Diary of a Network Geek

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

3/4/2014

Ultraedit

Filed under: Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,PERL — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:01 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Real programmers code in text editors.

And, for what it’s worth, so do I!     RyuMaou - Prel Monk
Look, I’m the first to tell you that I’m not a programmer.  Honestly, I think it would kill me to sit in front of a monitor all the time and do nothing but bang out code, then re-read that code for errors and spend endless hours debugging it.  Still, I have done a bit of Perl programming.  And, I am, as of this writing, a Level 11 PerlMonk, which is something that makes me proud.  I’ve also done some pretty heavy customization of my blogs and, on the rare occasion that I muck around in the HTML and CSS, I do it in a text editor.  Actually, to be specific, I do it in UltraEdit.

UltraeditScreenCapI’ve used a couple of versions of UltraEdit, but the screen-shot a the right is from version 20.00.0.1056 which is the most current version at the time of this post.  As you can see, it’s easy to have multiple files open and to transfer back and forth between them by simply clicking on the tabs with their names at the top.  Also, the built-in file explorer makes it easy to find and open your target file.  Again, referencing the screen-shot, you can see that UltraEdit has built-in code highlighting, which can be turned off if it becomes distracting.  Frankly, that was one of the features I first came to love about this program, along with the spell check.  But, what really sold me was the “search and replace” function, which lets me easily replace line breaks with tabs or other characters.  That may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re dealing with a lot of raw text which needs to be manipulated in particular ways for input to other programs, or to fix output from some programs, that feature becomes invaluable.  Along with that is “Column Mode”, which will let you treat large sections of text more like columns in a spreadsheet than just raw text.  Believe me, that alone has saved me an enormous amount of time when I have to reformat text taken from a web page that has no export function!  Add to that the super simple sorting functions that include the ability to remove duplicates in a huge list and the really flexible macro system and you have a system administrators new best friend!

Of course, as I mentioned already, I also use UltraEdit to work with all the code I have to manipulate.
My “day job” doesn’t require that I code anything, thankfully, but for my own interests, I often find that I’m creating or editing a lot of different kinds of code.  I play with everything from Perl to PHP to HTML to CSS (which is what’s in that screen-shot above).  The fact that UltraEdit automatically adjusts the code highlighting as I switch between the different files by default has been super convenient and, at times, really helpful.  Most of the time, I’m updating or fixing someone else’s code for my own purposes and trying to remember where the closing tag in an HTML or PHP document that I didn’t create is can be daunting.  Code highlighting has really helped that.
That’s also where the built-in macro functions have been a big help.  I can record one, small action and repeat it as many times as I need to throughout a file with just a few keystrokes.  That can come in really handy when duplicating lists of variables, for instance, or converting a list of text elements into an array.  I can just insert the code which defines the element as part of the array in front of each bit of text in a matter of seconds.  Again, a huge time-saver.

Currently, this very useful utility is $80 for a new license or $40 for an upgrade, which is what I got.  I think an old employer actually paid for the original copy that I upgraded.  Either way, though, the price was worth it to me!  If Perl is the duct tape of the internet, then this is my utility knife!

1/21/2014

Free LogMeIn Alternative

Filed under: Career Archive,Fun Work,Geek Work,PERL,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is in the early afternoon or 2:22 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Looks like the free LogMeIn option is going away.

It had to happen eventually, but it kind of sucks for those of us who relied on it to get certain things done.
They sent an email this morning, giving free users, like me, about a week to either pony up for a pro account or find another solution.  I figured I would have to search around for a while to find an alternative, but, thankfully, the folks over at Slashdot were already talking about it in the thread Short Notice: LogMeIn To Discontinue Free Access.  The ever helpful commenters had a lot of suggestions, with varying levels of snark and technical skill required and, you know, actual usefulness.  There were some interesting and baroque solutions to this pretty common problem.
Now, I’m a devote of Perl, so the idea that “there’s more than one way to do it” is near and dear to my heart, but some of those solutions on Slashdot were more hassle than they were worth!

