Diary of a Network Geek

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

4/9/2021

Life is a Simulation

Filed under: Art,Better Living Through Technology,Fun — 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

At least, if you’re obsessed with scale modeling as a hobby.

A couple of years ago, I read an article about a man so obsessed with trains that he created a full-size commuter rail car in his basement. No joke. He’s a Canadian who absolutely loves trains, but especially the Canadian VIA Rail, and even works with a society dedicated to the restoration and preservation of these trains. So, he had the references to correctly recreate the experience in his basement after managing to buy an out-of-service passenger coach which he restored. But, with the pandemic lockdown, he finally found the time to create his favorite stretch of track between Toronto, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec with his model railroad. Because, of course, he’s obsessed with trains of ALL sizes and apparently has the most patient wife in the entire world. (Well, it is also his “day job”, as he has a business building and selling model trains.)
Now, however, things have gone on long enough that he’s found a way to add even more to the experience. He’s used a GoPro to record video of the model train trip and edit it to look like the real thing. And, I have to say, it really is a good recreation. According to the article at Gizmodo, which includes the video, he plans to eventually add giant screens to the passenger coach in his basement that links to the camera on the model train to show a live feed, making the line between reality and simulation even blurrier than it already is.

I’m a little afraid of what he might get up to if the lockdown in Canada goes on much longer! Hopefully, everyone in North America is getting their vaccination so we can get up to herd immunity and do things in public again. Soon.

 

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/2/2021

Password Rules

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Fun,Geek Work,News and Current Events,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 Waning Gibbous

Do you know those horrible password rules about adding random characters and numbers and stuff?

IT professionals hate them, too. Honest. I can say that because I am, in fact, an IT professional and have been for just shy of thirty years. (You can read more about my qualifications to call myself an IT pro at my other website, which includes Jim Hoffman’s CNE Resume, because, yes, I’ve been doing this so long I’m certified in things that no one really uses anymore.) I remember when the standard for passwords changed, requiring normal people to do things like including special characters or numbers and a mix of upper case and lower case letters. We were told that it would make the resulting passwords exponentially harder to guess. At the time, that may have been true, though I doubt it. It turns out, those rules were written by a government bureaucrat who used an out-of-date white paper to make his recommendations. And, now, even that bureaucrat regrets making those rules that only make your password harder to remember. Also, all that advice about translating a famous quote into a password by changing out words for symbols or letters? Essentially useless. With the computing power of moderns machines, the randomness of a short password really doesn’t matter at all. Length is the real key. So, having a password like “P@SSw0rd” isn’t significantly more secure than “password”, except, of course, that hackers are likely to guess the simple words first and “password” is actually one of the ten most popular passwords. So don’t use that. What’s better is to use a longer password, like an entire sentence without punctuation. And, if you have to include numbers and special characters, just tack them at the end or beginning. In other words, something more like “MyPasswordIsVerySecure@9”, because the length of that password IS exponentially harder to guess than “password”. Don’t believe me? Then just look at this infographic that shows how the length of your password is really the determining factor in how hard it is for hackers to crack.

How Long Would Your Password Last Against An Expert?

Of course, some systems limit the length of a password, unfortunately, but, until everyone else catches up to us, you have to work with what you’re given.
Come back next week to see what uncomfortable truths I have to share with you!

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Life lived for tomorrow will always be just a day away from being realized."
   --Leo Buscaglia

3/26/2021

The Next World War

Filed under: Art,News and Current Events,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 Waxing Gibbous

Thankfully, this is just a fictional scenario. But, it’s damn plausible.

Good science fiction is an extrapolation of current technologies and social and economic conditions into a future scenario that allows the reader to see one potential future. As our technology has raced forward at a frightening speed, it’s become increasingly difficult to project scenarios that aren’t hopelessly outdated almost as soon as they’re printed. Some of the best work, though, manages to make us think anyway. I have to admit, I watch news about China closer than most people I know. It’s what let me get a huge stack of computers in stock for my company right before all the supply chains coming out of China got choked closed. That turned out quite well for us, by the way, though I wasn’t quite as good at predicting the need for laptops. In my naiveté, I thought that COVID-19 would get stopped at the Chinese borders before it became what it did. What can I say? You win some, you lose some.
This week I’m sharing a link to some speculation about a possible future conflict between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China in the not distant enough future. It’s a novel titled 2034:A Novel of the Next World War written by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis, two subject matter experts on both military action and diplomacy, adapted into a six-part serial for the web by the editors of Wired Magazine. Hopefully, this will become very dated, very quickly and something that we look back at and laugh at because things turned out so much better than these two experts speculate in this bit of near-future science fiction. But, a war that starts out with violations of our cybersecurity and escalates into something much worse seems all too plausible. Frankly, I hope that this work serves as a warning to the powers that rule the world and that they learn to get along better and deescalate the tensions that currently plague our world. I doubt they will, but I do hope.
Until then, go read all six parts and consider how this could all be far too real, far too soon.
Next week, I’ll try to find something lighter for you.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words!

