Diary of a Network Geek

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


Recycled Helicopters?

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:03 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Now, this is what I call recycling!

Okay, if you’re a Slashdot or Gizmodo reader, you’ve already seen this story about the Nigerian man who builds working helicopters from scrap. But, if haven’t seen this yet, go read the story.


Six Month Sentence

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:16 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I’ve been given a six month sentence, but it feels like a reprieve.

Though I’m a young man of almost thirty-nine, I have a cardiologist, as of today.  But, he’s given me good news.  After wrestling with the idea that I was going to be on blood thinners for the rest of my life, I probably won’t be after all.

I went to see him today, to find out about long-term monitoring of coumadin, after being referred by my general practitioner.  I had an EKG and an ultrasound done when I got there and explained to several people that I’d recently survived cancer.  After a final explanation of why I’d come to see him, the doctor told me that I had a slight weakness in one valve that was allowing a minute amount of blood back into the heart.  Thankfully, it was so minor that it didn’t concern the doctor at all, outside of future monitoring.  But, after some more questions about what kind of chemotherapy I had, the doctor was actually quite pleased that I didn’t have more weakening of my heart!  Apparently, andriamycin, which was one of the “flavors” I had, can weaken the heart quite a bit and he didn’t see any of that in the ultrasound.

However, the best news was that, unless I presented with more problems or a hyper-coagulant disease of some kind, there probably wasn’t a reason to keep me on coumadin for more than six months.  Yea!  So, for the first time in I can’t remember, I have good news about my long term health and care.  Double yea!


A Cold

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:23 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I’m sure that’s all it is.

I’ve been coughing again, like I was last year about this time.  I’m sure I’ve just caught a cold and the cough will go away soon.  I’m sure it’s not like last year.  I’m sure I won’t start coughing blood.  Everyone at work has been sick, it seems, so I’m sure that I’ve just caught one of their colds.  I end up at everyone’s desk, after all.  If anyone is going to catch something, it would be me.  Sure, I got a flu shot this year, but there’s that super cold going around.  I’m sure that’s all it is.

But, I’m afraid.
I started to cough and spit in the sink to see if there was pink in it.  I started to wonder how I’d make it through another year of chemotherapy.  Knowing what it’s like now, I started to be afraid of the cough, of what it might mean.
I have an appointment with a cardiologist Thursday to monitor my blood thinner and my high-blood-pressure medication.  I go in for a scan on December 10th, which is a Monday.  But, if I’m not significantly improved by the end of the coming week, I’ll make an appointment to see another doctor about my cold, or whatever it is.

I don’t think it’s my cancer come back, but I’m afraid anyway.


Walk to Rivendell

Filed under: Fiction,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Well, anything to get geeks moving, I guess.

So, is there a Tolkien/Lord of the Rings geek in your life that needs to get out and exercise? No, that’s not a trick question! Then get them to Walk to Rivendell!

As both a literature geek and someone who needs to get exercising, I have to admit, this challenge actually appealed to me a bit. Originally, it was meant for a semi-promotional tie-in to the opening of Return of the King, back in 2003, but there’s no reason not to do it now. Or, as the Boing Boing article suggests, do it in reverse and walk home with the hobbits. Seriously, it’s kind of fun, a motivator to get started doing something healthy, and puts those “ancient” modes of transportation into perspective.
Also, if you’re an iPod owner, you can get the Lord of the Rings Trilogy Soundtrack CDs, then rip them for your walking workouts, to help get you into the spirit of things.


On Marriage

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:32 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

When marrying, ask yourself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this person into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory.
Friedrich Nietzsche

I know someone who thinks she’s getting married. It may sound pessimistic, but I think differently.

So, there’s this former receptionist from my office, C. She and this other guy from work have been alternately going out or breaking up or fighting like Arabs and Israelis for most of a year now. Somehow, because I showed more than a little interest in her when she first started, I got sucked into this. Now, mainly, I try to maintain my status as a somewhat interested observer, but I don’t always manage it. She tells me one thing and then I hear something different at work. Now, it seems, after calling it quits a couple of weeks ago, this guy has asked her to marry him. At least, that’s what C. has told me. I think she earnestly believes that’s what’s going to happen, but I don’t. Or, at least, I hope not for both their sakes.

