Diary of a Network Geek

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


IT Dreams

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Geek Work,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:48 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

You know what I’d like to do?

I’d like to run a large-ish IT shop with a clear and well-defined budget.  I’d like to plan for rolling upgrades so that no one had a workstation or laptop that was older than five years old.  If the budget allowed for it, so that no one had equipment that was older than three years old.  And, I’d like to take that old, retired equipment and donate it to worth causes, like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America or the Red Cross or Goodwill or something like that.  Local charities, too, but all causes that would use that equipment to better someone’s actual life.

I’d like to have servers that were under-utilized for a change, instead of always headed toward being out of resources.  Servers with so much room to grow that they still were running smoothly even after a five or six year period, but that were upgraded before they were ten years old anyway, just because that’s the right way to do it.

I’d like to have staff that I could develop and grow and train to be the best IT personnel that techs could imagine being.  And, I mean that both through having a training budget to send them out for classes, but also on a personal level.  The one thing I really, really miss about being more than a department of one is that chance to teach someone how to do it the right way.  (And, yes, there are many ways to get IT stuff done, but, honestly, there are some ways that are more right than others.)

I long for a neat wiring closet again.  And an orderly server rack.  I miss having a dedicated server room with it’s own A/C and raised floors.  Can’t there be a way for even small companies to do that?  Shouldn’t we find a way for that to be a thing?

Okay, Universe, there it is.  I’ve said it.  Now, go make it happen!


RIght Sourcing

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,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 5:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Regular readers know I’m not a big fan of outsourcing.

I am, however, even less of a fan of off-shoring.
Now, before someone calls me racist again, let me say that I have no problem at all with non-US citizens making money, no matter what country they’re from.  Honest!  I’m friends with more than one proud Green Card holder!  But, I’m not a big fan of shipping jobs to a foreign country when someone right here in the United States is out of work and can do the job.  In fact, for years I’ve advocated what one company I worked for did; Rural Sourcing.

Of course, at the time, we didn’t call it that, but, as it turns out, that’s what it is.
We had a call center in a very rural town, connected to our data via a satellite.  In fact, they were connected to the same service bureau that we were.  It was a pretty good deal, all the way around.  We got decent, cheap labor, that spoke English without an accent to our American customers.  They got better jobs than the local sugar beet canning factory.  Yeah.  That was our employment competition.  Can you guess where the majority of the people in town wanted to work?  I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t standing on a production line with high-speed machinery.

So, while this isn’t new, it is, apparently, a newish idea for corporate America at large.
In any case, take a look at the article on Tech Republic; First Rural Sourcing Effort Proves Successful.
As I mentioned, it’s not new at all, but it must be a new concept for the author of the article.  I think it’s a great idea.  It CAN be cost effective to use local developers and local call centers in rural areas.  I don’t think it’s wrong to try and pull some of this business back from overseas.  I think it’s good, smart business.


Create Your Own Debt Plan

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:24 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Been spending big on the holidays?

Today, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally known as “Black Friday” because it’s when retailers get out of the “red” and start really turning profits for the year, is when a lot of people do their Christmas shopping.  But, today, I’m going to share something else with you, instead of the traditional Black Friday sales.
Gentle readers, I, too, have worshiped at the altar of plastic and run up huge debt.  Granted, my ex-wife helped me with that and so did my medical debt, but, still, the bulk of the responsibility is with me.  Today, I plan on not buying anything, but, rather, enjoying the things I have.  My Christmas shopping can wait another couple days, what I haven’t done already, that is.  And, yes, I’m trying to spend less and, more importantly, debt less, though, I admit I find it difficult to stop entirely.  It’s a bad habit, to be sure.   Of course, I do pretty well, so I’m impacted only a little by my huge debt.  And, it’s just me that’s effected these days.  I don’t have a family I’m weighing down with my remaining debt.

But, it’s not that way for everyone.  Some people have really big problems with debt.  Bigger than my problems.  For them, though, there is hop.  There are solutions.  And, today, as most of America wallows in the excess, that’s what I’m bringing to you.  It’s only one alternative, but, I hope it becomes a growing trend.
It’s a website called Creditable and it’s a site designed to help you get out of that crushing debt, anonymously and free.

And, either way, whether you need this or not, enjoy today and be thankful for what you have.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"I'm always amazed that people take what I say seriously. I don't even take what I am seriously."
   --David Bowie


Review (Three of Three): Ninja Assassin

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:47 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

AvatarandSherlockHolmes So, way, way back a couple of weeks ago, I saw the surprisingly good Ninja Assassin.

