Diary of a Network Geek

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


The History of Klingon

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 5:47 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

So, who would have thought that Slate would write a piece on the History of Klingon?  Yeah, me neither.

But, um, they did.  So, you know, it’s Friday, why not go read it and see how the rest of the geeks live, eh?
What?  All kinds of geeks are supposed to be cool now!

(And, sorry for a short one today, but this is a long month, right?)


There’s An App For That

Filed under: Adventures with iPods,Apple,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Linux,News and Current Events,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:03 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

No, I’m not going to write an article about the guy who saved his own life in Haiti with an iPhone app.

Because, frankly, everyone’s been talking about that already.
No, in this case, what I’m about to ramble about is the news that Amazon is opening the Kindle for developers.  Now, this might not sound like a big deal, but I think it is.  Here’s why…

First, this is a low-power, always-connected computer.  Oh, don’t kid yourself into thinking this is just a “reader”.  What’s under the hood is basically a small computer.   Now, I’m not sure what the operating system is, but I know, for instance, that the Nook is rumored to be based on Android.  Regardless, it’s a basic tablet that can connect to the web.  That, frankly, opens up some real possibilities.
I can see, as an example, a tech like me carrying around a virtual “stack” of manuals in ebook form, while still being able to use the device to troubleshoot problems, like pinging IP interfaces or hitting the web to Google for answers to problems.
But, compare it to, say, the iPhone which has a Kindle app.  And, a Barnes and Noble Reader app.  And, frankly, as my friends are probably tired of hearing me say, an app for everything.  It’s like carrying magic around in your pocket!  (Which does, in fact, sound a little dirty when you say it out loud.)  So, they sort of have to do this, just to keep up.

Secondly, this will definitely up the ante for everyone else’s device.  There were a lot of new ebook readers out at CES this year and I’ve heard a lot of buzz over the past year about how “everyone” is coming out with a new reader.  Again, I reference the Nook, but also the Sony entry and others.  So, now, people will be thinking about all the ways that a tablet will be more useful.
Now, don’t get me wrong, ereaders are great and all, but, honestly, I think there’s more of a market for an easy-to-use device that can do a whole lot more than just display books.  Again, I reference my own experience with the iPhone.  Sure, having a phone that can get your e-mail and handle your schedule is great, but a real smart phone is an animal of an entirely different stripe.  My iPhone enables me to do a whole range of things from check for movie times to checking the weather to checking my checking account to handling my schedule and calendar to, yes, remote access to my servers.  And, it has the ability to read ebooks.  Now, why would I want a single-purpose reader?

And, finally, the biggest, best reason this is important is because Apple has announced their new tablet device, the iPad.  Of course, the iPad is a whole lot more than a simple ebook reader, and not just because it has an after-market for accessories already, either.  So, now, with two app stores for two devices, we will hopefully have competition which will drive improvement in all these devices and give us, the consumer, the best device possible.  At least, in theory.

Personally, after my experience with the iPhone, I’m hoping that the iPad adds some more service and drops in price significantly over the next couple years.  Then, I’ll probably skip the Kindle all together and get an iPad, generation 3.  (Yeah, I’ll probably skip generation 2, as well, due to pricing and budgets.)
Personally, I look forward to our new Apple overlords!  (Not really, but they do design some great products!)


Home Servers

Filed under: Fun Work,Linux,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 5:36 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

What?  Doesn’t every one run servers at home?

Okay, so maybe not everyone does, but some of us hard-core geeks do.  And, some of those hard-core geeks are Lifehackers, too.  Thanks to that group of obsessed efficiency geeks, I can bring you a link to the Lifehacker Best Home Server software packages.  I can’t say that I’ve really worked with any of these, so I can’t chime in on which is best, but certainly the Lifehackers have done their research and left their comments.  If you’ve been thinking about setting up server for the family, this would be a good place to start.

And, if you want to add a DIY firewall, try hitting this article on TechRepublic about setting up a free pfSense firewall.  It’s Linux based, but I can’t vouch for it.  The author seemed to think a lot of it, though, so I’d be interested in what anyone thinks of it.  If you try it, give me a shout and we can talk about doing a guest post/review.


Review: Legion

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:41 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Legion on Friday.

This movie sucked out loud, on ice.
For real, this was one of the worst movies I have seen in a long time.  And, yes, that was a huge disappointment to me because I was really looking forward to a movie about the end times and angels and the powerful, smiting retribution of God.  Well, there were angels in it, anyway.

