Diary of a Network Geek

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


Mars Isolation Test

Filed under: 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 5:04 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m a nut for space exploration.

I’m still torn between a trip to Mars or a base on the Moon as our next step into space, but anything that moves us in that direction is great.  Recently, six volunteers entered an isolation chamber in Russia to study the long-term effects of living in close quarters in preparation for a trip to Mars.  I think this is cool for several reasons.  First, of course, the advancement of science.  Second, it means we may be getting closer to an actual trip to Mars.  And, third, because of all the potential science-fiction stories and movies that will result.


DIY Sun Jar

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,Red Herrings — 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 a First Quarter Moon

This is pretty cool!

You know those “sun jar” and “moon jar” things from ThinkGeek.com?  How’d you like to make your own?  Seems like a genius idea to me.  And, apparently, the folks at Lifehacker thought so too, because they have a step-by-step tutorial on how to make a sun jar.  Check it out!
You can also see my own attempts at Flickr in the DIY Moon Jar set.
It’s super easy to do and not very expensive.  Not only was it fun, but I figure now I have some emergency lights that don’t need batteries the next time a hurricane comes through and knocks out power!


On The Running of Contests

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Fun Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Ooo, shiny...,Personal,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 5:16 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I’m thinking about running a contest.

I’ve been thinking about running a contest to promote another site I’ve been working on.  Now, before anyone get’s too excited, this is something that I’m just speculating on right now and wouldn’t even start for months, if I do it at all.  For whatever reason, I’ve been a little nostalgic for the old, Internet “boom” days.  Those heady days when the Internet bubble hadn’t quite burst and receptionists might be paper millionaires.  It was that culture that launched many of the websites that we all love today, like Amazon.com, along with so, so many that never made it.  There are still some remnants from those days, like ThinkGeek.com, who sold us all crazy t-shirts and junk for our desks, a way to spend those ridiculous salaries so many geeks were making at the time.  I should note, however, I was not one of those making the giant salary.  I was just a “working-class” geek who ground out networks like some kind of piece-worker who lusted after so much of that material culture.  I especially loved the imported vinyl toys that were around then and have since passed into a kind of obscure subculture that still lives on the web.  (You can find examples of what it’s become at KidRobot.com)  So, the idea I had for the contest has been influenced by all that.  Also, I’ve always been fascinated by pictures of other people’s desks and bags.  I love to see the contents of their life as bounded by the confines of an office or the bag they carry.  Of course, there’s a trick writers use to help define their characters by what they carry in their bag, or luggage.  Obviously, the idea that what one carries on a daily basis in some way defines who they are.  I know I’m not the only one, too.  There’s a Flickr group dedicated to “what’s in your bag” that I find endlessly entertaining.

So, it’s with that in mind that I started thinking about the contest.  I had in mind to put together six or twelve bags, filled with junk, as if they belonged to a designer or geek who’s life one might covet.  Perhaps someone I wanted to be once, or wish to be in the future.  Maybe just what strikes me as an interesting character or someone I would like to meet.  I’d like to include some sort of branded merchandise, whether it’s the bag or pens or something else, I’m not sure.  Ah, but that does put me in mind of another theme from that era that seems to have changed some; schwag.  This was the stuff that was passed out at the trade shows that seemed to happen every week, advertising new companies and new services and even reminding us of the old companies.  There were companies back in the day that only seemed to exist long enough to produce a month or two worth of schwag and then slip silently beneath the waves.  (In fact, I suspect I have a few t-shirts from some of them!)  At one point, there was so much schwag floating around that there was a company who did nothing but package and ship schwag to subscribers, called ValleySchwag!  They don’t exist any more, but a new company has replaced them called Startup Schwag.  In any case, a lot of us who were in IT during that time have fond memories of running about collecting the “best” schwag at conferences and trade shows, so, I’d love to include some of that sort of junk in my contest give-aways, too.

