Diary of a Network Geek

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


Resolving A New Year

Filed under: Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Fun,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,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 5:45 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Well, it’s that time again…

It’s that magic time of year when we all make resolutions that most of us will never keep.  I mean, seriously, how many of you have ever kept a resolution?  Ugh, don’t answer that.  My readers are probably just the kind of contrary people who actually do keep their resolutions!
For my part, I keep saying that I’m going to read [amazon_link id=”0142000280″ target=”_blank” ]Getting Things Done[/amazon_link] so that I can streamline my life and, well, get more done.  One day, I swear, I will become more efficient!  At least I actually own this book.  It’s sitting under a huge pile of other books, just waiting for me to finally get around to it.
On the upside, one year, I resolved to teach myself [amazon_link id=”0596520107″ target=”_blank” ]Perl[/amazon_link] and that I actually did!  Of course, I mostly used that to make little webapps that weren’t very useful, even if they were entertaining.

And, that, gentle readers, brings me to my Friday Fun Link; Diary of a Network Geek’s New Year’s Resolution Generator!
It’s fun!  It’s FREE!  And, I have to admit, it tends to lean toward resolutions that involve hard liquor and inappropriate behavior, especially with strangers.
Trust me, you’ll love it.  Be sure to share it with all your drunk friends tonight at your parties!
See you next year!


Gingerbread Houses, Extreme Edition

Filed under: Art,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events — 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 Waning Gibbous

No, I did not make gingerbread houses for Christmas.

In fact, I hardly decorate at all for Christmas.  For me, the holiday is about the feeling.  It’s about the rebirth of light into the world, both figuratively and in reality.  I mean, really, based on historical events described in the Gospels, [amazon_link id=”0380813815″ target=”_blank” ]Joshua be Joshua[/amazon_link], or Jesus of Nazareth, as most folks know him, would have been born in the Spring.  The reason we celebrate Christmas in Winter was to bring in the Pagans who were already celebrating the rebirth of light in the world via the Winter Solstice.  The early church fathers figured that if we synced up our holidays, they’d get more converts.
And, hey, I’m not knocking the marketing strategy!  But, I also don’t feel so compelled to put up a Pagan-inspired “Christmas Tree” or wreath or, really, any other materialistic decorations.

But, for those of you who do decorate, go check out the amazing gingerbread houses at Mental Floss and then, for God’s sake, step up your game!

And, most of all, have a very Merry Christmas!  Cherish all the gifts you’ve received all year long and celebrate the rebirth of light and hope into the world tonight.


A Truly Honest Privacy Statement

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:08 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Websites lie.

There, I said it.
Well, I wrote it.  Anyway, you and I and everyone else with half a brain know that these “free” websites are paid for in some way.  Mostly, that way is advertising.  Sometimes, that advertising involves selling personal data that they’ve collected.  Oh, c’mon, don’t act so shocked.  You know it’s true just like I do.  The big [amazon_link id=”B0001EQIFQ” target=”_blank” ]Internet Bust of 2000[/amazon_link] showed us all that companies without a good revenue model will, ultimately, fail.  And, the best revenue model of all on the Internet is selling your data to advertisers.

The thing is, wouldn’t it be nice if they just admitted that up front?
Well, Dan Tynan over at IT World has a modest proposal; The first truly honest privacy policy.

Watch out, because I may just start using this on my sites!
But, I won’t warn you ahead of time…


Linux Tools to Write With

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Art,Fun,Linux — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:48 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Wow, my High School English teachers would kill me for letting that participle dangle like that.

Good thing I went into IT, I guess, isn’t it?
But, I still love to write, as I think is evidenced by this blog.  And, I love Linux and open source software, too.  So, what could be better than combining those two things?
As it turns out, nothing.  So, here are some Linux and open source tools to help you write the next Great American Novel, brought to you by Linux Journal.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"When in doubt, don't."


Free Computer Security Tools

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,The Dark Side — 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 Waxing Gibbous

It’s a dangerous digital world out there!

As I’m sure you’ve seen this year, there have been lots of warnings about increased malicious activity.  Everything from phishing to new malware, the cyber-criminals are really working overtime to make your life a living hell.  There’s plenty you can do to stay safe, like only going to sites that you know and not opening attachments from strangers, or even from friends that don’t normally send you attachments.  But, let’s face it, sometimes, things slip by you.  So, what else can you do, especially when you don’t have money to spend on high-end security tools?