Oh, sure, there’s lots of passion in this relationship and I can tell you from first-hand experience, that passion can be powerful stuff. But, it also lies. It shouts in your ear, telling you that this is the ONE, regardless of all their faults. It bellows about the intensity of two hearts beating as one in a raging forest fire of shared desire. But, to do that, it yells and screams over those little voices that tell you something’s wrong. That she smokes too much or that he pays too much attention to other women. Passion drowns out all those very logical and reasonable voices that tell you you’re making a mistake. And, I’m afraid that C. doesn’t hear those tiny voices over the roar of her amniotic ocean.

On the other hand, take my friends J and L.
Now, these two have something that runs deeper than simple passion. I’ll grant you, I haven’t been privy to all their trials and tribulations of blending two lives together, but I know enough. And, of course, there was the whole “cold-feet” incident around Christmas. It was a close thing, their marriage. But it was different, in part because of the doubts.

You see, doubt really is healthy. When I got married, I was very, very sure that it was the right thing and that everything could be overcome and would work out for the best. And, all the other platitudes one hears about that passionate, erotic love. But, there is no amount of passion that can overcome a huge gap in values or in the value found in another person. You see, The Queen of the Damned and I had different ideas about what to value and how to show it. In the end, we both felt the other was taking us for granted and getting more than they gave. I’m honestly not sure who was right there, if anyone was, but the perception is what matters.
And, that’s why I think J and L will make it, ultimately, but C and her dream won’t. J and L see each other for who they are and value that. Not in spite of their short-comings or flaws, but because of them. Because they can see that most glorious thing in each other, a friend. Someone they look forward to spending time with, but are not consumed by. Now, I would imagine that, being newlyweds, they have to work a bit at the not being consumed. It’s tricky to find that balance between being a couple and being individuals and I admire the work that they put into doing that.

I’m thankful that I know them and can see the relationship they’re still developing. I’m honored that they invite me into a part of that world they’ve created together. They’re far from perfect, but, without realizing it, I think they’ve become the model after which I hope to build my own future relationship, or relationships. (Hey, I’m a realist! For me, there’ll probably be more than one before I find a good fit. I’m an acquired taste!) They give me hope that things can work out differently in my future than they did in my past.

That quote at the beginning, by the way, was something I was going to say at J and L’s wedding, in the toast that I didn’t get to make because I was in the hospital.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."
   --Lady Dorothy Nevill

“Look! It’s Wayne Newton!”

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Red Herrings,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

And other things to say that will distract your opponent.

So, every once in awhile, I get involved in a deep, heated, technical discussion with another high-grade geek. Often, right in the middle of the argument, one of us will realize that we’re dead wrong and have no way to get out of the situation unscathed. Well, now, thanks to Pigdog Journal, I present you with Things To Say When You’re Loosing A Technical Argument.
Most of them are more effective than, “Look! It’s Wayne Newton!”, but that’s still my favorite.


Ownership and Personal Computer Security

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:40 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Oh, I’ll never learn.

So, I read a lot of blogs. Not a big surprise, really, all things considered. One of the blogs I track is the Houston Chronicle’s TechBlog. Recently, they ran a post titled “Spy on your spouse’s online habits, go to jail“. Now, as a currently unmarried person, you may think I don’t have a dog in that fight, but, well, I kind of do. Allow me to explain.

