Diary of a Network Geek

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


Boys Do Care

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,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 5:58 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Boys really do care about more than sex.

Well, at least some boys and at least some of the time. That is, if you believe this article over at Brand Noise. And, they link to a study that backs all that up.

See, ladies? We’re really not all that bad.

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Book Addict

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:49 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I am a book addict.

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” –Desiderius Erasmus

Sometimes, I use that quote as my e-mail signature file.  When I first read that quote, it resonated with me at a deep, deep level.  I think I have books in every room of my house.  I love books.  Fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter really.  I have to admit, I haven’t read at least a third of them.  And, probably, of those, I’ll only get around to 80% eventually.  But, that honestly doesn’t bother me.  Some of those books are for reference.  Some, I have for a single page of information or a single photograph or image.

I have a sixty-page wishlist at Amazon.com.  And, that’s after culling out the deadwood and a recent book buying binge.  Mostly, these are books that I’d love to have, one day.  Possibly for one of the many “projects” that float around in my head for years, sometimes never even coming to fruition.  But, sometimes, they’re just there because they’re interesting.  Right now, I have even more in my Amazon shopping cart.  A reward to myself teasing me along in both my writing and my work on my home office.  The carrot that offsets my own inner proverbial stick.

I love the smell of new books.  That pulpy, inky fresh smell of a book that hasn’t been read yet.  I like the weight of them in my hand.  The cool feel of a slick paperback or the firm authority of a weighty hardback.
And, always, their words whisper to me, like a seductive woman taunting me with secrets which only I can discover.  Technical information, style advice, fiction, humor…  They’re all the same to me.  I let my mood dictate my next subject and commit to it for the duration.  Once I reach that point of no return, I follow it through to the end.  Just like a seductive woman.

Hey, it beats jonesing for a cigarette!


On Faith

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:19 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

What do I believe?

Every once in a while, someone questions my faith.
“Have you found Jesus?”
               “Was he lost?”
“Have you been saved?”
               “From what?”

I know it’s not nice to play with the door-to-door savior salesmen, but, sometimes, I just can’t help myself. The truth is, it sort of depends on the day and how bad my week is going. Some days, it’s easy to believe in all sorts of things, to have faith in the world and the general goodness of mankind. Some days, not so much. I always want to have something incredibly cynical and sarcastic and witty to say to people who ask me about my faith. Something to deflect the question and invite the questioner to go away.

I believe in the soul, the small of a woman’s back, high fiber, the hanging curveball, good Scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are overrated, self-indulgent pieces of crap. I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, wet kisses that last three days. Good-night.

– the “What do you believe?” Speech from Bull Durham.

That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. You know, a stock speech that I have memorized and can fire out at someone foolish enough to ask a guy like me that kind of question. But, the questions always come when I’m philosophically flat-footed and emotionally tired.
Look, the thing is, I believe that there is a God. A being so big and vast and powerful and beyond my little, tiny mind that even trying to name Him is foolish and arrogant. That I can believe in, no problem. I can believe in the fact that He created the Universe and established the Laws we call science. Sometimes, I’m a little shaky on the whole “sacrificed his only begotten Son” and all that redemption that comes with that, though. I have a hard time believing that a being so huge could care about such an insignificant fly-speck as me. And, that whole concept of “grace”, well… Far easier for me to buy into a God of fire and brimstone who’ll punish me for being bad, than to believe in a loving, caring God who only wants what’s truly best for me.

Still, that is what my faith challenges me to do. Not to forgive others, but, rather, to forgive myself. To forgive the failings that only I see and to have the faith that God has already redeemed my soul, no matter how far I may have strayed in the past. I’ve come too far and seen too many miracles to doubt that it’s possible.
My challenge, then, is to have faith that He has saved, not just my neighbor, but me.


Living off a USB drive

Filed under: Apple,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,MicroSoft,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

There’s something about this that appeals to me.

When I was fresh out of college, I won a trip to Long Beach with a bunch of amenities. A buddy of mine and I went, since we were both single, and enjoyed ourselves, in spite of the worst rainy season the greater L.A. area has seen in more than 20 years. I mean, roads would shut down after we’d use them, forcing us to find another way back to the hotel and I think we only two days of sun. The day we arrived and the day we left.
But, what I remember most was a t-shirt I saw at a tourist shop on Catalina. It was a Parrothead shirt that had the lyric “I used to rule my world from a payphone” on the back, with a nice, relaxing picture of a hammock between two palm trees. The idea of being so unattached, free and mobile really appealed to me, but, alas, it’s a life I’ve never known.

