Diary of a Network Geek

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


Da’ Crusher

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:37 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

In this case, it’s a hard drive crusher.

Once upon a time, I was in charge of a networking department who’s responsibilities included backups and disposal of old tapes and drives. We had to do all kinds of crazy things to assure the Board of Directors that the data had been completely and safely removed from those drives before we could get rid of them. At one point, a tech was actually drilling through backup tapes with an electric drill to make sure they were destroyed.
The Hard Drive Crusher from EDR would have been an easy sell.

And, if we’d gotten it? Techs would have been fighting for the privilege to destroy old backups.

Oh, and don’t forget to vote in the poll!


Looking for New Music

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Art,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 5:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Okay, so I’m tragically unhip and I know it.

But, that’s no reason for my music to be sad, old, and uncool. So, I know many of my readers are far more with it than I am and I’m looking to you all for suggestions to give my iPod an injection of cool music mojo. And, ladies, I’m especially counting on you all to help this poor white boy find something to shake it to that will at least impress your kind with my brilliant musical taste. Also, I’ve just gotten bored with the CDs I’ve got in my car and on my shelf and I’ve got a huge cart at Amazon.com that I want to throw some music into before I checkout.  So, something new and hip and, preferably, indie, okay?

Just in case you’re not clear, the Rolling Stones are not what I had in mind.
The poll is live and in the sidebar to the right, so vote!


Cool Freemasons?

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,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 5:37 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I am a Freemason.

I am also tragically unhip and I know it. I love my Masonic Brothers, but, honestly, I’ve never met one that is any less un-cool than I am. Well, thankfully, that may be changing, according to an article in the Boston Herald. Apparently, at least one Lodge there is attracting a slightly different kind of Brother: punk rock musicians. Now, keep in mind that the only requirements for membership is that a candidate be male, an adult (ie. usually over 18 or 21, depending on the jurisdiction), “free-born”, of “good report” (ie. not convicted of a felony and vouched for by a Brother), and have a belief in a “supreme being”. So, basically, a man who, theoretically, can make his own decisions and believes in a single deity. So, as long as they’re basically upstanding guys, who are willing to follow the rules of Freemasonry, we’re a pretty open group. Really. Not trying to take over the world at all. Honest. I promise.

Seriously, most of the Brothers I know can barely remember the punch line to a good joke, so you can pretty much forget the whole world-domination thing.
Here’s what the guys in the article had to say about it:

“It’s kind of like a history class that no one else can take,” said Dave Norton, drummer for Victory at Sea and The Men. He believes his membership in the fraternal organization will be especially rewarding when he tours Europe later this year.


Gary Robley, drummer for Dashboard Jesus and J. Geils cover band Blow Your Face Out, said he joined because his father was a Mason, as are many of his friends.
“There were a bunch of musicians I knew in it,” Robley said. “It was kind of a brotherhood. Musicians have always been a part of Masonry since its inception.”

Anyway, it struck me as both funny and cool that Lodge as I remember it is changing. When I was active, there was a lot of talk about how the Fraternity was hurting for members because new guys weren’t joining. Well, maybe the is the start of a cool new trend.
And, maybe, it’s about time I started looking for a local Lodge.


USPS Barcodes in OpenOffice

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,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 5:56 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

OpenOffice lacks one thing that I’ve always liked: barcodes.

Specifically, back when I was a WordPerfect user, I used to love the ability to address envelopes with the United States Postal Service ZIP Code barcodes. I know that it made letters less likely to get lost and more likely to get to their destination quickly. Also, I’ve known a few people who work for the US Postal Service and, from what I understand, letters with the barcodes are less likely to actually be touched by people. Their machines just suck the letters along and just about sort them into carrier’s bags.
Unfortunately, OpenOffice has not been able to indulge me in this minor joy. Until now.

Now, there are macros available, for free, to let you insert USPS-approved barcodes into your OpenOffice documents. The company who makes this available to you is IDAutomation.com and they have a webpage that describes the process for using the macros and has a link to the macros themselves.


