Diary of a Network Geek

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

6/25/2010

iPod DJ Mixer

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Art,Fun,music — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:12 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Ever want to be a DJ?

Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and I was of an age to attend house parties, DJs spun records.  But, those days are long, long gone and everyone uses MP3 players now.  So, what’s an aspiring DJ to do?  Hit UrbanOutfitters and grab a $120 iPod DJ Mixer.  I recommend getting a book to go with that called The Pocket DJ.  It’s a little dated, but a good place for newbies like me to start.  The two are the key to your digital DJ success!

4/13/2010

TSA Has Sticky Fingers

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

Well, I guess this is what happens when you don’t adequately screen candidates.

Of course, most of what the TSA does is make us feel safer, not anything that really makes us safer.  Still, I think we should draw the line at TSA employees ransacking our luggage for electronics.  And, no, before you ask, I didn’t lose anything this last trip to San Francisco.  In part, because I brought every bit of camera gear on the plane with me in a carry-on bag.  Might have been a good thing, considering the fact that the TSA did go into my checked bag to, uh, check my underwear or something.  After all, my boxer-briefs are quite possibly a threat to national security.  No, really, they must be.

Seriously, this is a huge problem and it has been for ages.  Photographers all know that you should never, ever check your camera gear through Baltimore, among other places.  Frankly, I have too much personal “disposable” income invested in my camera gear to check it through anywhere.  I’ve heard too many stories about things going missing from bags.  In fact, when I got into Houston and collected my bag, I was making small talk with a fellow passenger who was apparently shocked to discover that TSA baggage inspectors had been caught taking things out of people’s luggage.  Though, he had to admit that he had noticed some things had gone missing from his bag while traveling.  He figured, however, that they were just so over-worked that they’d forgotten to put it back in the bag.  Yeah, that’s actually what he told me.  Maybe it’s just me, but, well, I just don’t trust the average government employee.

I used a ThinkTank Airport Ultralight v2.5 to get all my photography gear into an overhead bin.  I ended up not using everything I brought, but I was glad to have it, just because I might have wanted it.  So, it was worth the investment.  I’ll probably get around to a review later.

Anyway, if you’re traveling, watch your bags and what goes into them.
Seriously.

2/19/2010

iPhone Projector

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Apple,Art,Fun,On The Road,Ooo, shiny...,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Okay, I know the iPhone is amazing, but this really is cool!

So, when I was on the road a lot, I would occasionally have to do presentations.  That usually meant lugging a laptop which I could hook up to a projector, if they had one available.  Often, it meant added pounds for a day trip just to show a team a few screen captures or a short slideshow.  Not good.
Well, now, if you’ve got an iPhone, you can carry a tiny projector with you instead and reduce your overhead without losing any production value.

Okay, it’s not quite available yet, but it will be soon.  Personally, I can’t wait to see how much it runs!  And, with everyone talking about the new iPad that isn’t quite available yet either, I thought it’d be okay to talk about a vapor-ware add-on for an existing product.

1/28/2010

There’s An App For That

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Apple,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Linux,News and Current Events,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:03 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

No, I’m not going to write an article about the guy who saved his own life in Haiti with an iPhone app.

Because, frankly, everyone’s been talking about that already.
No, in this case, what I’m about to ramble about is the news that Amazon is opening the Kindle for developers.  Now, this might not sound like a big deal, but I think it is.  Here’s why…

First, this is a low-power, always-connected computer.  Oh, don’t kid yourself into thinking this is just a “reader”.  What’s under the hood is basically a small computer.   Now, I’m not sure what the operating system is, but I know, for instance, that the Nook is rumored to be based on Android.  Regardless, it’s a basic tablet that can connect to the web.  That, frankly, opens up some real possibilities.
I can see, as an example, a tech like me carrying around a virtual “stack” of manuals in ebook form, while still being able to use the device to troubleshoot problems, like pinging IP interfaces or hitting the web to Google for answers to problems.
But, compare it to, say, the iPhone which has a Kindle app.  And, a Barnes and Noble Reader app.  And, frankly, as my friends are probably tired of hearing me say, an app for everything.  It’s like carrying magic around in your pocket!  (Which does, in fact, sound a little dirty when you say it out loud.)  So, they sort of have to do this, just to keep up.

