Diary of a Network Geek

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

2/25/2014

Nook HD+

Filed under: Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:49 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I love my Nook!Barnes and Noble Nook HD+

I love books and I love reading, but I never thought I’d like any of the ereaders.  There were just too many potential problems with it.  For one thing, I didn’t want to get locked into one particular ebook system or store.  But, I still wanted it to be easy to use and adaptable to my needs.  For years, I was pretty much out of luck.  Then, I read an article about rooting the Nook Color so that you could load Android apps on it like a tablet, while still being able to use it like a regular Nook.  Finally!  So, naturally, I did that and loaded up the Kindle app and, just like that, I was around my biggest concern.  Okay, there was also the fact that it was less than half as much as an iPad, too, because, sure, I could have loaded the Nook app and the Kindle app on the iPad and been okay that way, too.  But, that’s not how a geek like me rolls, yo.

And, all was well, until I got that Pogoplug about a year ago.
I wanted to move all my files, including all my PDF documents to my Pogoplug, but the rooted Nook couldn’t download the most up-to-date version of the Pogoplug app, which meant I had the devil’s own time opening PDFs on it.  Argh!
Then, I heard that Barnes and Noble had added the ability to download apps from the Google Play store on their Nook HD series readers!  Wow!  I couldn’t believe how lucky I was!  Suddenly, without even rooting, I could upgrade my device and get all the things I really wanted on a cheap tablet!  Blammo!  Even better, though, when I went in to get the Nook HD, the smaller of the two modern Nooks, I found out they were all on sale!  So, with very little prompting from my fiance, I gave myself an instant upgrade and got the larger, more powerful Nook HD+.  In fact, I got the 32G version, for the extra storage, because, well, one never knows.

Now, I’m addicted!
And, sadly, the Nook will probably be going away some time this year.  Or, at least, if the pundits are all to be believed.  We’ll see, I suppose.  In the mean time, I’ll keep using my Nook HD+ and upload the books to Google Play, which you can now do, thankfully.  At least, up to 1,000 or so, which should be enough for me.
(But, I’ll be honest, I’m hoping Barnes and Noble doesn’t kill the Nook line of products, because I really do love mine.)

2/18/2014

PogoPlug Multimedia Sharing Device

Filed under: Apple,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:56 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I love this device!

Almost a year ago, I took a photography class from Syl Arena and he mentioned, in an off-hand comment, that he used a PogoPlug to access his files from home while on the road.  Now, I’d heard a little about the PogoPlug before that, but not much and with all the cloud storage services, like Dropbox, around, I didn’t really pay too much attention to it.  After hearing Syl go on at length about how easy it was to use, I read a little bit more about it.  I was suitably impressed, but just didn’t have the time or cash to really go ahead and follow through on a purchase.  Then, thanks to Gizmodo, I saw that Adorama had the entry-level PogoPlug on sale for $17.99, including free shipping.  The price has since gone up a dollar or two, but it’s still cheaper than full price and, let me tell you, completely worth it!

In brief, the PogoPlug is a network device that allows you to hook up USB-based drives to share on a network and the internet.  The device has six connections; one for power, one for the network cable, and four USB connections for storage.  I got mine hooked up in about five minutes.  Really, all you need to do is connect it to your network, attach storage to it and sign into your free my.pogoplug.com account to configure the device.  There’s an option once you sign in to check for new PogoPlug devices and, once yours is found, to configure the sharing services, if you want, or to upload files.  And, that’s pretty much all there is to the setup.  It really took me all of five minutes, and that was because I had forgotten to turn on the external USB hard drive enclosure I had attached to the PogoPlug.  Then, I just started uploading files.  And, the next day, to verify that I had done everything correctly, I signed in to the iPhone app while I was at the office and checked to make sure I could see my data remotely.  And, I could!  It really was just that easy!

I was even more excited when I discovered the slightly hidden ability to upload files directly to the PogoPlug without having to go through their webpage!  All I had to do was download and install the companion software which they offer for free.  They have both Android and iPhone clients as well as clients for Windows, Mac and Linux.  That downloadable software also let’s you do regular backups from any device you load it on to your PogoPlug, even over the internet!  Once installed, it makes your entire PogoPlug available to you as if it were a mapped drive with a drive letter and everything, just like any other network attached storage, except, of course, it will let you attach to that PogoPlug over the internet.  I’ve tried other things that claim they’ll let you have your own “personal cloud”, but they’ve all had problems when they bump up against the security I run on my network at home.  The PogoPlug, however, was even easier than advertised.  It was amazing!