See, about three years ago, my now ex-wife was cheating on me with her latest husband. (in fact, tomorrow, it will be three years to the day that I told her I “knew” what was going on and she bolted rather than face up to any problems we were having.) I was tempted to install spyware, or do other kinds of traces, on her communications. And, I think I would have been within my legal rights, since the computer was in my house and, technically, shared property. Now, I’m not a lawyer, obviously, but as part of my job, I do have to be fairly up to date on legal issues regarding computer security.
It’s unclear from the article whether or not the man in Austin who got four years for installing spyware on his wife’s computer had physical possession of the PC in question, but I’d imagine not. Now, I got confirmation of my suspicions by reading a raw mail file on a server I rented space on. The account was one I paid for, but my ex-wife foolishly used to tell nasty lies about me. (And, yes, also some uncomfortable truths, but they were mostly obscured by the rather outrageous lies.) At the time, my lawyer’s office agreed with me that it seemed like I was legally in the clear when I read the e-mail file. Though we didn’t actually have to test the law, in general, I would have been considered the rightful owner of the file in question, ergo, I had the right to read it.  And, ownership, to me, is the issue.  If I own the computer in question, don’t I have the right to install software on it that captures information?  In that situation, in a private residence, who has the right to expect privacy when using that machine?
In any case, I made comment and then, later, read some other comments on the post.
One person made some rather sweeping generalizations with which, naturally, I disagreed. A small, tepid debate ensued. The other commenter made comments about legality in an absolute sense, as in “…it is illegal to crack a password of another adult, for any reason, no matter where the software comes from – the guy is going to do 4 years in jail?” And, therein lies the rub. It’s NOT illegal to crack a password of another adult “for any reason”. There are, in fact, many legal reasons I’ve cracked passwords at work. For one, someone illegally locked files with a password to hold a company hostage. The company in question clearly had ownership of the password-locked files, but there was no way to recover the file without cracking the password. There are other examples, but any time someone starts talking in absolutes about the law, I know they’ve had no real experience with actual legal matters. A good lawyer can argue for a lot of exceptions to any law and, if they’re good enough, win. The fact that this guy is going to jail means that his lawyer couldn’t do that, if he even had anything more than a public defender. That’s all.
And, to me, the real question here is one of ownership. If I own the computer, I can install software on it to make sure it is being used the way I see fit. On the other hand, there is the question of a user’s expectation to privacy. If the user on the computer I own expects a certain level of privacy, for whatever reason, and hasn’t been informed otherwise… Well, let’s just say the law gets a little hazy at this point. Really, in most things legal, there just aren’t any absolutes. Ask a lawyer, they’ll pretty well tell you the same thing.
The other points that the commenter made about raising children and marital affairs leads me to believe that he is simply inexperienced or naive. When he wrote, “I guess how you raise your kids is your choice, unfortunately. None of mine have ever been in any trouble whatsoever so I will keep my ways going…”, it never occurred to him that his kids might be in trouble, but he hasn’t found out yet. Same thing about the state of his marriage.
Again, I’m not saying I’ve got the only answer, just that there isn’t any absolute answer to this whole issue. What’s more, he falls into the fallacy of ascribing meaning and intent to my disagreement that was not there. When he said that the better way to check up on your possibly cheating spouse was to have them followed by an “ex-cop”, I disagreed. Strongly. Being an ex-cop does not guarantee any level of success in trailing and catching a cheating spouse. And, while “pictures speak louder than words”, often, words from incriminating e-mail speak loudly enough.

Naturally, I don’t advocate breaking the law, but there’s a lot of question about where that threshold is in the digital world. And, simply trusting everyone you have a relationship with is, well, naive at best.

But, all that aside, I wrote this here because I had something left to say, but didn’t see the point of continuing the “discussion” over there.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'.
   --from "The Shawshank Redemption


IT Certifications and Local Outlooks

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Geek Work,Linux — 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 Gibbous

Two great tastes that taste great together.

It’s that magic time of year again, when I think about career paths and long-term goals and what I need to do to meet them. For IT geeks like me, that often means training and certification. They’re not the same thing, incidentally. Sometimes, I think IT staff forget that. I’ve taken far more training courses than I’m certified in! But, since getting the right certifications can help get you past the gatekeepers in HR, they are important. And, even more important is getting the right one. So, here are the Top Ten Hottest Certifications for 2008, according to TechRepublic:

1. MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional)
2. CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate)
3. MCPD (Microsoft Certified Professional Developer)
4. SCJP (SUN Certified Java Programmer)
5. CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
6. Comptia A+
7. Comptia Network +
8. MCTS SQL Server 2005 (The Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist)
9. RHCE (Red Hat Certified Engineer)
10. Comptia Security+

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many CompTIA certifications in that list. Why? Well, in part because I have one already, the CompTIA Linux+, but also because I’d been planning on doing another one which is on the list, CompTIA Security+. The other reason I really like the CompTIA certs is because once you certify, you never have to take the test again to maintain your cert. Trust me, that’s a big, big deal to someone with a bunch of certifications!

