Diary of a Network Geek

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

2/24/2017

Old School Newsletters

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,The Infinite Library — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Not so old school that they’re printed, but, still, pretty old school.

I’ve always been an email sort of guy. And, I pretty much hate the modern forums. I hate having to go to a web interface and deal with all their junk and advertising. Also, as regular readers may have noticed from my blog, I’m a pretty text-heavy sort of fella. When I started in IT, fancy interfaces were the stuff of science-fiction. We did our work in the digital uranium mines via text interfaces, and we liked it!
Okay, all joking aside, my first work with computers pre-dated both Windows and the web, and maybe I never got over the simple beauty of straight, text-based information. No real fancy formatting or anything, especially in email. I still tend to view and write email messages in plain, raw text.
In any case, back in the day, the way we shared information was the old-fashioned newsletter. And, let me tell you, there were some ultra exclusive email lists that people fought to get included on. My favorites were the slightly secret UNIX security email newsletters. It felt very, very exclusive and, as they said far too often in the movie Hackers, “elite”.

Now, mostly, that time is gone. People, including me, use blog aggregators and RSS feed readers to keep up on the latest news. But, the venerable email newsletters aren’t entirely dead. As the folks at Discover write, “There is something beautiful about the personal newsletter. We love the depth and admire writers who cover niche topics in great detail. We love the intimacy of seeing these notes arriving in our inboxes directly from our favorite authors. And we love the serenity of reading every word without being interrupted by notifications. … We often wake up in the morning, eager to check if the latest issue by our favorite author has arrived, much like we used to check the mailbox for the daily newspaper or weekly magazine in the old days.” And that sums up why I like email newsletters better than anything else. It IS like a very specialized electronic newspaper emailed to me on a regular basis. Like Dave Pell’s NextDraft, which I look forward to every week day.

So, if you’re like me and enjoy information at a slightly slower pace than firehose that is the web, check this out and subscribe to some of these personally curated newsletters.
Hope to see you back next week, and, until then, enjoy your reading!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

2/17/2017

Unleash your Creativity Scientifically

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,On Creativity — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I am NOT feeling creative this week.

And, I mean, not at all. Not even a little bit. So, what’s to do? Well, for one thing, I’m going to go ahead into work and be not creative there. I might as well collect a paycheck for not feeling creative and force myself to solve problems for profit. Honestly, when I read about breaking writer’s block, one of the most cited solutions is to just sit down and write anyway. I know for me, having a set routine helps me a lot. But, I’m a big believer in science, so what can science do for me when I don’t feel creative?

As it turns out, quite a lot, and Scientific American magazine happens to be running a special issue on just that subject. So, what I’m going to do is go into work and do things and leave these links here for you.
Six Articles on Creativity from Scientific American:
1. Your Fertile Brain At Work
2. The Science of Genius
3. Triumph of the City; Engines of Genius
4. Answers In Your Dreams
5. Living in an Imaginary World
6. Let Your Creativity Soar:

Hopefully, one of those will appeal to you and help you have a more creative weekend. Read them quick before they disappear behind a paywall!
And, we’ll see you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

2/10/2017

Neon Flames

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

It’s like finger-painting with stars.

You know how there are all those studies that say coloring is good for adults? That it helps us manage stress and all that? Well, I believe them. I have found that a little bit of coloring really has taken the edge off for me. I’m not quite as convinced about some of the smartphone apps or the programs, but, I suppose, if it works for you, then great. And, I know that general doodling has helped me relax, too. When I was a kid, I would just scribble out shapes and creatures and faces and whatever came to mind. It was, if you will, a form of self-soothing. Guess what? I found a new internet toy that does the same thing; Neon Flames. And, yes, it’s just like finger-painting with stars and nebulae. It’s super simple, and free. Just click on a color, then click and drag your mouse over the black background and watch. Just go play with it.

And, as a side note, I can actually see a use for it as a background creator. Maybe even as the background for the cover of that self-published science-fiction ebook you’ve been meaning to write. (Or is that just me?)

Anyway, it’s free and fun and a great way to waste a little time.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

2/3/2017

Pretty Pictures

Filed under: Art,Fun,Photography — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

So, I’m not quite done with the photography links.

Seriously, though, I’m working on some other things to share. I promise. Still, I have this one last thing from last month to share with you.
We all like to look at beautiful things, right? And free things are great, too, aren’t they? What about free things that are beautiful to look at? Yeah, pretty much the sweet-spot of ways to waste time on a Friday. So, that’s what I’ve got for you. Free photography that’s pretty much gorgeous. And, I really mean free. You can do whatever with these photos without worrying about violating some poor photographer’s copyright and stealing money from their family. Trust me, it’s cool.
The site is Unsplash. And, it’s just what I said. Beautiful photography, for free.

