Diary of a Network Geek

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


Securing Your WiFi

Filed under: Geek Work,The Dark Side,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:59 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

At least, as much as you can secure anything.

Some time back, I pointed you all toward an article about extending your wireless connection. Some of you expressed concern regarding security in relation to wireless connections in general and, specifically, after expanding the range of your wifi router. So, I thought I should get you all some links on how to batten down the hatches, so to speak.
I do think it’s important, though, to say a little something about security in general first.
Nothing is totally secure. If a computer is on a network, it can be compromised eventually, given enough time and money. Security is a matter of degrees, of balancing ease-of-use with peace-of-mind. And, while having wifi makes mobile communication easy, it is, by it’s very nature, insecure. Anything that broadcasts over an unsecured medium can only be so secure, you know? So, I think it’s important as you look at the links below to keep in mind that a determined attacker is going to get into your wifi network, no matter what you do. And, personally, I am more than a little paranoid, so there are just some things I wouldn’t do over a wireless network.

Okay, so, without further ado, here are the links:
First, if you don’t mind the pop-ups on About.com, here are Ten Tips for Securing Your Home WiFi Network. They’re not bad, but, really, some of them aren’t all that secure. Or, rather, they just give a somewhat inflated sense of security. Still, they’re better than nothing.
Better than those tips, though, is the Lifehacker Guide to Setting Up a Wireless Home Network. This takes you through setting up a wifi router and network from scratch and gives you fairly good tips about securing it along the way. (But, make sure to follow the link to their article ToDo – Secure Your Wireless Home Network!) Better still, follow the article at Ars Technica titled The ABCs of Securing Your Wireless Network.
Freakishly, Microsoft, who’s not known for their security practices, has an article about making Windows XP wireless a little more secure. If you run XP, it’s worth a look.
And, finally, for those of you with a little extra time, some spare computer resources, and a high level of paranoia, read the Step-by-Step Guide at SearchWindowsSecurity.com titled How To Create A VPN For Your Wireless Network. (Or, if you’d rather download a printable PDF, check out TechRepublic’s A Secure Wireless LAN Hotspot For Anonymous Users. It’s another way to do the same thing.) Frankly, it doesn’t get much more secure than that!

Hopefully, that gives all those curious minds out there enough to chew on to keep you off the streets at night!


I am still not just a geek…

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,PERL,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:32 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I am, however, a Level 5 Perl Monk.

Monday, I was informed that I had gained enough experience to be granted the status of Beadle, or Level 5, on PerlMonks.org as of Monday morning. Now, this may not mean much to you non-geeks, but for Perl geeks this is really something. Granted, it’s not as impressive as getting that rank in a week or getting all the way up to Level 13, which gets you listed on the “Saints in Our Book” node, but it does represent a certain achievement in my book.

And, yes, I will still be working toward higher levels. ‘Cause that’s just the kind of geek I am.


Review: Prince Caspian

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life Goals,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:57 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Friday night.

First of all, let me say that this was as good as or better than the first Chronicles of Narnia movie. Also, I read the books when I was a kid, but I haven’t read them again since. I do remember some of the books, but, most importantly, I recall that I enjoyed the books quite a bit at the time.

This movie was about the four “Sons and Daughters of Adam” of legend, and from the first movie, coming back to find a very different Narnia than they left. Naturally, as we found out in the first movie, time moves quite a bit differently in Narnia than it does in our world, so when Lucy and Susan and Edmund and Peter go back, they’ve become ancient history. The kingdom they built with Aslan has fallen to a foreign invader. They’ve ruled for more than ten generations, driving the Narnians into hiding, after trying to kill all the former subjects of Narnia, that is. So, as you can see, there may be a bit of tension between these two factions. Now, picture if you will, a prince who’s been taught all the old stories and has a very different view of his people’s ancient enemy. And, there, in a nutshell, is the central conflict of the movie. Prince Caspian fighting his own people to bring about an age of peace and prosperity between traditional enemies.

