Diary of a Network Geek

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

7/8/2016

What Theme Is That WordPress Running?

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:11 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Okay, so this may not matter to a lot of my readers who aren’t designers, programmers or WordPress enthusiasts.

But, it does matter to me.
I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a site and wanted to know what they were running.  Most of the time, I just go over to Netcraft and check to see what kind of server and content management system they’re running.  But, sometimes, when I see that they’re running WordPress, I often want to know more, like what theme the site is running or what plugins it’s using.  The problem is, while I can usually look at the code and see what theme they’re running, it’s almost impossible to get any of the plugins, too.
Well, the other night while looking for something else, I found the WordPress Theme Detector, which can tell me all of that information and a little more.  It’s a free service and all you need to do is put in the URL of the site you’re curious about to get the 411.

That ought to kill a little time while you drop your favorite blogs in there to see what they’re running!
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

6/3/2016

SysAdmin Screencasts

Filed under: Fun,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Day Job,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 Waning Crescent

Not my usual Friday Fun, but great for system administrators trying to get ahead.

And, not too bad for power users trying to figure out some of what the professional system administrators are talking about when they’re trying to talk over your head.
What I’ve got for you this week, gentle readers, are “bite-sized” system administrator screencasts.  What that translates to are relatively short screencasts, usually 20 minutes or less, on professional computing topics ranging from using Ansible to implementing Docker to writing incident reports to project planning.  So, pretty much, a series of short, hyper-focused courses that you can sneak in during your lunch hour at your desk.  How awesome is that?

Okay, so only awesome if you’re a professional computer geek like me, but, still, if you are, it’s pretty awesome.  Also?  Free.  So, yeah, free professional development you can squeak in on your lunch hour.  All in all, not a bad deal.
But, hey, it’s Friday, so bookmark that and start your self-education program on Monday, okay?

4/29/2016

Evernote IT Documentation Templates

Filed under: Fun,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,Red Herrings,The Day Job,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

Prepare yourself for some high-intensity geekery!

No, seriously.
So, I’ve been contracting somewhere that has virtually no network documentation and what little they did have got destroyed in a catastrophic event.  For privacy and security, not to mention client confidentiality, I won’t go into details on that.  But, as a result, one of the things I’ve been doing is rediscovering their network and documenting it as fully as possible.  For that, I’ve been searching out and using various templates.
Also, in a seemingly unrelated course of events, I’ve recently started using Evernote as part of my Getting Things Done revival.  I’ve been re-reading Getting Things Done, originally in preparation for starting a new job, and trying to get it going again in all areas of my life to better manage my time and efforts.  My wife raved about both GTD and Evernote, so I splurged and bought the $10 document from David Allen’s web store on setting up Evernote so that it was optimized for GTD.  It was some of the best money I’ve spent in a long, long time.  This combination is so completely awesome!

But, what’s even more awesome is the power of Evernote templates.  Their templates are really just a blank document that’s formatted in a particular way that serves as a starting point for a regular note style that you make over and over again.  They’ve written up a whole article on it; How-to: Save Time with Templates.  If you’re working with Evernote, it’s definitely worth the time and trouble.  My personal template library is hitting 59 items right now, but I’m sure there will be more.
And, that, finally, leads me to my Friday Freebie; EvernoteITDocumentationTemplates. These are a collection of six templates, so far, that I’ve munged together to let you more easily record the basic information an IT professional might need to capture about devices on their network.  I have no doubt there will eventually be more.  In any case, go ahead and download these and enjoy them.
To get those into your personal Evernote, check out their article How to Backup and Restore Notes and Notebooks.  It’s got step-by-step instructions there for getting started.
Good luck and enjoy!

4/15/2016

Security In A Box

Filed under: Geek Work,Red Herrings,The Dark Side,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

First of all, you should know I’m talking about computer security, not home security.