Well, check out eWeek’s list of 9 Free Security Tools to be Thankful for and start using them.  At least make sure you have some kind of anti-virus installed.  There are several suggestions on that list.
And, be careful out there!

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It is never too late to be what you might have been."
   --George Elliot


A Tattoo Old Enough To Drink

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,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 6:38 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

My first tattoo is officially old enough to drink today.

I got my first tattoo on my twenty-first birthday, twenty-one years ago, today.  It was Finals Week and I had a final exam the next morning, so I couldn’t do the traditional round of drinking myself unconscious.  Besides, that really wasn’t my style even then.  So, instead, I marked the day my own way.  I’d wanted a tattoo for a long time, longer, in fact, than I could remember.  And, somehow, I’d gotten it in my head that having a tattoo would make me tough, or at least, make me seem tougher.  I’m not sure that it did, especially considering that I hid it from my family for another six months.  Not very manly behavior, is it, being too scared to show off my big, tough, tattoo?

But, that’s who I was, twenty-one years ago.
I was a kid who was getting close to graduation, but didn’t know who he was.  That feeling of not being enough, not knowing enough, not having enough direction, would send me rushing headlong through life at break-neck speed, never slowing down enough to appreciate what I was seeing, or hearing or doing.  It led me to do many things that, in retrospect, I’m not particularly proud of having done.  Choices I would sometimes rahter I had not made.  I don’t regret the tattoo, though, only the original motivation that led me to get it.
I’m not really that man today.

Twenty-one years is a lifetime.
Time enough to change.  Since getting that tattoo, I’ve cheated death, more than once, and I don’t just mean the cancer three years ago.  I’ve faced a number of reversals of fortune, both in my favor and not.  But, I think, more importantly, is that I’ve learned I’m not my circumstances.  Who I am and how I am are both defined by the choices I make.
Today, though, I make much better choices than I did twenty-one years ago.  Not always, but, mostly.

And, of course, my birthday wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention all the other famous people who had the good luck to be born on this particular day. Famous people like Frank “Chairman of the Board” Sinatra, Jennifer Connelly, Bob Barker, Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, Edvard Munch, and Wells Fargo founder, Henry Wells. Not to mention, Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues, Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer, Dickey Betts of the Allman Bros, jazz musician Grover Washington Jr, and former mayor of New York City, Ed Koch.
All heady company to be sure, but for whatever reason, it tickles me the most that I share a birthday with Frank Sinatra. I guess it’s because he was such a unique and original character who really fought against and beat some long odds to become an amazingly famous, generally well thought of character. I can only hope to do the same, one day.

So, I don’t know what the coming year will bring, but I know I’ll be in a different place than I am today.
Which is, of course, what I said last year!  But, this year, right now, it feels like things are changing and about to change far more than I thought possible last year.  I don’t know where the coming year will take me, but I’m sure it will be to places, inside and out, that I never would have suspected possible a year ago.
And, for that, I’m very thankful!

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else."
   --Booker T. Washington


LEGO Christmas

Filed under: Art,Deep Thoughts,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 5:39 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I love Christmas, and I love LEGOs.

I love them for two not so very different reasons.
LEGOs remind me of a simpler time.  They remind me of childhood dreams and imagination.  They still spark all sorts of wonderful memories, as old as I am.  In fact, I’ve been meaning to get myself some LEGOs to play with again.  Maybe for Christmas.

Christmas I love, not for the toys or the gift giving or even the food.  No, Christmas I love because it celebrates the rebirth of light and joy into the world.  Very much like LEGOs do for me.
Now, you can combine those two celebrations of joy with a LEGO Christmas tree.