Now, I recognize that not many of my regular readers are likely to be into martial arts films of any kind as much as I probably am, much less the somewhat specific sub-genre of ninja films.  But, somehow, I did manage to talk one of my friends into going to see this one with me.  And, you know what?  When it was all over, he thanked me for it!  Yeah, that’s how good a film this little sleeper was!  I mean, really, this is the best ninja movie I’ve seen since Sho Kosugi did Enter The Ninja back in the early 80’s, practically launching the ninja craze in America.  In fact, the Great Master himself was in this movie as the old master who teaches Raizo, the main heroic ninja assassin of the title, played by the Korean pop-star, Rain.

The plot is a ninja film classic; the hero suffers through a brutal and very thourough training as a child to become the ultimate silent assassin only to be betrayed by his clan, who hunt him even as he seeks to bring them to justice.  No, really, this is a pretty common theme in these kinds of movies.  Honest.
So, the hero, Raizo, has help in the form of an international police researcher and her partner, though, he ends up not being as much help as you’d think at first.  She, however, gets in over her head by getting a file, of sorts, from a former Soviet intelligence agent who died under somewhat mysterious circumstances, who had been researching the ninja.  Mika, the researcher, played by Naomie Harris, had also been researching the connection between the ninja and several high-profile, virtually impossible assassinations.  The only problem is, no one else believes her.  No one, that is, except the ninja themselves and they come to kill her.
That’s where Raizo comes in.  He intervenes and saves her, then takes Mika on the run.  Not so much out of choice as neccessity.  They run from both the clan and Mika’s organization, who both come after the pair.  And, really, that’s pretty much the entire movie, right there.  It is, in the truest sense of the word, an action movie, but it’s a bit more than that, too.  It’s a kind of archetypal ninja action movie, with all the “required” elements, including honor, justice, a really good training sequence flash-back, a skilled master, a beautiful girl, and, of course, a love story.  That, along with the most amazing martial arts action you’ve ever seen in your life, make this a winner.

Now, you may think I’m exaggerating on this, but consider for a moment who made this film.  This bad boy was produced by the Wachowski’s of The Matrix fame and the script rewrites were done by J. Michael Straczynski, the guy who wrote Babylon 5.   These folks are geniuses in their field and have done truly revolutionary things for science-fiction, movies and television.  Really.
I mean, you’ve got the guys who reinvented action and, essentially, set an entirely new standard for action movies.  Then, you combine them with the guy who changed the face of episodic television science-fiction.  Mash them together with a ninja theme and think about where this might go.  And, yes, it really goes there.  Honest.  It was a visually stunning film.  Not in the same way that Avatar was, but, again, as an action movie, it took filmed martial arts to a whole new place.  It was fantastic.
Also, while it was paying homage to the ninja films of the 80’s, it included the guy who started it all, in a kind of ultimate homage; Sho Kosugi.  I’m pretty much convinced that any really great ninja film has got to include Kosugi or at least reference his work, so, you know, they score on that point.

So, yeah, this is kind of a special sub-genre of film, but if it’s your thing, you have got to rent this one.  I’m sure it’s not in the theater any more, but this should absolutely be in your Netflix queue.  If you love acttion, martial arts movies, or ninjas, you need to see this one.  Really.

And, there you have it.  Three movie reviews in three days.  A pretty good start to the new year, I think, even if I am reviewing movies from last year!


Review (One of Three): Sherlock Holmes

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is in the early afternoon or 2:55 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

AvatarandSherlockHolmesSo, I’ve seen a couple of movies in the past several weeks that I have been too busy to review.  Here’s one of those.

I’m doing this in reverse order, by the way, and reviewing the most recent movie first.  On Christmas Day, I saw Sherlock Holmes with a friend, like we have for the past three years now.  In fact, when we started that shortly after I got out of cancer treatment, that was the start of my massive spree of hitting in the theaters.  In any case, I’ve seen a lot of movies in the past two years, but I try not to get jaded and all snooty about it like the professional critics do.  I tried to set aside any preconceived notions about what this film should be and just tried to be open to the experience.