Secondly, know that “in a box” really means something more like “all in one place”.
I’m suggesting this site this week because security is on my mind.  Not only in a corporate sense, but in a personal sense.  In a professional setting, I’ve brushed up against something that could conceivably heighten scrutiny of my own personal foot-print on the internet.  And, I’ve had a particular address from a particular Eastern European country banging against on of my WordPress installations pretty hard this past week.  All of which added up to me checking my collected links for a security themed site I could share with you all.
The site is called Security In A Box and it’s a collection of tips, advice and links to programs meant to help keep you safe on the internet.  Their advice covers everything from creating good passwords to staying safe on social media.  And, they have group-specific suggestions for special interest groups who might have an additional level of scrutiny, either by other special interest groups or governments.  It’s quite a good site for everyone, of course, but of special interest to anyone who might find themselves at the sharp end of one of the many sharpened sticks running loose on the internet without keepers.

So, stay safe this weekend and enjoy the lovely weather while it lasts!

4/8/2016

Free Network Mapping Tools

Filed under: Geek Work,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

This may not be a post for my regular readers.

So, I’ve been contracting for two weeks now and there’s a ton of work to do.
For those of you who know me, and know how I tend to approach what I do, one of my main goals is to get good documentation.  If you look at my resume, you know that I have changed jobs a lot.  And with every change has come a new, mostly-undocumented network for me to discover and, hopefully, improve.  As a result, I’ve used a bewildering array of network mapping and scanning tools.  Dark Reading has a list of free and low-cost network mapping tools, many of which I’ve used.  Since they review them all, I’ll only comment on the ones I’ve actually used and found useful.
First, there’s the venerable nmap.  Nmap has been around for a while and most of the more hardcore geeks, like me, have used it.  (And, yes, there is a Windows version of it, if you really want to use that.)  It’s probably one of the most complete, and oldest, tools on this list.  Though it’s more of a security finger-printing tool than a mapping tool in the sense that most of us mean.  Still, a security tool old enough and good enough to actually be used on-screen in The Matrix is pretty okay with me.
For simple listing of the IP addresses and hosts on a network, I really like Overlook Fing.  It’s pretty basic and actually command-line based with a Windows launching text interface to configure it.  The output is pretty basic, but you can quickly dump a list of device names and IP addresses, with probable manufacturer information to help identify the machines.  Also, they seem to have added a paid service that monitors your network and alerts you to changes, which seems interesting, but I’m usually on a budget, so I’ll stick with the free option.
If you want a nicer interface and more Windows-optimized IP network scanner, try Advanced IP Scanner.  Again, it’s pretty basic and simple, but it’s also free and super easy to use.  And, starting with at least a list of IP addresses with host names may be more documentation than a lot of new network administrators start with when they take over a network.
And, then there’s Spiceworks, which most folks think of as a helpdesk ticketing system, but actually has some fantastic network management and mapping tools built into it, too.  In fact, I initially installed it at my last full-time gig to keep track of all the user requests I was getting, but really ended up loving it for the reporting tools and ability to track machines on the network.  It’s free, and takes a little bit of work to get setup right for pulling in all the details of your network, but it’s totally worth it.  The user support forums are great and there are a lot of tools and custom reports being added for it all the time.  If you hunt a bit, you can find pretty much every answer to your question on the user forums.  I even found a way to automate emailing the weekly reports to everyone in IT and management.

One tool that Dark Reading does not mention that I find useful is Network Notepad.  Again, a free tool, but with a paid option.  The free tool, which is all I’ve used, is great for making an actual graphic map of your network. It takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, this is a pretty valuable tool.  For instance, if you add the IP address to the host on the map, you can ping or RDP right from the network map to the device.  In fact, I liked it so well, I whipped together an object library, using someone else’s free 3D icons, that I’ve attached to the bottom of this post.  So, enjoy that and enjoy your weekend!

3DNetworkObjectLibrary

4/1/2016

Expense and Tax Tools

Filed under: Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings,The Tools — 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

So, it looks like I’m going to be an independent contractor for a bit.