Secondly, this will definitely up the ante for everyone else’s device.  There were a lot of new ebook readers out at CES this year and I’ve heard a lot of buzz over the past year about how “everyone” is coming out with a new reader.  Again, I reference the Nook, but also the Sony entry and others.  So, now, people will be thinking about all the ways that a tablet will be more useful.
Now, don’t get me wrong, ereaders are great and all, but, honestly, I think there’s more of a market for an easy-to-use device that can do a whole lot more than just display books.  Again, I reference my own experience with the iPhone.  Sure, having a phone that can get your e-mail and handle your schedule is great, but a real smart phone is an animal of an entirely different stripe.  My iPhone enables me to do a whole range of things from check for movie times to checking the weather to checking my checking account to handling my schedule and calendar to, yes, remote access to my servers.  And, it has the ability to read ebooks.  Now, why would I want a single-purpose reader?

And, finally, the biggest, best reason this is important is because Apple has announced their new tablet device, the iPad.  Of course, the iPad is a whole lot more than a simple ebook reader, and not just because it has an after-market for accessories already, either.  So, now, with two app stores for two devices, we will hopefully have competition which will drive improvement in all these devices and give us, the consumer, the best device possible.  At least, in theory.

Personally, after my experience with the iPhone, I’m hoping that the iPad adds some more service and drops in price significantly over the next couple years.  Then, I’ll probably skip the Kindle all together and get an iPad, generation 3.  (Yeah, I’ll probably skip generation 2, as well, due to pricing and budgets.)
Personally, I look forward to our new Apple overlords!  (Not really, but they do design some great products!)

10/13/2009

Secure Shell on your Phone

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Apple,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,News and Current Events,On The Road — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:07 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I’ve been doing a lot more on my phone lately.

I’m not really big into the latest and greatest phone technology.  I don’t go out and grab the latest phone just because it’s come out and has new bells and whistles.  No, really!  But, I have to admit, my new iPhone has pretty much taken over a significant portion of my technological life.  And, I’m pretty much okay with that, because I love it.  One of these days, Real Soon Now, I’m going to write up a review of the VNC software I use on it to manage my servers remotely.  But, until then, I’m going to give you a quick high-light of something absolutely miraculous: secure shell sessions for your phone.

Yeah, now, notice that I didn’t write “for your iPhone”, but, rather, “for your phone”.  There are actually secure shell clients for all three of the big smartphone players; Blackberry, iPhone and Palm.
Now, for those of you not sure what I’m talking about, that’s okay, it’s a geek thing.  Secure shell is a protocol that hardcore, professional geeks like me use to securely access remote systems.  In a nutshell, it’s like Telnet, another hardcore geek tool, but it doesn’t pass information like usernames or passwords in “clear text“, which makes it more secure.  And, that’s the reason guys like me use it.  It lets us securely access servers remotely over networks in ways that don’t endanger our networks or users.  It used to be really only for Unix and Linux, but there are secure shell clients for just about everything now.  Frankly, more professional geeks should be using it for a lot of reasons, but many don’t.

Regardless, I think we’ve reached the pinnacle of technology when I can get a secure shell client for every major smartphone out there.  What that means is I can securely access virtually any kind of server from my phone, where there is a speedy enough data link.  Think about that for a second.  From my PHONE, I can securely access servers, wherever I may happen to have the freakish whim to do so and can get a decent cell signal.
I remember back in the days when you had to have an actual dial-up MODEM to get into servers remotely.  There was no method, secure or otherwise, to get into a server from home or anywhere else.  Now, I can do it, securely, from my PHONE!  How crazy is that?  Seriously!
So, if you want to be able to do that, too, here are links to three reviews of SSH software for the various smartphones. They should all have links to where you can actually download the software, if you want it.
SSH for Blackberry
SSH for iPhone
SSH for PalmOS

Also?  There are lots of applications for managing Windows servers, especially for the iPhone.  Check out Managing Servers and other systems from the iPhone.  It’s why I couldn’t hardly wait for the prices to come down to reasonable levels and why I babble about how there’s an app for everything on this iPhone. Really, it’s made so many things so much easier for me, I cannot begin to tell you.
But, I may just try.