At heart, I’m a marketer.  I have a degree in Marketing and, perhaps more importantly, I grew up with an inveterate salesman.  He was always talking about sales and marketing and how integrated that all is in business at every level and, somehow, that became supersaturated into my personality.  I’m always thinking about promotion and advertising.  People always talk about getting people to read their blog or look at their photographs or whatever, but they almost never do things to make that happen.  It’s not rocket science.  All you have to do is give people something they want, something they need.  Word will travel.  Honest.  So, that’s my intention with this contest.  I’m not entirely sure how to get everything squared away, but by the time I’m ready to launch it, I will.  Until then, though, what would you all like to see in the bags?  Keep in mind that I won’t include electronics like laptops or iPods, or weapons, or cash or anything that equates to cash like gift cards.  Most importantly, no “adult” products, like porn or condoms or anything crazy like that.  (Well, okay, maybe condoms because that strikes me as funny.)

So, if you want to see something in one of the bags, or have suggestions for running a blog contest or any other related comments, leave me a comment.  Also, if you have something that you’d like to include, let me know!  We can probably work something out to let you benefit from the advertising push.  This is, incidentally, a contest I plan to run for about a year, either monthly or bi-monthly, depending.  And, no, it won’t be on this blog, but another project which I don’t want to directly link to this.  Don’t worry, though, if you’re a regular commenter or an old friend or have suggestions about this contest, I’ll be sure to let you know what the project is and when the contest starts.


Literary Tattoos

Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:03 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

This is custom made for my readers!

So, you like tattoos? And you like books? Why not get a literary tattoo! Need ideas? Check out the literary tattoo gallery at Contrariwise.

Cool stuff.


On Survival and Change

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is late at night or 11:44 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I’ve always been a survivor.

I usually try to save these soul-searching posts for a weekend, and, as often as not, I’ve been simply deleting them or not even writing them these days.  But, yesterday, I went to see my oncologist to get the results of the CT scan I had last week that I didn’t mention here, either.  I guess it was part of my rationalization and hiding from something that still scares me, to not write about it.  As if somehow not acknowleging it here would make it not matter to me or less frightening.  Of course, that rationalization and avoidance cocktail did nothing to help me sleep for the past week.  Nor, did it make me any less certain that I’ll die alone.

“That moment changes the way you see the world for the rest of your life.”
-Sheryl Crowe, on being diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer changed my life.
Cancer taught me both not to worry quite so much, but, at the same time, to be afraid.  I’m terrified of missing something.  Of not getting to participate in some vital experience that I absolutely need to feel or see or do.  I don’t worry quite so much about my own life and my own needs, but, sadly, that’s often to my detriment.  This entire week while waiting for both the scan and the results I’ve felt as if I’ve been missing something.  As if there were something that I desperately needed to get done, but I was forgetting to do.  I still don’t know what that might be.

One way that things have changed, in part, thanks to my cancer, is how much attention I pay to art and my creative side.  Now, I’ve always loved art, but it always seemed like something that other people did.
When I was in treatment, an acquaintance of mine, Mark Flood, started coming to visit me in the hospital.  We started talking and discovered that we had a lot in common, much to our mutual surprise.  That led to spending more time hanging out, and more time getting to know Mark and his art.  That led to weekly lunches and a rediscovery of my childhood desire to make art.
But, you see, I was told that you couldn’t make a living as an artist.  Or a writer.  I was encouraged to find more lucrative pursuits.  That’s how I ended up with a degree in Marketing and getting into computers professionally.  Both seemed like better career moves at the time.  But, as I spent more and more time becoming a real network geek, I spent less and less time doing anything creative.  And, I made money.  Good money, actually.  But, I wasn’t happy.  Not really, not for long.  These days, I’m mostly happy when I’m chasing one of the photographs I “see” in my head and trying to make it real.  It’s just not enough, anymore, to simply survive.