And, that means tracking expenses and tracking billable hours, as well as the taxes I have to pay on that.  Since I’m an iPhone user, that means that, yes, there’s an app for that.  Or, ten apps, actually.  From eWeek, Ten Tax Filing, Expense Tracking Tools to Keep the IRS Happy.  Because, really, we all just want to avoid an audit or any Imperial entanglements.
And, frankly, I’m exhausted this week and all my creativity and wit has been drained into trying to help my client rebuild from a devastating data-loss that may ultimately result in some legal action.  It’s bad.  Really bad.  And, I’m pretty worn out this week.
So, I posted this and hopefully, you’ll get something better next week.  Maybe a review of the network audit tools I’ve been using to catalog what they have, and will have again.
(And, no, I don’t even have the energy to run an April Fool’s joke.  Seriously.  I’m that drained this week.)
Have a great weekend, y’all!

3/10/2016

Re-Organizing

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:29 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

It’s time to clean up my act.

Seriously.
My wife is a professional organizer and decorator, so those of you who know me well know how she suffered when she first moved in with me.  I hadn’t devolved into a complete hoarder, but I had gotten an unfortunately significant start.  She dug me out.  Honestly, I wish I had her ability to let go of things, but I tend to hold on to too much.  Naturally, when she asked me to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I just about had a panic attack.  But, I did read it and, once I got past some of the ways the author talks about discarding things, I could see why my blushing bride loved the book.  In spite of whatever reviews you may have read about the extreme method described, it’s really not so terrifying.  The essence of it is to get rid of the things that you don’t use or need or want any more, to make room, both literally and figuratively.
I’m not saying that it’s been easy for me to do, because it hasn’t, but I do find myself thinking about what I really need and use quite a bit.  The reality is, I have too much stuff to really keep track of it all.  So, I’ve been taking some of the time I have, while I wait to get connected to my next work opportunity, to reevaluate and clean out.
I have told myself for a long time that I don’t like change, that I’m not good with it.  But, that’s not really true.  Sure, I like to control change, but in many areas of my life, I’m constantly changing, growing, trying new ideas and methods, keeping what works and discarding the rest.  One area that I haven’t been working at as much lately is my personal organization and scheduling.  I’ve been very reactive and not nearly proactive enough to suit me.

I used to be a “to do list” fanatic.  Every day I’d start my day with a fresh list, carrying over the things I didn’t finish from the previous day, and adding to it.  On Friday, I’d set my list up for Monday before I left the office.  First thing Monday, I’d review the list and see if I thought of anything else to add over the weekend, because my brain just will not shut off and stop thinking about work.  It’s how I’m wired, I guess.
Mainly, though, I loved crossing things off my list.
I know, it’s a strange thing, but the idea of crossing something off my list actually gave me a little thrill.  And, when I’d get to the end of the day, I’d see all the things I’d crossed off and think about how great it was to get all that stuff done.  Somewhere, though, in all the jobs and the “life stuff”, like getting married, divorced, beating cancer and getting married again, I lost that habit.  I tried to “leverage technology” and my smart phone to get a to do list app that would synchronize with my computer, but, frankly, nothing ever worked to my satisfaction.  And, of course, it was a convenient excuse for why I stopped doing it.
Some time back, I read Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen and I sort of made a half-hearted attempt to set some of his system up, but, honestly I never put enough effort into it. At the time, his book didn’t have a lot of technological help for geeks like me that wanted to use the cloud to keep things synched up.  I need to find out what’s changed, because the time is ripe for me to re-read that book and, as my wife and I reorganize our physical space, get my mental space in order and prepared for a new job.  This is the perfect time to get reorganized and have my system in place, ready to go, before I land somewhere and have an endless stream of projects to track.

So tell me, gentle readers, what do you use to stay organized?  If you’re a fan of the GTD method, what tech tools do you use to stay on track?


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious."

2/26/2016

Interview Questions

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Geek Work,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:11 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I’m prepared to answer these, are you?

So, I’m still looking for work, but at two weeks, I suppose that’s to be expected.
I’ve had a couple phone interviews and I’m waiting to have a couple more.  Generally, if I can get an interview with a technical manager, I can sell myself well enough to get a job I have the experience to actually do.  Often, I can sell myself well enough to land I job I don’t know how to do, yet.
In either case, the only way to do it is preparation.  Know the questions I’ll be asked and know my answers.

