Diary of a Network Geek

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

9/13/2019

Nigerian Scifi Movies

Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies — 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 Full Moon

Technology has really opened up possibilities for independent film makers.

The great thing about the internet, and technology in general, has opened up a world of opportunity for both creators and consumers. When I was younger, the barriers to entry for the creative world were pretty steep and, in some cases, virtually insurmountable. But, now that so many people can get their hands on relatively inexpensive electronics and direct access to an audience via the internet, that paradigm is shifting. For instance, the self-publishing world has really exploded, pumping the markets full of cheap ebooks. Granted, their quality varies wildly, but at the price-point of some of these, more people are willing to take a risk on some new author than ever before.
The same, as it turns out, is true for video and movie production. It seems like more and more people are making movies of all kinds and sharing them directly with viewers, either through their websites or via a service like YouTube. Again, the quality varies significantly, but for a 10 or 15 minute movie, I’m definitely willing to take a look. In fact, I backed two movies on Kickstarter myself, the sadly unsuccessful Tube Open Movie, which was a total failure, and the actually really fantastic Ghosts With Shit Jobs, a wonderful scifi movie about a future where the Chinese economy outstrips our own and giant spiders wreak havoc.
This week, thanks to Boing Boing, I’ve got a link to a collection of Nigerian science fiction shorts. Boing Boing shares their ‘showpiece’ film, Z:The Beginning, but the Critics Company YouTube channel has a lot more where that came from.
These short films are definitely worth a look. It’s a whole other set of thoughts about the future than we’re used to seeing in the West. And, a great way to waste some time on a Friday afternoon!
Enjoy!

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!

9/10/2019

Internal Customers

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

The metaphor of “internal customers” is unfortunately falling out of favor.

Lately, I’ve seen articles criticizing the idea of having internal customers. It’s a shame, really, because the people who are so willing to abandon that idea seem to be doing so because they don’t understand why it’s so powerful. The criticisms I’ve heard fall under two basic categories; accounting-focused people who don’t want to “charge” departments for internal services and people who seem to think the need for collaboration with other business units removes the need to provide customer service to end users. They’re both coming from some incorrect assumptions and, I’d argue, a misunderstanding of what services IT provides in an organization.
As technical people, in most organizations, we provide support functions. Any service-based group absolutely must pay attention to the service provided to those who use that service; their customers. People who incorrectly think that the old practice of charging the cost of internal IT services back to the departments who use them is a reason to abandon the entire idea of internal customers are losing sight of the goal behind the metaphor. The goal is not, as they seem to think, to make sure everyone pays equally to support the IT department. The goal is to remind technical personnel that the systems and networks we manage aren’t defined by the hardware and software, but rather the end-users who actually use the technology we provide as tools to do their jobs. When we forget that, we forget that our goal is to serve those end-users, not the systems. That sad, mistaken idea is clearly expressed in the old system admin joke, “My network would run perfectly if not for the users!” I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard technical experts grumble about what a waste of time user requests are instead of seeing how it’s our only reason to exist. As a technical expert, my only reason to be employed is to solve other people’s problems, to provide service to my customers, the end users.
And, that leads directly to the second misunderstanding I see used as an objection to the end user as customer metaphor; technical experts cannot collaborate to provide solutions AND be mindful of customer service at the same time. We would do well to remember what the genius R. Buckminster Fuller said about solving problems, “When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.” If I “solve” a technical problem for a user, but they wrestle with my solution so much that they never use it, then I haven’t actually solved their problem at all (ie. It’s not a “beautiful” solution to the problem.). A perfectly workable procedure that the user doesn’t understand or finds too difficult to use regularly is as good as useless and I’ve failed my customer. I can’t make my internal customers happy every single time, but I ought to be trying because the only reason I’m employed is to solve their problems well and in a timely fashion.
I could go on a great length about all the ways I’ve seen technical people abuse their internal customer, the end user. In the old days of “big iron” mainframes, it was unfortunately all too common. Today, we should know better and embrace our roles as service providers making business run more smoothly, efficiently and well. Let’s stop making customer service a joke and help our users be better.

This post originally appeared on my LinkedIn profile.

9/6/2019

Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music

Filed under: Fun,music — 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 First Quarter Moon

A semi-visual guide to electronic music history.