There’s only one, small problem I’ve encountered with the PogoPlug and, really, it was only with the Android app.  I run a rooted Nook which I often use to read PDF files.  When I open PDF files through the Dropbox Android app, they launch right into Adobe’s PDF Reader without any issue.  But, when I try to do the same from the PogoPlug app on that rooted Nook, it gives me a message about downloading the file, but it never opens.  I hope that bug will be corrected in future versions of the app, but it’s a relatively minor issue, all things considered.

I really cannot say enough about how fantastic this device really is.  I haven’t tried just plugging in a regular USB thumb drive yet, or the outer limits on size, though I do have another USB drive enclosure and a 2 Terabyte drive that I’m itching to get hooked up.  Not to mention how deeply I want to dig into the software capabilities.  Also, I’m hoping I can get another cheap 2 Terabyte drive and figure out how to clone from one to the other to create a backup.
But, again, even if I can’t and I’ve seen all the possibilities of this device, it’s still awesome!
(And, yes, that link to Adorama which has sales information about the PogoPlug is an affiliate link, so I’ll make a little money of it if you buy it that way.)

11/1/2013

Let the writing begin!

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life Goals,NaNoWriMo — 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 Waning Crescent

NaNoWriMo starts today, but I won’t be participating this year.

Maybe next year, after my life is just a little more settled and I’ve spent a year getting my writing chops back.
Writing here, or any non-fiction, is relatively easy for me these days, but writing fiction is another kettle of fish.  I used to write all the time and, especially right after college, it flowed easily and well.  I would say, in my own estimation, that I was writing fiction at…
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9/10/2013

Against Digital Sharecropping

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Ooo, shiny...,Pressgram,Rotten Apples — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:16 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I like being free and independent.

I like the idea behind Instagram, but not the proprietary nature of it.
I don’t like giving up my rights to work I create.   Even when it’s just a little photo of a little moment captured with my iPhone.  I dislike, as Nicholas Carr called it on his blog, “digital sharecropping”. And, of course, now the ads have finally started on Instagram, solidifying my discomfort with it.  Why should I let them profit from even the smallest amount of my work without compensation?

Well, now, there’s a new program called Pressgram, that’s a free iPhone app, which allows an Instagram-like experience, but uploads the photos to my WordPress blog. You can upload them to your WordPress.com blog, or, as I do, to my self-hosted WordPress blog.  Word has it that there is an Android version in the works, too.  It’s a new app, so there are some on-going refinements, but it really is a great start, I think.

Obviously, I’ve been using it here and at my other site, JKHoffman.com, so I believe in it.  Yes, it took me a little fiddling to get the setting just the way I want and to sort out a couple other things, but, now that I have, I think this is going to work just fine.  I can already see the difference in my site stats!
Anyway, worth checking out if you’re leary of another ad-supported system that lets you share, but not much else.

12/14/2012

Guess Who’s Coming To Town?

Filed under: Art,Fun,music,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:09 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

No, not Santa.

Well, I suppose Santa is coming to town, soon enough, but I’m talking about something else entirely.
No, I’m talking about your favorite bands.  This past weekend, my girl and I went to see one of her favorite musical acts, who were playing at a real, Texas dance all over in Winnie, about an hour outside of Houston.  But, we only knew about it because one of her friends had been lucky enough to catch an announcement about them coming.  What if he hadn’t?  These guys are pretty old now and, frankly, there’s no telling when, or if , they’d ever come to our area again.  If we hadn’t gotten lucky like that, we might never have seen them!

Now, though, there’s another option; Songkick.  This app, for either iOS or Android, will scan your music collection on that device, or check your Last.FM song list, and tell you when those artists are coming to your area.  It will also tell you who else will be playing with them and serve you up a map of where the venue is.  And, on top of all that, the app will let you add the concert to your calendar to remind you to buy tickets.
Frankly, I think this is a genius idea and I wish there was an app like it that would do the same for your favorite authors!

So, what the heck, it’s Friday and if you’re reading this, you’re not working any more so you might as well go download the app for your phone and see who’s playing near you or coming soon.
And, have a great weekend!

