusted or believed.  Writing well, on the other hand, assures our reader that we are smart, trustworthy and competent enough to be relied upon.  Our writing, especially on the internet, can be, as they say at Google and Wikipedia, considered “authoritative”.
I have argued with people via e-mail and comments who, when they found themselves in metaphorical quicksand, insisted that they would argue circles around me in person.  I questioned how that would be possible if they couldn’t write sufficiently to defend their position when they had all the time they needed to consider the argument at hand and edit their work before replying.

Which brings me to the real point of this little screed; editing and revision.
I know the web is a fast and furious place and that fresh content is the most important thing, but, I do think we have the time to edit and revise articles, even short ones, before making them public.  And, we can all use spellcheck now.  In fact, the version of WordPress that I’m currently running has spellcheck and grammar check built into it.  I would think more people would take advantage of this feature, as well as the ability to save posts in a draft format for later review before posting.
Granted, not every post is going to garner that sort of care and attention, but shouldn’t more of them get it rather than less?  If we are our words on the internet, shouldn’t we care more how we sound and what we say?  I think so.

I think it’s worth writing fewer words, or even writing fewer entire posts, so that a certain minimal attention may be paid to the content and style.
In short, I think if it’s worth saying, then it’s worth saying well.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing."
   --Elbert Hubbard

10/17/2011

Your Password Is Too Weak!

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,News and Current Events,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:19 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, seriously, it is.

If it makes you feel any better, most people’s passwords are too weak.
I suppose you think it doesn’t matter how “strong” your Gmail (or Hotmail or whatever free email you use) password is, right?  Well, you’d be wrong.  I recently read an account about how one person’s Gmail account was hacked and used to spam and try to get her friends to send the hacker money, all posed as her.  Of course, that was after deleting more than 4 Gigabytes of stored messages and photos.  You can read that account, as told by her husband, over at the Atlantic, in an article titled “Hacked!”  It’s worth reading, especially if you’re not in the IT business.  And, frankly, even for a fellow professional computer geek, it might be eye-opening to see how hacked email accounts are being used these days.  I have to admit, I was a little surprised that the attacker in question actually used the account personally to try and con money out of the victim’s friends and family.

I was not, however, all that shocked to see how many accounts are compromised on a regular basis.  Think the thousands.  Daily.
Right, so thousands of email accounts on which people depend are hijacked, used and abused on a daily basis.  If it hasn’t happened to you, it’s probably only a matter of time.  So, how do they do it?  Shared, easily guessable passwords.
Yes, it’s that easy.
Stop for a minute and think about how many passwords you use on a regular basis.  How many are the same?  How many accounts do you have for things like bank accounts and credit cards and medical records that use the same password as your email?  And how many of those accounts use that same email address as the username?
Getting the picture?

So, what do you do?
First, stop reusing passwords.
Second, make more secure passwords.  And, don’t think that the old way of replacing “L” with the numeral one or the letter “O” with the numeral zero and that kind of thing will work, either.  The hackers are on to that.  It’s better to use words that are not in the dictionary.  So, yes, made up words.  Or, even better, phrases, which is what I’ve recommended for some time.  Having a hard time coming up with one?  Try using one generated randomly for you at passphra.se, a random passphrase generator which was inspired by an XKCD comic.  The comic explains the reasoning behind the passphrase idea and the generator.  Also, XKCD is pretty funny and if you’re geeky like me at all, it’s well worth checking out.

In today’s world, we’re way too interconnected and digital and reliant on those systems to have relaxed security.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a geek or not.  Please, think about your passwords and how easily they might be compromised.  Then think about what that might mean to your life, digital and otherwise.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go change some passwords…


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."

10/15/2011

A Note To SEO Experts

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:51 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Dearest Search Engine Optimization Experts:

Please stop e-mailing me unsolicited requests to “help” me with my search engine placement.  You found me via a search engine, because I’m damn good at SEO, so I don’t really need your help.  Nor do I want your “help” cluttering up my blog with scripted, canned, generic posts written, no doubt, by starving college students and/or starving IT workers displaced by the economy.  Nothing against them, or your services, I’m sure both are brilliant, but this is kind of what I do.  Also?  It’s kind of how you found me in the first place.  So, you know, logic dictates that if you could find me to fill my inbox with unsolicited advertising, then people who actually matter to me can find me, too.

I understand that I’m not really your regular market, so maybe you were trying something new with me.  Well, please, stop.  It’s not working.  I don’t want to hear from you or know about you or have to delete your pitch for whatever internet snake oil you’re selling today.  Really.  I don’t need it and I’m not buying.

So, really, thanks for thinking of me, but, please, go away.
I don’t need advice about adding keywords to my titles or headers or what metatags I should include in my code.  I don’t really need someone to write articles designed to pump up my Google juice.  I can do that myself.  All of that.  (Also?  Metatags haven’t mattered for years now.  Honest.)
Anyway, your offer was very nice, and what little bit I read seemed well written enough, but, honestly, no thanks.  I’ll just stick to what works, what helped you and your snake-oil-selling brethren to find me in the first place: I’ll just write relevant articles and continue to produce the personalized content that only I can produce.

Thanks!

(P.S.  Also?  No, I don’t want to make extra money writing for you and your internet snake oil business!  Now, stop sending me the damn email!)

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