Review: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:13 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Hellboy 2: The Golden Army on Saturday.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in this movie. I’d been anticipating it since it was announced and really looking forward to seeing more of the Hellboy franchise, but this turned out to be just another bland sequel.
I felt like the special effects were the entire point of the film. Well, that and all the merchandising opportunities. The director, Guillermo del Toro, who also directed the first Hellboy movie, was one of the writers on this script, and I think his influence shows. Sadly, that’s not a compliment. Del Toro is also well known for directing the brilliant Pan’s Labyrinth which featured bizarre and fanciful creatures as much as the story or cinematography. There are large sequences in Hellboy 2 that feel like they were included in the movie strictly to show off some strange creature or character that would make a good model or action figure to sell a fanboy. In fact, the entire plot device of a “goblin market” under the Brooklyn Bridge seems created for this purpose of having creatures resembling leftovers from Pan’s Labyrinth.

But, I’m getting just a little ahead of myself. The basic plot of this sad offering is that an ancient race of fairies who has been at war with humans make an unstoppable, mechanical army constructed of gold and magic. After a brutal war that shocked even the fey king, the crown that controlled the Golden Army was broken into three pieces, one of which was given to humans as part of a kind of non-aggression pact. Fast forward a few centuries and mankind has forgotten about this war and the Golden Army, but the prince of the fairies, Prince Nuada, played by Luke Goss, has not. What’s more, he wants to waken the Golden Army and break the peace with mankind, conquering them and returning his people to dominance over the Earth. So, yeah, end of the world, blah, blah, blah. Naturally, his sister, Princess Nuala, played by Anna Walton, stands in his way and runs into the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense in the form of Abe Sapien, played by Doug Jones, Hellboy, played by Ron Perlman, and Liz Sherman, played by Selma Blair. They protect her and hide her from her brother just long enough for her and Abe to fall in love. And, I mean just long enough. As soon as there’s just barely enough dialog to establish that Abe has fallen for Nuala, her brother arrives to try and get her piece of the crown and kidnap her. Talk about a worn out plot. Yawn. Then, of course, Hellboy is injured in such a way to force the team to go on a quest and well, save the world from the Prince and the Golden Army.

Nothing at all spectacular here, but in case you plan on going to a matinee, which is all this movie is worth, I’ll keep from revealing any other plot points, such as they are.
Really, considering that the first movie was so good and established these characters so well and clearly, I’d hoped for more from this film. I’m not sorry I saw it, but it’s not something I’d be all that interested in seeing again. Maybe there’s a director’s cut that has all the good parts in it or something, but, well… Well, it’s not a fantastic movie, but not the worst movie I’ve ever seen either. If you don’t think you have time to see this movie at a matinee, I can’t blame you and it might be worth seeing on video, but don’t bother to pay full price.


Say Hello to Brian

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is mid-afternoon or 3:35 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Brian Rothenberg of Wilco Computer Products is my new hero.

So, I’ve been having this issue at work with a FAX machine and a phone network. We’ve been wrestling with this for about six weeks. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the FAX machine we have is not playing well with the phone network since we joined our two PRIs together with some network equipment to “steal” unused bandwidth from the phone network for the data network. Mostly, it worked great. Mostly.
The problem is our FAX machine hasn’t been properly negotiating the connection speed with some older FAX machines since we added the VOIP component to our data/phone network. The result? I get yelled at on a regular basis because I can’t make a miracle happen.

My service provider told me that the solution is to make the default receive baud rate 14,400 instead of 33,600. That’s great, but I searched for days to find instructions for how to do it to no avail. I even got the people who supplied the FAX machine to us out to try and figure it out, but they came up empty.
Enter Brian. Brian Rothenberg called me looking to sell me computer equipment or printer supplies or, yes, FAX supplies. But, it turns out, he sells the devices, too. What mattered more to me, though, was that he took the time to go hunt down the super-secret service hot-line phone number for the manufacturer of the FAX machine that was giving me issues. Then, he called them and got the procedure on how to make the change and e-mailed it to me. Problem solved.
The next time I need a printer serviced, I’m calling Brian.