3/19/2021

Cell Phone Etiquette

Filed under: Art,Better Living Through Technology,Deep Thoughts,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:21 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I feel like the pandemic has made our use of cell phones even ruder than we used to be.

Honestly? I feel like being locked down for the better part of a year, to whatever degree we individually have been, has made us all a little less socially aware. And, yes, I include myself in that sad group. I know I’ve been both more sensitive to small social slights from others and I know I’ve been less socially sensitive to others than I was before. It’s absolutely something I need to pay attention to and work on. So, when I saw this infographic on Cell Phone Etiquette, I knew I had to share it.
Cell Phone Etiquette

To be clear, I feel like these things have ALWAYS been a problem for some people, but I also feel like these kinds of interactions have gotten even worse lately. I hope as we come back together and are more social as we get vaccinated and really start to beat this COVID-19 pandemic that we can be more socially aware. I know I plan to work harder to be more polite and civil to my fellow humans, much to my wife’s relief, I’m sure!

This post first appeared on Use Your Words!  But, the infographic appeared way before that.

3/12/2021

A Little Wargaming

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun and Games — 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

I’ve always loved the idea of wargaming.

The problem is, the models are expensive, take a lot of time to paint, and then take up a lot of room after painting and between simulated skirmishes. In fact, I’ve tried several times to get into the hobby, painting one or more sets of miniatures, but rarely getting too far. Now, my eyes aren’t great anymore, but I do have a lot of magnifying devices to compensate. Still, there’s the expense and the room they all take. Well, that part, at least, has a solution, as demonstrated in this Make Warhammer TINY!, as I first saw it on Boing Boing. The idea is pretty basic; using an inexpensive 3d printer, print wargaming miniatures at half the size of normal. That theoretically cuts paint and storage requirements in half, at least.
Sadly, for me, I don’t have my own 3d printer, so I’m probably not going to do this, but I absolutely like the idea of the tiny wargames and really, quite literal miniatures. It’s brilliant. Though, I do question my ability to paint anything that small, even with the aid of my geriatric-level magnification devices. Truly. On the other hand, if you’re stuck at home and you DO have your own resin 3D printer, you can download a lot of the files for free from links at the first video I linked and give a new hobby a try while you wait for your COVID-19 vaccination to be scheduled. (Or, like me, you can just marvel at the idea of the whole thing while watching a sixteen-minute video.)

Come back next week and see what else I’ve got to share with you!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

3/5/2021

Go Green, A Month At A Time

Filed under: Art,Better Living Through Technology,Deep Thoughts — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Going green doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing.

Even doing a little something that’s healthier for the planet can be a big benefit. And, the infographic in this post, brought to you thanks to Daily Infographic, shows you something you can do each month to make your living situation, even in an apartment, a little greener.
Go Green, a step at a time

So, there’s a good start! It will absolutely help our planet and future generations to be more aware and try to be more careful with our limited resources.
Come back soon for more infographics and posts!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!  Though the infographic appeared earlier than that.

2/26/2021

How the Octopus Works

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun — 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 a Full Moon

Aliens live in our oceans.

I know I’ve been reposting a lot from Boing Boing lately, but this is just too good to not share. As both a fan of science fiction and an eternally hopeful writer of science fiction, I’m always fascinated by intelligent animals that live with us on our own planet. One of the most intelligent and yet different species which shares our planetary home is the octopus. I can’t remember the exact quote, or who said it, but a science fiction author once challenged his fellows by asking that they create an alien that could think as well as mankind, but differently. I’m not going to claim that an octopus can think as well as a human, but it sure does think differently. And, having watched the fascinating video The Insane Biology Of The Octopus, I can absolutely see a very different way of thinking than the one we land-dwelling mammals are used to using. While we have done a lot of research into the intelligence of dolphins, we’ve really only just started looking at the octopus, relatively speaking.
The video is about twenty minutes long, which is easily viewable in a lunch-hour. You won’t be sorry if you have any interest in aliens, alien thinking, or even just strange animals.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

2/19/2021

Florida Man

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 First Quarter Moon

Here’s hoping you have a very “Florida Man” birthday!

