Diary of a Network Geek

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


Trippy GIFs

Filed under: Art,Fun — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:01 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

And, yes, that’s pronounced like the peanut butter by all right-minded geeks.

Because that’s how the creator said it! Okay, that’s all a joke, because he didn’t actually care that much about how anyone said it, according to an interview I read. Though, I suspect he might appreciate having gotten royalties on the file format. The really big deal about GIFs, in case you were really bored on a Friday and looking for an internet history lesson, is that the specification included provisions for animation. So, basically, these little guys were the first way we really shared video on the internet, back when the internet was CompuServe and other “walled garden” sites.

Flash forward to today, though, and artists have done some spectacular things with the format, like wavegrower and his amazing animated GIFs. Go take a look and just prepare to waste your entire day being mezmerized by the beauty of his psychadelic moving images.
Stunning. Seriously, just stunning.
And, a pretty fun way to waste time on a Friday when you’re reading blogs instead of working.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.


Woodblock GIFs

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 5:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Those are pronounced like the spreadable peanut product, by the way, with a soft “J” sound.

So, you know, don’t be a heathen and pronounce it like “gift” with the “t” left off. The creators intended it the other way.
But, I already digress.  The point isn’t to reinforce the correct way to say it, but rather to give you a link to view some.  And, not just any GIFs, but some very beautiful, creative GIFs based on ancient Japanese woodblock prints….
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Freebies for Friday

Filed under: Art,Fun,Fun Work,GUI Center — 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

Traditionally, I’ve tried to give you free stuff on Friday.
This week is no different.

But, I’ll be honest, it’s been a crazy week with budget planning and strategic planning for the next five years at work, so I haven’t really prepared anything special.  And, that means I’ll be digging into my collection of strange links for two totally random freebies for you to enjoy!

First, since I always fool around with designing websites, or at least talk about it a lot, I…
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Open Source Movies

Filed under: Art,Fun,Linux — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Free, open source tools are the future of software.

I’m not the only one who thinks so, either!
One of the coolest tools out there that’s both free and open source is Blender.  Blender is a full-featured 3D program that lets you do everything from sculpt the models to rigging and animating them, complete with shading and realistic physics, for everything from static images to movies.  It even has camera and motion tracking as well as compositing to let you integrate special…
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Psychadelic GIFs

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — 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

That’s pronounced like the peanut butter brand, by the way.

At least, that’s how the original creators pronounced it, back when Compuserve was a thing.  They created the GIF as a compressed graphic format to minimize data usage back in the “Days of Dial-up” for Compuserve when modems ruled the Earth.  But, I bet they never thought that their “little” contribution to computer culture would go so far.  For instance, when the GIF came out, it didn’t have animation as a…
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Review (Two of Three): Avatar

Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Sheep which is mid-afternoon or 3:41 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

This was a fantastic movie!

No, really, Avatar was quite possibly the most important movie of the past several years.  Certainly, I think it was the most visually stunning and will launch us into an entirely new world of digital animation that will get better and cheaper as time goes on.  In fact, this movie was so fantastic, that when I saw it in a regular, non-3D, non-IMAX theater, I knew I would eventually see it in the full, 3D IMAX version.  So, instead of this just being the second of two slightly stale reviews, I’ll be combining in the review of the 3D version, too.

Right, so, this has been one of the most anticipated science-fiction movies ever.  People have been talking about this for months, at least.  In fact, it’s been around so long that when we first started hearing rumors about it, no one quite knew what it was really going to be about at all.  Just that it was going to be big, that James Cameron was behind it, and it had something to do with people taking over bodies via some science-fiction thing-a-ma-bob.
I purposely avoided reading about it as long and as much as I could.  Early on, people were tossing around terms like “revolutionary” and “ground-breaking” and that sort of thing always makes me nervous.  So often, that just sets up consumers like us for a movie that, frankly, can’t possibly live up to expectations.
Well, this one did.