Go look.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

1/27/2017

Photographic Software Tips

Filed under: Art,Fun,Photography — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

The fourth post in this month’s themed series of useful photography information focuses on the big two photographic software programs; Photoshop and Lightroom.

So, while the information is free, the software isn’t.
Personally, I try to get as much right in the camera as I can. Photography is my hobby and I work on computers all day long, so I’m not particularly interested in spending a lot of time on using software to “fix” my pictures. Still, I don’t know where I’d be without the software I do use. Mostly, I work in Lightroom, with the occasional Alien Skin add-on, but I also know that Photoshop is the “gold standard” in the minds of many photographers and creative professionals. So, the first ling I’m sharing this Friday is Are you a Photoshop Master? Even you may not know these ten features! It’s a short video of some helpful, but lesser known, features in Photoshop. It seems like every big program like this has at least one hidden feature almost no one knows about, so it’s always cool to find some, even for software I don’t use a lot of the time.
On the other hand, I do use Lightroom after pretty much every photography session. And, lately, I’ve been very interested in printing my work for easy display around the house. Of course, I’m mostly going to send those to a specialty printing company, but I still want to proof them and, possibly, try them in a spot on the wall before committing to a more expensive print. Or, I may want to do a little more “pre-procesing” before sending my work to the printer. No matter my goal in regards to printing, the Photofocus tutorial on Mastering Lightroom Print Layout Styles will definitely help me save time. Honestly, it’s a feature in Lightroom that I haven’t used, but I hope to use more this year.

So, there you have it. Two tutorials in the most popular photographic software packages to round out the month.
See you next week!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

1/20/2017

Building a Great Minimalist Studio

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity,Photography,The Tools — 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 a Third Quarter Moon

Another resource for photographers.

I think one of the reasons I initially was interested in photography was because I was shy, but wanted to meet people. I figured that a photographer would meet beautiful people, which seemed like a great idea in my teens and twenties.  Actually, it’s still not a bad idea, except I’m a little less invested in meeting new beautiful people now that I’m married.  Now, I’m strictly interested in the photography.  But, like a lot of amateur photographers, I don’t really have the time, space or money to justify having a big, fancy, dedicated photography studio in my home. I’ve mostly made do with some seamless paper in my garage, which, to be fair, has pretty much worked okay. It worked well enough, in fact, to take not only my LinkedIn profile shot, but also get paid for taking someone else’s LinkedIn headshot.  So, you know, it works well enough.  But, what if you want to go a little farther than that?  What if you want to do more than just the occasional headshot?  Well, my favorite commercial photographer and author of Studio Anywhere, Nick Fancher, has written an article for PetaPixel about just this subject titled You Don’t Need to Spend a Fortune to Have a Great Photo Studio.
It’s a great article and shows you some really creative options for a small, but very versatile studio you can use to make some really inspiring photos.
To his article, I’ll only add that you can get really creative with cheap LED lights and shop lights, not to mention rechargeable light bars and automotive lights.  I recently shot some still life photography in my kitchen using a glass shelf and some cheap LED flashlights and was very pleased with the effect.
So, go read his article and see what Nick has to say about textures and space and see if you can’t apply that to your own situation and find some available space for a studio, even if it’s temporary.

But, above all, keep shooting!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

1/13/2017

Artistic Constraints

Filed under: Art,Fun,Photography — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Any good artist knows that constraints make better art.

My experience has been that limitations force us to make better work and make it easier for us to create. It’s been true since those creative writing assignments I used to get in Grade School, where we were assigned a title and had to write a story based on it. Back in the Fifth Grade, I could take those titles and warp them into something completely unexpected. For example, I managed to take “My Adventure at the Circus” and turn it into a subterranean fantasy that started with a trap door found under the edge of a circus tent. Seriously. Good art, which may or may not include “My Adventure at the Circus” circa the Fifth Grade, happens when artists bang up against the constraints of their chosen medium. And, when even those constraints feel too open, additional restrictions help them make better art, believe it or not. In the case of the writing exercise, being forced to start with that title was usually enough for me to really turn loose.
But, these days, I don’t have as much time as I feel like I need to write, so I’ve changed mediums.
When I was in school, I wanted to make art and felt drawn to photography.  But, when I was a student and had the time, I didn’t have the money to buy a camera, much less the film.  Now, thanks to the speed, ease and relative low cost of digital photography, I can indulge myself in photography.  And, for those of you who know me, you know I have, in fact, done that.  But, my work there has stalled.  I need constraints.
Last week, I posted a link to a Daily Photography challenge.  I don’t know about you, but I think a daily challenge may be a bit too much for me.  Luckily, DIY Photography has a 52 Week Photography Challenge that may provide the subjects I need to force myself to get creative with photography, with just a little less intimidating frequency.    Every week, they have a subject, or theme or specific instruction, to help a photographer constrain their art enough to get creative.
I’m not sure that I’ll do it every week, but you, dear reader, certainly can.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