I know sometimes when I share things on Friday, I’m a little late to the party. This week is no exception to that, but since this made the rounds a couple weeks ago, and the zeitgeist has a short memory in social media, I’m just going to share it again anyway. Seriously, you may have missed it when it came around, or already forgotten it, but this site is really good.
The quest to find new music has been something I pursue periodically. When I was in school, I wasn’t all that into music, really. I mean, I hung out with music majors in college, but that generally meant listening to jazz or someone from music history, not something contemporary. But, I read something once about how people get stuck in a musical genre or time-period and never expand their regular listening past that focus at some point in their lives. It sounded to me like a prescription for dying inside and becoming an old man before my time. So, vowing to cheat death, at least when it came to my inner child’s musical tastes, I’ve always sought out new music. And, by that I mean, music that’s new to me. That quest has led me down many a dark, internet alley in search of something new to groove to and resulted in a music collection that ranges from ABBA to Rob Zombie to Mongolian hard rock to hymns on the ukulele to, well, you get the idea. It’s pretty varied. But, I’m still always looking for more.
That brought me to Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music. It is just what the title says; Ishkur’s very personal guide to electronic music. But, let me tell you, it’s fabulous. First of all, it’s got a great interface that shows you how he breaks out the genres and the time-periods they were in. But, if you zoom in and click on a segment, it starts playing Ishkur’s, again, very personal, choice for the “best” of that genre in that year. When it starts playing, the information is displayed at the bottom of the browser, for your information and education. And, if you click the circled “i” icon, you can get a real education about the genre you’re listening to at the moment.
Whether you’re looking for new music or not, it’s definitely worth a look.
And, it’s a great way to warm up for your weekend!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

8/30/2019

Life Calculations

Filed under: Fun,Truth and Consequences — 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 New Moon

Just what is the cost of wasting time on Facebook?

One of the things that really impressed me in my college Economics classes was the idea of “opportunity cost”. Now, thanks to my ruthlessly practical upbringing and my father’s background in business and economics, I knew full well what “opportunity costs” were well before I got to college. I don’t think he ever called it that, but I grasped the concept early on. In fact, as I reflect at the theoretical half-way point of my life, preparing for my official mid-life crisis, it occurs to me that the greatest losses in my life are not financial or material, but lost opportunities and lost time. Really, for me at least, those two things are intimately linked. Every lost opportunity was lost due to me wasting time in some way. Of course, that’s a pretty ephemeral thing to try and quantify. It’s a little like trying to prove a negative event, which, if you haven’t attempted to do, trust me, is quite a challenge.
So, you can imagine how excited I was to find Everyday Life Calculators on the OMNI Calculator website. Here, finally, I could measure things like the cost of social media in real, measurable terms of money not earned and books not read, among other things, when I was wasting time on the social media du jour. (Which for me, lately has been Instagram, and Pinterest. Don’t judge! You’re wasting time reading my blog!)
So, now, before you spend all weekend getting jealous of the curated lives you see on Instagram or Facebook, calculate how many books you can read instead. Or how many calories you can burn at the gym. Or how much practice time you can get in on the ukulele. Yikes!
See you next week, when I’ll hopefully have something more motivating and less shaming for you to play with.
Enjoy your weekend!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

8/23/2019

Astronaut Aptitude Test

Filed under: Fun,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 a Third Quarter Moon

Could you cut it as an astronaut?

Last month was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, which means that I’m about as old as our modern space program. Or, as I like to think of it, I’m a child of the space age. That seems much more palatable than being almost as old as NASA.
In any case, for the past month or so everyone has been talking about space and the Moon and possibly returning to the Moon on the way to Mars. All that got me thinking about how every kid’s dream was to be an astronaut when I was little. We all thought we’d somehow be able to go to space by now. And, I mean, everyone would be there, as regular as air travel is now, like they were in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sadly, it takes a little bit more than just booking a ticket to get into space, and I probably wouldn’t have ever been eligible. But, in the spirit of dreams and our hopeful return to the Moon, this week, I’m sharing a link to The Astronaut Test, so you can see if you have “the right stuff” to qualify as an Astronaut Candidate. The questions are drawn from the actual, official NASA Astronaut Candidate requirements and tests.
Why not take the 15 question quiz and dream of the stars while you take a break from work?

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

8/16/2019

Augmented Reality Pets

Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies — 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 Waning Gibbous

Not all uses for technology are recommended.

Look, I love technology and all the incredible things it can do for us, but even I know that too much reliance on some of it can really be a problem. The potential of augmented reality is pretty awesome, but, like anything, it can go awry. And, I’m sure you’re wondering what that has to do with my regular Fun Stuff on Friday post, right? Well, this week I have a free, short film for you about the upside, and potential downside, of augmented virtual reality “pets” titled Strange Beasts. And, yes, it is fiction, but it’s pretty good especially for being a short. I won’t spoil it by revealing too much, but definitely go check it out.
What else are you going to do to waste time on a break on Friday?

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

8/9/2019

Technochanting and Tinnitus Relief

Filed under: Art,Better Living Through Technology,Fun,Personal Care,The Day Job — 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 Gibbous

I am my own white noise generator, thanks to tinnitus from too many years working in server rooms.