10/4/2009

Review: FoodScanner and DailyBurn

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,By Bread Alone,Fun,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Review,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:47 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon
IMG_0088
Originally uploaded by Network Geek

Yeah, so now I’m reviewing iPhone apps.

One aspect of my personal life that probably doesn’t come through that much on this blog is how concerned I am about health and, specifically, my weight. Now, some of this may come from having been married to a self-diagnosed anorexic, but, mostly, it goes further back than that.  In any case, weight and general health have always been a concern for me, but even more so since surviving cancer.  So, I know from all the health magazines I read that one of the greatest tools for weight loss is tracking caloric intake.  I had been doing this via a Moleskine, but I always had to look up the calories in a book or on a website or something.  It was just challenging enough to make me want to quit.  So, naturally, when I got an iPhone, I went looking for an app that let me do record my intake that way.  Enter FoodScanner.

Not only does this fantastic app have seemingly endless lists of food, including many popular restaurant menus, but you can scan the barcode on the package and it will automagically find the food and all the nutrition information for it.  But, wait!  If that’s not in the database yet, you can add it in manually and link the barcode yourself!  How cool is that!  Seriously, I love this thing.  It’s made it so much easier to track my calories I can’t believe I ever lived without it.  And, at $0.99 it’s a real bargain, especially if you want to work on consuming less to lose weight.  Fantastic!

IMG_0089
Originally uploaded by Network Geek

Now, as cool as FoodScanner is, what’s even cooler is the free app that goes with it called DailyBurn.  To get the full functionality, it does require that you setup a free account with their service, but, trust me, it’s totally worth it.  Once you’ve setup your free account, DailyBurn will get the calorie and nutrition information you put in with FoodScanner and use that, so you don’t have to enter it twice.

Now, as you’ll notice from the screen shot to the right, the default screen on DailyBurn shows you your caloric intake, what you’ve burned via work outs, and your current and goal weight.  There’s also a tracker to show if you’ve met your workout and nutritional goals, which I’ll mention later.  This page, as you might have guessed from the title “Today’s Stats”, is updated daily, which they define as 12:00AM to 12:00AM.

Notice, though, that the Nutrition indicator only shows when you’ve met all your “goals”, which, frankly, aren’t quite my actual goals.  For one thing, I want to keep my calorie consumption below what they have as a goal, so as to lose weight.  Also, notice the “Upgrade to Pro” link.  That takes you to a sign-up screen for a monthly membership, which I didn’t want to get roped into paying.  Not sure what the upgrades are, actually, but one presumes additional control over goals and additional exercises and other options.

IMG_0090
Originally uploaded by Network Geek

On the screenshot to the left, of this paragraph, you can see the “Body Tracker” page.  Here you can track any number of physical characteristics including weight, waist size, body fat, resting heart rate, arm size and many more.  Frankly, it’s got all the recording features of any big program that you could want.  Also, if you upgrade your free account, which I have not done, to a “Pro” account, there are even more things you can track, like sleep levels.

I like having the chart to see how well, or poorly, I’ve been doing over time.  Sure, maybe it’s a little bit over-kill, but, I’ll be honest, I love charts and graphs and stats.  My favorite page on my Flickr account is the stats page.  It’s true; I’m a stat whore.  So, yes, this feature appeals to me.  Your mileage may vary.

Also, like I mentioned, I didn’t want to get started paying a monthly fee for something I may not continue to use in the long-term, so there may be additional features here that are worth having.  Not sure.   Right now, I’m just a rookie fitness nut, so my health isn’t worth a monthly fee for those kind of intangibles.  Heck, I don’t even pay for a gym membership yet!  So, that may be something worth checking out for you super-hyper fitness nuts.

IMG_0091
Originally uploaded by Network Geek

The next page I seem to hit a lot is the “Workouts” page. Granted, I’ve probably worked out more since I got this app than I have in the past month, but, still, if it’s working, then that’s all that matters.

Now, one of the things I don’t like is that the exercises it DailyBurn measures are somewhat limited.  And, you can’t enter anything new.  So, if, for instance, you were to get exercises out of Men’s Health and knew the caloric expenditure, there’s no way to enter that in.  Now, I assume that buying the “pro” version of this, which is actually a membership and not a one-time payment, you might be able to add more exercises or have a larger selection, but, frankly, I get close enough that it’s not worth it to me to pay a monthly fee for that kind of “upgrade”.