1/6/2017

Daily Photography

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity,Photography,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I encourage you to indulge in your hobby daily.

My favorite hobby is photography.
I’ve wanted to learn photography since I was in high school, but, until the birth of digital photography, it always felt beyond my reach.  I got interested again because, about ten years ago, someone asked me what I liked to do for fun.  At the time, I was stymied for an answer.  My shock at not having a hobby led me to take a good portion of my savings at the time and buy my first DSLR.  That led me to a Flickr account and some fooling around.  That led me to doing the 365 Project, just as a way to learn my camera.  And, I can tell you, shooting a self-portrait every day for a year straight was an amazing experience.  I’m not sure that I’d go so far as to say it was “life changing”, but it sure did make me a lot more comfortable with my camera.
If you’re one of the lucky people who got a new camera for Christmas this year, you may be looking for a project to get your feet wet.  I highly recommend some kind of 365-day project.  If the idea of a self-portrait every day is too much, why not take a look at the 365 Days of Shooting Prompts Challenge at Photoblog?  They have a shooting prompt for every day of the calendar year in 2017, all in a downloadable calendar.  I know this is posting on the 6th, but you can easily catch up, or just go until January 6th, 2018!
I’m firmly convinced that your photography will improve with shooting every day, whether you use a professional-grade DSLR or the camera on your smart phone.  What do you have to lose?

Incidentally, I think photography is going to be my theme this month.  Not everything will be entirely free, but I’ll probably include some links to free tutorials for paid software, so it’ll be pretty close.
Enjoy and have a great 2017!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/30/2016

New Year’s Resolutions

Filed under: Fun,Fun and Games,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Another new year and another chance to break promises to myself!

I almost never bother with New Year’s Resolutions any more.  I mean, honestly, how many of us actually keep them?  Sure the gyms and churches are all full in January, but by Spring, we’re usually back to our old ways again.  Still it’s traditional, so I’ll share, again, my own little solution to the New Year’s Resolution “problem”.
Back in the day, when I was teaching myself a thing or two about programming, I ginned up a New Year’s Resolution Generator. I based it, in part, on some ideas from the Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Holidays, but I have to admit, I threw in some of my own warped sense of humor. And, I weighted things a little more toward heavier drinking and looser morals because I figured those were the resolutions that would be easier to keep.  Also, I figured they’d be funnier.

In any case, it was apparently funny enough that Comedy Central Insider linked it in their blog back when I first released it. Which is pretty cool, no matter how long ago that was.  And, yes, when in doubt I do tend to fall back to randomly generated suggestions for how to live my life.  In today’s world of chaos and unreality, it honestly doesn’t seem as bad an idea as it used to!  So, why not give it a shot yourself?  No one will know but us!

And try to have a good year, no matter what happens.  Make time to love your loved ones, do good work and add something positive to the world.  Or one of the random resolutions.  Whichever seems likelier to produce good results.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

12/23/2016

Tracking The Fat Man

Filed under: Fun,Fun and Games,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Time to watch for the jolly old elf!

As I usually do at this time of year, I’m reminding you of where to find Santa and, more specifically, how to track his progress.
During the Cold War, NORAD stood between us and what we were sure was complete destruction at the hands of the Soviets. What with the recent tensions vis-a-vis Russia and China, NORAD may find itself busier than ever in the coming year, but, until then, thankfully, they can fall back on my favorite tradition; tracking Santa. It started with a wrong number and an accidental connection, but a gentle soul in a high-pressure job spread a little Christmas cheer once a long, long time ago.  The story got around and before you can say “Who’s violating my air space?”, everyone was misappropriating government resources to make kids happy.  Before long, it was fully sanction and, if I say so myself, an entirely proper use of my tax dollars.  In any case, now, whether you’re young or old, or whether you have children or not, you can have fun tracking Santa with the Official NORAD Santa Tracker!
And, since the holiday is nearly upon us and I don’t plan on posting again this weekend, have a very merry Christmas!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

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