Seriously, you have no idea, if you don’t suffer from tinnitus, just how distracting omnipresent sound in your ears can be sometimes. Most of the time, I don’t have a big issue with it, but some days, it can be quite maddening. I’ve tried all kinds of things for it and, so far, all the doctors I’ve talked to about my tinnitus basically have said that it’s just something I’m stuck with forever. But, the other day, while looking at a website for generating semi-random Gregorian chants for background music, which is pretty awesome all by itself, I found something called Neural Symphony, Neuromodulated Tinnitus Relief. They’re both using the same sound generation enging on a site called MyNoise.net. Honestly, I was just going to serve up the Gregorian chant toy for a strange, fun thing on Friday, but then I tried the other one. I can’t say I got the same results that others have talked about, but I can promise I’ll try some more combinations of settings to see if I can improve the results.
It works like this; go to the link and let the sounds play over your headphones. In theory, the sounds, developed by Steve Harrison from the Tinnitus Talk Support Forum work to cancel out the sounds in a tinnitus sufferer’s ears, either while we listen to them or, if we get the right settings and sounds, for some time after we listen to them. So far, I haven’t had a lot of success with the after listening part, but the rest definitely helps. If you have tinnitus, check it out! And, if you don’t, count your blessings and try the Gregorian chant toy, instead.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

8/2/2019

Burning Daylight

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal Care — 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

There’s only so many hours in a day.

And, only so many of them are lit by the biggest nuclear reactor in our solar system; the Sun.
Not too many weeks ago, we passed the Summer Solstice which is the day of the year that has the most sunlight hours. For the next six months, or so, each day has less and less light until we get to the Winter Solstice and that process reverses. In Houston, a lot of those hours are too hot to really enjoy, but I still like to know how many I have left in a day. Now, I don’t have to wonder, or fumble with an app on my phone. Instead, I can go to Sunshine.fyi and see, in real time, just how much of my visible day is left. Also, there’s a link to add it as a Chrome app, but that link seems to be broken at the time of writing this post. Hopefully, the creator will fix it.
So, save the page and watch your time!
And, most of all, get out there before the Sun is gone for the day!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

7/26/2019

2 Kooky Book Toys

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Infinite Library — 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 Waning Crescent

That’s two digital book-related toys.

Oddly enough, I found these two “living infographics” via two totally different paths, but they both ended up at the same site; The Pudding, a “…digital publication that explains ideas debated in culture with visual essays”. It’s a cool site, really, with some great data visualizations. I’m going to share two of them that, obviously, relate to books.
First, there’s the Hipster Summer Reading List 2019. It’s really what it says it is; a very snooty, self-important reading list. The idea is that kids in school get Summer reading lists to help keep their little brains engaged over the break from actual school where all learning takes place. But, when we become adults, no one programs literature for us the same way any more. This interactive infographic helps you generate one for yourself. There are settings for relative obscurity and difficulty as well as a publication year slider. I’m sure they’re all “classics” in some sense or another, but they were all books I’d never ready, which, I suppose, is partly the point.
The other interactive infographic is a page of 11 years of top-selling book covers, arranged by visual similarity. It’s kind of fascinating to see the way genres group together around certain colors and stylistic choices. It makes sense, really, since they’re all competing for the same eyeballs that they’d all end up looking similar. A kind of natural selection of book cover design. Either way, a fascinating way to spend a few minutes.

In fact, I think they’re both pretty fascinating ways to spend a few minutes playing instead of working on a Friday.
So, enjoy!

 

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

7/19/2019

Free Windows 10 Tools

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,Geek Work,MicroSoft — 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 Waning Gibbous

Two free utilities to help tame Windows 10.

Y’all know I love free stuff and share it with you often here, especially on Friday. Actually, I pretty much exclusively post and share anything at all on Fridays, but, still, you get my point. In any case, virtually all consumer laptops and desktops are sold with Windows 10 now, but most of us are still trying to get all the settings and configurations locked down the way we like. Or maybe that’s just the professional geeks like me. Either way, with the goal of taming Windows 10 just a little bit more, I have two utilities from the same company to share with you this week. Both are free for home (ie. non-commercial) users.
First there’s O&O ShutUp10, which lets you get tighter control over what parts of Windows 10 communicates with Microsoft and advertisers. You don’t even need to install it. Just download it and run it. It will give you suggestions and hints on locking down location services and privacy settings so that you aren’t leaking information you don’t want to share.
The other is O&O AppBuster which lets you remove the automatically installed apps that Microsoft includes with Windows 10, whether you want them or not. It also lets you remove the hidden apps that seem like they’re part of the operating system but really aren’t. So, for instance, if you wanted to get rid of all the XBOX 360 cruft on your Windows 10 laptop, since you don’t play games but are writing the great American novel, this app would let you do that. Also, just like the last one, it’s free and doesn’t need to be installed to run and do its magic.

So, not quite as exciting as free games or stories, but maybe more useful.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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