Now, as I generally do on this blog, to keep from ruining the movie for you, I’ll stop here lest I accidentally fire off a spoiler. I will say this, though, the movie was great. Also, to a Christian and a writer, there were quite a few very obvious references to not only the Bible but many ideas central to Christian theology. The idea that we must come to God through faith and that He cannot be truly proven or disproven, but can only be found via faith, for instance. And, that God’s way may not be the most obvious way or even the simplest, most straight-forward way to do things. And, of course, all the images that are echoes of Biblical stories and images which run through the movie are far too numerous for me to count. But, I don’t think that a non-Christian would be put off by any of this, as it’s presented in such a non-intrusive way that they’d probably never even notice.

All in all, this was a great movie, with a good plot and excellent production values. Well worth seeing and, even seeing again.


Towel Day

Filed under: Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Don’t panic, but, today is Towel Day.


“I am not a geek…

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:01 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

…I am a level 15 Paladin!”

Actually, I never played paladins when I was a D&D freak. I played magic-users, illusionists, druids and thieves. I was better at thieves, but, since a friend really had a thing for thieves, and I could play a better magic-user than just about anyone else in our group, especially at low-levels, that was what I played most often. Where am I going with this? Wired has a sneak-preview of a character sheet from the latest version of Dungeons & Dragons, a Level 15 Paladin. Naturally!

While I’m not so sure about version FOUR of D&D (must not buy $150+ of game books! Argh!), the “I am not a geek…” t-shirt is available from Jinx, though I like the skeleton logo one better.

How to pick someone up in a coffee shop

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:21 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Okay, that’s not what the article is called, but it might as well be.

Some time back, MSN ran an article called The Art of the Pickup, which was all about how to hit on someone in a coffee shop.  And, now you all have it, just in time for the weekend.

Happy hunting!


What Next?

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Linux,PERL,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:34 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Life is about passion.

Tomorrow, there will be a post that links to an article about meeting someone in a coffee shop. No, I haven’t met someone! Rather, it’s an article about how to meet someone. I tend to associate that sort of thing with passion. The passion of need, of possession. Of two becoming one. But, I have to be honest, my idea of passion has always included more than that.

Okay, sure, you’re thinking “Hey, a divorced, middle-aged, white guy who makes a living by being geekier than the average geek survives cancer and thinks he’s suddenly qualified to ramble on about passion”, right? Well, it’s not that. I’ve been hurting for something to be passionate about since the sixth grade. Oh, I get obsessed with things, sure. Some small, obscure subject will fascinate me for a few weeks or months and I’ll go through a cycle of knowing as much as I can about whatever it is before it bores me and it becomes something that gathers metaphorical dust in the attic of my mind, if I’m lucky. If I’m not lucky, it gathers actual dust on my coffee table. This is how I account for my owning both the complete, original John Byrne run of Alpha Flight, the collected Prisoner, the Dune Encyclopedia and Space: Above and Beyond. It’s also how I learned Perl and Linux and wrote plugins for WordPress. That same cycle is how I learned about survival, security, self-defense, koi, philosophy, and just about anything else interesting that I know. But, none of it really lasts. It’s just a flash of white-hot passion, then it’s gone.

What I long for, what I’ve always longed for, is something that makes me feel passionate forever. And, yes, I thought I had that when I was married, but, well, it turned out that passion was misplaced. So, now I wonder if all of it was misplaced. If it was all a useless, empty quest to find passion that is impossible to grasp. Before I met my ex-wife, I felt that passion about my work, but, after losing a job that was my life, I discovered work was just a job. So, now, I’m left searching, seeking, hunting that elusive passion which seems so slippery.

So, in spite of what you’ll read in this space tomorrow, I don’t ever want to sink all that passion into a person, of either sex, again.  And, any thing or activity that I allow myself to be passionate about again will have to be something that can’t be taken away from me.  Work comes and goes.
But writing…  Well, if I were to lose this blog, this laptop that I’m writing from, I could still write.  A cheap notebook and stub of a pencil stolen from Ikea is enough.  The words, the hammering out of the words, sentences, paragraphs, that takes no special tools, only, well, the passion.  So, too, God.  Even fewer tools to seek God.  I can find His presence anywhere, anytime.  Again, what matters is the passion for the spiritual connection, the seeking God’s presence.  But, how?  What to write?  How to find God?  What step to take next?