The solution I looked at and quickly tested today was the Chrome Remote Desktop plugin.
I chose this for a couple of reasons.  First, it was free.  Frankly, that was probably the most important requirement.  I don’t have a budget for a lot of things I don’t use everywhere or every day, so I need to be careful how I spend that money.  Secondly, it was easy to implement and use.  There were several options discussed on Slashdot, but most of them were going to take creating one or more accounts on services like DynDNS or something similar, or they would need a new server or other dedicated machine.  That wasn’t going to work for me either.  I need something simple to install and use.  Mostly because I’m lazy, but still, the requirement is there.  And, thirdly, there had to be some kind of security on it so random users couldn’t log into machines.
Now, the “down-side”, such as it is.  This solution requires that Chrome be installed on any machine you want to get access to or from.  This is a Chrome plugin, so, obviously, it won’t work without Chrome.  Secondly, to get it and install it, you need a Google account of some kind, even though it’s free.  Gmail will do, and in fact was what I used to get the plugin from the Google App Store.  And, yeah, that was pretty much the only “bad” thing about it.  Again, for me, it wasn’t a big deal because I tend to install Chrome on any machine I happen to work on for any length of time, but it could be a hassle for people who don’t use or know Chrome.

Setup was easy and prompted me to enable remote connections to my machine then immediately asked me to set a PIN to restrict access.  I like that it did that.  Also, the PIN is required to be at least six digits, which is decent enough security.  I, personally, made it seven digits, but for the truly paranoid, you can make it longer.  I first set the plugin up on my work machine and then set it up at lunch on my home PC.  Again, I was asked for a PIN.  I happened to make it the same, but I’m pretty sure that PIN was unique to each machine, so, again, for the truly paranoid, you can lock this down pretty well.  After that five minute install, I was able to take over my machine at work.  Boom!  Just that easy.

As a further test of the plugin’s ability, I checked the box that allowed for “off-line access”, then I shut down my Chrome browser at home.  Once I got back to work, I tried remotely accessing my home PC.  I was asked for the PIN and then I was right in!  Again, just that easy.
Also, I should note that my work PC has only one monitor, but my home PC has two and Chrome Remote Desktop plugin flawlessly displayed both monitors.  It was absolutely amazing!  And, the connection was fast!  Frankly, it was faster than LogMeIn was most of the time.  It was great!

So, I know that LogMeIn won’t miss my business, since I never really gave them any, but I cannot say that I’ll miss them.  This is a great solution to the problem of remote access and I cannot be happier with it.  We’ll see how things go over time, of course, but this looks like a great, easy and free replacement for LogMeIn.
If you all find other solutions or solutions that you think work better, leave the information in the comments!

11/8/2013

5 Random Writing Tools

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,NaNoWriMo,PERL — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:26 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

So, in support of NaNoWriMo, this month, I’ve decided to serve up nothing but writing-related links.

At a week into the process of writing your novel, you should be well on your way.  But, maybe there are some back-story details you’d like to fill in.  Maybe a character who needs an odd name, or who’s pockets you need to fill with random stuff.  Maybe you need a fictional timeline for a fictional nation.  Or, maybe you need a wacky science-fiction invention…
Read More

8/29/2013

Moveable Type Changes License

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,Geek Work,News and Current Events,PERL,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

And becomes completely irrelevant.

Apparently, I missed this last month, but Six Apart is changing their license so that Movable Type will no longer have a free version.  Now, when it was Ben and Mena Trott running Six Apart, when they made a mistake with licensing, which I think they did back in 2004, you can understand and forgive.
Ben and Mena were like us, just two fellow geeks out there coding and blogging.  They came up with a great idea and everyone loved it.  But, then, money got involved and things got complicated.  They did things to make money, and, honestly, I probably would have done the exact same things.  When they first changed things to make the license more restrictive back in 2004, I was, I admit, outraged.  How could they betray us like that?  They were like us!  How could they throw this all over to just make money!  In retrospect, the question is, how could they NOT?

But, then there was WordPress.  Many of us made the jump, including me.  WordPress was a new way of doing things.  This Open Source thing was new to many of us and it was exciting!  Software that was mostly free that the community built!  People who were just like us!  Code geeks and blog geeks and graphics geeks all coming together to make cool things happen.  What could be better?  And, from my perspective, WordPress was easier to extend and develop for in many, many ways.  Also, it seemed to have fewer resource issues than the Perl-based Movable Type.  Better still, as I understood the license, WordPress would always be free and if it stopped being free, we could fork the code and make it free again.