42nd Birthday of the Mouse

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:29 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

It’s not quite the “birthday” of the mouse, but…

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the first time a mouse made its commercial debut, though the patent was actually granted just a few weeks earlier on November 17th. That’s right, the mouse, that marvel of modern technology that most of us use daily is just a little older than I am. Invented by Douglas C. Engelbart and the group of 17 researchers working with him in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA, the original mouse was little more than a square, wooden box, but the little device would change the world. Engelbart showed how the mouse could let a user jump from text on one part of the screen randomly to another section without having to scroll through the text inbetween. Doesn’t sound too revolutionary to us today, does it? But, think about how you navigated to this page to read this little blurb, then try to imagine doing it without a mouse. Or, imagine trying to use Photoshop or any other graphic design program for that matter without the point-click-and-drag of a computer mouse. Yeah, pretty much everything cool you can do on a computer these days involves a mouse or similar pointer. Now, of course, to me, that’s the real genius of an invention like the mouse; it seems so obvious that we wonder why we didn’t think of it sooner!

So, happy demo day, little guy. Thanks for giving me a job and us a way to waste time at work.


Backup Plan Review

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:43 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

It’s almost the end of the year and most people are wrapping up projects and thinking about how they’re going to squeeze in their last vacation days.

But, not if you’re in IT.
No, if you’re one of the over-worked, under-paid technology “elite” in the corporate world, you’re working harder than ever right now.  While everyone else is taking time off, you, like me, are trying to get all the system maintenance done that requires everyone else to be off your systems.   Well, while you’re waiting for them to get out of the office so you can start your work, here are some things to think about.

When was the last time you had to restore a backup?  Have you ever even tried to restore any files from those backups that you worked so hard to get running right when you setup your servers?  Well, now is the time to try it.  Trust me on this, but you don’t know how good your backup is until you try to restore.  Now, you may not be able to do a full server restore on fresh hardware, but, if you can, do it.  That’s the only true test of your disaster recovery plan.  Barring that, though, at least try to restore some files from random places on the server, just as a check to make sure it works.

And, while we’re talking about backups, how is your off-site rotation working?  If you’re in a large company, you probably have a long-standing system for rotating backups off-site in case of a massive disaster, but many smaller companies don’t.  Generally, what I suggest to people is that there should be one full backup off-site, one coming back or leaving, and one on-site.  The most current, usually, should rotate off-site just after completion and be off-site for two weeks, or, really, off-site for one week and coming back on the second.  There are plenty of  services to do this, but even just taking them to the network manager’s house is better than nothing.  Just somewhere relatively secure that’s not the same as the site you’re backing up, just in case the entire building catches fire or is demolished in a hurricane.  You get the idea.

Now, something else to consider, if you run Windows Server is Active Directory.
Mostly, your backup program should be taking care of this, but sometimes funky change creeps in when you don’t expect it.  Back in the days when I was more than an IT department of one, I was a big believer in getting baselines.  Every once in a while, it’s nice to take a snapshot of what’s working so that when it inevitably breaks, you can see what might have changed to break it.  This is especially true of things like Active Directory.  Every year, AD gets more and more complicated and, as your network grows, your individual AD tree will get more complicated, too.  Now, assuming that things are running well, is a great time to take a snapshot of your AD tree for a baseline to use in the coming year.
Tech Republic has a good article on how to use a free tool from Sysinternals to do just that.  Check it out.

And, for those of you who don’t have an IT department, or are a sole-proprietor, don’t think you can just slide, either.
Chances are your clients are taking more time off and you’ll have some down-time, too, so now is the perfect time to review your backup plans.  Many of you may not have much of a plan, or much of a budget to get something working for you.  Well, don’t worry, Tech Republic has some creative suggestions for backups to fit most situations. Do yourself a favor and go check them out now.  Then actually implement one before the start of the new year.  Do it now, before you need to restore data from a crash.

Trust me.  Make sure your backups are running before you need them.  You’ll thank me later.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones."
   --Phillips Brooks


Hacker Game

Filed under: Fun,Fun Work,Geek Work,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:29 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

No, not the old “Net Hack” game you remember.

No, this game is from Hack-A-Day’s site and a very custom job.  Seems like this hardware hacker guy got an old, toy electronic combination vault and made it a little more interesting.  He added a USB interface to it and a multi-level security “game”.  You have to attach a terminal to the USB interface and get root access to each level of the simulated computer environment to unlock the vault and get the goods.  Pretty cool, if you ask me!  Hollywood should go get this guy to make their interfaces more realistic!

Seriously, go check out “Playing hacker with a toy vault” on Hack-A-Day.  You’ll like it!

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