So, you know what? If you need someone in the Greater Houston Area that sells office equipment and supplies and goes the proverbial extra mile? Go to http://www.wilcocomputerproducts.com/ and ask for Brian. Tell him I sent you.
Thanks, Brian.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Everyone deserves to be happy, but not if that happiness is dependent on imprisoning or enslaving another human being."
   --Unintentionally ironic comment left on a blog

Version Control, for writers?

Filed under: Apple,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:36 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

What an interesting idea…

So, as many of my long-time readers know, I tend to straddle two worlds. By day, I’m a highly proficient, one-man, network-ninja death squad, but, by night, I’m a frustrated, hopeful writer who’s always looking for high-tech reasons to procrastinate. I think I may have found a project that bridges these two worlds in an article titled Subversion for Writers.

Subversion is a version control system which is primarily used by software developers to, well, track the version of their programming code. But, code is just specially formated text with very specific syntax and a really boring plot, so there’s no reason at all to not use it to track versions of a story or novel. And, in fact, that’s just what the author, Rachel Greenham, is proposing. I think it would be especially useful for novelists, since you could keep track of all the possible plot deviations and revert back to an earlier branch if things started to “go wrong”. In any case, it’s worth a look, even if you don’t use Linux or OS X, which is what she uses. (In fact, if you’d like to use Windows to do this, LifeHacker, who linked to her article, has a post with links to Windows clients for Subversion.)

Well, anyway, if you write a lot and are a geek like me and have some time to waste, it’s worth looking into, at the very least.


Nerf N-Strike Vulcan IN THE WILD!

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,News and Current Events,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:36 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Oh, my stars and garters!

Well, somehow, I missed the release date of the Nerf N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25. It was released on July 1and available via a number of online retailers, including Amazon. But, sadly, it’s already sold out! Yes, just nine days after becoming available the most awesome Nerf belt-fed machine gun ever dreamed of by geeks and, one supposes, children, everywhere has sold out.

Naturally, I added it to my wishlist.

Fedora on a USB Drive

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux — 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 a First Quarter Moon

If you think Fedora is just a hat, the rest of this may not matter to you…

However, if you recognize that the Fedora Project is the free version of RedHat Linux, you might be interested in this. With the latest version of Fedora, there was a little something tucked away in the wiki about making a “live” version of Fedora on a USB key. You can download this little application and use it to totally automate getting a live, bootable version of the latest Fedora on the USB key of your choosing with hardly any work at all.
If you’ve ever had any interest in carrying Linux around in your pocket, grab this and try it out!


Lawyers Telling Judges What to Think?!

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Certification,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:45 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

No, not really.

So, there’s obviously been quite a furor about this new law here in Texas that apparently requires anyone doing any kind of computer forensic work to get a Private Investigator’s License. Now, one of my favorite computer security bloggers, Security Monkey (aka The Chief) of A Day in the Life of an Information Security Investigator, has a blog entry about this. His sources in Texas have a different, more relaxed, take on this law. They seem to think that it’s only going to effect professionals doing investigative work for a third party. I think they’re wrong.
As at least one other commenter on A Day in the Life of a Computer Security Investigator pointed out, no matter what the lawyers think and say, only a judge sitting on a case can really interpret the law. And, only after that precedent is set can anyone say what the law covers and doesn’t.
Based on the Slashdot story about someone getting charged with a felony for using a fake name to sign up to MySpace, it seems like this is going to be an important step in the process. I mean, until that all important precedent is set, there’s no telling how people will try to use this new law.

As I wrote here the other day about this far-reaching law, I think it’s just another example of the sad state of our legal system. Laws like this have effects that are much, much further reaching than the bill’s author intended, and it’s ripe for abuse by our overly litigious society.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
   --James Baldwin

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