Diary of a Network Geek

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

2/29/2012

On-Line Dating Security

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Geek Work,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:39 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I’m pretty sure I was propositioned by a prostitute on Match.com this morning.

I could be wrong, of course, but when a 27-year-old woman who’s profile says she’s “almost divorced” and looking for people in the age range between 35 and 37 sends an email to a 43-year-old man (ie. me) asking if he’s interested in a “one-nighter”, it seems suspicious to me.  Maybe I’m just cynical.
She started off sending me a short note that was a little vague, but at least sounded like she might have possibly read my profile.  Well, except for the part where I was 43.  But, most people I bump into out in the world aren’t very detail oriented, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt and  suggested that I might be a little old for her.  I went on to explain that I wasn’t comfortable dating someone who hadn’t started school yet when I would have graduated from college.  What I didn’t say was that it would make me feel like a pervert to dating someone potentially young enough to be my daughter, but, that’s what I was trying to get at, in a polite way.  Then I wished her good luck in her search and went on my merry way.
This morning, I got a note back asking if I was interested in a “one-nighter”.  And, then she gave me an e-mail address at Hotmail.com.  That raised two, giant red flags for me.  First of all, while I am a wizard in the sack, there’s nothing about my Match.com profile that would indicate that to the casual observer.  And, frankly, while many women find me absolutely adorable, I think that’s more based on my personality and sense of humor than my rugged good looks.  It’s been years since I was pretty.
So, sure, maybe she’s just a messed up kid trying to work out her “daddy issues” and not a hooker, but I suspect that she’s looking for an entirely different kind of “daddy”.  Either way, I don’t need that particular flavor of drama at this point in my life.  Seriously.

But, oddly enough, earlier in the week, I was reading a security blog at TechRepublic by Michael Kassner.  The entry was titled “Online Dating Services Risking More Than a Broken Heart” and was all about the potential security issues related to on-line dating.  Now, I work in the industry and I maintain pretty decent security, even at home, but I know not everyone is quite as paranoid as I am.  And, that’s just within the IT industry!  I cannot imagine the wild and wooly dangers faced by people foolish enough, or desperate enough, to contact someone who seems to good to be true through their own, personal e-mail address!  Not to mention how much data you put up on a profile that may be active indefinitely on a dating site.
So, go read his article and think about what you put out there, where you put it and who might be reading it.

Oh, and one last bit of dating advice from your Uncle Jim, if she seems too good to be true, she probably is!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Whether you call it Buddhism or another religion, self-discipline, that's important. Self-discipline with awareness of consequences."
   --Dalai Lama

2/24/2012

As easy as 123!

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 5:19 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Well, maybe a little more difficult than that…

My “day job” is being the IT department for a specialized engineering, design and manufacturing business.  In a very simplified nutshell, we design and build huge cranes, primarily for off-shore work in the petroleum industry, but not limited to that.  As such, we are heavily invested in AutoCAD.  And, by that I mean, we couldn’t really function without Autodesk products any more.  So, I try to stay in touch with what’s going on in their world.  That personal imperative led me to contact with Autodesk 123D.

This is actually free software, reviewed at the link above, that will let you design and prototype relatively simple 3d objects.  It can import things from AutoCAD, though, if you’ve got a lot of AutoCAD files, like we do.  What’s more interesting, however, is that this software has links to Autodesk’s 3D printing services.  So, if you don’t have a 3D “printer” of your own, you can get an estimate from Autodesk on producing a 3D prototype right from their software!  How cool is that?!  You can essentially do a 3D “print preview” and they’ll give you a quote on actually producing whatever 3D object you just created on their free software.  And, it seems to be relatively reasonable, too!
What’s even more interesting, I think, is that there’s an add-on which allegedly takes a series of high-resolution photographs you provide it of an object and then creates the 3D model for you!  Now, I haven’t tried this out yet, but I can think of a number of small statues around my house that I would love to have recreated in ABS plastic.  Oh, right, that’s pretty much the only material available through their service; various forms of ABS plastic.  Essentially, the only options are color; white, ivory or black.  Or, if you want to use their more expensive “high-resolution” service, a single color option; a kind of funny greenish color.  Still these can all be painted like any other plastic model, so there is that.

In any case, I can think of any number of uses for a service like this.  Low-end architecture models, for one.  Game pieces.  Custom replacement parts for various bits and pieces of electronic equipment.  Really, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination, budget and the strength of the ABS plastic!
But, the software itself is free, so why not go download it and try it out?  If you do, please, leave your experiences with how well it works in the comments.

2/17/2012

Typography Deconstructed

Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:54 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

You may not realize it, but typography is actually very important to me.

Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed that it looks just a little different.  That’s because I’ve changed how I make the fancy titles on my posts.  Instead of using an older plugin which relied on TrueType fonts and good, old PHP programming to generate titles on the fly, I’ve moved to a much newer plugin that relies on FontBurner fonts, which are Flash-based.  There are a couple of reasons for this, actually, but the main one is that my webhost has had server utilization issues with my blog since I’ve been with them and after digging through log files, some signs point toward that older plugin being the issue.  But, what you all haven’t seen is the horror of trying to find an appropriate font that is readable and still conveys the sense of technical whimsy that I think represents this blog well.  It hasn’t been easy.

Now, I understand that not all my readers will share my quiet obsession with typography, but for those who do, I think you’ll enjoy the link I’m bringing you this week.  Have you ever tried to explain to people what the different parts of a font really are?  Or maybe wanted to know yourself?  Ever wonder why “kerning” is so important to that crazy web designer you hired to do your site?  Well, you may still wonder about that last one, but for almost all your other questions about what goes into a typeface and what it’s all called, go check out Typography Deconstructed.
They bill themselves as a single, central location to find as much high-quality information on type and typography as you could want.  And, I really think they have done it!  There are two main sections to this site; Anatomy of Type and Type Glossary.  They both show you what the different parts of a typeface are and what the different parts are called, just in two slightly different formats.

Also, for you typography fanatics, or teachers, there are posters for download or purchase that do a great, graphical, job of showing and explaining just what goes into type.

Whether you’re into typography or not, this site is worth a look, just to understand how type works and get some idea of how deeply it effects our daily life.  After all, without type and typography, you couldn’t have read this blog!

2/14/2012

From The Heart

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:01 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Today is St. Valentine’s Day.

Today, for reasons that are mostly attributable to the evil machinations of greeting card companies, we are expected to engage in a conspicuous display of romantic passion.  People mistakenly call it “love”, but, in my experience, love often has little to do with what we celebrate on this strange, little holiday.  We put so much pressure on each other, and ourselves, to be in the right kind of loving, romantic, passionate relationship that, frankly, it’s almost guaranteed that things will go horribly wrong.  And, yet we continue with it anyway.

For years, I was single on St. Valentine’s Day, and wished beyond all reason to be in a relationship with someone, anyone, with whom I might share the day.  Then, of course, I was and the event couldn’t possibly live up to any of the expectations I had set up for the holiday, my partner, nor myself.  It seemed to me that with every passing year, whatever I did was less and less appreciated.  More fault was found with how I tried to make the day special for her, until that last year, my ex-wife was actually complaining about the roses I’d saved my lunch money, literally skipped lunches out with the people at the office, to pay for to continue what I’d hoped was a tradition.  For ten years, I bought her at least a dozen red roses, usually, a dozen red and a dozen white, carefully requesting that they not include baby’s breath, because she was allergic to it, only to have her complain that the flowers I’d been so proud of getting in spite of financial difficulty, were aggravating her allergies and always had.  For ten years, she let me buy those flowers and complained about them, often behind my back, and let me think I was doing a good thing.  All for “love”.

Well, I can’t speak for my ex-wife, but I don’t think I knew what love really was when we were together.
In church, Sunday, of course, they read First Corinthians, Chapter 13, verses 4-7, which are “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  Now, I doubt that Paul was talking about romantic, passionate love in this letter, since he wasn’t particularly in favor of marriage, among other things, but, still, it’s often invoked as the kind of love we should have for a partner.
It’s certainly an ideal I strive for these days, on that rare occasion that I find myself involved with someone of the fairer sex.  But, it’s also how I simply try to treat everyone, regardless of how they feel about me.  Of course, some days I do that better than others, but it’s a goal for all days, not just this artificial, high-pressure holiday that was seemingly invented to make so many feel so inadequate.

And, I have to admit, my feelings about this holiday aren’t aided by my interest in history, especially Chicago history.  You see, I think of this day as the anniversary of when a fellow Chicagoan, Al Capone, rounded up seven of his closest buddies and gunned them down in the back alleys of the South Side of Chicago. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre! It was on this day, in 1929, that the rivalry between Bugs Moran and Al Capone reached its violent and bloody peak, leaving seven, bloody corpses in its wake, along with damaging both Moran’s North Side Gang and, ultimately, bringing so much attention to Capone from the FBI that it effectively ended his criminal career, as well.
Truly, a turning point in the criminal history of Chicago.

So, you all go out and have your romantic dinners and make cow-eyes at your object of desire, but, have yourself an extra bloody steak and remember how they used to celebrate this romantic holiday on the South Side in the old days.  And, remember, your relationship isn’t measured by how well or poorly things go today, but how you treat each other the other 364 days of the year.

 


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world."
   --John le Carre

2/10/2012

The Best 404 Pages

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:02 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Not all 404 pages are created equal.

Most of us will never see a 404 page.  In fact, if things are going well on your website, 404 pages shouldn’t normally come up.  (For those of you not familiar a 404 page is the error page you get on a website when the page you’re looking for is missing or can’t be found.)  In the old days, 404 pages were pretty much blank, outside of the error message itself.  They were meant for developers to troubleshoot and debug their websites, really.  They were a kind of place-holder page and, at best, an irritant to the average internet browser.
But, as the web grew up and became more sophisticated, so have 404 pages.  On many sites, they’ve become a kind of “Easter egg“, offering a look at the wit and sense of humor of the site designers and programmers.  What was an annoyance has become a fun bit of art!