So, right, here’s the the basic plot; it’s the end times, but not really like we’re used to seeing or hearing about, and only one baby can save us, but his mother isn’t all that into having him and God has sent an army of angels to kill the baby and pretty much anyone along the way who tries to stop them.  Sounds like a winner, right?  Yeah, you’d think.  But, somehow they managed to take that premise, a fairly decent cast and screw it up at every turn.
First of all, Michael, chief of God’s angels, essentially rebels to come to Earth, make himself human, and try to save the mother of the implied second coming of Christ.  Not a bad start, really, except that no one ever cops to the fact that the baby is the reborn Prince of Peace.  Oh, and also?  That whole rebel angel thing.  That’s been done and, uh, Lucifer, the angel of the morning star, already did that and was cast out of heaven.  So, really, that was kind of a hard-sell to me, Michael rebelling.  And, uh, pretty well that’s the entire plot.  Angels coming to kill unborn kid, rebel angel out to stop them and the rag-tag group of human misfits who sort of tag along for the ride and cliched object lessons.  And, since I cannot in all good conscience recommend that anyone waste one, thin dime on this movie, I am totally going to ruin it for you now.  The rebel angel succeeds and the kid is born, humankind is saved, his parents are redeemed and become what seem to be red-neck, Christian Identity, gun-toting survivalists who apparently discover Utah.  And, now, thankfully, you don’t need to see this film.

So, if you’re still with me, here’s a theological issue I had with the movie.
Michael, the newest rebel angel, repeats several times that he’s giving God what He needs, not what He’s asking for.
Uh, hello?  What?  Are you implying that God doesn’t know what He wants?  That some angel with an English lisp and Enochian tattoos actually know better than God what God’s mind is and His needs are?  Seriously?  Because, then, God pretty well couldn’t be God, since that’s sort of defined by being all-powerful and all-seeing and all-knowing and if one of His creations knows better than He does then He can’t be those things.  Right?  And, really, that was just the most obvious and egregious theological failing, but it wasn’t the only one.  It’s just that one distracted me so, so much from the rest of the film that the rest of them aren’t worth mentioning.

And, really, the potential good parts of the film were bad, too.  Like the action and the manifestation of angels and all the ways that subtle morality lessons that never actually manifested.  Oh, and the crappy dialog.  And, the the bad acting by pretty much everyone except the baby, who I’m fairly certain was special effects.
And, did I mention that the movie was filled with badly failed cliches?  Because it was.  I mean it was clogged with them like an overflowing cinematic toilet.  It was bad, bad, bad.

Honestly, this movie was so bad I cannot believe it actually got made.
If you were thinking about going to see this film, slap yourself, have a stiff drink and go see The Book of Eli instead.  You’ll be happy you avoided this one.  And, I would say, don’t even bother to rent this stinker.  Truly.  It was bad in more ways than even I can list.
Do NOT waste two hours of your life going to see this movie.


DIY Coilgun

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:44 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

No, I haven’t made one.

But, someone has, in fact, made their own coilgun pistol.  It’s probably not quite deadly, but it also only cost about $135 to make and looks pretty damn cool.  Now, what’s taking the U.S. Military so long to come up with their own?  Or, why haven’t they taken this one and improved it to something deadly?

Either way, here is evidence that geeks are cool.  I mean, it took a pretty smart, geeky guy to come up with this and actually follow through on it to produce a working gun.  At least, I’m impressed.  And, you have to admit it is pretty cool and definitely geeky.  So, geeks are cool.
Stop laughing!

(Yes, okay, I knos this is old, but I’ve had it sitting in my queue for six months and I’m just getting to it!)


Semi-Random Network Resource Roundup

Filed under: Fun Work,GUI Center,Linux,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:57 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Okay, maybe it’s more than a little random…

Here’s the thing, see, I spend a lot of time doing all kinds of weird stuff at the office.  I mean, I almost never have the same kind of day twice.  Really, the most consistent thing I do is go to lunch at more or less the same time every day.  Seriously.
But, along the way, I end up with some strange things in my browser.  All work related, of course, but, still an odd collection.  Here are a few things I found hanging around this week:

First, an article from TechRepublic about monitoring your network with a utility built into most, if not all, Linux distros called “ntop”.  Basically, it runs in the command shell and shows you were the network traffic your Linux machine can see is going.  Obviously, this is most useful if you use Linux for a firewall or gateway machine, since that would let you monitor pretty much all internet traffic.  Also?  Once you start it on that machine, you can get to it remotely via a browser to check the stats.  All for free.  Pretty cool.

Next, there’s another article on TechRepublic about resolving all those mysterious IP addresses into a physical location.  So, when you see that “special someone” trying to crack your home router, you can trace back to pretty close to where ever they are.  And, yes, for those of you who were readers back when I went through my divorce, that’s how I found out my ex-wife and her latest victim were following my blog.