I saw it first in 2D and I was impressed.
For most of the movie, you forget that it’s almost all computer generated graphics.  The backgrounds and sets that are digital just look real.  In the best CGI films, like this one, the effects are forgotten, mostly, and just, well, part of the background.  The movie, the story, is what you see, not the effects.  And, this is just what happens in Avatar.  As spectacular as the CGI is, at no point did I feel that the story took a backseat to the graphics.  The Navi, the indigenous aliens, are all computer graphics, but they’re so well done that you never really think of them as anything but real.  Truly fantastic.
And, that’s the story, really.  There’s a planet that has a very valuable mineral on it and we’re there mining that mineral.  The problem is, the Navi, those native aliens are sort of in the way.  In fact, there’s a big tribe of them right on the richest deposit of that very valuable mineral.  Enter Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, who, due to a quirk in genetics, timing, circumstances, ends up “riding” a genetically engineered “avatar” which looks just like a local.  He replaces his twin brother, who was a scientist, on the mission and ends up getting into a bit of trouble early on which separates him from the rest of his team and lost in the very alien woods.  That’s where he meets one of the local girls, who reluctantly takes him under her wing.  Turns out, she’s the chief’s daughter and her mother is the local tribal shaman.  Mommie dearest is the one who insists that Neytiri, the little local girl, played by Zoe Saldana, teach Sully their alien tribal ways.  And so it goes until the fateful day that the miners show up to destroy the tribe’s home camp so they can get at the huge mineral deposit.  And really, that’s the the plot, in a nutshell.
Now, I won’t tell you who wins, but I asure you it’s the good guys.  All you have to do is figure out which they are.

So, the thing is, it’s not a revolutionary plot.  The characters, while fully fleshed out, aren’t anything overly special.  The music is mostly good, though there are a couple of times that the songs aren’t particularly great.  The acting is solid, which is sort of remarkable, considering that much of it’s done through motion-capture CGI.
But, somehow, it all comes together.
I think that’s the genius of James Cameron.  Somehow, he can make the magic work.  And, in this movie he really does make the magic happen.  He takes these disparate elements, none of which are particularly interesting on their own, and marries them to the best and most advanced CGI anyone has ever spent the money to make.  It’s at that point that things get really interesting.  That, in a nutshell, is what makes this film something new and special.
People have compared it to Star Wars in its import.
I’m not sure it’s quite that, but it certainly is a bit of a game-changer.

Now, this may not be quite obvious if you see this in 2D, but when you see Avatar in 3D you will see a miracle on screen.
This may seem like an exaggeration, but I assure you it is not.  The 3D is so good, so seamless, so real that you will flinch when things fly at you.  You will believe that you are seeing documentary footage of an alien planet with an alien landscape filled with alien flora and fauna.  You will forget to blink.  Seriously, I had to remind myself to blink.  That’s really how good it is.  It really is the most remarkable thing I’ve seen on screen since, well, I think since Star Wars.
The level of detail is incredible.  The insects fly off the screen at you like something actually alive.  The glowing plants are so realistic that you feel like you could order them off the damn internet.  All the crazy stories about all the bullheaded determination that Cameron pours into his movies and with which he tortures his crew must be true because his end product is like being immersed in an entirely different world.  And, that, of course, is what you’re paying to see.

And that, in the end, is my reccomendation to you.
What’s more, go see it in IMAX 3D.  It may cost you a bit extra, but it is worth every penny you pay to see this film as Cameron intended you to see it.  Also, waiting until you see it on home video will not be the same.  I promise you, it will be a good movie no matter what the format, but the way to see this film, the way that will make sure you don’t feel like you’re missing something big and important, is to get yourself to an IMAX theater and slap those goofy 3D glasses on your face.
Trust me.  You will love it.


My First Geek Gathering

Filed under: Art,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Career Archive,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Fun Work,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

So, Friday I went to my first geek networking event.

Okay, now, to be clear, I mean the first event I’ve ever been to that the point was to get to know other geeks, not work on computer networking. It was the first of what I think will be many. The event is a monthly “Geek Gathering” put on by Jay Lee and Dwight Silverman of TechBytes and the Houston Chronicle. I was convinced to come out this time by Kristie “Suburban Goddess” MacLaughlin. Though, I have to admit, I think she did it simply to get me active on Facebook, since the event was announced there. We’ve followed each other’s blogs for some time now, and exchanged a few e-mails, but never met. And, before any of my regular readers who are often eager for me to get involved with someone, mainly for the jokes that come out of my so-called love life, let me hasten to emphasize that this was not a date! She’s quite happy with her boyfriend and doesn’t need my uncivilized self mucking things up. Just in case anyone was wondering.

