Diary of a Network Geek

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


Muse – Free Web Publishing Software

Filed under: Art,Fun,GUI Center,Ooo, shiny... — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I love free!

So, most everyone in my business has heard of Adobe.  Mainly because they’re the top design and graphics software publisher in business right now.  Well, they’ve released a FREE program called Muse that lets you layout and publish webpages without having to write code.  Now, myself, personally, I’m okay writing the HTML code behind simple webpages, but, frankly, it’s a lot faster to do it in a nice graphical user interface that’s filled with point-and-click tools.  Also, since this comes from Adobe, you know that they’re going to have a great interface and make it easy to use for the novice.  Not sure how the output is, but, frankly, for most users, as long as the page looks nice when they’re done, the code behind it doesn’t really matter.

The program itself runs on their Adobe AIR platform, which means it’s pretty lightweight and fast.  You can read about all the features on the Muse website.
Oh, and while this is free right now, it will, eventually, be for sale in 2012, when they’ll be charging by the month for it.  So, you’d better get this while you can!

Hey, free, creative software just in time for the weekend, how can you beat that?
Well, enjoy your Friday, in any case.



Filed under: Art,Fun,Linux,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:01 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

No, not some new chick I’m dating.

Sadly, it’s Linux software.   Okay, well, not so sad, because it’s Linux-based software to help you track your personal library.
Yeah, yeah, I know, what kind of geek has a personal library that’s worth cataloging, right?  Yeah, well, as it turns out, me.  I probably have a couple thousand books of one kind or another spread all over my house.  I’m pretty sure virtually every room in my house has a stack of books in it, if not a full bookshelf.  And, yes, I do lend quite a few books and they sometimes go missing.  And, yes, I have so many books, I have, on very rare occasions, bought the same book twice.  And, finally, yes, I’ve been talking about doing this for years, but this software actually looks like something I might use.  Besides, it’s free.

Among the features are the ability to search by ISBN, author, title or keyword so you can find just the book you’re thinking of in your collection; the ability to retrieve information from on-line bookstores and other sources; and the ability to use several different scanners, including the CueCat, for data input.  (You can read more about the features here at the Alexandria FAQ.)  There is more information, including a manual and screen shots at the Alexandria homepage.

So, yeah, a little geekier than my usual Friday Fun post, but it’ll probably excite the librarians among my readers.
(And, I really hope there are some sexy librarians who still read this blog!)
Enjoy your weekend!


Extend your Kindle

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:27 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

But, sadly, not for the software Kindle apps.

Okay so these two tools I’m going to share only work for the Kindle, and mostly rely on the ability to e-mail documents to your Kindle, but SendtoReader works with a Manual Delivery option, too.  SendtoReader is a web app that lets you send any webpage to your Kindle for later perusal.  Though, as I mentioned, you need to have an actual Kindle if you want to update it without synching via a PC first.
I have to admit, I was all excited about this web app, until I went to sign up for it and discovered that the Android app on my ColorNook wasn’t able to get e-mail directly from Amazon’s on-line document delivery service.  Still, if you’re using an actual Kindle, this would be a killer app.

And, ToDo list for Kindle is, well, a to do list that you can send to, and update, on your Kindle.  So, you know, pretty much what it seems like it would be from the title.

So, there you go.  Two free web apps to get more out of your Kindle, just in time for the weekend!


Cyber Pearl Harbor?

Filed under: Geek Work,News and Current Events,The Dark Side,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Pig which is in the late evening or 10:41 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Really?  Are they bringing this one out again?

I’ve heard about the dangers of “cyber war” almost since I got started in this business twenty years ago.  Essentially, since the internet existed, people have been claiming that dangerous hackers are going to take over our infrastructure from within.  Sound familiar?  Like, oh, say, the Red Threat of the Cold War?
It’s pretty easy to get IT guys like me whipped into a frenzy about this.  Back in the day, Winn Schwartau wrote THE go-to book on the subject, [amazon_link id=”B00127UJMO” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Information Warfare[/amazon_link], and in that book he talked about a so-called “Cyber Pearl Harbor” that ushered in a new era of digital warfare.  Well, now, it seems, ZDNet is reporting that we may have already had our so-called Cyber Pearl Harbor.  According to security researchers at McAfee, and elsewhere, several targets, including the United States, have been under a five year sustained cyber attack and they went on to speculate that a “state actor” was likely behind the attacks.  A security consultant at Sophos pointed out that fingers are usually pointed in China’s direction when government-funded and supported cyber attacks are discussed.  And, I have to admit, based on the other forms of espionage, especially industrial espionage, that we’ve seen from them over the years, it wouldn’t surprise me if they were using the Internet to attack various sites remotely in an attempt to get restricted information of various kinds.

But, is this a “Pearl Harbor”-like event?  I mean, really?
Do you see people rallying around this issue?  Are hackers joining the U.S. Military to defend our cyber borders?  If they are, it’s one of the best kept secrets in the world right now.  Seriously.
Pearl Harbor was a galvanizing event in our history.  That one event is what got us off the fence and into World War II, as a nation.  Honestly, I don’t see that happening here, or anywhere that high-level computer tech is the focal point of the debate.  We may rely on that tech to get our jobs done or to entertain us, but, really, most people don’t have any idea of the security work that goes on behind the scenes.  This is an invisible war, if it even can be called that.
Again, I think it’s a new form of Cold War.  It’s a battle waged in the shadows against an all but invisible enemy.  It won’t be fought like a conventional war of any kind, much less like World War II.  And, if the cyber war is an apt metaphor at all, then it’s a war we’re already fighting.