10/26/2012

Last Minute Costume

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 5:22 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, here it is, almost time for Halloween Party weekend and you don’t have a costume?

What to do, what to do, eh?  Well, if  you have a t-shirt that you’re willing to sacrifice and a modicum of creative ability, and an iPhone or iPad or Android device, then you may be in luck.  Gizmodo covered a buy last year who used a pair of iPads to make a costume which seemed like he had a hole in his chest.  That was pretty awesome.  Well, after spending some time working on some Mars Rover project you may have heard about, that guy, Mark Rober, is back with a slightly less expensive alternative.  Rober and his team at DigitalDudz have come up with a pretty amazing app that lets you make a creative costume pretty cheap.  In fact, the app itself is free and, basically, consists of some pretty cool and creepy animations that you can combine with an old t-shirt, or one of the custom ones that they sell relatively cheap, to make a pretty cool costume.
The basic app is pretty amazing, but it does have “upgrades” which will cost a couple bucks more and, I have to admit, the t-shirts that they sell at DigitalDudz are better than anything I can whip up, even if I wasn’t in a hurry, but, hey, beggars can’t be choosers at this late date.

Anyway, it is a cool app and a cool idea.  Maybe for next year for me, though.
But, hey, it’s Friday, so why not check it out!  (And, no, I don’t get any money for those links.  I just liked it, so I linked it.)

10/12/2012

Book, with occasional music

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 5:55 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Do you hear music when you read?

No, I don’t mean, “Do play music while you read?”, but, rather, do you hear music, like a movie soundtrack while you read a book?  I know for awhile, I was so immersed in movies and the movie experience that I couldn’t help hearing certain kinds of background noise and sound effects when I read certain kinds of books.  But, what if that happened on purpose?  What if you had a way to synchronize an actual soundtrack, complete with mood music and sound effects, with the book you were reading?

Well, if you read books on your Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone or Android-based e-reader, you actually can, thanks to Booktrack.  They’ve developed an app that will run on all those platforms which will adapt a soundtrack for your book, complete with sound effects, to how fast you read.  The download is free and I’m not sure if there’s a “training period” where the app learns your regular reading speed, but I sure do like the idea!  I’m sure the selection of books is a little limited right now, but, with any luck, more people will show interest and more books will get added to their list.

So, what the heck, it’s Friday!  Turn your volume down and go check it out!

8/17/2012

6 Personal Finance Apps

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Fun,Fun Work,Life Goals,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver — 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 a New Moon

Can we ever have enough money?

Or be too thin or too good looking?  Well, I don’t know, but I do know that I’ve struggled at times with money.  It seems to slip through my fingers like water.  The harder I squeeze to hold on to it, the faster it seems to slip away.  But, I know that about myself, so I do what I can to stop the bleeding, so to speak.  For me, the first step is tracking where it all goes.  And, I mean, tracking every last dime.  Nothing is too small or too big to count.  Back in the day, I used to record every 50¢ can of soda I had at lunch and could tell you, to the penny, how much money I had in my pocket at any given moment.
Sadly, that was some time ago and I’ve slipped back into some of my old ways.  But, now, at least, I know how to tackle the problem.  In my case, the tool I use to capture my financial info has been Quicken, though I need the newest version still.  What’s changed since I had this problem last, though, is the miracle of smart phones.  So, I was quite thrilled to see PC Magazine review 6 personal finance apps.  I use an iPhone, so I tend to focus on iPhone apps, like those reviewed in the article, though I’m sure there are plenty of Android apps, too.

I’m not sure I’m ready to trust an app that synchronizes with a website, like Mint.com, for my personal finance needs, but some of the other ones reviewed looked interesting to me.
So, how about you all?  What do you use to keep track of your finances?

(Yeah, I know, not quite as “fun” as my regular Friday links, but I’ve been thinking about a more serious Tuesday post that just features tools of various kinds that I’ve used.  Thoughts on that would be welcome in the comments, too!)

 


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When I look into the future, it's so bright it burns my eyes."
   --Oprah Winfrey

11/15/2011

Some Linux Distros to Know

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Geek Work,Linux,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:40 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

There are a lot of Linux distributions.