Now, what does that have to do with a USB drive? Well, thanks to Lifehacker, more than you’d think. Have you ever thought about how nice it might be to travel with all your information and favorite applications, but leave your laptop behind? Yep, free and easy living. All you need is a good-sized USB thumb drive and three articles: Top 10 USB Thumb Drive Tricks , Carry Your Life On A Thumb Drive and Tiny USB Office (via LifeHacker). That’s it. Your key to carrying your life in your pocket. Well, your digital life, at any rate.

And, before you write this off, I know a guy who did just what they describe. He loaded everything that mattered to him on a thumb drive and had no computer at all for more than a year. Of course, now, he has a MacBook, so you can take that with a grain of salt. But, also, according to ZDNet, Microsoft is coming out with a product to help you do all this via their suite of programs and operating systems called “StartKey“. You know when Microsoft gets behind an idea, you’ll see it implemented, one way or another.
So, do you all think you could do it? Could you make the switch?


No New PCs

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Linux,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I think I may not ever buy a new PC again.

Notice, I didn’t write that I’d never buy another computer, but, rather not another PC. Hear me out. With prices the way they are, laptops are so cheap that I could easily find one in whatever price range that I might set for myself, within reason. I mean, MicroCenter always has laptops in their sale fliers. Not to mention every one else who sells them. And, what’s more, in recent years, laptops have come configured to replace similarly priced PCs from the year previous. Now, I know you’d think that a super-powered IT geek like me would be working on the latest, greatest hardware at work and at home, but, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s just not so. Everyone else gets new equipment before I do. I end up working on last year’s model, at best! And, upgrades? Forget about it! The last time I did an upgrade of any value, I might as well have just gotten a new PC anyway. Besides, now I have a LinkStation Live 500Mb Network Attached Storage device to use as a backup before upgrading, so I shouldn’t have to worry about losing data. In fact, I should be able to use this little toy to backup my servers, my workstations, my router configurations and even my one Linux laptop.

So, to recap, the only things I really upgrade on a machine are memory and diskspace. Laptops, which are adequately configured most of the time anyway, are priced well enough to be affordable and can easily take my normal, preferred upgrades. Laptops take up less space and are, obviously, more portable in case of emergency, but still can handle all my peripherals, thanks to USB. And, furthermore, I can still get laptops that have docking stations, if I want to have them hooked up to a monitor, keyboard and mouse most of the time.

Pretty much, I can’t see a reason to buy a regular PC ever again. If I need something special, like a server or a firewall, I can get a specially configured machine, or build one myself specifically for that purpose.
So, what do you all think, is the desktop dead?

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"If someone keeps having things go wrong, try out the assumption that it's because that someone wants them to go wrong."
   --George Scithers


Squeezing Creative Time In

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life Goals,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

The biggest excuse that “wannabe” writers give for not writing is that they don’t have the time.

“Q) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?

A) I do most of my writing during my lunch breaks at work. Typically, a few minutes are spent actually eating, and then there are a few minutes of stalling and procrastinating before I dig in and start typing. 50 minutes or so isn’t a lot, but I’ve found I can do about 5000 words in a good week, which allows me to write a book every year in addition to some short fiction.”

– from Wyrdsmiths; Q&A with Jim Hines–Goblin War So, um,yeah, an hour a day really is all it takes, if you really want to write. Really. So, uh, guess what? Yeah, that means no more excuses…

Also, I recently purchased a book titled Time To Write, with the intention of finding ways to make regular writing part of my normal weekly routine.  Well, writing beyond this blog, that is!

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"My obligation is to do the right thing. The rest is in God's hands."
   --Martin Luther King


Disease of the Rich

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is in the early afternoon or 2:04 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Ennui is a disease of the rich.

I heard, or read, sometime, somewhere, that the poor are too busy to feel ennui.  If that’s true, then I must be quite wealthy indeed.  I don’t know what’s going on, but I just feel a general lack of passion for, well, for pretty much anything right now.  Just sort of empty, hollow and disconnected from everything that means anything.  I suppose, if I were more concerned about day-to-day living, I’d have less time to be bored with, as the French say, the pain that is life.
The funny thing is, like the French, when I get this way, I crave cigarettes.