It was, um, interesting.
I don’t really think of Sherlock Holmes as an action hero, but, that’s sure what Robert Downey Jr. and Guy Ritchie made him.  And, you know what?  It worked.  Yeah, it really did.  Now, I’m sure purists will get bent out of shape with Holmes boxing, or doing savate, or whatever it was supposed to be, but, really, it doesn’t seem like such a stretch to me.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The plot is typical Victorian era adventure stuff.  The opening scene starts with an attempted occult murder, a sacrifice, that is thwarted by Holmes, played by Downey, and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson, played by Jude Law.  The erstwhile occultist, and thwarted murderer, is Lord Blackwood, a nobleman and, quite obviously, the villain.  And, yeah, if his name didn’t give it away, his theme music did.  A little heavy handed, but, still all in the spirit of a good adventure.
Then, we quickly fast forward through Blackwood’s trial and right to the day before his execution.  Watson is set to attend the execution as both one of his accusers and as a physician, to certify his death.  However, it’s Holmes that Blackwood calls for before his execution so that he may deliver a prediction about his return from the grave and other, more dire, predictions about deaths that Holmes won’t be able to prevent.

Naturally, these things come to pass, in spite of Holmes and Watson’s best efforts to stop them.  We also discover the person Holmes always referred to as “The Woman”, in the stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ms. Irene Adler.  In the movie, however, she’s a much more active and adventuresome woman, at least in the athletic sense, and played by Rachel McAdams.  And, she’s quite troublesome to the pair of friends.  At first, she seems to be working against the two men and, possibly, is in league with Blackwood.  But, it’s not long before we discover that she’s actually working for someone else entirely and is only partially at cross-purposes to Holmes and Watson.

There is also at least one subplot here; Watson’s engagement.
He takes his fiance to meet Holmes for dinner, though he’s obviously been avoiding it.  It seems he’s not all that keen on losing his best, and oldest, friend to marriage.  The meeting is a disaster as Holmes only partially deduces her story and essentially accuses her of being a gold-digger out to marry a wealthy doctor.  In fact, her previous fiance died and she is quite in love with Watson, who already was aware of all the things which Holmes correctly detected.  And this will prove a key relationship as she is quite helpful to Watson several times during the ensuing adventure.

The prophecies that Blackwood made all start coming true, of course, much to Holmes and Watson’s growing discomfort.  And, naturally, Holmes obsession with trying to prevent these events, as well as trying to track down Blackwood, leads the two men on a twisting journey through a slightly anachronistic Victorian, really almost Edwardian, London.  Along the way, they run afoul of Ms. Adler and her mysterious employer until she and Holmes eventually agree to work together, though, she never really stops working for the other man.
Blackwood’s predictions, incidentally, all seem to be centered around some sort of occult plot to take over the world, naturally.  Blackwood is trying to gain control over a quasi-Masonic occult secret society with roots in England, but branches as far as America.  As is usual in the Sherlock Holmes stories, he uses cutting edge science to make what seems to be magical events occur under his control.  The superstitious members of the society assume that he’s managed to achieve a higher level of occult competency and, therefore, out of fear, or greed, follow him.  But, of course, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are there to fight for justice, etc., etc.

Now, I won’t ruin the movie by revealing more of the plot and I certainly won’t tell you how it ends, except to say that they do leave things open for a sequel.
Okay, let me make it clear here, I liked this movie, even though it does present a somewhat non-traditional Holmes.  I didn’t mind the boxing or savate or whatever it was Holmes was doing.  It made for fantastic action sequences.  I didn’t even mind that Downey couldn’t seem to maintain a consistent English accent.  Honestly, the action was so good and the rest of the acting was so good that the minor slip of accent was barely noticeable.
I was somewhat less thrilled about the heavy-handed occult references and the entire secret society subplot.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that I am a Freemason, so I see the attempts to mimic the Fraternity in these occult societies and, frankly, I know just how wrong they are.  Also, frankly, the older I get the more hokey I find the average supernatural stories in the movies and such.  Maybe it’s just that I’m getting more spiritual and therefore less superstitious, but it just seems less and less believable.
And, the one anachronism that was just too huge to ignore was a reference to radio waves.  At the time the story takes place, if “radio waves” had even been discovered, which I’m almost certain they had not been, they certainly wouldn’t have been called radio waves.  If anything, they might have been called Hertzian waves.  But, Nikola Tesla, the first patent holder of a true, working radio device, had either not been born yet, or was less than ten years old, depending on precisely when the story in the movie was to have taken place.  But, honestly, that was a relatively small thing and didn’t get in the way of my general enjoyment of the film at all.

I know this film will be eclipsed by Avatar, but I really enjoyed it and I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who likes action movies, or even Sherlock Holmes.  It was thoroughly enjoyable and well worth seeing.
I think I may even look forward to seeing a sequel!


