Diary of a Network Geek

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

6/7/2019

PowerToys 2019

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Geek Work,MicroSoft,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Some reboots are better than others.

Sometimes, I talk about really geeky things here, mostly because I AM a geek, but also because I am a professional geek. This is one of those times.
Back in the days of Windows 95 and Windows XP, Microsoft made a whole set of little tools that fankly should have been included in the operating system to begin with. Things like TweakUI that let you change almost every aspect of the look and feel of Windows, including where some system folders resided. There were other tools, too, like things thta would let you synchronize folders and autoplay CDs and, one of my favorites, Command Prompt Here that let you open, you guessed it, a command prompt in any folder from the Windows FileManager. Those little tools sort of fell off in popularity after those versions of Windows, but hard-core users and oldsters like me still remember them fondly.
Well, according to Lifehacker, Microsoft is bringing PowerToys back! What’s more, they’re making them open source, so you’ll be able to download the source code and write your own! Of course, they don’t have TweakUI in this batch of goodies, yet, but I’m sure some enterprising, young programmer will dive into the Microsoft GitHub PowerToys repository, and figure out a way to make all our old favorites. In any case, it’s a good space to watch for new utilities that may be useful to you. And, of course, it’s free, which is why I’m sharing it with you on a Friday.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

5/31/2019

Color the Classics!

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Remember that adult coloring book craze?

A couple of years ago, just like everyone else, my wife and I got a bunch of those “grown up” coloring books and some nice colored pencils and felt-tip markers. In theory, coloring was supposed to be meditative in some way and help you focus and distress. Also, I seem to recall there were claims of it making thousands of julienne fries in seconds, but I may have been confusing my pitches. In any case, we got them and for several weeks she and I colored and had an enjoyable evening or ten talking and admiring each others obsessive-compulsive coloring and shading. And, yes, it was fun. And, also yes, I think we should start doing it again.
If we do, thanks to Lifehacker, we have a much wider and less expensive source of coloring material, Color Our Collections! Thanks to the New York Academy of Medicine, libraries, archives and the like have shared free coloring sheets and books drawn from materials in their archives. It was apparently a campaign that I missed back in February, but the coloring sheets are still available, so you can download them and color to your heart’s content.
Which we just may. Hopefully, that will take the edge off while we get the last details worked out for recieving new dogs!
Either way, come back next week to see what else I’ve got for you!
Enjoy your weekend!

 

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words, which lately I’ve been considering renaming to Sedentary Male, because it seems sadder, yet, also funnier.

5/24/2019

Lightroom Masterclass

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Finally learn Lightroom!

Remember last week, how I was saying that I used Lightroom more than Photoshop? There’s a reason for that. Actually, there are several reasons, but the big one is that Lightroom is actually made specifically for photographers. For most of us, it has the basic tools that non-techs would want to have to quickly edit our photos. Granted, I am, actually, a computer geek, but I generally don’t want to spend hours and hours of my non-work time in front of a computer. (Yes, I do see the irony of that statement one a blog/website, but, still…) In any case, Lightroom lets you quickly get just enough editing to make good photos a LOT better. But, it only does that if you know how to use it. Personally, I hate spending money on training, if I can help it, but, sometimes, I have to admit that it’s good to see the industry accepted way of doing things with software. So, all of that is to say that this week, thanks to PetaPixel, again, I’m bringing you a link to a 30-minute Masterclass in Lightroom by Mango Street. They really cram in a lot of information in that 30 minutes, too! But, trust me, it’s all great training, even if it goes a little fast for someone who hasn’t used Lightroom much. Good news, though, you can go to the Mango Street YouTube channel for all their other tutorials where you can get a bit more in depth and get more tutorials about other aspects of photography, too.
It is all free, and all very good info, so go check it out!
Then, after you get inspired, go out and shoot some fresh photos to test out your new editing skills!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, my very personal blog.

5/17/2019

Quick Photoshop Tutorial

Filed under: Art,Fun,GUI Center,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Selecting edges is hard!