But, if that wasn’t enough, here’s a third article from TechRepublic about a peer network monitoring tool that looks good.  One thing I liked about this was that it didn’t seem to need much special to run it, but it still had what looked like good notification tools.  If anyone has any opinions on it, or any of the other tools I’ve listed, please, feel free to add them into the comments.

And, last, but certainly not least, is a page of free web development tools from Microsoft.  Honestly, I have no idea how good these things are, but, hey, they’re free and they come from Microsoft, so, I figure they’re worth downloading.  I’ll probably never use them myself, but there’s no reason I shouldn’t share them with my readers.

So, yeah, these are all things that have been flying around in my browser at work for the past week or so.  Sometimes it’s great to be a generalist, because I never know what challenge I’ll be asked to meet next, but sometimes, it’s just exhausting!

Anyway, happy Wednesday and enjoy the links!


Review: The Book of Eli

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:14 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw The Book of Eli Friday night.

Wow, this was not what I was expecting! I went in expecting this to be a straight-forward post-apocalyptic action movie, but it was a whole lot more than that.
The basic plot is pretty simple, actually.  A wanderer by the name of Eli, played by Denzel Washington, is traveling West.  He’s carrying a book, along with his sword, a bow and arrow, a gun and, in a master stroke of product placement, an iPod.  He’s a righteous man in a savage world of radiation, destruction and desperate people.  And, those most desperate of people come after him, to try and take whatever they can from him, perhaps even to take him for their stew pot.  After all, in a world where everything is scarce, meat is meat.

Eli meets several groups of people, from the barely organized savages who try to lure him in with a woman in distress to the much more dangerous roving gangs of bikers.  The savages he slices and dices, but the bike gangs turn out to be a “road crew”, of sorts, for  a much more organized nasty by the name of Carnegie, played by Gary Oldham.  Turns out, he’s looking for a book, a very special book, that he thinks can unite all the locals into a city-state of sorts.  A city-state he can franchise over and over and over again.
Eli wanders into this little dictator’s town looking to get his iPod charged up, because, you know, a war ravaged and devistated landscape is no place for a day hike without some portable tunes.  The local engineer sets him up, for a pretty good trade in pre-war goods, obviously salvaged, and sends him to the only bar in town for a drink while the iPod charges up.  That’s where things get a little dangerous and Eli takes out the road crew who he’d seen on the road.  That draws the attention of Carnegie, who “invites” Eli to stay on.  When Eli declines, Carnegie insists he stay the night to think about the offer, he sends in Solara, played by Mila Kunis, to try and convince Eli to stay.  Of course, in the end, she ends up convincing him to take her with when he leaves.

I won’t give away more of the plot, so as not to ruin the film, but you’ll quickly learn that the mysterious book that Eli carries and Carnegie wants is a Bible.  Seems after the war, they were all destroyed.  All save this one.  And Eli is the last righteous man on Earth, following God’s calling to take the book to the West where he’ll mysteriously know what to do with it and who to give it to.
And, yes, that is where the spirituality of the whole thing ties in.  Eli is the most just and upright man in a very savage and essentially Godless world, trying to follow the teachings in the Bible he carries, even as he fights for his own survival.  Carnegie represent all that is wrong and venal in a world ruled by baser politics and power and controlling the masses.  The dichotomy of these two men make most of the product placement shots rather more ironic than I think may have been intended, but, regardless, it’s a great morality story.  And, a great story for modern Christians to consider.
We, too, are in a world that is often far from “God centered” and ruled by baser ideals.  Are we going to keep God’s ways?  Are we even going to try?  Or is our religion just something we do once a week?  How faithful are we to what we believe is God’s way?  When we hear God’s voice, do we listen?
No, I don’t have the answers, nor does this movie, necessarily, but it does ask the right questions.  Or, at least, it provoked them in me.  And, yes, it was great to see a spiritual hero who was far from perfect and far from a pushover do his best in a particularly difficult place.  There comes a time, when the world is so banal and corrupt that no one else has anything more than base survival on their mind that even the smallest attempt as spirituality is huge.

In short, I loved this movie.
Sure it was pretty violent for the younger folks, but I’d encourage everyone to go see this one, even if you don’t like violence.  The themes, especially for Christians, that are brought up and snuck into your thoughts under the cover of an action film are well worth the price of admission.  Incidentally, the movie is based on a graphic novel with which I’m only vaguely familiar, and there are some fight scenes that really show the influence of that in their beauty and artistry and coreography. It’s a really well done film with top-shelf actors in it.
It’s a rarity for me, but I would see this again.  Hell, I’d even pay full price to see this one again.  It was that good.
Really, it may not have the visual impact of Avatar in IMAX 3D, but, I assure you, this is a fantastic film.