U.S. News and World Reports has a great slideshow of the ten most common interview questions, with some advice about answering them.  That’s a great place to start.
Glassdoor expands that list to fifty of the most common interview questions, and while I certainly would recommend reading those, having answers that are prepared without looking memorized is the real key here.
Monster.com takes that list even further, to 100 interview questions, and goes way beyond the common ones.  While it certainly can’t hurt to peruse them, I’d really focus on the short list.
If you need help preparing, check out How to Ace the 50 Most Common Interview Questions on Forbes.com.  There’s a brief video on that page that auto-plays, so be aware.  Frankly, I really respect Forbes and they give some great advice about how to answer questions in an interview.

In the end, it really comes down to preparation and practice.  Sadly, I’ve had a lot of practice on job interviews.  The important thing is to be honest and consider how what you say reflects on you and whether or not your prepared answers will show your true colors.  Also, practice with a friend who can give you honest feedback.  Or, barring that, record yourself so you can see what you look like while interviewing and hear how you sound in giving responses.  It may be enlightening!

If you’re out there looking for work like me, I wish you the best of luck!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."
   --Will Rogers

2/19/2016

Job Search Log

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is in the early afternoon or 2:48 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, I was laid off Tuesday.

I wasn’t surprised by it, for sure, since they’ve been laying off two and three people a week for the past six weeks or more.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, though.
A couple weeks ago, another sort of IT person, who’s here from the real parent company in China, was sent over to my location to gather up all the passwords and access I had.  Probably to make a copy of my laptop, too, but I kept that with me or locked up.  I know they were trying to be sneaky or subtle when they did it by distracting me with a phantom project, but, really, when someone is sent for the passwords, there’s really only one thing to think.  Then, when I asked why the theoretical project I was supposed to be working on hadn’t been implemented when it was first sent out for bid 18 months ago, I was told that it was due to lack of funding.  If there weren’t funds then, when the company was doing well, where were the funds going to come from now that so many people were being laid off?  I got the answer to that question on Tuesday morning, so I went in and packed up my desk, just in case.  You see, ever since I worked for a company that got liquidated, I’ve kept my personal belongings at work limited to what I can easily put into one, small box, which I keep under my desk.  Just in case.
Apparently, the fact that I went into my final interview with a 99% packed desk shocked the people firing me.  But, then again, they were always underestimating me at that job anyway.

So, regardless of all that, when I got home Tuesday afternoon, I applied for unemployment with the Texas Workforce Commission.  I was able to go on-line and sign up, which is an improvement over the last time I was out of work, when you had to call or go in person.  Sadly, I won’t be able to apply for a payment until the 28th, but I’ve started my job search.  Well, really, I’ve just intensified my job search as I’ve been looking for about a month.  And, while I’ve had a couple phone interviews and at least two really good prospects, I still need to keep the requisite job search log.  The Texas Workforce Commission has a downloadable form on their website, but, honestly, I kind of hate it.  So, instead, I made my own spreadsheet.  I’ve shared the blank one at the bottom of this post.
Some of the columns have drop-down choice boxes in them and the form has gotten kind of big to accommodate all the new fields they have on the original form.  It is, however, formatted to print all on one page for easy verification should it be requested.  And, yes, for those of you wondering, I verified with the Texas Workforce Commission helpline that a spreadsheet is just fine for recording your job search activity.

So, grab a copy of the form and good luck in your job search!

jobsearchlog-blank

2/12/2016

Get More from Your Commute

Filed under: Fun,Geek Work,Red Herrings — 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 Waxing Crescent

Our commutes don’t have to be dead time.

Who doesn’t have a commute any more?  Mine is relatively short now.  Less than 30 minutes, actually.  But, when I lived in Chicago, it was at least an hour each direction, whether I was behind the wheel driving or riding on a train or bus.  I used to read during the riding part of my commute, but, when I was driving, I would have loved Commute Kit.

Commute Kit is a website that gathers…
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