As a professional computer geek and an amateur photographer, everyone expects me to to know Photoshop like a graphic designer. The truth is, though, I enjoy photography because it gets me out from behind the computer. I really spend more time making the photo in the camera than I do editing it afterwards. Oh, sure, I do pull all my images into Lightroom to clean up the exposure and colors a bit, but I rarely do more than that. Unless it’s a little cropping.
But, a couple of jobs ago, I did find myself doing a significant amount of editing for the company website. Usually, that meant cutting out some one of the company products and putting on a better background or no background at all. I hated it. I hated it because selecting fine edges was incredibly hard for me. It was super tedious and if I ever hit something like hair, well, let’s just say I was glad to be working in a mostly industrial environment.
Of course, the truth is that I wasn’t using all the selection tools to their greatest effect. If only I had been following PetaPixel back then, so that I could have possibly found their 1 minute tutorial on using Photoshop’s refine edge brush! Wow! What a huge help that would have been!
So, in the spirit of helping my fellow geeks, because who else would be reading this blog on a Friday, enjoy!
Seriously, it really is only a minute and it will help you tremendously with your selections in Photoshop. And, if you like that, there’s a whole Definitely worth checking out.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

5/10/2019

Civil Engineering Explained

Filed under: Art,Better Living Through Technology,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

With videos, not math!

Not so many months ago, my wife and I were talking about a plumbing problem in our house. It was relatively small and has long since been fixed, but our discussion hinged on water pressure. Specifically, in this case, water pressure in the house and how that meant that there was always water in the horizontal pipes. Honestly, I hadn’t given it a lot of thought, but, of course, the pipes have to be filled with water the whole time, and under pressure, for water to be forced out of a shower on the second floor. Not enough pressure to fill the pipes with water means that there’s not enough force to create a flow. Makes total sense when you think about it, right? But, have you ever wondered how that pressure is created before it makes it to your house? That process is due to the miracles of civil engineering.
It’s also explained via helpful videos for the curious on the Practical Engineering YouTube Channel. In fact, water towers and the hydrosystems that allow us to enjoy showers, instead of having to use a hand-pump to fill a bath, are covered in the playlist titled Public Works; Season 1. But, they also explain concrete, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and more! It’s definitely a video destination where you can waste hours and hours of time watching videos about the miracles of the modern world.
And, it’s educational, in case you need an excuse to watch these instead of doing your actual work on a Friday afternoon!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words, as so many of them have on Fridays.

5/3/2019

Shop Helper

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

This is apparently all true.

One of the reasons I love photography is that it lets us see things in ways that we couldn’t otherwise see them.
Now, I’m mostly a still photographer, though I’ve dabbled a bit in video. If you look at my Flickr portfolio, you’ll see a lot of macro, or close-up, photography. The camera, and nice macro lens that I have, let me see things that I might otherwise miss. Details that I wouldn’t experience any other way. But, too, beyond that, photography captures not just a vision of things, but also their time. A photograph is quite literally a little slice of frozen light and time that we preserve forever, that we capture for future use and enjoyment. Video, in many ways, is that and much more.
The link I bring you this week made me smile, which, frankly, is sometimes the best you can hope for. It’s been a bit of a rough week and a smile was definitely needed. So, if you’re in the same spot, hop over to PetaPixel to see a mouse clean up a man’s shed. Yes, that’s right. Just like the mythical shoemaker’s elves, a retired electrician had a little helper cleaning up his workshop every night. A helper that seemed impossible, until he worked with a friend and a game camera to discover who was cleaning up for him
Seriously, it’s amazing and seems like it can’t be real, but it is.
I’m pretty sure my wife would like to have an army of them to try and tidy up behind me!
Either way, it’s only a 2 minute video and definitely made me smile.
Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/26/2019

Government Sponsored Font

Filed under: Art,Fun,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Your tax dollars at work for better design!

No, seriously, this is actually US tax dollars working to develop a “better” font. Not even kidding.
Believe it or not, there’s a little something called the United States Web Design System that’s collaborative team specifically started to “…make it easier to build accessible, mobile-friendly government websites for the American public.” And, as it turns out, they have some resources that might be helpful for non-governmental web designers, too. One such is a simple font called Public Sans, which they call “A strong, neutral typeface for text or display.” Which it is, actually. It can be downloaded from their GitHub page, which further describes the font as “principles-driven” and “open-source”. It’s also a fairly nice, and free, change from Helvetica. Oh, and it includes webfonts, so you can, in fact, use it to unify your on-line and off-line branding identity.
And, again, all freely available and all brought to you, one way or another, by the United States of America Federal Government.
Sometimes, the government really IS here to help!

Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/23/2019

Throw Away Drives

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Never trust a Network Admin with a screwdriver,The Dark Side,The Day Job — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:00 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Please, be careful.