Okay, so after last week, I feel like I need to share something completely light and without a deeper political message, no matter how far down you scroll. Thankfully, I can rely on the proverbial “Florida man” from the news to help me sink to the appropriate level. In this case, it’s a website that calls itself the Florida Man Birthday Challenge. The idea is simple, just select your birth month and day and the site will serve up a real, and really weird, silly, stupid and ridiculous, news story starring that most infamous low-rent perps, the proverbial Florida Man.
It looks like they’re still building out the site and collecting news stories that are linked to each and every day of the year, but they’re really getting there. For instance, the story on my birthday is actually about an event from October, but, one assumes that the news story hit the papers in December, possibly when the Florida man in question was arraigned. I’m not sure when they started, and the site is riddled with advertising, but the idea here is that no matter the month and day of your birth, a Florida man has done something stupid enough on that day to make the news or police blotter.

See? Like I told you; low-brow and the antithesis of last week’s post!
Come back next week to see what I come up with next!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

2/12/2021

Sea Shanty Revival

Filed under: Art,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 New Moon

I know I’m a little late to this trend, but all these modern folk songs are fun, so I’m sharing it anyway.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared with you the unusual juxtaposition of modern songs done in a Medieval style called “bardcore”. This week, it’s sea shanties of several stripes and union work songs. They’re actually pretty similar in style, I think, but I’ll let you judge for yourself. Two of these three came to my feed by way of Boing Boing and they talk about the third, but I’d already discovered that in a list of old 78s on the Internet Archive Audio Archive .

So, first, I’ll share two TikToks that I found from Boing Boing’s post on sea shanties. The first is jax.in.the.box_, and she’s got a beautiful voice. I honestly don’t know anything about her except the music she shares on TikTok, which goes well beyond sea shanties, but is generally of a folk singing style that she really makes the most of. And, also, nathaneveanss, who also goes beyond the sea shanty style, but is also quite good. Both of these performers are really good and their acapella work is absolutely their best in my opinion. And, after listening to them both, I started to think that the secret was either an Irish or a Scottish accent.

Now, before you think these sea shanties are all just fun and games, Boing Boing has a cybersecurity sea shanty by Rachel Tobac. It’s good opsec advice about not reusing passwords and capitalizes on the popular TikTok trend to, hopefully, reach some folks.

The last links I’m going to share are to the Internet Archive. Lately, there’s been some good reason for the “little guys” to talk about economic disparity, not to mention the recent efforts of both Goole employees and Amazon employees to unionize, with mixed results depending on where it was happening. These songs mostly go back to the mid to late 40’s. My favorites are The Union Boys – Songs for Victory; music for political action, but you can find more old 78s with a “union theme” there, too.
But, if you need more, Spotify has some for you. There’s the Utah Phillips – One Big Union – We Have Fed You All a Thousand Years, Solidarity Now: Workers, Union and Protest Songs (which includes the Chemical Worker’s Song that jax.in.the.box_ linked above performs), and another, easier way to listen to The Union Boys – Songs for Victory; Music for Political Action.

For any future employers, I’m not advocating unionization necessarily, but the less we pay workers the more reason they have to complain about how oppressed they are. Extreme wealth disparity is something that should concern everyone because when it gets extreme enough, upheaval happens.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, my much more personal blog.

2/5/2021

Horror in the Backrooms

Filed under: Art,Fun,Uncategorized — 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

There’s something terrifying about musty, forgotten, anonymous backrooms.

As someone who’s done a little bit of urban exploration with my camera, I can tell you, there are few things more unsettling than a building full of empty, discarded rooms left to molder into decayed disuse. And, in another life, I’ve had some other reasons to know more than I’d care to about out-dated and disused space in semi-industrial settings. Old offices at the back of old buildings that smell like damp wallboard and receded floodwaters. I think if H.P. Lovecraft were alive and writing today, his nameless horrors would lurk in places like that. I’ve been thinking about it lately thanks to Mark Frauenfelder’s article in Magnet about “The Backrooms”, a 4Chan meme that’s been given deeper life thanks to procedural generation and people stuck at home. His article has videos, but more importantly, links to the deeper world of this horror space. The videos and games are … Well, they’re interesting and disturbing and something you sort of need to experience. I probably should have saved all this for Halloween, but, I didn’t think it would keep any longer.

Go and look for yourself. Yes, it’s unsettling, but it’s also a safe distraction from the more unsettling things happening in our world today.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

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