Clearly, not even all “fun” 404 pages are created equal, so here are the best 404 Pages according to Gizmodo, one of the premiere gadget and technology blogs.  My favorite is the one they feature first, which strikes me as especially funny, considering my frustrations with Match.com lately.  There are some really good ones there, some more fun and some more useful than others, but all worth another look.  And, even though I know these are Gizmodo’s favorites, there are plenty of good ones that haven’t been listed here.  If you have any, please, leave a link in the comments!

And, hey, why not go check out that gallery today?  It is, after all, Friday, and surely you’ve earned some slack time by now!

2/7/2012

DNS Attacks Are On The Rise

Filed under: Geek Work,News and Current Events,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:14 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

DNS has inherent weakness.

In it’s current form the Domain Name System, by it’s open nature, is pretty primed for exploitation.
Some of these attacks are more obvious than others, but there are two that I find particularly troubling.  More so that I can see them being used together to really mess with a website owner.
The first of these two attacks isn’t new.  But, the fact that it isn’t new and has been dealt with before doesn’t mean that it has suddenly stopped being effective.  The attack is called “DNS poisoning” and it works by corrupting the DNS cache on a server, which then forwards those poisoned DNS records as legitimate to other, unsuspecting servers.  The end result is that the attackers can redirect traffic from a legitimate website to their own site.  It’s hard to flat out stop right now, though, once discovered, it can be fixed with relatively little trouble.  This attack was used recently against several websites who were supporting SOPA and PIPA.  Of course, since these folks were trying to make a statement, it was pretty clear what had happened, so techs were working to fix it pretty quickly.
The second attack, which I would think include the first attack at its initial stages, is sub-domain hijacking.  In this attack, the attackers redirect the sub-domain of an existing site to another location.  This is a little more subtle and hard to detect.  In this case, the attackers are looking to profit from a well-established domain by “piggy-backing” on their reputation.  They poison the DNS records to point something like Viagra.google.com to their actual website, selling Viagra, or a site filled with spammy links that redirect a potential victim to their website selling Viagra, or whatever.   This attack takes a proactive system administrator to catch.  Since it doesn’t redirect any of the main, honest, actual site anywhere, but only uses its reputation to improve their own spammy links, it’s not always obvious that it’s going on.  Regular DNS record audits are about the only way to catch this, barring an angry end-user contacting the main site.

The internet is still a wild and wooly place sometimes, folks.  The reasons the professionals get paid what they do is because, theoretically, they have to deal with all that stuff and keep us safe!  Which reminds me, I have to go check my own company’s websites and DNS records, not to mention my own!
(The title, incidentally, was inspired by the movie that helped get me into this business, Sneakers. “Cattle mutilations are up.“)

2/6/2012

Knock it off!

Filed under: Calamity, Cataclysm, and Catastrophe,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 1:02 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Hey, can the folks at 132.3.57.68 , which seems to be an Air Force network operations center, please stop hammering my blog?  Not sure what y’all are looking for or trying to do here, but if you would contact me directly, I’d be happy to help you out.  In the mean time, though, my web host would really appreciate it if you’d stop doing all the aggressive GETs on my site.  It’s playing havoc with their servers.
Thanks!

UPDATE: Hey, it seems like someone in 754th Electronic Systems Group is taking an extreme interest in this blog for some reason.  From public records, someone in either Montgomery, Alabama, or Henderson, Nevada, or Colorado Springs, Colorado.  But, I still have no idea why they’d be interested in this blog.  Anyone have any ideas?

2/3/2012

Make Your Own Energy Bars

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:07 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I love energy bars, but, at heart, I’m a cheapskate.

Besides, most of those store-bought energy bars aren’t even really all that healthy for you!  I love them for a lot of reasons.  They’re quick, easy, portable and can easily be thrown in a bag when I head out on an adventure.  But, like I already mentioned, there are downsides.  The store-bought ones generally aren’t cheap, or all that good for you.  So, what to do?
Well, naturally, make your own!

Let’s start with one from Men’s Health magazine; Peanut Butter and Chocolate Energy Bars.  Not bad, but that’s just one recipe and I tend to like a lot more variety than that.
So, here are FOUR very different recipes for energy bars from Chow.  One of the things I like about these four is that they’re inspired by some of my favorite mass-produced energy bars, so I have some idea what I’ll be eating even before I make them.  Also, more variety!  Yea!
And, then, there are three from Alton Brown, which he featured on Good Eats at the Food Network.  These include protein bars and granola bars, for even more variety!

I don’t imagine these will keep too terribly long, but if you use them regularly, making your own can really save you a lot of money.  And, of course, controlling the ingredients means that you can keep them healthier!
Now, you have a project for the weekend!


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