I should also note, however, that I haven’t looked into the “My Workouts” section too much, but it looked like it had promise.  It gave you workouts to achieve certain goals, like Fat Loss and Strength Building and so on.  Under each section, there are several workouts designed to help you with that particular goal.  Kind of like a personal trainer in an iPhone app.  (Though, I prefer the Men’s Health app for those kind of things to the ones I saw in DailyBurn.)  The last section is essentially a workout log that shows all the sets you’ve done and how much weight you lifted on each set.  The only problem is, it only shows today’s workout, not any previous day.  It like this to show a chart of progress, not unlike the body goals charts shown above.  But, again, I’m sort of a stat whore, so take that for what you will.

IMG_0092
Originally uploaded by Network Geek

Now, what I think is the best thing about DailyBurn, next to showing me how little I burn off with my wimpy home workout, is the “Nutrition” screen.  I specifically chose the screen at the left because it showed several things I want to highlight.  This is not what I hope a “typical” day is for me.  Or, at least, not what I hope a typical day will be for me going forward.

In any case, you can see that it shows you your consumption levels and whether or not you’ve met your “goals” for the day.  Goals not met are shown in blue.  Goals that are in the “good” range, or met, but not exceeded are in green.  And, finally, goals that have been exceeded are in red.  You can see that I was a bad, bad boy on the day used as an example.  Also, since I’m trying to lose weight, I’m doing my best to keep my caloric intake between 1500 and 1900 calories.  My goal here is to burn more calories than I actually need so as to shed some poundage.

Now, again, I’m a total stat geek when it comes to this stuff, so I love see all this.  Also, in just the few weeks that I’ve been using these two programs, I’ve learned some very valuable lessons.  For one thing, I need to work out more.  My little, tiny workout in the morning doesn’t even burn off breakfast most days!  Not acceptable!  So, I need to adjust that.  Also, I noticed that I’m not getting anywhere near enough protein while consuming way too many carbs and, obviously, more than enough fat, too.  So, I need to adjust my diet as well as step up my exercise program.  But, it took getting good information to do it.

For the couple of bucks it cost me to get FoodScanner and the free version of DailyBurn, I’ve gotten a lot of valuable information and awareness of what I need to change and improve in my personal health and nutrition plan.  Well worth the small change I paid.

9/21/2009

Fandango iPhone App

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Fun,Movies,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:36 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent


MatineeInTheMorning

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I love this app.

No, seriously, this free app highlights all that I truly love about my iPhone. It checks to see where I am then finds movies and theaters near me. It shows me what’s playing, when it’s playing and where. And, if I’m not sure where the theater is, it even links to maps to get me from where I am to the theater of my choice.

Oh, and did I mention the app is free? Yeah, sure, Fandnago would love for you to set up an account with them to buy tickets, but you don’t have to do that for the app to work. How cool is that?

But, wait, as Ron Popiel would say, there’s more!
Because, if you’re not sure what film you want to see, there are ratings from critics and other Fandango users to help you decide. And, if that’s still not enough, there are previews. Yes that’s right, actual previews you can watch on your iPhone!
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that watching movie previews on a tiny phone screen would be terrible, but, Saturday night after church, at least five people crowded around my iPhone to watch movie previews and were so drawn in not one made a sound while the 9 trailer played. No joke. All adults, too, over the age of 21.

In fact, I love this app so much that I’ve been thinking about getting a Fandango account. Which, of course, is why they offered this app for free, I’m sure.
But, you know what? It’s totally working.

9/14/2009

WordPress iPhone App Beta Test

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,News and Current Events,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I found out Friday that I got accepted into the WordPress iPhone app beta test group.

As you might imagine, a geek like me was so excited that I just about plotzed right there. Or, at least you would if you were a regular reader. I’ve been a huge fan of WordPress since I started using it back during the big Moveable Type license debacle. And, frankly, I’ve been hooked on the iPhone since almost the first moment I started using it. So, naturally, when I saw that there was an iPhone app that would let me blog no matter where I was, as long as I could get a cell signal. Combine that with the Flickr app and, well, I think I may well have found the perfect phone for me.