No, really, I mean there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of Linux distributions out there.
Frankly, it can get a little overwhelming sometimes.  But, I think about them and what they all are and what they do.  I think about them because it’s my job, and because I’m always thinking about what’s coming next in the IT industry.  So, what Linux installs do I think about?  Funny you should ask….
I think about Android.  Yeah, that’s right, the operating system that runs those Droid phones is a kind of Linux.  That’s kind of amazing to me, really, but there it is.  And, I think about it because Android seems to be on more and more devices these days.  Everything from phones to tablets to who knows what next in the consumer market.  But, I try to pay attention to Android because so many people at my office have Android based phones and they all expect me to help them figure their phones out.
I think about Fedora, which is the open source version of Red Hat, which enjoyed pretty good market penetration when they first got going.  They’ve got a lot more competition today, but, still it’s in an IT professional’s best interests to be at least familiar with Fedora.
That goes for openSUSE, too.  openSUSE was bought out by Novell some time ago, so there’s no telling where it’s going to end up with all the buying and selling around Novell’s bits and pieces these days, but it’s still a pretty heavily installed Linux distribution.  My brief experience with it was good, though, I have to admit, that was on older hardware for a personal project, not a corporate gig.
If you’re an Oracle shop, you’ll probably know about Oracle Linux, which is basically Red Hat Linux after Oracle has made modifications to it.  Oh, and jacked the price up.  Still, if you work with Oracle a lot, it’s probably worth looking into.
Eweek recently ran a slidwshow about these, and several other, versions of Linux under the title 10 Linux Distros Every IT Manager Should Know.  Obviously, I agree with some of their listing, but clearly not all.  And, I think they left some off.

For instance, what about the live CD editions?
Two I think anyone in IT should know are Ubuntu and Knoppix.  Knoppix has been around a longer, but Ubuntu has a slicker interface and, I think, is a little better at detecting hardware than Knoppix.  Also, you can install Ubuntu from the live CD media, if you would like, and plenty of people do run it as a desktop.  The real plus is that there’s a pretty healthy community around these two installations, especially Ubuntu.  So, if you need help with either one, there are a lot of resources on the internet to answer your questions.
I use these two all the time to recover data of damaged installs of Windows.  I even used one to build a PC imaging system before I started using Clonezilla, which is also, incidentally, based on Linux.

If you’re worried about security, Linux can help with that, too.
For quite some time, the National Security Agency has sponsored SELinux, which is a pretty secure, hardened version of Linux.  They designed it to be reasonably secure right as a default, since an insecure default install is usually where security problems start.  Of course, you may not trust the NSA.  And, while this is “sponsored” by them, it’s not actually an official US Government Linux install.
For that, you have to go to the US Airforce.  Their Lightweight Portable Security distro is the first official US Linux distribution.  I haven’t actually tried it myself, but ZDNet has a pretty good review of it.

So, as you can see, if you haven’t looked into Linux much before, there are a lot of things to investigate.  And, as a computer professional, I DO recommend that you check out at least some flavor of Linux.  It’s so prevalent and so flexible and handy to have that if you haven’t bumped into it yet, you will.  So before you need to know it, investigate it some on your own.  You’ll be glad you did.
(And, I’m sure every seasoned IT pro has their favorite distro, like Debian, but there are too many to list them all.  If you have opinions about any, please, leave comments!)


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A hero is no braver than anyone else. A hero is only brave five minutes longer."
   --Anonymous

8/12/2011

Extend your Kindle

Filed under: 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 5:27 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

But, sadly, not for the software Kindle apps.

Okay so these two tools I’m going to share only work for the Kindle, and mostly rely on the ability to e-mail documents to your Kindle, but SendtoReader works with a Manual Delivery option, too.  SendtoReader is a web app that lets you send any webpage to your Kindle for later perusal.  Though, as I mentioned, you need to have an actual Kindle if you want to update it without synching via a PC first.
I have to admit, I was all excited about this web app, until I went to sign up for it and discovered that the Android app on my ColorNook wasn’t able to get e-mail directly from Amazon’s on-line document delivery service.  Still, if you’re using an actual Kindle, this would be a killer app.

And, ToDo list for Kindle is, well, a to do list that you can send to, and update, on your Kindle.  So, you know, pretty much what it seems like it would be from the title.

So, there you go.  Two free web apps to get more out of your Kindle, just in time for the weekend!
Enjoy!

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