Frivolous Lawsuit

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:21 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Speaking of frivolous lawsuits…

Oh, well, I guess I haven’t really mentioned that, but, well, this suit being threatened by a group identifying themselves as Knights Templar are doing just that. According to the article in the Register, this group is trying to get the Pope and Vatican to acknowledge that the Catholic Church was politically motivated when they suppressed the Knights Templar back in 1307. Obviously the “threat” is that they’ll drag the Holy See through the court system unless this, well, sort of silly, demand is met.

Well, I guess it’s nice to know that America isn’t the only place that’s gotten a little lawyer happy!


Open Source Scouts

Filed under: Deep Thoughts,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — 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 a Third Quarter Moon

The Boy Scouts of America are advocating Open Source software.

According to this article on ComputerWorld, the Boy Scouts are turning to Open Source software to build better tools to support their organization. There’s no word on the BSA Open Source Initiative page about how much they’re expecting the boys to do themselves, but, frankly, I hope they do a lot.


Review: Rainbows End

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,GUI Center,News and Current Events,Review,Things to Read — 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

I finished Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge last week.

There’s a reason Rainbows End was awarded the Hugo for Best Novel in 2007. It is, to put it simply, a great book. There were parts that got a little slow for me, but, over all, it was a great piece of work. Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that I knew Vernor Vinge taught Computer Science and that the book had won the award. That is why I got it to read, after all.

The story follows one Robert Gu, a famous poet who’s fallen victim to Alzheimer’s Disease, as he’s cured and reintegrates into society.  The “down side” of his cure is that he’s lost the miracle of his poetry.  Somehow, whatever the cure does to fix the dementia alters Robert’s brain in such a way that he is no longer the man he used to be.  And, he’d do just about anything to get that magic back.  The story also follows Robert’s son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter as they deal with his regained ability to interact with the world.  The twist comes in with the fact that his son, Bob, and daughter-in-law, Alice, are in the military as part of the group who keeps America, and the world, safe from terrorists of all stripes.  International spies find a way to use Robert’s desire for regaining his poetic skills to get inside Bob and Alice’s command.  Their goal is somewhat less clear, but it involves a plot to manipulate the minds of the unsuspecting world public to “improve” everyone’s way of life.  Of course, things rarely work out the way anyone intends.

Well, as you can imagine, there are some very good reasons this won the Hugo for 2007.  It is a very good book.  I got a little distracted in the middle when life got a little strange, but, for the most part, the plot moved along at a good pace and always had something interesting to offer.  One of the attractions for me was the view of future computer technology that Vinge describes in this book.  His concept of wearable computers that are partially integrated into clothing and contacts seems like a logical step from where scientists are experimenting today.  Vinge presents this, and all the hard science-fiction in this book, in a realistic, no-nonsense way that makes it all seem very plausible.
He also draws some believable characters who’s actions are logical and reasonable given their motivation and the circumstances.  I can easily see myself doing some of the same things these characters do, both good and bad.

In short, if you enjoy science-fiction, there’s plenty to enjoy in Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge.  Definitely a change for me, but a good one which I heartily recommend.


Smart “Football”

Filed under: Fun,News and Current Events,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:04 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

When I first read this article, I thought they meant football, not soccer!
Just my America-centrisim showing again, I guess. I should have suspected something when the article on Australian IT talked about the debut happening in Lima, Peru. Well, anyway, it’s interesting to me that they’re even looking at taking the judging responsibility away from a person and giving it to a system. Here’s how it works: The chip in the ball will be read by sensors at the goal, registering a valid goal. So, it’s simple, if the ball passes the goal, the score gets updated. Hardly a need for a referee at all, is there? Well, okay, those soccer hooligans get a bit unruly, but that’s a job for the police, not the ref.
Technology is everywhere.

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Novell sees Linux as an “opportunity”

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Novell — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:10 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Well, no kidding!
When I read this article on the Register about Novell using the upcoming, and potentially bug-filled, launch of “Longhorn” Microsoft’s newest Windows operating system as an opportunity to get their Linux desktop into corporate America, my thought was, “Well, DUH!” What else does this reporter think they’ve been doing?! I mean, c’mon, buddy, this isn’t exactlly a secret, you know? Novell has been talking about this for years. Though, I have to admit, this time I think they have a better strategy, and opportunity, than that “genius” idea to buy WordPerfect. Hey, I love WordPerfect, don’t get me wrong, but there’s just no way that suite of software was going to really compete with MS Office.
Of course, I think they’re being a little optimistic, but, hey, Jack’s heart is in the right place. Hopefully, though, this will keep them alive in the market for a couple more years.
Now, iff they can just hold out until I retire…

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