Should I feel sad that I haven’t indulged in a smoke while still suffering the disease of the rich?
Or, should I be happy that life is going so well that this is my biggest problem?

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing."
   --Elbert Hubbard


Daily Mugshot

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:17 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Doing the 365 thing at Flickr?

Well, this might not be the only thing you use to make some of that happen, but according to this article at ReadWrite, Daily Mugshot might help. The article talks about a site that has a set of free tools that will help you take a daily picture of yourself, to track the continual change in your outward appearance.
I may do this, just to track the changes in my face this year as I try to loose that post-chemotherapy weight that I’ve gained.

The “inside” changes are all on you.


Look and Feel

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:02 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, now that I’ve gotten a little more used to the inside of the new WordPress, I’m probably going to make some changes to the part that you all see.  I’ll probably play around with the theme here, and on my other blogs, for the next couple of days.  I might not add or change much, but, then again, WordPress has added some cool new features since I upgraded last, so I might end up making some pretty significant changes, too.  In any case, don’t be alarmed if you see bits and pieces of the blog appear and disappear, or colors change or anything like that.  It’s just all part of Uncle Jim’s Master Plan for World Domination, aka Diary of a Network Geek Spring Cleaning/Remodeling.

I’ll let you know when I’m done, too.  Then, probably have you all vote on it.  Or something.


What’s on your monitor?

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:59 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

What do you run on your monitor server?

Do you think you’re too small to run a monitoring server? Well, I have two local servers, a remote web server and a remote e-mail server that I’m in charge of worrying about and I run a monitoring server. It’s not much of a server, really, just an old workstation to which I added a bunch of spare memory and a large, clean hard drive. Naturally, I run Linux on my monitoring server, which, ironically enough, I named Monitor. Specifically, Monitor runs Red Hat Fedora.

Monitor runs Nagios, which I’ve mentioned before. With Nagios, I monitor both my main file server and my accounting SQL server. I also watch the off-site web server and the SMTP and POP3 e-mail services on the managed e-mail server we have through our ISP, just to make sure they’re up and running. (It’s a long story on why we have that, but, rather than run my own, to reduce hassle, headache and potential disaster, I let someone else worry about it.) Nagios tells me the status of drive space, the memory usage, the CPU usage and uptime on both servers. On the accounting SQL server, it verifies that the SQL service is available and that users can log into it. On the file server, it tells me the status of the Backupexec modules. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out a way to get Nagios to tell me more than the running status of Backupexec, but, in my spare time, I still try to find a way to have it report the status of the last backup or restore job run. No joy yet, but I keep trying.

I also have a browser window open to the SolarWinds installation at our ISP. They monitor inbound and outbound traffic over the Internet connection we have. Usually, I keep a window open on the standard “interface details” reports which update regularly. Most of the time, I also open a window to the weekly history report on the min/max/average packets in and out. I have to update that manually, but it lets me quickly compare today’s traffic to network traffic for the past week. It’s nice to see those trends!
Lately, I’ve been keeping a browser window open to the national weather forecast, by hour, for our local area. In hurricane country, keeping track of the weather can be vitally important! But, if you live in snow country, the same thing would probably be true, too. I don’t recall heavy snow causing an outage during my time up North, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Finally, I almost always have Wireshark running a packet capture, too. If I see a sudden spike in traffic, having a packet capture already running could make a big difference. I have that capture set to save files locally, too, just in case. I’ve been setting the capture to rotate nine files and to keep the files at seven megabytes each. That should give me a pretty good spread of captured network data if I ever need to go back and diagnose a traffic problem. And, since the machine is actually kind of stinky hardware and crashes on occasion, when I restart the packet capture, I rename the base file using the current date. That way, I can tell at a glance when the capture was started.

One day, I’d like to move this all to another machine that’s more stable, faster and has more drive space, but, until then, this works. It’s only on the private network, so I can’t look at it directly from the Internet, but, it still does enough for me. One of these days, I’ll look into some of Nagios’ data presentation modules and teach this old dog a few new tricks, like automated uptime reports and that kind of thing.

Hopefully, that hasn’t bored too many of my non-geek readers. And, I hope it’s given my geek readers something to think about. So, tell me in the comments, if you have a monitoring server/station/whatever, what does it run? If you don’t have one, why not?

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