The other thing that I was looking at the other day was the Dice.com Third Quarter IT Local Market Reports. These look at the hiring and general employment trends that DICE has seen over the financial quarter. You can probably find your major metropolitan area in there, or one close. I’m not sure how the whole country is doing, but, I’m pretty pleased with how things look in Houston. Always nice to know that there are jobs out there, just in case.

Anyway, I hope this helps some of my fellow geeks plan out their personal and professional goals for the next year. And, folks, if you haven’t been planning, why not?


Review: Time Management for System Administrators

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Career Archive,Geek Work,Life Goals,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 8:54 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Wish I’d found this sooner.

No, really, I wish I’d found and read Time Management for System Administrators a long, long time ago. This book was great! Some of the techniques in the book I already do, but I had to learn them the hard way. But, there were many more things that I either had never thought of, or hadn’t thought of in the context of time management or improving my personal efficiency.

For instance, I’ve used ToDo lists in the past, in fact, I’d started using one again recently. But, I’ve never looked at using them the way the author, Thomas Limoncelli, suggests using them in Chapter Five: The Cycle. The idea, in short, is to manage everything on your ToDo list today by either doing it, delegating it, or moving it to tomorrow’s ToDo list. No matter what you do with it, it gets managed and everything on today’s ToDo list gets dealt with, one way or another.
Another theme that Limoncelli harped on was, whichever way you choose to keep track of tasks and ToDo lists, it has to be a way that you keep with you. Either you learn to carry your organizer with you everywhere, or you have to adapt something that you do carry with you to hold the information you need. In my case, I decided to use the organizer functions on my cell phone. So far, that’s been working well for me.
After reading this book, I was also inspired to document my workstation imaging system in much more detail. Now, I have the start of documentation that can, essentially, replace me. This particular document is now detailed enough that just about anyone with a little experience on computers can setup our standard workstation with all the programs installed already. This way, if I ever end up in the hospital again, someone else can keep making workstations. I’ll do some more documentation of this kind and write some policies, too. In a couple of weeks, or months, I’ll have a fairly complete set of IT documentation for this company and I can customize it for any place I might work again. (And, yes, I might post some of it here for you all to steal.)
As part of that documentation, I started a network diagram. I had started this before using an old copy of Visio, but that wasn’t working too well. I got all obsessed with making the autodiscovery function work just right, and it wasn’t, but until I read what Limoncelli had to say about the value of a quick, simple network diagram that isn’t obsessively correct. After that, I grabbed a copy of Network Notepad, a freeware network diagram tool, and all the extra libraries. Then I spent a quick couple of hours getting used to the way Network Notepad works and creating the simple diagram. After using it a bit, I decided I really like it. It has some nice features, so it’s worth checking out. And, I’m going to use it to diagram my home network, too.
I’m still working on formalizing my life goals and implementing the stuff from the stress fighting chapter, but I am getting there. It was very much the right book at the right time for me. But, I do have to admit, if I’d found it sooner in my career, I might be doing better today than I am. Well, maybe not, but I’m glad I read it now.

If you’re a system administrator, no matter if it’s on a Windows network or Unix, or whatever, or, if you work on an IT helpdesk of any kind, get this book, read it and put it to use. NOW.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."
   --Lady Dorothy Nevill


New Citizenship Test

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:19 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Probably a good thing none of us have to pass it.

Apparently, they’ve updated the test that people applying for United States citizenship have to pass. Now, the question is, how many of us who were born U.S. Citizens can pass it?

Why not take the sample test and see for yourself?

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