“[Man] cannot remake himself without suffering.  For he is both the marble and the sculptor.”
– Dr. Alexis Carret

But, thanks to Mark and some other things, I know you can do more than survive as a creative.  I worry that I may be a little late coming to the realization that I’ve been lied to all these years by my family.  For the best of reasons, to be sure, but a lie is still a lie and it tore a small hole in who I was when I didn’t pursue those creative urges back then.  In fact, I can think of several people who we knew when I was growing up who made their living as a creative and did just fine.
But, the process of unmaking who I had become before treatment and creating a life that will let me become the person I want to become is difficult.  Of course, it beats the alternative, which is not changing, staying the same forever, essentially, death.  But it’s not easy unlearning everything your family taught you about life to reinvent yourself and become something new, especially if you want to keep a relationship with that family.  And, all this change, in my perspective, in my priorities, in my very direction and mode of travel, was all brought about by that simple diagnosis of first, an unidentified mass, which later became cancer.

“It isn’t important to come out on top, what matters is to be the one who comes out alive.”
– Bertolt Brecht, Jungle of Cities

After spending almost eight months constantly wreslting with the possiblity of my own death, or, as I like to put it, French-kissing the Grim Reaper, has left me almost entirely unafraid of my own death.  Oh, sure, the pain leading up to it might suck hard, but, when the lights finally go out for me, well, it’s beyond my control.  And, don’t take that to mean that I wouldn’t fight for my life, because I would.  In fact, I think I’d fight harder for it now than I would have ever before, because there are things that I want to do, things I need to acomplish before I finally leave and “shuffle off this mortal coil”.
In fact, you’d think I’d be fearless about everything, but that’s just not been the case.
Mostly, I’m afraid of the things I was afraid of as a kid.  Social situations are especially terrifying.  I get all caught up in appearing right to other people.  Sometimes my ideas are, well, a little different.  Different thinking frightens most folks and, by extension, people who think differently are sometimes frightening.  I sometimes feel the burden of that social pressure to fit in and not make waves.  My working at odd angles to the world makes people occasionally uncomfortable and I don’t like that, so I get hesitant about being open and honest and, sometimes, just being with people.  It’s like regressing back to the Seventh Grade and all the social humiliation that goes along with that.  It’s not a pretty picture in my head.

“Fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself.”
– Daniel Dafoe, Robinson Crusoe

So, with almost entirely good news from my scan results yesterday, I’m trying to overcome my smaller fears that have begun to rule me.  I’m sure it will be a slow, ponderous process, and likely filled with fear and setbacks and imperfection, but that’s okay.  Hell, that’s just life.  But, in the end, I think I have to change.  I don’t plan on dying any time soon, so change will happen eventually, but it’s time to do more than survive.  I think it’s time I started steering my life more and improving and changing and truly living, not just surviving.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"As human beings, we all want to be happy and free from misery. We have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger and attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion, a sense of universal responsibility, are the sources of peace and happiness."
   --Dalai Lama


Review: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Filed under: Fiction,Fun,Movies,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:06 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Friday night.

It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, in my opinion, but it wasn’t bad.
Now, I read the entire series several years ago now. In fact, I finished the last one while I was in the hospital getting chemotherapy. But, it’s been so long since I read the books that I don’t remember all the fine details. I did, however, see the movie with a friend who does remember that kind of thing and he said that the movie was very true to the book. The one deviation is that the funeral at the end of the book is not in the movie.

Now, here there be spoilers, so if you don’t know the story, skip to the last paragraph now.
So, okay, most of what I remember from the book was there, for sure. A little different and compressed, of course, but mostly still there. I have to admit, I skipped a couple of these movies, in part because I was going through a divorce and cheating death when at least one or two of them came out. But, also, I just wasn’t that into the movies. I couldn’t stop reading the books when I started them because I had to know what happened next, but not so much with the movies.

All that being said, I remember more mushy romance, more dark, dark, dark stuff with Tom Riddle/Voldemort as a boy. He was pretty nasty and they just hint at what ways he may have been a mean, cruel young man and why in the movie. Also, I seem to recall more mystery and intrigue with the Draco Malfoy sub-plot and the whole thing with Severus Snape. By the time we got to the famous Dumbldore murder scene in the book, you’re not sure what side Snape is on and convinced that Harry must die to defeat Voldemort. But, I wasn’t sold by the end of the movie. Granted, I know how things turn out, but, frankly, Rickman’s heart just didn’t seem to be in Snape this time out. I think he may be getting tired of this role, but I’m sure he’s getting paid quite well to do it, so, whatever.