We tend to treat USB thumb drives as essentially disposable these days, which, considering their low cost, they basically are.  At least, in one sense.  The problem is, those cheap, little drives still store an awful lot of data.  I recently read an article titled “You left WHAT on that USB drive?!” where the authors talk about several studies, formal and informal, where researchers scooped up random USB drives, either from eBay or the lost and found, to see what was on them.  The results are a little terrifying.  According to the article, “…about two-thirds of second-hand USB memory sticks bought in the US and the UK have recoverable and sometimes sensitive data. In one-fifth of the devices studied, the past owner could be identified.”  What’s more, in the case of one study, out of 200 drives, only 34 of them had been properly wiped out.  That’s just 17% of the drives.  Several had been formatted, but still had data that could be recovered off them.  Yes, that’s right, even reformatting the drives does NOT guarantee that they will be properly wiped out.

What’s more, the data that was left behind was of a very sensitive nature in many cases.  Everything from tax information to naked photos to photos of a soldier on deployment and at home, including the soldier’s address.  And, again, reformatting is not enough.  At least 8 drives out of the 200 examined had been reformatted, but had data on them that could still be recovered!  So, what can be done?
Personally, I tend to use USB drives until they absolutely don’t work at all any more, and I try not to put personal data on them in any case.
One solution is to get a USB drive that can be encrypted.  I’ve used several versions of the LaCie Imakey that includes an encrypted partition and utilities to manage it, but that doesn’t seem to be available any more.  A replacement might be the Kingston Digital Data Traveler Locker, which lets you set a password to restrict access, as well as doing hardware encryption of some kind and even backing up to the cloud in case the drive gets lost.  Granted those drives can get a little pricey, but how much does it cost to deal with the potential identity theft that lax personal security might bring?

If you have drives, USB or otherwise, that you’re looking to get rid of, then at least sanitize them before they go.  There are a lot of articles and utilities available to help you with that.  One that covers pretty much every drive you might have is How to securely erase external hard drives, SD cards, or flash drives, which details the steps as well as suggesting utilities to help you.  Now, for the most part, I assume that if you read this blog, as opposed to my other blog, Use Your Words, then you’re a geek like me and can handle more than consumer-grade procedures and software.  If that’s the case, or you’re feeling particularly brave, one great utility I’ve used is Darik’s Boot and Nuke aka DBAN.  It’s a free ISO you can download to make a bootable disk/drive that will let you securely wipe a drive before disposing of it.  It’s simple to use and free, but if you’re not comfortable burning an ISO to a disk or thumbdrive, then I’d recommend getting a more consumer-friendly product.

Either way, it’s a scary world out there to let your precious data roam free without a keeper, so be careful with those cheap, “throw away” drives.  If you’re not careful how you use them, they could get pretty expensive.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"There are three ways to get something done: do it yourself, employ someone, or forbid your children to do it."
   --Monta Crane

4/19/2019

A Conspiracy of Facts!

Filed under: Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

What if “facts” are what actual “news publishers” wanted you to know?

Since the last US Presidential election, there’s been a lot of focus on “news” and “fake news” and what the difference between the two might be. Many have suggested that it’s the super vague and click-bait-able nature of the “information” being shared. I tend toward Marshall McLuhan’s idea that “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” At first, we responded to these eminently shareable factoids because they didn’t mean much. It was the mental equivalent of a junk-food snack. Not harmful in and of itself, but not very satisfying either. Then, because the little independents were getting more clicks and more “eyeballs”, the big boys started doing it and now, well, here we are.
But, it’s Friday and I refuse to let these thoughts curb my enthusiasm for life! So, I today I share with you the humorous and ironic Prospiracy Theories! It takes the tone of those terrible social media conspiracy posts and substitutes real, actual facts!
It’s hilarious and accurate. What could be better?

Enjoy!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

4/12/2019

Size Effects

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

How big are those Star Wars ships?

This week, I just have something quick for you because I’ve been busy. Stop laughing! It happens!
Also, this is just cool, so I’m glad to be sharing it. Have you ever wondered just how big the ships and stations in the Star Wars movies really are? I know, sometimes, I wonder about it, because of the engineering that must have gone into it. But, also, I think about how long it takes for people to get from one part of the ship to another. Not only that, but what about all the places that have those huge, open spaces where people inevitably seem to get pushed and fall into oblivion? How can that even happen if the place isn’t gigantic? Anyway, this week, I’m giving you a link to something that explains it pretty well. Personally, I like reading the written word and seeing infographics that I can study, but I know a lot of people prefer videos and that’s what leads me to share this. STAR WARS on Earth! – How Big the Ships REALLY Are.
It’s only a five minute video, which is time you can surely spare on a Friday if you’re reading this post, so go, look and be amazed. Revel in your geeky fandom!
And come back next week for more!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

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