Who knows?  I suppose I’ll find out if I keep after it, that search for passion.  So, dear readers, what makes you light up with that passion for living?  What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"If it falls to your lot to be a dishwasher, wash like Michaelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music... wash so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, 'There lived a great dishwasher who did his job well.'"
   --Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Review: Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:47 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I got a free review copy of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine last week.

F&SF Mag, as I will refer to them for the rest of this post, had a deal which I was lucky enough to get in on. They offered a free review copy of their July issue for bloggers who would be willing to review that issue and, well, blog about it. They kept up their end of the deal, so, now, I’m keeping up my end.

F&SF Mag is, in general, fabulous. The July issue will be no exception. Now, I haven’t read all of it yet, but what I have read lives up to the already high standard that they have set for as long as I can remember.
In this issue, you’ll find one novella, two novelets, three short stories and all their regular columns. The novella is The Roberts by Michael Blumlein. The novelets are Fullbrim’s Finding by Matthew Hughes and Poison Victory by Albert E. Cowdrey. The three short stories are Reader’s Guide by Lisa Goldstein, Enfant Terrible by Scott Dalrymple and The Dinosaur Train by James L. Cambias. Now, I haven’t heard of any of these authors, but, frankly, that doesn’t mean much as I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction the past several years. Also, they may be short-form stars, but, honestly, there just aren’t that many venues available to showcase fantasy and science fiction short work any more. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to get this magazine and why I’ve bought it regularly in the past.

I read Reader’s Guide by Lisa Goldstein, Enfant Terrible by Scott Dalrymple and The Dinosaur Train by James L. Cambias, but I plan to read the longer work, too, eventually.
Reader’s Guide is a story about a kind of librarian in a special kind of library filled with potential books, as well as books that have already been written. The story follows the protagonist through a transformation to a new, deeper understanding of the library and the people who haunt it. But, to tell you more than that would, I think, ruin the story.
I also read Enfant Terrible by Scott Dalrymple. This story was about a very special little boy and his somewhat symbiotic relationship with another life. Again, to say more would ruin the story and, as this story is better than the last, I’d hate to diminish your pleasure in reading it.
The third, and best, story I read was The Dinosaur Train by James L. Cambias. I wouldn’t be surprised if this author ends up being an award winner in the near future. The Dinosaur Train was about a family who own and operate a dinosaur circus. Sadly, the circus has seen better times and, what’s worse, their main attraction, a huge sauropod, is sick. The plot is driven by both this, and the conflicts within the family. It is, as I already mentioned, the best story of the bunch. I look forward to reading more from this author. And, I must admit, I may have had a bit of deeper resonance with this story due to my own family’s history in the circus business.

The short story, indeed, all short fiction, is a very different art than the epic-length novel. Sadly, it seems to be a dying art. There are fewer and fewer venues that we might find this form and, thankfully, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine shows that form in my favorite genre very well. I’m glad that they seem to still be doing so well. If it’s been some time since you’ve looked at magazines with short fiction, I highly recommend getting the next issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine. It’s worth every penny and then some!

Oh, and if you’re interested in getting a subscription to Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, they have a special offer for bloggers who did a review. Just click this link!


Open Office Extensions

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:52 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I love OpenSource software.

I especially love it when it’s free. I love free extensions for OpenSource software I use on a regular basis, too. Microsoft Office isn’t the only game in town and people do develop for OpenOffice.

If you haven’t yet, check them out.


Ants, on the march!

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Dog and Pony Shows,Fun,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:10 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Okay, so this is really a local news item, but I think it’s still noteworthy.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who lives here that Houston has an ant problem. However, what may come as a surprise is just how bad it is and why. According to Wired and Yahoo! News, we’re being over run with the “crazy strawberry ant”, which is much worse than their cute name would imply. Now, the good news is that they kill fire ants, which are a plague of the worst order, but the bad news is these crazy strawberry ants love to foul electronics. Also, they’re resistant to current chemicals that kill them and they have multiple queens in a single nest, making them doubly hard to kill.

Luckily, there is an adorable solution to the entire mess: the South American tamandua. I don’t care if they cost $4500 or more. I want one!

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