Somewhere back in there, after the 2004 license debacle, Movable Type added an Open Source version.  They tried to get us back, but, frankly, for most of us, it was too little, too late.  After one license change like that, how could we be sure that it wouldn’t happen again?  And what about charging money to be part of the developer’s group who had access to the documentation you really needed to understand Movable Type enough to develop for it?  I know I couldn’t afford that!  Besides, as Six Apart got more and more corporate, I just felt like something else bad was coming, if not soon, then eventually.

Now this.
Well, it actually happened in July, but I just read about it on Mark Jaquith’s blog.
So, finally, after nine years, that other shoe has finally dropped.  Of course, a lot has changed in those nine years.  For one thing, I’ve gotten both married and divorced and am getting ready to be married again.  Interestingly, to me, Ben and Mena who started Six Apart have gotten divorced, too.  Ben still seems to be involved in the day-to-day development of Movable Type and related stuff, but Mena seems less involved.  I can’t imagine the toll their meteoric rise took on their relationship.  It must have gotten truly unbearable after a while.
You know, I hope they made out well.  Sure, this latest license thing is, I think, a final nail in the coffin of Movable Type, but, damnit, Movable Type also launched the blogging era in many ways, and paved the way for WordPress.  And, it was two people who started it.  Just two.  Two good people.

So, it’s sad, to me, to see how things have gone.  I’m sad to have been right about Movable Type all those years ago.  I wish they had proven me wrong.
But, with this, I think they proved me right not to trust the Movable Type license any more.  And, honestly, they taught me something about how to treat my audience and my customers.
And, yes, it makes me sad.  It’s the end of an era, of sorts.
I’m sorry to see you go, old friend.

2/1/2013

Adding Style To Your Webpages

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,GUI Center,PERL — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:23 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I am NOT a designer or web programmer.

Sure, I’ve dabbled with Perl enough to be a Level 11 Perl Monk on Perlmonks.org, but I’m not really a programmer.  And I’m sure not a designer, either, even though I can appreciate really good design work.  In fact, my ex-wife used to say that I was from the “big orange button” school of design, because I was more interested in the technology behind the button you pushed on a website than making…
Read More

11/9/2012

Creative Generators

Filed under: Art,Fun,PERL,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:20 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

So, in keeping with the theme this month of NaNoWriMo, I bring you creative time-wasters!

Okay, so maybe I call them “helpful utilities” when I use them, but, still…
Back in the day, I was much more of a Renaissance man that I am now.  I dabbled in all kinds of things not least of which was either writing or programming.  And, I tend to live by the dictum that one cannot really learn anything worthwhile without a project or goal.  When you combine those things, well, you get some interesting projects.
The first programming language of any real weight I taught myself was Perl.  Perl has sometimes been called the duct tape of the internet, because so many system administrators use it to keep old, clanky systems running.  That was also the reason I learned it, because I often found myself maintaining old, clanky systems!  But, mostly, I used it for my various webpages.  Then, of course, came WordPress which ran on a fancy new language called PHP.  Naturally, I set about teaching myself PHP.

Well, the projects I used were random generators, primarily to help people who were writing and needed a little help.  One of my earliest was a little tool, originally inspired by shareware, that let you randomly come up with what might be in fantasy character’s pockets.  If memory serves, the shareware program was developed as a utility for Dungeon Masters in AD&D campaigns that had a lot of thieves who were always wanting to pick the pockets of townsfolk!  But, it was fun and useful as an exercise.  You can find that one here: Fantasy Pocket “Litter” Generator.
Recently, after adapting that to the new PHP language I was mentioning, I got the idea to extend that idea to a more modern setting and came up with the Random Daily Carry Generator.  So, instead of having magic frying pans and enchanted daggers, a character may have an encrypted USB drive and a loaded Glock 21.  Just the thing to fill the pockets of random story characters, as needed!  Also, this one is still under development a bit, so as I think of things, I’m adding them in.  Visit often for new stuff!