Oh, and as for the Chinese, well, they’ve already used their influence as a global market to get a partial retraction from those fine folks at McAfee, who are now claiming that there is no definitive link to any “state actor” of any kind, much less China.  Of course, I’ve only seen the back-peddling on a single, English-language, but Chinese supported, news site.  Still, that, my friends, is the view of the new global economy and the real war.  Big governments will start to throw their weight around and corporations will “adjust” their position on the truth to tap the market and access their bottom line.  Of course, that’s nothing new, either.  China’s been doing that for years.  Only now, they may be the biggest market still available in the entire world.
Looks like we all better start learning Mandarin!


On-Line EXIF Viewer

Filed under: Art,Fun,PERL — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Another one for the photography geeks.

Some of you may have guessed that I enjoy photography just a little bit.  You may have deduced that from all the photography related links I share on Fridays.  Or possibly because I tell you am obsessed by it virtually every chance I get.  Either way, it’s true.  I find myself staring into portraits of people in magazines trying to figure out the lighting setup based on the reflections in their eyes.  When I see a photo I like on Flickr, I usually check the EXIF data, if it’s available, to get some idea about how the photographer made it.  The EXIF data is far from the whole story, but, at least, it gives me some idea how the photographer was setting the camera to get the light and depth-of-field that they did.

Well, recently, I was reading an entry on Chase Jarvis’ blog challenging his readers to reverse engineer one of his photos.
I kind of love those sorts of things, to be honest.  But, what was cool about this one was that someone in the comments pointed to a website that automagically pulled the EXIF information from the photo!  How cool is that!?
The site is called Jeffrey’s EXIF Viewer.  And you can use it to pull EXIF information from either a photo on your hard drive or that you find on-line somewhere.  I haven’t actually tried it on Flickr for people who don’t upload the EXIF data, but I’m sure I will be in the near future.  In any case, it’s free, outside of some advertising, and it’s pretty cool.  (Also, for the hard-core tech geeks like me, I’ll note that it looks like it was programmed in Perl, which is my favorite programming language.)

So, go forth, find photos and check them against the EXIF data to see if you can guess the photographer’s settings!
And, enjoy your Friday!


Android Virus

Filed under: Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:51 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

No, not a flu that your synthetic humanoid might catch.

Virus writers target operating systems with a large installed user base.  There’s nothing controversial or even particularly interesting about that statement.  It’s a generally accepted concept based on observation, if not actual hard facts.  For a long time, that’s why there were so many viral attacks on Windows.  Windows enjoyed the greatest market penetration, so Windows users had to put up with the most frequent attempts to penetrate their machines.
But, that’s changing as the distribution of operating systems changes.  Android, in various forms and flavors, is now the most installed operating system.  Yeah, that’s right, someone has been writing viruses (virii ?) that attack your Android phone.

I’ve seen two new stories about this today.  One from a Houston local tech celebrity, Dwight Silverman over at the Houston Chronicle, and elsewhere, both talking about a new Android Trojan that can actually record your voice conversations.
One of the things that people like about Android is that it can load software from places other than a restricted, safe, controlled marketplace, but, that’s also one of the liabilities.  Apparently, the malware takes advantage of that ability to load itself onto your phone’s SIM chip and force the phone to record conversations to the chip then, optionally, upload those recordings to a server, presumably controlled by an attacker.  It’s somewhat unclear how that process would be initiated, but the simple fact that it can do it at all is chilling to me.  Also unclear from the articles was whether or not this has been spotted in the wild.
Hopefully, not yet.

So, here’s another warning for you.  Your devices, of any kind, are not safe.  Not ever.  If you have them powered on and they can connect to a network, even if you think they aren’t, you may still be vulnerable.  The Internet, in all its forms, is a wild and wooly and dangerous place.
Be careful out there, people.


No More Mac Malware?

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:01 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I hope so!

And, by that I mean, I hope all that Mac Malware we heard about a couple weeks ago is gone.
Now, I know several Mac fanboy blogs linked to the note I put up about the Mac malware some time back thought I was going out of my way to bash Apple, but, honestly, nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, I hadn’t given it another thought until Ed Bott wrote “Where did all the Mac malware go?”  I threw the original story out there as a warning to all the Apple users who think the Mac and OS X is entirely free from any malware and utterly safe.  That’s just not true.  It is, I have to admit, much safer, in general, than Windows.  There are a couple reasons for that, but, mostly, it’s because of market share and how Apple does, well, everything.

So, that last explosion of malware may be the only shot you hear fired.  At least, for a while.
Frankly, I hope so.  And, I hope that it put enough scare into people that they take security seriously anyway.  As Apple’s market share grows, their products will all become a more appealing target for hackers and crackers.  Though I hope to be proven wrong, I suspect that there is malware being written to attack Macs and, possibly, iPhones and iPads.   In fact, that malware may be already written and just waiting for the right infection vector.  Maybe.

Maybe I’m just a bit cynical and I’m waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.
For years, Apple fanboys have told people that Macs were completely virus free and were more secure by their very nature.  Sadly, that’s not true.  We’ve heard the first shots fired in a new skirmish in the secret war for desktops of all kinds.  It’s big business.  I don’ t think this is the last we’ve heard about Mac malware.
But, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe Apple has closed that hole and all the other holes, too.  Maybe the Macs are all safe and that’s why we haven’t heard about that malware recently.

But, can you afford to take the chance?

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