When I saw that the people who created the iPhone app were looking for beta testers, well, I jumped on that like white on rice. When I got the news I was accepted… Well, I already mentioned how excited I was. As soon as I could, I tried to install it. I had a little trouble getting it set right to install onto my phone, but once I did, it’s been working fine. Now, I did have a small problem when it tried to connect to my blogs where I had no signal or wifi, but, I suspect that the problem had more to do with my impatience than with a programming issue. What’s more, I haven’t had a problem since. Of course, I’ve only used the app when I’ve had a good connection since then, too, so that may have something to do with it.
I have to admit, the tiny, virtual keyboard on the iPhone is far from the ideal tool for a long post, but it certianly seems to get the job done. Also, the auto-correct feature actually seems to work in my favor. Of course, that does say
something quite terrible about my spelling or typing or something, doesn’t it?

Oh, and, in case you were wondering, this entire post was, in fact, written entirely on my iPhone with that WordPress beta app that I’m so happy to be testing.
How cool is that?

So, if you have an iPhone and use WordPress, either on a self-hosted blog or on WordPress.com, I highly recommend getting this app. When they upgrade the current version to the one I’m using, you’ll love it.
Trust me.

9/2/2009

WordPress on the iPhone

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Fun Work,Geek Work,GUI Center,Ooo, shiny...,Personal — 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 Waxing Gibbous


TwoAddictionsForThePriceOfOne

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I bought an iPhone on Saturday.

Well, as I’m sure is no surprise to my regular readers, especially those who follow me on Twitter, I finally gave in Saturday and got myself an “upgrade” to the iPhone GS. My data plan won’t kick in until September 17th, when I’ll also have unlimited text messaging and slightly fewer actual voice minutes. The overall effect is to raise my monthly bill just $5, while ultimately giving me more services and, yes, more fun.

I actually debated for quite some time about getting the iPhone, a Blackberry or the new Palm Pre. I have to admit, I was really excited about the Pre, because I’ve been a Palm fan since way back. In fact, at one point I was such a fan of Palm, as a company and a platform, that I registered HavePalmWillTravel.com. Well, that and there was a little joke about an e-mail address and a technological “gun-for-hire”. In any case, I decided against the Pre for a number of reasons, not the least of which is they weren’t on AT&T, where virtually all my contacts are. Also, they’re still unproven in the current market and there still aren’t as many applications for the Pre as both of the other two smartphone choices.
One of the things I really needed my smartphone to be able to do is remotely manage my server or servers. Now, I know that there are remote communication and control apps for the Blackberry, but, frankly, the touchscreen Blackberry just isn’t all that great and the other Blackberry devices have rather, well, puny screens. If I’m going to manage a Windows server, I’m going to need a big screen to see everything and make it all work. So far, no Blackberry device has a screen that I think is big enough to make that happen. So, that left me with the iPhone.

So, within just a day or so of getting my new toy, I had found the free Mocha VNC Lite. Now, I suppose I should have taken a screen shot of that, but, frankly, I didn’t want the hassle of finding a clean, safe shot of my Windows server at the office, so I decided to go with a different shot. Again, since my data plan hasn’t kicked in yet, I haven’t tried the VNC client via the 3G network, but it works disturbingly well over my wifi network at home. When I do get that chance, though, I may do a full review of all the remote clients that I’m willing to actually load on my iPhone to try out.
But, there are other apps that I think I may just get addicted to and this shot shows one of them. Yes, that’s a WordPress client on the iPhone from the same people who bought you the WordPress software itself. If you look closely, you can see that I’ve already set it up for this blog and another one that’s in the works. So, yes, when the data plan is active, you can expect to see both posts and, possibly, even posts with pictures shot on the iPhone. Who knows, maybe even video!

So, as the marketing gurus say, watch this space for further developments!

8/10/2009

Charlie Stross at Escape Pod

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Art,Fiction,Fun,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Good old science-fiction.

Hey, want to hear something cool?  Head over to Escape Pod and listen to Charlie Stross’ latest story, Rogue Farm.  But, first, stop by Biology in Science Fiction for the link, so they know we care and appreciate them bringing these kinds of stories to us.

I may post again later today, since I was at a wedding last night and very good friends of mine may be having their baby today, but for now, this is all I’ve got.

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