And, of course, all those things and more can be found at my old World-Building page at my almost defunct writing site; Fantasist.net.
So, if you’ve hit that first week stumbling block on your NaNoWriMo project, go check these pages out and see if anything helps.  But, most of all, have fun!

8/5/2011

On-Line EXIF Viewer

Filed under: Art,Fun,PERL — 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

Another one for the photography geeks.

Some of you may have guessed that I enjoy photography just a little bit.  You may have deduced that from all the photography related links I share on Fridays.  Or possibly because I tell you am obsessed by it virtually every chance I get.  Either way, it’s true.  I find myself staring into portraits of people in magazines trying to figure out the lighting setup based on the reflections in their eyes.  When I see a photo I like on Flickr, I usually check the EXIF data, if it’s available, to get some idea about how the photographer made it.  The EXIF data is far from the whole story, but, at least, it gives me some idea how the photographer was setting the camera to get the light and depth-of-field that they did.

Well, recently, I was reading an entry on Chase Jarvis’ blog challenging his readers to reverse engineer one of his photos.
I kind of love those sorts of things, to be honest.  But, what was cool about this one was that someone in the comments pointed to a website that automagically pulled the EXIF information from the photo!  How cool is that!?
The site is called Jeffrey’s EXIF Viewer.  And you can use it to pull EXIF information from either a photo on your hard drive or that you find on-line somewhere.  I haven’t actually tried it on Flickr for people who don’t upload the EXIF data, but I’m sure I will be in the near future.  In any case, it’s free, outside of some advertising, and it’s pretty cool.  (Also, for the hard-core tech geeks like me, I’ll note that it looks like it was programmed in Perl, which is my favorite programming language.)

So, go forth, find photos and check them against the EXIF data to see if you can guess the photographer’s settings!
And, enjoy your Friday!

8/31/2010

iPhone as a Penetration Tool

Filed under: Apple,Linux,News and Current Events,Ooo, shiny...,PERL,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — 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 Waning Gibbous

No, this is not a post about sexual performance.
Pervs.

I use my iPhone for a surprising variety of things, even at the office.  For around $14, I threw together a suite of network scanning and testing tools that let me get a pretty good look at any network I manage.  But, that’s another post.
Today, I thought I’d bring to your attention a great blog post by Nicholas M. Petty tittled “iPen: Hacking with the iDevice“.  What he’s got is a set of instructions and tools for turning your iPhone, or, presumably, your iPad, into hand-held computer security penetration testing tool.  Yeah, I know, it still sounds dirty when you say “penetration”.  Grow up.

If you’re into security, whether you own an iPhone or not, it’s worth going to take a look at just to see the thought process and methodology.
Now, as much as I love this idea, I probably won’t actually do it myself because the first step is to “jailbreak” your phone and, frankly, as tight as money is and as important as my phone is to me, I can’t afford to have problems with it.  Still, it is an interesting idea, especially considering how many of these little devices are wandering loose out there and how many wifi access point exist out in the world.  I often wonder how secure any of them really are, especially in corporate environments.

Anyway, this should be something for network managers to think about the next time they see someone in the lobby of their building “playing a game” on their iPhone!

5/5/2010

10 Year Anniversary

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Linux,News and Current Events,Novell,PERL,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:08 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Yesterday marked this blog’s ten year anniversary.

In ten years, I’ve made more than 1,700 posts and had more than 1,900 comments, many of those from years when I blogged almost every day.  But, it was ten years ago when I uploaded my first entry. I edited it in a text editor of some kind, probably Notepad, and used FTP to push it up to the server. That was back in the days before blogging software and when most of us still called them journals or diaries. I started doing it to try and game the search engines. Mostly, it worked, I think, since the majority of my readers have found me via a search of some kind.