There was one scene that stood out for me which was just how I remembered it from the book, though. When Dumbledore and Harry go to get the horcrux in the cavern on the storm-wracked coast, it was pretty well as I remembered it. Or, perhaps, even better. Pulling up the boat from the hidden lake via the chain, and the corpses beneath it are both just how I pictured them. Especially those angry, swampy corpses trying to drag Harry down to join them.

Other parts, though, just seemed a little glossed over, which, I suppose, is why they’re breaking the last book into two movies. Also, bigger profits.
The one thing that they left out, which surprised me, was the very formal funeral of Dumbledore. I suppose it would have taken too much time and, besides, they got the point across with the scene that did end the film.

All in all, though, in spite of some variation from the book, this was a very good movie. I don’t think it was a great movie, like the first one, but it was well worth seeing. Also, it was one of the better films of the season, for sure. If you’re a fan of the books, or just a fan of the earlier movies, this is a must-see movie. If you haven’t, somehow, seen the other movies at least, go rent them, then see this movie, or you’ll be totally lost.
So, final verdict, good and worth seeing, but not great.


Icon Converter

Filed under: Apple,Art,Fun Work,GUI Center,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:02 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I know I’ve had a lot of short posts lately, but at least it’s been links to good stuff, right?

Well, anyway, here’s yet another one. This website, iConvert, will convert your favorite icons from one format to another. So, if you have some icons on your Mac at home that you just love and want to use at work, and your fascist of an IT manager will let you, you can convert them here to a Windows format. Or, vice versa.



Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Fun,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:42 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

No, seriously, don’t quit your day job.

Right, so most of you regular network geekophiles know that I’m a mildly repressed, slightly frustrated writer, among other things.  Many have been the day that I sat and dreamed of making a full-time living as a science-fiction or fantasy writer, setting my own schedule, free from the pressures of endless demands for instant service.  Well, it turns out that may not be the best idea.  For one thing, it’s hard to make a living at the fiction writing thing.  Certainly, a down economy is not the best time to roll dice that big.  Also, there’s the question of things like health insurance and retirement savings.  So, while I try to figure out some other creative ways to enrich my professional life, I’ll be thankful that my job really isn’t that bad.

And when I feel like it is, at least I know I’m not alone. So, if you’re feeling oppressed by the Man, know that you’re not the only one and check out some Science Fiction Writer’s Cruddiest Day Jobs.
I don’t know about you, but it gives me hope that, if they could do it with those day jobs, well, maybe I can do it with mine.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone."
   --Frederic Bastiat


Wireshark 1.2

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:09 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

There’s a new version of Wireshark out.

If that means nothing to you, then you’re not one of my geek readers.  And, that’s cool.  Hold on and something more interesting will be coming for you soon.

For those of you who are geeks, check this out, okay?  There are tons of improvements, including a Windows 64-bit installer, improved reports and assorted output, the inclusion of GeoIP lookups, and many, many more.  I’ve used Wireshark, on and off, for several years now and these are really good additions.  I especially dig the ability to lookup where IPs may be coming from more easily.  I often have to deal with international TCP/IP traffic and knowing which is from where can be really helpful.
And, yes, there is still a version for Mac and Linux, besides the new Windows versions.

So, go check this out.  If you didn’t want to fillow the link above to Lifehacker, you can just jump right to the Wireshark site to see their marketing pitch on the latest version.  And, of course, it’s still all free.


Custom Bootable Ubuntu CD

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:07 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So, last month, I was talking about rolling your own distro.  This week, it’s rolling your own LiveCD.

Over at TechRepublic, they ran an article on using some tools built into Ubuntu to make your own, custom Ubuntu LiveCD.  For those of you not in the know, a “LiveCD” is a bootable version of an operating system, in this case Linux, that will run from the CD without installing on the workstation.  It’s a great way to try out a new operating system or bring a portable, emergency software toolkit with you without damaging or changing a PC.

The tool, for my fellow wireheads, is called Reconstructor and the article pretty well takes you through step-by-step on how to do it.  Well worth the read if you’re a Linux geek, most especially if your distro is Ubuntu.

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