Still, she was quite eager to get me out to meet Jay and Dwight and “the gang”. Now, I did meet those folks, but I got caught in ugly traffic, so I got there a bit late and didn’t get to meet everyone I might have liked to know. For instance, I missed meeting the guys who run the Houston-based Japanese animation and manga convention known as ONI-CON. I did meet a couple of very nice journalists who got laid off from the Chronicle, however, who were there networking as well.
Funny thing about that, the networking thing. I’ve never really done it before, and I think it showed. Living alone, my conversational skills have atrophied so as to be almost non-existent! Thankfully, I was surrounded by people who were good at it and gracious. Donna, aka @Cottonwood2009, was very nice and kept my end of the conversation up as well as her own. And, of course, it seemed that everyone was on either Twitter or Facebook or both. I’m on Twitter for the tools I can add to this blog in case of losing my connection to the Internet again during a hurricane, so my family up North will know that I’m still alive. (They worry.) I was on Facebook, but hadn’t really done anything with the account. Since meeting a few folks, most notably Dwight and Jay, my Twitter followers have more than tripled in the space of two days and my Facebook friends have gone from one to eighteen.
And, I got to talk with several people about photography, too. In fact, it seemed like every third person there had a camera in hand. I didn’t take many pictures this time, but you can see the few I did at my Flickr page, under Geek Gatherings. There will be more eventually.

I remember when the on-line world and the “real” world were mostly separate. I’ve blogged for almost nine years now and never actually expected to meet most, if not all, of my readers. But, as the song goes, the times, they are a-changin’ and now, I fear, I’ll be meeting more and more of them. Perhaps I’ll have to start writing better and more relevant things! Good gravy, I may have to start writing technical posts again! What a strange turn of events that would be.
I have to be honest, and in all seriousness, meeting some of my readers makes me, well, a little uncomfortable. It’s bad enough that my readers often think that they know me based on what I write here, but now… Now, having met me in person, I’m afraid that the lines will become even more blurred. And, anyone who’s read my blog for a long time knows how I like my life neatly segmented and clearly defined. Still, what else is there to do? It’s either that or keep talking to the dog and, frankly, I think she’s getting a bit tired of hearing the same jokes over and over.

But, it was good to be out of my comfort zone Friday. It was good to go to a new place and meet new people. And, it was even good to put some faces to names that I’d seen on-line in any number of venues. I may not be very good at this networking thing, as ironic as that seems considering the title of my blog, but I’m going to keep working at it. It’s the one thing that I should have been working at harder all these years. Who knows, maybe I would have had a better series of jobs than I did? Maybe even a better series of girlfriends? Well, maybe not, but a guy can dream! Certainly going forward, if anything happens to me at my current job, I’ll be better off if I have a good, strong, professional network. If you’re in Houston and a geek like me, it would be worth checking out next month.
And, who knows, maybe one of these times I’ll meet the future ex-Mrs. Hoffman?


Calling All Geek Grrls!

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,The Network Geek at Home,Things to Read — 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 Waning Gibbous

No, not for me.
Though, if you want to contact me to revel in your geekiness directly, you can leave a comment that starts “Privatz: “, or something similar. I’ll keep that off the website. Just be sure to include a good e-mail address so I can respond.
But, what I was referring to was a call for submissions to a new essay project called She’s Such A Geek. Subtitled, “An Anthology by and for Women Obsessed with Computers, Science, Comic Books, Gaming, Spaceships, and Revolution”, the project is open to geeks of the female persuasion only and is meant to be an exploration of feminine geekiness in all its splendor. Specifically, they’re looking for essays from girls/women/ladies who consider themselves geeks on what it means to them to be a geek, what their mode of geekiness is to them, and how they found their geek niche. Frankly, for the sake of my poor, estranged step-daughter, I hope this book turns out well and stirs up some very positive talk about geek girls. I hope she’ll see it one day, and know that she’s not alone, or even all that different. In fact, I hope she’ll learn that what she thinks of as “geekiness” is really just a form of creativity or, even, genius that’s rare in this dull, grey age.
And, forgive me for mentioning my ex-wife again, but, if she were to write an essay for this work, I wonder if she’d be honest about who taught her the joys of comic books or Japanese animation? Could she be truthful enough to admit that she knew nothing about it until I made her watch Akira and Ghost in the Shell? Eh, probably not, but, then her memory gets a little flexible when it comes to her various ex-husbands.
In any case, if you’re one of my few readers who are members of the “fairer sex” and consider yourself geek material, think about contributing to the book.


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