Linux Home Theater PC

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Linux,Movies,music — 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 New Moon

No, I haven’t done it. Yet.

But, when I do, I probably won’t end up using MythTV, like I thought I would. Rather, I think I’ll be using BoxxeeBox. Where MythTV is geared toward making a DVR, like Tivo, BoxxeeBox is more geared toward making home theater/multimedia machine, which is really what I want.

So, yeah, there are options.  Check this one out if you’re thinking about building a home theater machine.  It’s worth considering.

(And, yes, I’m trying to clean out old posts that have been lingering as drafts again.  New Year and all.)


Review: Daybreakers

Filed under: Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:44 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Daybreakers on Friday.

I’ve been looking forward to this one since I heard about it for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a vampire movie, but for adults, not romance-starved, middle-aged women and their daughters. Secondly, because it seemed to deal with a problem I thought would have come up if vampirism actually existed, namely, an overabundance of blood-suckers and not enough blood to go around.

So, right, on the first thing, here’s the deal. Vampires are monsters, right? Not walking sexual fantasies. They should be monsters, not the homo-erotic metro-sexuals that Anne Rice made them into. And, in this movie, they are, in fact, monsters. Really, in a way, they maybe more monstrous because they’ve become the mainstream. They’ve become the giant corporation literally bleeding people dry to make a profit! And, because of the rating, we see the blood. No sparkly chests here, just blood-suckers. In fact, since so many humans have turned and become vampires, they’re starving themselves to death, as a society. And, as vampires starve, they become even more horrible. In their hunger, they even turn on their own kind.

And, that’s the second part…
So, being a vampire is pretty attractive, right? I mean, virtually eternal life, strong, disease free and the ultimate predator. Pretty cool. Sure, there are some drawbacks, like bursting into flames in direct sunlight and having to drink human blood, but, still, pretty awesome. With all that going on, I always figured most people would want to be turned. So does this movie.
The problem is, in less than ten years, since the vampirism “disease” first showed up, almost all the humans have turned, and that means there’s not enough blood to go around.
Enter, Ethan Hawke’s character. He’s a hemotologist working for the company who farms the existing humans out for vampire food. And, he’s working on an artificial blood “substitute” so that vampires won’t have to feed on humans any more. He thinks he’s looking for a cure, but his boss, played by Sam Neil, figures he’s just looking for a product to sell to the poorer vampires who are starving.

Well, through a car accident, he meets some “free range” humans, who have been hiding from the vampire army out to find them and farm them. Because, he’s a reluctant vampire, he helps them hide from the vampire police. They get away, but come back to his house in a few days and try to get him to help them find a cure. When he agrees, he meets Wilem Defoe’s character who is a vampire that somehow, spontaneously cheats death by sunlight to become human again.
They work together and find a cure, of sorts, which allows Hawke’s character to revert to being human. Then, they go about changing the world.
But, to tell you more would ruin the film,so I’ll stop giving away any plot here.

Mostly, this was a good film.
It was a kind of ironic action film with a horror flavor to it, but not over-the-top gory. Yes, there were the exploding vampires, and, yes, it does start with what seems to be a teen-aged girl vampire committing suicide in the sun, but, really, for all that, it wasn’t all that gory. It was pretty non-stop, though, for at least the first two thirds of the movie. It picks up again near the end, but it ends really, really poorly.
Actually, if not for the incredibly weak-ass ending, I’d have given this a fantastic review, but, well, as it is, the ending damn near ruins the film. Unless you’re a huge fan of vampire movies, or someone in the film, I’d recommend waiting until this one was on DVD before seeing it. Really.

It was a clever premise and a pretty cool cast, but the ending was so weak that I just can’t suggest that you all see this movie in the theaters. It’s good, but, honestly, it’s only worth, maybe, seeing at a matinee. That really is how weak and disappointing the ending was for me. It’s sad, really, because until the ending, it really was a pretty clever little film.


Make a WordPress Test Area

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:21 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Okay, so this may not be of interest to many of my readers.

But, for the two or three people who do find it interesting…
Have you ever wanted to test some PHP code in your blog’s theme? Well, Jon Dyer has posted a tutorial on how to do that over at his blog, Dyers.org. It’s a cool idea for testing something on your site or blog to see what it would look like with your particular settings and style. I’d thought about how to do this, too, but the way Dyer does it is pretty clever.

Go check it out!

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