Since that first entry, a lot has changed.
I’ve been through two different kinds of blogging software. After months of doing it by hand, I converted to Moveable Type. I used that for several years, until the Time of the Troubles, when there was a big fuss over how Moveable Type was going to charge for previously free software, even after promising to keep it free forever. Like most converts, I changed over to WordPress, which I still use today. Moveable Type does have a free version, but, frankly, after learning how easy it was to style and customize WordPress, I can’t imagine moving back. Not to mention how much easier it is to make plugins for WordPress. Frankly, I love it.
Ten years ago, I did quite a few entries from the road via my old Palm IIIc with a folding keyboard. I typed them up and then synced that with my PC and pushed the entries from there. That old IIIc doesn’t hold a charge too well any more, but I’m still using the same PC I was ten years ago. Of course, I’ve added a much newer laptop, several other machines, and an iPhone to my technological stable since then. In fact, I was a beta tester for the new iPhone WordPress app!

A lot of other things have changed, too.
For one thing, I married and subsequently divorced the woman I was living with at the time. I’ve changed jobs, count it, five times, finally staying at my current company for about five years. I survived cancer. But, ironically, after several ups and downs with weight, I’m probably in better shape now than I was ten years ago!
Sure, I’d have liked to had a few more dates in the past ten years, but, I think I’ve done okay considering the divorce, not to mention the less than stellar marriage and, you know, the cheating death and all.  You’d be surprised how tired you get dodging the Grim Reaper!

I’ve upgraded my Novell certification at least once in that time as well as added a Linux certification.  My original plan of using this blog to boost my rankings in the search engines has largely paid off, as I’m consistently the number one or number two hit on Google for the search term “network geek”.
In that time, I’ve taught myself Perl, which is a scripting/programming language that’s been called the “duct tape of the Internet”.  In fact, as of this post, I’m a Level 8 PerlMonk.  (It’s a geek thing.) I’ve also gotten reasonably proficient at PHP, since that’s the technology which makes WordPress go.  At least, I’ve gotten good enough to write a few simple plugins and even a rough theme.  Frankly, I hope to do more of that soon, too.

I’ve taken up photography since starting this blog, too, and I think I’ve gotten fairly good at it.  Naturally, there’s room for improvement, as I’ve only been doing it for about two years, but, still, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time.  I’m not very artistically skilled, but photography lets me tap into that in a less intimidating way.  I suppose, in a way, so does my obsession with blog themes and logo design.

And, of course, I’ve started several other blogs or websites in the ten years that I’ve had this blog.  But, don’t worry, those sites have been languishing just as badly as this one has the past several months.  It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, or even had things to write about, but I’ve just been too busy to sit down and do it.
Though, I do have to admit, part of that sort of writer’s block has been about my audience.  I mean, if you hit that search function over in the sidebar, you can get pretty interesting access to my life for the past ten years.  Oh, sure, not everything makes it into the blog, but I’ve been pretty candid posting here.  I try to keep it clean, mostly, and nothing that would embarrass my mother, but, I have been honest enough to shock a few friends.  So, if there’s something you want to know about me, just search for it.  You may be surprised what you find here!

So, wow.
It’s been an interesting experience blogging for the past ten years.  I started before the trend was as huge as it was and kept on even when the shine had worn off for many.  I can say for sure that I didn’t anticipate many of the twists and turns this blog took over the past ten years, much less my life, but it has been an interesting ride.  Many of you have been with me for quite some time now and I appreciate you reading along with me here.
I don’t know what the next ten years will bring here, or elsewhere in life, but I do hope you’d come along for the ride.  I’m sure it will be as big a surprise to me as it is to you!

9/23/2009

No Free Lunch

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,PERL,Personal,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Ever wonder what I did before my blog devolved into what it is today?

Well, I uses write Perl code for fun. Yeah, that’s right, I used to code for fun. I mostly started with super geeky constructed language scripts and then moved on to other stuff. But, you know, I used to let people use them for free, just because it was fun and people seemed to really enjoy the scripts. Hey, there are a lot of geeky people out there! Anyway, it didn’t take long for these scripts, which used to reside at the Fantasist.net conlang page, to become very popular. It took even less time for them to become problematic for me and my series of webhosts. Well, they’ve finally become so much of a problem that I had to take them down this week.

Honestly, I can’t tell you how sad and angry and frustrated that makes me. I really wish I could keep offering them up, but people have abused them for too long and now they’ve caused me more trouble than they’re worth to me, so they’re gone for the forseesble future.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes."
   --Abigail Van Buren

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress